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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The Chariot


Yamna cultures

Catacomb culture

Indo-Iranian cultures



The speakers of the Proto-Indo-Iranian language, the hypothetical Proto-Indo-Iranians, or the Indo-Iranian peoples, also known as the Indo-Aryans, were a group of Indo-European peoples who brought the Indo-Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, to major parts of Eurasia in the second part of the 3rd millennium BC.

They eventually branched out into the Iranian peoples and Indo-Aryan peoples. The term Aryan has been used historically to denote the Indo-Iranians, because Arya is the self-designation of the ancient speakers of the Indo-Iranian languages both in the Rig Veda and the Avesta. However, most scholars now use the term Indo-Iranian to refer to this group.

It was part of the diffusion of Indo-European languages from the proto-Indo-European homeland at the Pontic–Caspian steppe, a large area of grasslands in far Eastern Europe, which started in the 5th to 4th millennia BC, and the Indo-European migrations out of the Eurasian Steppes, which started approximately in 2000 BC.

Their homeland is associated with an area of the Eurasian steppe that borders the Ural River on the west, the Tian Shan on the east (where the Indo-Iranians took over the area occupied by the earlier Afanasevo culture), and Transoxiana and the Hindu Kush on the south.

The Pontic–Caspian steppe is the steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea as far east as the Caspian Sea, from Dobruja in the northeastern corner of Bulgaria and southeastern Romania, through Moldova and eastern Ukraine across Russian Northern Caucasus, Southern and lower Volga regions to western Kazakhstan, forming part of the larger Eurasian steppe, adjacent to the Kazakh steppe to the east. 

The area corresponds to Cimmeria, Scythia, and Sarmatia of classical antiquity. Across several millennia the steppe was used by numerous tribes of nomadic horsemen, many of which went on to conquer lands in the settled regions of Europe, Western Asia, and Southern Asia.

The term Ponto-Caspian region is used in biogeography of the flora and fauna of these steppes, including animals from the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and Azov Sea. Genetic research has identified this region as the most probable place where horses were first domesticated.

According to the most prevalent theory in Indo-European studies called the Kurgan hypothesis, also known as the Kurgan theory, Kurgan model or Steppe theory, the most widely accepted proposal to identify the Proto-Indo-European homeland from which the Indo-European languages spread out throughout Europe, Eurasia and parts of Asia, the Pontic–Caspian steppe was the homeland of the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language.

The Eurasian Steppe, also called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. It stretches from Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Western Russia, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and Manchuria, with one major exclave, the Pannonian steppe or Puszta, located mostly in Hungary.

Since the Paleolithic age, the Steppe Route has connected Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Asia, and Southern Asia economically, politically, and culturally through overland trade routes.

The Steppe route, an ancient overland route through the Eurasian Steppe that was an active precursor of the Silk Road, is a predecessor not only of the Silk Road which developed during antiquity and the Middle Ages, but also of the Eurasian Land Bridge in the modern era.

It has been home to nomadic empires and many large tribal confederations and ancient states throughout history, such as the Xiongnu, Scythia, Cimmeria, Sarmatia, Hunnic Empire, Chorasmia, Transoxiana, Sogdiana, Xianbei, Mongols, and Göktürk Khaganate..

The Proto-Indo-Iranian culture developed on the Central Asian steppes north of the Caspian Sea. The Sintashta culture (2200-1800 BC), Andronovo cultue (2000-900 BC), Bactria-Margiana culture (2400-1600 BC) and Yaz culture (1500-500 BC or 1500-330 BC) have been associated with their migrations in Central Asia.

Based on its use by Indo-Aryans in Mitanni and Vedic India, its prior absence in the Near East and Harappan India, and its attestation at the Andronovo site of Sintashta 1900-2000 BC, it is argued that the chariot corroborates the identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian. A chariot burial at Krivoye Lake is dated to about 2000 BC, and a Bactria-Margiana burial that also contains a foal has recently been found, indicating further links with the steppes.

The Sintashta culture is widely regarded as the origin of the Indo-Iranian languages. Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture. Most researchers associate the Andronovo horizon in western Siberia and the central Eurasian Steppe with early Indo-Iranian languages, though it may have overlapped with the early Uralic-speaking area at its northern fringe.

The Sintashta culture is thought to represent an eastward migration of peoples from the Corded Ware culture (3100-2350 BC), a broad archaeological horizon of Central Europe from the late Neolithic, through the Copper Age, and ending in the early Bronze Age.

The Andronovo culture and the preceding Sintashta culture are partially derived from the Corded Ware culture, given the higher proportion of ancestry matching the earlier farmers of Europe, similar to the admixture found in the genomes of the Corded Ware population.

Because of the difficulty of identifying the remains of Sintashta sites beneath those of later settlements, the culture was only recently distinguished from the Andronovo culture. It is now recognised as a distinct entity, forming part of the Andronovo horizon.

The people of the Andronovo culture have been found to be closely genetically related to the preceding Sintashta culture, which was in turn closely genetically related to the Corded Ware culture, the Potapovka culture and the Srubnaya culture. These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic.

