Eurasian Steppe

Eurasian Steppe

Haplogroup R1a

Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) were expanding from the Balkans into the Ukraine. The Dnieper-Donets culture (~5000 bc, central and western Ukraine) and the Sredny Stog culture (~4000 bc, south-central Ukraine) represented an eastern PIE dialect, ancestral to the Indo-Iranian and possibly the Tokharian and Hittite languages as well.

Note: Most linguists follow Marija Gimbates' Kurgan theory. A smaller group follow Colin Renfrew's Anatolian theory, but I prefer Diakonov's Balkan theory, which is also a part of Renfrew's extended theory.

The Stedny Stog culture would continue to develop the proto-Indo-Iranian dialect. These proto-Indo-Iranians would over time move eastward and be at least partially responsible for the development of the extensive Yamna culture (~3600). The Yamna culture would absorb much of the earlier eastern PIE and proto-Uralic people, as well as drive others even further east. It may have remained linguistically diverse for many centuries.

Of the eastern PIE people, one group, already by this time located along the Kuba river valley north of the Caucasus, developed the Maykop culture (~3700 bc), which thrived as an intermediary between the Indo-Iranians of the steppes and the more advanced civilizations south of the Caucasus. I believe that they would eventually move into Anatolia to become the Hittites and their relations. Another group moved north and east where, by 3300 bc, they would form the Afanasevo culture of the Tokharians.

In the Bronze Age several cultures are being developed: the Catacomb culture (~2800 bc) in the Ukraine; the Poltavka culture (~2700 bc) in the Volga valley; and, north of the Poltavka culture, the Abashevo culture (~2500 bc), which may have been at least in part Finno-Ugric.

Sintashta culture (~2100 bc, north of Kazakhstan, at the southern end of the Ural Mountains) - which introduced the chariot - and the broader Andronovo culture (~2000 bc) in what is now Kazakhstan.

Srubna culture (~1800 bc) which ranged from Ukraine to the Ural mountains, with the Andronovo continuing to the east. This culture may have included the Cimmerians, who would be pushed back into eastern Europe by the Indo-Iranian Scyths and, eventually, invade Anatolia.

The famous Tarim Basin mummies (Xinjiang, in western China) - presumed to be Tokharian - are from this time period as well, the earliest dating to 1800 bc. By the final centuries bc, the Yuezhi - likely Tokharians - would be displaced by the Turkish Xiongnu, the beginnings of the westward movement of Turkish tribes that would eventually lead them to Anatolia and domination of central Asia, while the Indo-Europeans of the steppes moved towards and into southern Asia.

The Kazakh Steppe in the north with the Tarim Basin (Takhlamakan) and Dzungaria

The Bactrian-Margiana archeological complex, which thrived from 2300 to 1700 aec, was a culture of sedentary farmers living in fortified villages in the area between what is now Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. Their culture was related more to the cultures to the south than to the cultures of the steppes to their north, and they may have been of Dravidian stock.

It is possible that the Indo-Iranians raided the farmers of the area over centuries, eventually becoming a dominating group while adopting the farmers' culture (similar to the way that China succumbed to the "barbarians" from the steppes to the west).

From the Bactria-Margiana area, a portion of the Indo-Iranians would eventually (circa 1500 bc) enter the area that is now Syria as the Mittani, a ruling class among the Hurrians. Soon after, other Indo-Iranians would travel from Bactria through the mountain passes into the Swat Valley and beyond, where they would become the ruling class in most of northern India.

The Iranians of the steppes would, in the final millennium bc, expand in many directions: They would move back into eastern Europe as the Scyths and Sarmatians. They would move east to Xinjiang as the Sakas. And they would move into the Iranian plateau where they would become the Persians, Parthians, and Medes.

By the last centuries bc, the Scyths and their relations would be driven out of the steppes or absorbed by the Turks, resulting in a spit between the Asian Indo-Europeans and the European Indo-Europeans that persists to the present.

