Cucuteni-Trypillian culture

c. 4800 - 3000 BC

Cucuteni-Trypillian culture




Haplogroup I2a - Haplogroup G2a

Haplogroup I2a - Haplogroup G2a


The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, also known as Cucuteni culture (from Romanian), Trypillian culture (from Ukrainian) or Tripolye culture (from Russian), is a Neolithic–Eneolithic archaeological culture which existed from approximately 4800 to 3000 BC, from the Carpathian Mountains to the Dniester and Dnieper regions in modern-day Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, encompassing an area of more than 35,000 km2 (14,000 sq mi).

During the Trypillia BII, CI, and CI-II phases, populations belonging to the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture built the largest settlements in Neolithic Europe, some of which contained as many as 1,600 structures. However, the majority of Cucuteni-Trypillian settlements consisted of high-density, small settlements (spaced 3 to 4 kilometers apart), concentrated mainly in the Siret, Prut, and Dniester river valleys.




Reconstructed Cucuteni-Trypillian loom

Anthropomorphic Cucuteni-Trypillian clay figures - Cucuteni Spoon


Figurine - Old Europe


6,000-Year-Old Temple Unearthed in Ukraine

A team of archaeologists led by Dr Mykhailo Videiko of the Kyiv Institute of Archaeology has discovered the remains of a 6,000-year-old temple at a Trypillian culture village near modern-day Nebelivka, Ukraine.

A 6,000-year-old temple found at the Trypillian mega-site of Nebelivka in Kirovograd region, Ukraine. Image credit: Nataliia Burdo / Mykhailo Videiko.

Trypillian culture derives its name from the village of Trypillia in Kyiv region, Ukraine, where artifacts of this ancient civilization were first discovered in 1896.

Archeological excavations show that Trypillian people lived from about 5400 to 2700 BC on a vast area extending from the Carpathian piedmont, east to the Dnipro River, and south to the shores of the Black sea.

The culture is characterized by advanced agriculture, developed metallurgy, pottery-making, sophisticated architecture and social organization, including the first proto-cities on European soil.

Large pot and small bowls found inside the southern room of the temple. Image credit: Nataliia Burdo / Mykhailo Videiko.

Trypillian society was matriarchal, with women heading the household, doing agricultural work, and manufacturing pottery, textiles and clothing. Hunting, keeping domestic animals and making tools were the responsibilities of the men.

The most notable aspect of the Trypillian culture was the periodic destruction of settlements, with each single-habitation site having a roughly 60 to 80 year lifetime.

Some of the settlements were reconstructed several times on top of earlier habitational levels, preserving the shape and the orientation of the older buildings.

The purpose of burning these settlements is a subject of debate among scientists.

Fragments of humanlike figurines found inside the temple. Image credit: Nataliia Burdo / Mykhailo Videiko.

The remains of one of the largest burnt out Trypillian buildings ever found have been uncovered during recent excavations at the Trypillian ‘mega-site’ of Nebelivka in Kirovograd region, Ukraine, and interpreted as a massive temple, dating from 4000 BC.

“The temple was a two-story building made of wood and clay surrounded by a galleried courtyard, five rooms were on the first floor and raised family altars made of clay were on the ground floor,” said Dr Videiko, who is a co-author of the paper published in the Journal of Neolithic Archaeology.

“We have all motives and enough evidences to determine it as a central temple of the whole village community.”

Clay tokens, golden and bone pendants found inside the temple. Image credit: Nataliia Burdo / Mykhailo Videiko.

“Its construction required labor commensurate with the construction of several dozen ordinary houses. Its plan and some features of this structure find analogies in temples from the 5th – 4th millennia BC known from excavations in Anatolia and Mesopotamia.”

The temple was approximately 60 meters long and 21 meters wide, and was oriented nearly east-west.

Inside the temple, Dr Videiko and his colleagues found the remains of eight clay platforms, which may have been used as altars, and two bins with stones inside.

Reconstruction of the temple and plans of the ground floor (middle) and the first floor (bottom): 1-7, 11 – clay platforms; 8-9 – clay bins; 10 – clay floor; 12 – podium; 13-16 – storage vessels; 17-21 – thresholds; 22 – clay arch; 23 – painted clay floor; 24 – clay platform walls. Image credit: Nataliia Burdo / Mykhailo Videiko.