The Corded Ware peoples were in turn found to be closely genetically related to the Beaker culture (2800–1800 BC), the Unetice culture (2300-1680 BC) and particularly the peoples of the Nordic Bronze Age (1700-500 BC). Numerous cultural similarities between the Sintashta / Andronovo culture, the Nordic Bronze Age and the peoples of the Rigveda have been detected.

It co-existed for a time with the hunter-gatherer Pitted Ware culture, which it eventually absorbed, developing into the Nordic Bronze Age. The Battle Axe culture replaced the Funnelbeaker culture (4300-2800 BC) in southern Scandinavia, probably through a process of mass migration and population replacement.

It is thought to have been responsible for spreading Indo-European languages and other elements of Indo-European culture to the region. The Nordic Bronze Age emerged about 1700 BC through the fusion of the Battle Axe culture (2800–2300 BC), an offshoot of the Corded Ware culture, and the Pitted Ware culture (3500-2300 BC), a hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia. It maintained close trade links with Mycenaean Greece, with whom it shares several striking similarities. The Nordic Bronze Age is often considered ancestral to the Germanic peoples.

The Chariot

The Proto Indo-Iranians and their expansion are strongly associated with the Proto-Indo-European invention of the chariot. It is assumed that this expansion spread from the Proto-Indo-European homeland north of the Caspian Sea south to the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Iranian plateau, and Indian subcontinent.

The origins of chariots and its use in warfare are obscure. However, linguistic evidence suggests its inventors were the Indo-European people from Eurasia. The Indo-Iranians and their expansion are strongly associated with the Proto-Indo-European invention of the chariot, which spread throughout the Old World and played an important role in ancient warfare.

The earliest known chariots have been found in Sintashta burials, and the culture is considered a strong candidate for the origin of the technology, which spread throughout the Old World and played an important role in ancient warfare.

Krivoye Ozero is a small lake in the Chelyabinsk Oblast of Russia, southeast of Magnitogorsk, near the Kazakhstani border. The lake is primarily known for the Sintashta-Petrovka burials, dotted over the area of some 10 km². Particularly notable is one of the earliest chariot burials in the world, dated to ca. 2000 BC. The chariot grave contained a horse skull, three pots, two bridle cheek pieces, and points of spears and arrows.

Sintashta on the upper Ural River, noted for its chariot burials and kurgans containing horse burials, is considered the type site of the Sintashta culture, forming one of the earliest parts of the “Andronovo horizon”.  

It is conjectured that the language spoken was still in the Proto-Indo-Iranian stage. It is almost universally agreed among scholars that the Andronovo culture was Indo-Iranian; it is furthermore credited with the invention of the spoke-wheeled chariot around 2000 BC.

The association between the Andronovo culture and the Indo-Iranians is corroborated by the distribution of Iranian place-names across the Andronovo horizon and by the historical evidence of dominance by various Iranian peoples, including Saka (Scythians), Sarmatians and Alans, throughout the Andronovo horizon during the 1st millennium BC.

The Andronovo dead were buried in timber or stone chambers under both round and rectangular kurgans (tumuli). Burials were accompanied by livestock, wheeled vehicles, cheek-pieces for horses, and weapons, ceramics and ornaments.

Among the most notable remains are the burials of chariots, dating from around 2000 BC and possibly earlier. The chariots are found with paired horse-teams, and the ritual burial of the horse in a “head and hooves” cult has also been found.

Models of two-wheeled carts found at Altyn-Depe (the Turkmen for “Golden Hill”), a Bronze Age (BMAC) site in Turkmenistan, near Aşgabat, from c. 3000 BC are the earliest evidence of wheeled transport in Central Asia, though model wheels have come from contexts possibly somewhat earlier.

Judging by the type of harness, carts were initially pulled by oxen, or a bull. However camels were domesticated within the BMAC. A model of a cart drawn by a camel of c. 2200 BC was found at Altyn-Depe.

Altyn-Depe was inhabited first from c. 3200 to 2400 BC in Late Regionalization Era, and next from c.2400 to 2000 BC in the Integration Era as a full urban site. The site is notable for the remains of its ziggurat. This was a monumental religious complex with a four-level tower of the Mesopotamian ziggurat type. This construction has also been described as “proto-Zoroastrian”.

A necessary precursor to the invention of the chariot is the domestication of animals, specifically horses – a major step in the development of civilization. Despite the large impact horse domestication has had in transport and communication, tracing its origins has been challenging. Evidence supports horses having been domesticated in the Eurasian Steppes.

The invention of the wheel used in transportation most likely took place in Mesopotamia or the Eurasian steppes in modern-day Ukraine. Evidence of wheeled vehicles appears from the mid 4th millennium BC near-simultaneously in the Maykop culture (3700-3000 BC) in the Northern Caucasus and in Central Europe. These earliest depicted vehicles may have been ox carts.

The spread of spoke-wheeled chariots has been closely attributed to the Indo-European migrations from the Pontic Steppes. However, some of the earliest wagon wheels in the world are found in Maykop culture area. Two wooden wheels from the kurgan of Novokorsunskaya in the Kuban region have been dated to the second half of the fourth millennium. Soon thereafter the number of such burials in this Northern Caucasus region multiplied.

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

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

According to genetic studies on ancient DNA published in 2018, the Maykop population came from the south, and was descended from the Eneolithic farmers who first colonized the north side of the Caucasus. The Maykop people lived sedentary lives, and horses formed a very low percentage of their livestock, which mostly consisted of pigs and cattle.