Scythia, circa 100 BC

Catacomb culture, c. 2800 - 2200 BC


Catacomb culture


Poltavka culture, c. 2700 - 2100 BC

Y-DNA R1a1a1b2 & R1a1a1

Poltavka culture


  • Kurgan burials at Utyevka VI cemetery:
    • kurgan 7, grave 1, sample I0419, male - Y-DNA R1a1a1b2 and mtDNA U2e1h
  • Kurgan burials at Utyevka IV cemetery:
    • kurgan 6, grave 2, sample I0246, male - Y-DNA R1a1a1 (Y-SNP calls for I0246); originally reported as P1
    • kurgan 4, grave 1, sample I0418, female - mtDNA T1a1


Abashevo culture, c. 2500 - 1900 BC

It was preceded by the Yamna culture and succeeded by the Srubna culture and the Sintashta culture.

Abashevo culture

Srubna - Andronovo culture

Y-chromosome R1a-M458



Srubna culture, c. 1800 - 1200 BC

Y-DNA R1a1, R1a1a, R1a1a1b2a2a & R1a1a1b2

Srubna culture



In a study published on 10 October 2015, 14 individuals of the Srubna 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. The list of 14 surveyed individuals:

Kurgan burials at Spiridonovka IV cemetery:
kurgan 1, grave 11, sample I0360, male - Y-DNA R1a1 (SRY1532.2) and mtDNA U5a1
kurgan 2, grave 5, sample I0361, male - Y-DNA R1a1a (M17) and mtDNA H5b
kurgan 1, grave 6, sample I0359, female - mtDNA U5a2a1
kurgan 1, grave 15, sample I0354, female - mtDNA U5a1
kurgan 2, grave 1, sample I0358, female - mtDNA H6a1a

Kurgan burials at Spiridonovka II cemetery:
kurgan 1, grave 1, sample I0430, male - Y-DNA R1a1a1b2a2a (Z2123) and mtDNA H3g
kurgan 1, grave 2, sample I0431, female - mtDNA H2b
kurgan 11, grave 12, sample I0421, female - mtDNA H3g

Kurgan burials at Barinovka I cemetery:
kurgan 2, grave 17, sample I0423, male - R1a1a1b2 (Z93) and mtDNA J2b1a2a
kurgan 2, grave 24, sample I0422, female - mtDNA type T1a1

Kurgan burials at Novosel’ki cemetery:
kurgan 6, grave 4, sample I0232, male - R1a1a1b2 (Z93), mtDNA U5a1f2

Kurgan burials at Uvarovka I cemetery:
kurgan 2, grave 1, sample I0424, male - R1a1a1b2 (Z93); mtDNA T2b4

Kurgan burials at Rozhdestvenno I cemetery:
kurgan 5 grave 7, sample I0234, female - mtDNA K1b2a
kurgan 4 grave 4, skeleton 2, sample I0235, female - mtDNA I1a1


Alekanovo inscription

Alekanovo inscription

The Alekanovo inscription is a group of undeciphered characters found in the Russian village of Alekanovo. The characters were inscribed on a small clay pot 15 cm high, located in a Slavic burial site. The inscription was dated by Gorodtsov to 10th–11th century AD.


Tagar kultura, c. 800 - 200 BC / Tashtyk kultura, c. 0 - 400 AD

Y-DNA R1a1

Tagar kultura - Tashtyk kultura

Y-chromosome N

Y-chromosome N


Botai culture, c. 3700 - 3100 BC / Horse Domestication


Botai culture

The Botai culture (~3700 bc, north-central Kazakhstan) was perhaps the first to domesticate the horse. They may have spoken an early Uralic dialect.

Y-chromosome R1a-Z93



Sintashta culture, c. 2100 - 1800 BC

Sintashta culture

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. Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture.