“Cross-like altars with painted surface and incised decoration are well known from excavations at Volodymyrivka, Maydanetske and other Trypillian sites in the region, also from the pottery models of dwellings,” the archaeologists said.

“During explorations, we discovered some of the details of the interior – thresholds, clay platforms, bins, podium, storage vessels, decoration of floor and walls.”

“The main constructive material was clay with different kinds of admixtures. Clay platforms and podium were created using clay mixed with loamy soil.”

Clay model of a Trypillia dwelling (Trypillia BII, around 4000-3900 BC). Image credit: Nataliia Burdo / Mykhailo Videiko.

“It is visible that platforms, thresholds, floors and clay bins were repaired during the period when the structure existed.”

“We have no direct evidence about the construction of the roof. It is possible to suppose that it looked as on pottery models of houses from the sites of Nebelivka group: arched, probably from rush mates, with conventionalized bull horns over pediment.”

Clay tokens, fragments of humanlike figurines, pottery, golden and bone pendants were also found at the temple.

The results of the 2012-13 campaigns at the site of Nebelivka were published online in the journal Antiquity and the journal Tyragetia (in Russian).

The temple measures 60 by 20 meters (197 by 66 feet) and was made of wood and clay. Originally two stories tall it was surrounded by a galleried courtyard. The temple and settlement were burned down after they were abandoned.

The temple, which was part of a town that once covered an enormous 238 hectares (588 acres) and would have contained more than 1,200 buildings and nearly 50 streets, was first detected by a geophysical survey in 2009 near the modern-day city of Nebelivka, but has only now been subjected to the first intensive archeological excavations.

The location of Nebelivka, Kirovograd Domain, Ukraine.

“The high-resolution plot shows the features of a typical mega-site plan structured around two concentric circuits of houses, with mostly empty space between the circuits, almost 50 internal radial streets, a scatter of features outside the outer circuit, enclosed within a boundary ditch, and an apparently ’empty’ core area,” wrote the study authors in the research report published in the journal Antiquity. The temple was made of wood and clay and measured about 60 by 20 meters (196 by 66 feet) in size. It had two levels and was surrounded by a galleried courtyard. The upper level was divided into five rooms, which were once decorated with red paint.

On top of a platform on this level, archaeologists found numerous burnt lamb bones. Archaeologists have speculated that this could be part of an animal sacrifice ritual, or it could also easily have been a communal barbeque area.

Inside the temple archaeologists found the remains of eight clay platforms that likely served as altars.

The excavated lower levels of the temple contained a large number of animal bones and pottery fragments, and the remains of eight clay platforms, which may have been used as altars.

Significantly, the structure and layout of the temple is similar to other temples of the same era found in ancient Middle East cities, such as those in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) and Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).

Other items unearthed at the Ukraine temple site included small rolled gold ornaments, probably used in hair decorations, bone ornaments, and unusual small statues which, at a stretch, are claimed to resemble humans, although this is by no means certain.

These tiny gold pendants, less than an inch in size, were also discovered at the temple, which would have sprawled some 238 hectares (588 acres), according to recent geomagnetic surveys. The pendants may have been worn on someone’s hair.

The figures appear similar to those found at other Trypillian sites, once again indicating a commonality of culture and people. The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture is the name given to the Neolithic–Eneolithic archaeological culture (ca. 4800 to 3000 BC) found in Eastern Europe which extends from the Carpathian Mountains to the Dniester and Dnieper regions, centered on modern-day Moldova and covering substantial parts of western Ukraine and northeastern Romania.

Archaeologists also found a variety of clay tokens inside the temple. Artifacts like these were used for counting and game playing in the ancient world.

The Trypillian culture established cities to accommodate up to 15,000 inhabitants, being some of the largest settlements in Neolithic European history.

The illustrations on decorative items and other artifacts retrieved confirm that the society was matriarchal and that the people living in these settlements farmed the land using ploughs, produced handicrafts, and had a form of religious belief regarding mankind’s origins and the afterlife.

Researchers have noted that there are indications that the inhabitants of these settlements would burn the entire village every 60 to 80 years and then build on top of the ruins.