Its burial practices resemble the burial practices described in the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, has been regarded by some as an Indo-European intrusion from the Pontic steppe into the Caucasus. However, more recently, some very ancient kurgans have been discovered at Soyuqbulaq in Azerbaijan.

These kurgans date to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC, which makes it the oldest kurgan cemetery in Transcaucasia. A number of Maikop Culture kurgans and Soyugbulaq kurgans display the same northwest to southeast grave alignment. More than that, Soyugbulaq kurgans yield pottery forms identical to those recovered from the Maikop kurgans.  

They belong to Leylatepe culture (4350-4000 BC), which got its name from the site in the Agdam district, Azerbaijan. The roots of the Leylatepe stemmed from the Northern Ubaid culture. The Leylatepe culture tribes migrated to the north in the mid-fourth millennium, BC. They played an important part in the rise of the Maikop culture of the North Caucasus.

Similar kurgans have been found at Kavtiskhevi, Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia. Several other archaeological sites seem to belong to the same ancient cultural tradition as Soyuq Bulaq. They include Berikldeebi, Kavtiskhevi, Leilatepe, Boyuk Kesik, and Poylu, Agstafa, and are characterized by pottery assemblages mainly or totally in the North Mesopotamian tradition.

Most of these sites are associated with the Leilatepe archeological culture of the first half of the fourth millennium BC. It is believed that this was the result of the migration of near-eastern tribes from Mesopotamia to South Caucasus, especially to Azerbaijan. The practice of kurgan burial was well established in the South Caucasus during the late Eneolithic.

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

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

Leyla-Tepe pottery is very similar to the ‘Chaff-Faced Ware’ of the northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is especially well attested at Amuq F phase. Similar pottery is also found at Kultepe, Azerbaijan. Kultepe is the place where the first items made of copper-arsenic alloys, dating back to the 4th millennium BC, were found in the South Caucasus.

Archaeological site Alikemek Tepesi is located in the Mugan plain along the Aras (river). Materials from this site are very close to the materials obtained from monuments of northwestern Iran (Dalma ware). The artifacts of the lower level are similar to those at Kültəpə I in Nakhchivan. In the upper levels, there is also pottery of the northern Ubaid period type.

Some archaeologists speak of the ancient Alikemek-Kul’tepe culture of southeastern Caucasus, that followed the Shulaveri-Shomu culture, and covered the transition from the Neolithic to Chalcolithic periods (c. 4500 BC). Aratashen (following level II) was also part of this culture. The Alikemek–Kul’tepe culture covered the Ararat Plain, Nakhichevan, the Mil’skoj and Mugan Steppes and the region around Lake Urmia in north-western Iran.

Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture. Yarim Tepe is an archaeological site of an early farming settlement that goes back to about 6000 BC. It is located in the Sinjar valley some 7km southwest from the town of Tal Afar in northern Iraq.

The site consists of several hills reflecting the development of the Hassuna culture, and then of the Halaf and Ubaid cultures. Metal items were also found, such as a lead bracelet, copper beads, as well as copper ore, which represent some of the oldest metallurgy in Mesopotamia.


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

Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: Ямная (romanization: yamnaya) is a Russian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers. “Yamna” is the name that is derived from the same word in Ukrainian (ямна, romanization: yamna).

The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers (EHG) and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus (CHG). People with this ancestral component are known as Western Steppe Herders (WSH). It is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language.

The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European homeland however suggests that Proto-Indo-European was spoken during the 5th–4th millennia BC in eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia.

Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a ‘pre-proto-Indo-European’. 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 BC.

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

The Leyla-Tepe culture (4350-4000 BC) was a Chalcolithic culture with settlements distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus. The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, closely associated with subsequent civilizations found on the Armenian Highlands. This is evident with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets, which closely resemble Armenian tonirs.

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

Another site, Galayeri, is closely connected to early civilizations of Near East. Structures consisting of clay layers are typical; no mud-brick walls have been detected. Almost all findings have Eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic characteristics. The closest analogues of the Galayeri clay constructions are found at Arslantepe/Melid VII in Temple C.

The Leyla-Tepe culture has been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslantepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (3700-3000 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the western Caucasus region.

According to genetic studies on ancient DNA published in 2018, the Maikop population came from the south, probably from western Georgia and Abkhazia, and was descended from the Eneolithic farmers who first colonized the north side of the Caucasus.

The Ubaid period (6500-3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium.

In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period (4000-3100 BC), also known as Protoliterate period, existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, after the Ubaid period and before the Jemdet Nasr period (3100–2900 BC).

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period (6100-5100 BC) and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (5500/5400 to 5200/5000 BC) and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.

The Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period lies chronologically between the Halaf period and the Ubaid period. It is still a complex and rather poorly understood period. At the same time, recent efforts were made to study the gradual change from Halaf style pottery to Ubaid style pottery in various parts of North Mesopotamia.

The appearance of Leyla-Tepe tradition’s carriers in the Caucasus marked the appearance of the first local Caucasian metallurgy. Leyla-Tepe metalwork tradition was very sophisticated right from the beginning, and featured many bronze items. Later, the quality of metallurgy increased in both sophistication & quality with the advent of the Kura–Araxes culture (4000-2000 BC).