Andronovo culture, c. 2000 BC - 900 BC

Y-DNA R1a-Z93 & C

Andronovo culture


In June 2015, another genetic study surveyed one additional male and three female individuals of Andronovo culture. Extraction of Y-DNA from this individual was determined to belong to R1a1a1b2a2 (Z93- clade: Z2121). Extractions of mtDNA were determined to represent two samples of U4 and two samples of U2e.


Andronovo Culture Tombs in the Xinjiang Province

Tomb M3

M3 stands out from the typical earthen-shaft burial regarding its dome-like grave mound (Diameter: 200cm; Height: 140cm) surrounded by a ditch embedded with green rubbles on the wall. The main chamber is rightly beneath the mound around which 16 stone-coffin tombs scattered. This main chamber is consisted of two parts: the western part is a sloped second-tired platform while the eastern section is square-shaped in the plan with narrowed bottom vertically. The chamber ground is paved by finely cut slabs on which traces of red painting could be detected. Most of the human bones are mixed in the soil deposits and they include pelvis, rib and vertebrate elements. Along with human bones, pottery shards and animal bones were also excavated.

All of the 16 stone-coffin tombs attaching to the main chamber contain rectangular coffin made of four stone slabs and covered with one stone plate on the top. The coffin is similar to the burial pit in size, averaging 30cm in length, 50cm in width and 20-50cm in depth, where infants either cremated (13 tombs) or inhumated (3 tombs) were buried. In terms of inhumation, bodies flexed on one side heading west. Usually one or two pottery vessels are found around their head. For cremation burials, fragmental bone elements lie on the bottom of the tomb along with ceramic grave goods. Potteries tend to be small vessels produced in lower temperature, suggesting their function exclusively for burials. Pot with ring foot and plain-bottomed jar are the two types most frequently discovered. 

Ritual site J3

Details of ritual site J3 with upright column in the centre of the round pit

The ritual sites are identical in structure, presenting a square-shaped plane (4.3m, 4.5m and 5.7m in length respectively). The three sites are grouped into a pyramid distribution. One bovine skull was likely to be used as a sacrifice in J3 and small copper objects, lithic pestles as well as dish-shaped stone tools were excavated. 

These seven tombs could be tentatively associated with Tangbalesayi cemetery in Nilka county and the western Kukesu river No 2 cemetery in Tekes county, in terms of tomb style, body treatment and grave goods, which again demonstrates their close relation to the Andronovo culture in Central Asia. It should be noted that the Andronovo stone coffin excavated in Nilka was the first discovery of Andronovo remains in Ili region, thus rendering important information about the regional development of the Andronovo culture. Moreover, M3 serves as a special case considering its unique structure and the 16 stone coffin tombs of infants encircling it. As this phenomenon is also distinctive in the Andronovo culture, it contributes to our understanding towards the diversity in Andronovo culture. Last but not least, the local variation of the Andronovo culture can be envisaged from the pottery assemblages which are dominated by pots with ring foot and plain-bottomed jars.

  • Andronovo Culture - Child sacrifice


Archaeogenetics - Andronovo, Karasuk, Tagar & Tashtyk culture

In 2009, a genetic study of ancient Siberian cultures, the Andronovo culture, the Karasuk culture, the Tagar culture and the Tashtyk culture, was published in Human Genetics. Ten individuals of the Andronovo horizon in southern Siberia from 1400 BC to 1000 BC were surveyed. Extractions of mtDNA from nine individuals were determined to represent two samples of haplogroup U4, one sample of Z1, one sample T1, one sample of U2e, one sample of T4, one sample of H, one sample of K2b and one sample of U5a1. Extractions of Y-DNA from one individual was determined to belong to Y-DNA haplogroup C (but not C3), while the other two extractions were determined to belong to haplogroup R1a1a, which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans. Of the individuals surveyed only two (or 22%) were determined to be Mongoloid while seven (or 78%) were determined to be Caucasoid, with the majority being light-eyed and light-haired

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