The Kura–Araxes culture or the Early Transcaucasian culture mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC.

Leyla-Tepe pottery is very similar to the ‘Chaff-Faced Ware’ of the northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is especially well attested at Amuq F phase. Similar pottery is also found at Kultepe, Azerbaijan, a town that features a cultural layer with the total depth of 22 m.

The earliest 9 m of this belongs to the Neolithic Age. Some Halaf culture artifacts have been found. On top of that are the remains of the Bronze Age, and then the Early Iron Age. At each of these layers a variety of artifacts were found: pottery dishes, cattle-breeding and agricultural implements, adornments, weapons etc.

In the Eneolithic layer the excavators discovered remains of buildings, as well as burial places. These buildings were round as well as rectangular-shaped, and were made of mudbrick. The diameter of the round constructions was around 6–8 meters. The rectangular ones are about 15 sq. m in size. These structures were typically connected with agriculture.

Kultepe is the place where the first items made of copper-arsenic alloys, dating back to the 4th millennium BC, were found in the South Caucasus. The local method of arsenic copper production was confirmed by results of chemical investigation and casting forms and the remains of casting discovered there.

Alikemek-Tepesi is an ancient settlement located in Jalilabad District (Azerbaijan), in the Mugan plain, belonging to the Chalcolithic period, dating to c. 5000 BC. Early levels belonged to the Shulaveri-Shomu culture (6000-4000 BC), a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as parts of northern Iran.

Some archaeologists speak of the ancient Alikemek-Kul’tepe culture of southearn Caucasus that followed the Shulaveri-Shomu culture, and covered the transition from the Neolithic to Chalcolithic periods. The Alikemek-Kul’tepe culture covered the Ararat Plain, Nakhichevan, the Mil’skoj and Mugan Steppes and the region around Lake Urmia in north-western Iran.

Aratashen located on the Ararat plain in the Armavir Province of Armenia was also part of this culture following level II. The first occupation phase at Aratashen was preceramic, going back to 6500 BC. Parallels are found in the southeastern Trans-Caucasia, and in the northeastern Mesopotamia, especially based on the construction techniques and the lithic and bone tools.

Also the pottery, after it appears at the end of the fifth millennium BC, is somewhat similar. At this time, the plain of Ararat was in contact with the contemporary populations of northern Mesopotamia, and also with those of the ‘Sioni culture’ of the Kura basin.

The best parallels are with Kul Tepe of Nakhichevan to the south, and with the northern Near East, such as the lower levels of Hajji Firuz Tepe, at Dalma Tepe, and at Tilki Tepe. The Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture that developed in the neighbouring Kura basin and the Karabakh steppe, does not have close parallels with the early Aratashen artifacts.

At Aratashen and Khatunakh/Aknashen, there are similarities to the contemporary sites of Kultepe I, and Alikemek-Tepesi. The later period pottery of Aratashen is becoming close to that of the Sioni culture, which locally succeeded the Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture. Here we already see the features of the later Kura-Araxes culture pottery.

There’s evidence of very early metallurgy at Aratashen, going back to the first half of the sixth millennium BC. According to A. Courcier, In the Neolithic level IId of Aratashen, dated to the beginnings of the sixth millennium BC, several fragments of copper ores (malachite and azurite) and 57 arsenical copper beads were discovered. 

Close to Aratashen, at Khatunark, one fragment of copper ore (malachite) has been discovered in a level dated to the first half of the sixth millennium BC. This artefact, together with those found at Aratashen, suggest the nascent emergence of metallurgy in the Ararat region already during the Late Neolithic.

Yamna cultures

The Yamna culture was very similar to the Afanasevo culture (3300-2500 BC), and the populations of both cultures are genetically indistinguishable. They lived primarily as nomads, with a chiefdom system and wheeled carts that allowed them to manage large herds.

The Afanasievo culture is the earliest known archaeological culture of south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains during the eneolithic era. It is named after a nearby mountain, Gora Afanasieva in what is now Bogradsky District in Khakassia, Russia.

It is believed that the Afanasevans were descended from people who migrated across the Eurasian Steppe from the pre-Yamnaya culture Repin culture of the Don-Volga region c. 3700-3300 BC. Because of its geographical location and dating the Afanasevans have been linked to the Proto-Tocharian language.

The Yamna culture is also closely connected to Final Neolithic cultures, which later spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware culture (3100-2350 BC) and the Bell Beaker culture (or, in short, Beaker culture; 2800-1800 BC), as well as the peoples of the Sintashta culture and Andronovo culture.

Back migration from Corded Ware also contributed to the Sintashta culture, a Middle Bronze Age archaeological culture of the northern Eurasian steppe on the borders of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the succeeding Andronovo culture, a collection of similar local Bronze Age cultures that flourished in an area of western Siberia and the central Eurasian Steppe that borders the Ural River on the west, the Tian Shan on the east. 

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

The Corded Ware culture comprises a broad archaeological horizon of Europe from the late Neolithic, through the Copper Age, and ending in the early Bronze Age. It encompassed a vast area, from the Rhine on the west to the Volga in the east, occupying parts of Northern Europe, Central Europe and Eastern Europe.

The Corded Ware people carried mostly Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and were closely related to the people of the Yamna culture, resulting from a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery, the Eurasiatic steppes. 

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

The Corded Ware culture shared a number of features with the Bell Beaker culture derived from their common ancestor the Yamna culture. These features include pottery decorated with cord impressions, single burial, and the shaft-hole axe.

The Bell Beaker culture was widely dispersed throughout Western Europe, from various regions in Iberia and spots facing northern Africa to the Danubian plains, the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, and also the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

As the Beaker culture left no written records, all theories regarding the language or languages they spoke is highly conjectural. It has been suggested as a candidate for an early Indo-European culture, or as the origin of the Vasconic substrate.

It has been suggested that the Beaker culture was possibly associated with a hypothetical cluster of Indo-European dialects, termed “North-West Indo-European”, which may have been a precursor of the subsequent Celtic, Italic, Germanic and Balto-Slavic branches.

Earlier theories suggested a link to the hypothesised Italo-Celtic, or Proto-Celtic languages, although the Beaker period likely preceded these. The subsequent Urnfield culture has been more often linked to proposed subgroups such as Italo-Celtic.

Catacomb culture

The Catacomb culture (2800-1700 BC), another Yamna Bronze Age successor, emerged on the southern part of the Pontic steppe as a western descendant of the Yamna culture. Originating on the southern steppe as an outgrowth of the Yamna culture, the Catacomb culture came to cover a large area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition to the Yamna culture, the Catacomb culture displays links with the earlier Sredny Stog culture, a pre-Kurgan archaeological culture from the 5th millennium BC, the Afanasievo culture and the Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BC), an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe.

The Catacomb culture was Indo-European-speaking, perhaps speaking an early form of Indo-Iranian or Thracian. More recently, scholars have suggested that the culture provided a common background for Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.

Influences of the Catacomb culture have been detected as far as Mycenaean Greece (600–1100 BC), also known as the Mycenaean civilization, the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece representing the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland Greece with its palatial states, urban organization, works of art, and writing system. 

It has been suggested that the Abashevo culture (2500-1900 BC), an early Bronze Age culture found in the valleys of the Volga and Kama River north of the Samara bend and into the southern Ural Mountains, partially was derived from the Catacomb culture. 

Parts of the area of the Catacomb culture came to be occupied by the Abashevo culture. The Abashevo culture is believed to have formed in the forest steppe areas of the middle Volga and upper Don in the early 3rd millennium BC. 

It is assumed that the Abashevo people spoke Pre-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Indian-Iranian, since it is a possible source of Indo-Iranian loanwords in Uralic. It probably witnessed a bilingual population undergoing a process of assimilation.

The Abashevo culture is divided into a Don-Volga variant, a middle Volga variant and a southern Ural variant. On the northern Don, the Abashevo culture replaced the Catacomb culture. Along the middle Volga, it co-existed with the Poltavka culture.

Influences from further west played a decisive role in the formation of the Abashevo culture. It occupied part of the area of the earlier Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture (2900-2050 BC), an eastern a collection of the earlier Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age Corded Ware settlements of Central Europe which flourished in the forest steppe zone of Russia north of the Sintashta region that were also predominantly pastoralist.

The Abashevo culture belongs to a circle of Central European cultures deriving from the Corded Ware culture.  It is from Central Europe that the Abashevo peoples ultimately originated. The peoples of this environment would eventually develop into Balts, Celts, Italic peoples, Germanic peoples and Slavs.

The Abashevo culture originated from contacts between Fatyanovo-Balanovo, Catacomb and Poltavka peoples in the southern forest-steppe. Influences from the Yamnaya culture and Catacomb culture on the Abashevo culture are detected. It represents an extension of steppe culture into the forest zone.

The Abashevo culture played a major role in the development of the Sintashta culture and the Srubnaya culture. The easternmost sites of the Abashevo culture are located along the southern Urals. Those sites are associated with the origins of the Sintashta culture.

It is closely associated with the Sintashta culture, and must have played a role in its origin. The Sintashta culture however differs from the Abashevo culture through having fortified settlements, conducting large-scale animal sacrifices, and in its metal types and ornaments.

It is suggested that the Seima-Turbino phenomenon (2100-1900 BC), a pattern of burial sites with similar bronze artifacts found across northern Eurasia, particularly Siberia and Central Asia, from Finland to Mongolia, emerged as a result of interaction between the Abashevo culture, the Catacomb culture and the early Andronovo culture.

Continuity between the Abashevo culture and the later Srubnaya culture has been pointed out. Along with the Potapovka culture, a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the middle Volga, straddling the cultural traditions of the Pontic steppe, the Urals and western Kazakhstan, the Abashevo culture is considered an ancestor of the Srubnaya culture. 

The Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture was a Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age culture which flourished in the forests of Russia. It developed on the northeastern edge of the Middle Dnieper culture (3200-2300 BC), probably as a result of a mass migration of Corded Ware peoples from Central Europe around 2900 BC.

As the name indicates, the Middle Dnieper culture was centered on the middle reach of the Dnieper River and is contemporaneous with the latter phase and then a successor to the Indo-European Yamna culture, as well as to the latter phase of the Neolithic–Eneolithic Cucuteni–Trypillia culture (5500-2750 BC), also known as the Tripolye culture of Eastern Europe.

The Middle Dnieper culture was an eastern extension of the Corded Ware culture, of northern Ukraine and Belarus. The Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture is, in turn, considered an eastern extension of the Middle Dnieper culture.

Geographically, the Middle Dnieper culture is directly behind (south and east) the area occupied by the Globular Amphora culture (3400-2800 BC), and while commencing a little later and lasting a little longer, it is otherwise contemporaneous with it.

The Globular Amphora culture is an archaeological culture in Central Europe. Marija Gimbutas assumed an Indo-European origin, though this is contradicted by newer genetic studies that show a connection to the earlier wave of Neolithic farmers rather than to invaders from the southern Russian steppes.

Expanding eastwards at the expense of the Volosovo culture, the Fatyanovo people developed copper mines in the western Urals. The Volosovo culture followed the Neolithic Pit-marked pottery culture (Balakhna). The archaeological assemblage identified with this culture is related to the finds from the middle Volga and Kama basin, indicating that they originated from the east.

Volosovo culture emerged sometime between the third and fourth millennium BC. and lasted until the second millennium BC. A more specific estimate was the period between 1800 and 1500 BC, overlapping with the Fatyanovo culture. The people of the Volosovo culture has been described as forest foragers.

The Fatyanovo established settlements engaged in Bronze metallurgy, giving rise to the Balanovo culture from 2300 BC. Although belonging to the southeastern part of the Fatyanovo horizon, the Balanovo culture is quite distinct from the rest.

The Balanovo culture contributed to the formation of the Abashevo culture, which in turn contributed to the formation of the Sintashta culture. The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture ended about 2050 BC. Its peoples were almost certainly Indo-Europeans.

Tracing its origins in the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture the Abashevo culture is notable for its metallurgical activity and early use of the chariot. Contacts with the Volosovo culture (4000-2000 BC or 1800-1500 BC), which it eventually came to absorb, appear to have facilitated the spread pastoralism and metallurgy into northern forest cultures.

The Catacomb culture spawned the Multi-cordoned ware culture (2200-1800 BC), or Multiroller ceramics culture, which occupied an area stretching from the Don to Moldavia, including Dnieper Ukraine, Right-bank Ukraine, and part of the modern Ternopil Oblast, and was bordered by the Volga to the east.

The Multi-cordoned ware culture was an eastern successor of the Catacomb culture. It may in turn have played a role in the emergence of the Potapovka culture (2500-2000 BC), a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the middle Volga, and the Sintashta culture, and thus on the formation of the Andronovo culture.

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

The Potapovka culture is thought to have emerged as a northern outgrowth of the Poltavka culture, with possible influences from the Abashevo culture. Influences from the Catacomb culture and the Multi-cordoned ware culture have also been detected.

The Potapovka culture emerged out of the Poltavka culture, and had close relations with the Sintashta culture in the east, with whom it shares many similarities. Like the Sintashta culture, its people are believed to have spoken a form of Proto-Indo-Iranian.

It was directly ancestral to the Srubnaya culture, (lit. ‘log house culture’; 1800-1200 BC), also known as Timber-grave culture, which was a successor of the Catacomb culture, and probably influenced the emergence of the Andronovo culture. 

The Potapovka culture has been considered a western variant of the Sintashta culture, with which it is closely related. The area which the Potapovka culture occupied had earlier been occupied by the Khvalynsk culture (4900-3500 BC) of the middle Volga region, which was preceded by the Early Eneolithic Samara culture that bloomed around the turn of the 5th millennium BC.

The Multi-cordoned ware culture succeeded the western Catacomb culture. It was increasingly influenced, assimilated and eventually displaced by the Srubna culture, ant the people of the Multi-cordoned ware culture migrated southward into the Balkans in 2000-1800 BC.

It has been associated to the spread of one or more Indo-European languages. Leo Klejn identifies its bearers with the early Thracians. Other scholars suggest that it may have been connected to the Bryges and/or Phrygians.

The Srubnaya culture, a Late Bronze Age culture in the eastern part of Pontic-Caspian steppe generally considered to have been Iranian. 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.

Whether the Srubnaya culture originated in the east, west, or was a local development, is disputed among archaeologists. The Pontic-Caspian steppe 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 the Scythians. The Cimmerians, a nomadic Indo-European people, who appeared about 1000 BC and are mentioned later in 8th century BC in Assyrian records, and the Scythians was a nomadic people who dominated the Pontic steppe from about the 7th century BC up until the 3rd century BC. 

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. While the Cimmerians were often described by contemporaries as culturally “Scythian”, they evidently differed ethnically from the Scythians proper, who also displaced and replaced the Cimmerians.

Probably originating in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, the Cimmerians subsequently migrated both into Western Europe and to the south, by way of the North Caucasus. 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.

According to Herodotus, the Cimmerians inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea during the 8th and 7th centuries BC (i.e. what is now Ukraine and Russia), although they have not been identified with any specific archaeological culture in the region.

Influences from the west appearsto have had a decisive role on the formation of the Catacomb culture. A genetic study published in August 2014 examined the DNA of the remains of 28 Catacomb individuals. Catacomb people were found to have much higher frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4 than people of the preceding Yamnaya culture.

Haplogroups U5 and U4 are typical of Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers. It has been suggested that the Catacomb people and the Yamna people were not as genetically admixed as previously believed. Interestingly, the modern population of Ukraine has been found to be more closely related to people of the Yamna culture than people of the Catacomb culture.

In genetic study published in the Journal of Human Genetics in 2017, the remains of several individuals from the Catacomb culture has been analyzed. One individual was found to be carrying haplogroup U5, while another carried U5a.

These and other subclades of haplogroup U have been found in high frequencies among early hunter-gatherers of Northern Europe and Eastern Europe. A generic similarity between Catacomb people and northern hunter-gatherers, particularly the people of the Pitted Ware culture (3500-2300 BC), a hunter-gatherer culture of southern Scandinavia, has been detected.

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

Physical remains of the Abashevo people have revealed that they were Europoids with dolichocephalic skulls. Abashevo skulls are very similar to those of the preceding Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, and the succeeding Sintashta culture, Andronovo culture and Srubnaya culture.

They differ from those of the Yamnaya culture, Poltavka culture, Catacomb culture and Potapovka culture, which although being of a similar robust Europoid type, are less dolichocephalic. The physical type of Abashevo, Sintashta, Andronovo and Srubnaya is later observed among the Scythians.

Physical remains of the Sintashta people have revealed that they were Europoids with dolichocephalic skulls. Sintashta skulls are very similar to those of the preceding Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture and Abashevo culture, which ultimately trace their origin to Central Europe, and those of the succeeding Srubnaya culture and Andronovo culture.

Skulls of the related Potapovka culture are less dolichocephalic, possibly as a result of admixture with between Sintastha people and descendants of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture, who although being of a similar robust Europoid type, were less dolichocephalic than Sintashta.

The physical type of Abashevo, Sintashta, Andronovo and Srubnaya is later observed among the Scythians, also known as Scyth, Saka, Sakae, Iskuzai, or Askuzai, a nomadic people who dominated the Pontic steppe from about the 7th century BC up until the 3rd century BC.

Indo-Iranian Archeological cultures

Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BC), which emerged as an eastern outgrowth of the Yamna culture, was an early to middle Bronze Age culture which flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe. It is contemporary with the Catacomb culture, which was located on the Pontic steppe to its southwest.

The Poltavka culture, along with the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamna culture and the Catacomb culture, is among the cultures of the Pontic steppe sharing characteristics with the Afanasievo culture of the eastern steppe. Along with the Abashevo culture, it also appears to have influenced the emergence of the Potapovka culture.

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

The economy of the Poltavka culture was mobile pastoral, a continuation of the economy of the Yamnaya culture. It has been considered ancestral to later cultures that are identified as Indo-Iranian. It seems to have co-existed at times with the Abashevo culture.

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

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

The Poltavka people carried out horse burials, a custom that had inherited from the Yamna culture, the Khvalynsk culture and the Samara culture. The Poltavka culture shares many characteristics with the contemporaneous Sintashta culture. This includes similar pottery, metal types, weapons, horse sacrifices, chariot-driving gear and similar graves.

It is common for new Poltavka settlements to be constructed on top of older ones, and the later Sintashta culture would in turn contstruct settlements on top of earlier Poltavka ones.

It marks the transition of the Yamnaya culture to the Srubnaya culture. It seems to be an early manifestation of the Srubnaya culture. It influenced the later emergence of the Potapovka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture and Srubnaya culture.

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

Skulls of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture are more dolichocephalic than those of the Poltavka, Yamnaya and Potapovka cultures. The physical type of the Srubnaya culture appears to have emerged as a result of mixing between Sintashta and Poltavka people.

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

Genetic studies suggest that the end of the Poltavka culture is associated with major population changes. It is noted that there was a significant infusion of Central European ancestry into the steppe during the transition from the Poltavka culture to the Potapovka culture.

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

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

The Potapovka culture emerged on the middle Volga as a northern outgrowth of the Poltavka culture with influences from the Abashevo culture. It is considered to have been part of an eastward expansion of cultures based on the Pontic steppe. Potapovka sites are eventually however found also on the Don and the Dnieper.

The area which the Potapovka culture occupied had earlier been occupied by the Khvalynsk culture of the middle Volga region, which was preceded by the Early Eneolithic Samara culture that bloomed around the turn of the 5th millennium BC.

The Potapovka culture is also influenced by the Catacomb culture, the Multi-cordoned ware culture and the Abashevo culture. It has been considered a western variant of the Sintashta culture and the earlier phases of the subsequent Andronovo culture, with who it shares many similarities. These similarities include animal sacrifices (horse burials), burial rituals, chariot-gear, cheek-pieces and ceramics.

Ceramics of the Potapovka culture are very similar to those of the Poltavka culture. The same feature is noted among the Sintashta culture. Major stone artifacts include flint arrowheads. Weapons discovered at Potapovka sites are very similar to those described in the Vedas and the Avesta.

The Potapovka culture is especially distinguished by the presence of bone cheek-pieces for controlling horses. One cheeck-piece of the Potapovka culture was found to be decorated with a Mycenaean ornament. Possible remains of wheels and wheeled vehicles have been observed in Potapovka remains. Unlike for the Sintashta culture, spoked wheels have not been found in the Potapovka culture.

The expansion of the Potapovka culture, Sintashta culture and other cultures ultimately of Eastern European origin into western Kazakhstan and the southern Urals is believed to have occurred as an elite dominance migration.

Like the Sintashta culture, also known as the Sintashta-Petrovka culture or Sintashta-Arkaim culture, of the northern Eurasian steppe on the borders of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, its people are believed to have spoken a form of Proto-Indo-Iranian.

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

Sintashta material culture also also shows the influence of the late Abashevo culture, derived from the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture. Its immediate predecessor in the Ural-Tobol steppe was the Poltavka culture. Several Sintashta towns were built over older Poltavka settlements or close to Poltavka cemeteries and Poltavka motifs are common on Sintashta pottery.

Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers. The Potapovka culture was directly ancestral to the Srubnaya culture, and probably influenced the emergence of the Andronovo culture.

People in the northwestern areas of Andronovo were found to be genetically largely homogeneous and genetically almost indistinguishable from Sintashta people. The genetic data suggested that the Andronovo culture and its Sintastha predecessor were ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.

Out of the Shintashta culture developed the Andronovo culture within the broader Andronovo horizon around the Aral Sea, which interacted with the he Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (short BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization, a non-Indo-European Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia which influenced the Indo-Iranians.

BMAC, located in present-day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River) in Bactria, and at Murghab river delta in Margiana, is dated to 2400-1900 BC in its urban phase or Integration Era.

Proto-Indo-Iranian arose due to this influence. This interaction further shaped the Indo-Iranians, which split at c. 2000-1600 BC into the Indo-Aryans and the Iranians. They then migrated southwards to the BMAC. The characteristically BMAC artifacts found at burials in Mehrgarh and Balochistan are explained by a movement of peoples from Central Asia to the south.

The BMAC material inventory of the Mehrgarh and Baluchistan burials is evidence of an archaeological intrusion into the subcontinent from Central Asia during the commonly accepted time frame for the arrival of the Indo-Aryans.

The Indo-Aryan tribes may have been present in the area of the BMAC from 1700 BC at the latest (incidentally corresponding with the decline of that culture). From the BMAC, the Indo-Aryans moved into the Indian subcontinent.

The Proto-Indo-Iranians borrowed their distinctive religious beliefs and practices from BMAC. Old Aryan religion probably emerged among Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran. 

It was a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new Indo-European elements. At least 383 non-Indo-European words were borrowed from this culture, including the god Indra and the ritual drink Soma.


Proto-Indo-Iranian religion is an archaic offshoot of Indo-European religion. From the various and dispersed Indo-Iranian cultures, a set of common ideas may be reconstructed from which a common, unattested proto-Indo-Iranian source may be deduced.

Despite the introduction of later Hindu and Zoroastrian scriptures, Indo-Iranians shared a common inheritance of concepts including the universal force *Hṛta- (Sanskrit rta, Avestan asha), the sacred plant and drink *sawHma- (Sanskrit Soma, Avestan Haoma) and gods of social order such as *mitra- (Sanskrit Mitra, Avestan and Old Persian Mithra, Miϑra) and *bʰaga- (Sanskrit Bhaga, Avestan and Old Persian Baga).

The pre-Islamic religion of the Nuristani people and extant religion of the Kalash people, is mostly based on the original religion of the Indo-Iranians, some of which are shared with Shinto, one of the national religions of Japan, which has some Indo-Iranian influence owing to contact presumably in the steppes of Central Asia at around 2000 BCE.

In Shinto, traces of these can be seen in the myth of the storm god Susanoo slaying a serpent Yamata-no-Orochi and in the myth of the dawn goddess Ame-no-Uzume. The younger brother of Amaterasu, goddess of the sun and mythical ancestress of the Japanese imperial line, he is a multifaceted deity with contradictory characteristics (both good and bad).

He is being portrayed in various stories either as a wild, impetuous god associated with the sea and storms, as a heroic figure who killed a monstrous serpent, or as a local deity linked with the harvest and agriculture. Syncretic beliefs that arose after the introduction of Buddhism to Japan also saw Susanoo becoming conflated with deities of pestilence and disease.

Beliefs developed in different ways as cultures separated and evolved. For example, the cosmo-mythology of the peoples that remained on the Central Asian steppes and the Iranian plateau is to a great degree unlike that of the Indians, focused more on groups of deities (*daiva and *asura) and less on the divinities individually.

Indians were less conservative than Iranians in their treatment of their divinities, so that some deities were conflated with others or, conversely, aspects of a single divinity developed into divinities in their own right. By the time of Zoroaster, Iranian culture had also been subject to the upheavals of the Iranian Heroic Age (late Iranian Bronze Age, 1800–800 BC), an influence that the Indo-Aryans were not subject to.

Sometimes certain myths developed in altogether different ways. The Rig-Vedic Sarasvati is linguistically and functionally cognate with Avestan *Haraxvaitī Ārəduuī Sūrā Anāhitā. In the Rig-Veda she battles a serpent called Vritra, who has hoarded all of the Earth’s water.

In contrast, in early portions of the Avesta, Iranian *Harahvati is the world-river that flows down from the mythical central Mount Hara. But *Harahvati does no battle — she is blocked by an obstacle (Avestan for obstacle: vərəϑra) placed there by Angra Mainyu.

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