There is no explanation for this practice, but one location in Romania has as many as thirteen levels of foundations that were built upon. Like other Trypillian cities, the newly-discovered settlement also showed evidence of having being burnt down after it was abandoned.


Few copper artifacts have been found; many copper tools were imported from the Balkans.

Bone daggers, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Copper axe, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture


7,000 year old origins of 'The Supreme Ultimate'

The 'Supreme Ultimate' diagram of Taoism, the Taijitu of Yin and Yang dates back in China to around a coupke of thousands years ago, yet its origins can be found much earleir in the cultures of Cucuteni and Trypillia dating to around 7,000 years ago, early European cultures.

The motif is also known from later European cultures such as the Etruscans and Celts, but as can be read on Wiki it is generally considered these did not have the associated schools of metaphysical thought that the Chinese had.

What i'll demonstrate here is the extent of the Cucuteni-Trypillian school of cosmological/metaphysical. thought.

The name of this civilization was conventionally established by archaeologists, according to the villages of Cucuteni (in Romania, near Iaşi) and Trypillia (in Ukraine, near Kiev), where, by the end of the 19th century, where there were for the first time discovered painted ceramics and fired clay statuettes – categories of items which became symbols of this ancient civilisation. During the more than one hundred years which past since their discovery, these archaeological settlements entered the specialized scientific literature worldwide. We are in the front of a civilization spreading over about 350.000 sq km, with thousands of settlements of various dimensions, proto-cities of hundreds of hectares, with large fortification systems, with dwellings of various types, from the simple huts to the two storey-constructions, with a ceramicware within which the usefulness is harmoniously combined to the aesthetic aspect, much over the usual specificity of the time, with a fascinating religion, whose traces are marked by idols and cult items of a deep symbolism, whose ritual functionality represents another subject of interpretation

The basis of the symbolism of these cultures is found in cosmology, the place of man within the greater pattern and dynamism of the Earth and Heavens, and the most fundamental aspect was the observance of the anti-clockwise rotatin of the skies of the Northern hemisphere around Celestial North, and the clockwise rotation of the Southern hemisphere,

In conjunction with this observance, they also noted principle points of rising upon the horizon, portals or gateways of the sun, planets and stars, and the tracking of pathways across the horizons, all seen above in conjunction with the small stepped motif which indicates 'place of establishment' in terms of portal/rising point.

Again a small piece such as seen below will be indicating these interests, the spiral concerned with the rotation of the hemispheres, the portal sign translation across the horizons.

The concern with movement also gives rise to understanding of time and seasons, in the piece below Ursa Major is seen represented four-square, the four positions it would rotate through on the daily basis, as well as the four positions it would appear in over the quarters of the year, the solstices and equinoxes.

Related to this the worlds oldest swastika is Cucuteni, marking this turning through the four quarters.

Also represented was Ursa Minor seen in triple form around Celestial North, this was associated with the three principle points of transition across the horizon, the two solstice points and singular equinox point of rising, and the essential triad of Earth, Underworld and Heavens being of a singular Unity.

These factors were interwoven into complex symbolism as seen below, were the three portals of the horizon are represented, with sexual association, they also concened themselves with the arc curvature of the ecliptic and galactic planes, the relationship and interconnectivity of these.

When one has understood then what these cultures were concerned with, the rotation of the hemisphers, the transition across the horizons, the three levels of Earth/Underworld/Heaven, one can begin to make sense of their craftwork and symbolism, it is there to be read and understood;

In some ways these pieces might remind one of Egyptian representations of the Amduat, with the various levels and gateways within the Underworld, the basis is the same, in the Cucuteni-Trypillian examples one sees much more interest in the complexities of arc curvature however, the shifting relationship of the ecliptic and galactic planes which provided means of access into and transition through the Underworld, their art is not abstract it is diagramatic;

The cosmological symbolism also translated onto the human form, thus the man was in harmony with the pattern of the Heavens, man was the driving force of the bull, the female associate with the sensual curvature of the feline and the myriad complexities of the bee...certainly they had a Divine couple had stood over the triple gateways of the horizon and the sun rose between them in perfect harmony....

The context for the 'Supreme Ultimate' symbol is that it is seen on a shrine, these were painted red'black/white representing Earth/Underworld/Heavens respectively, and in origin can be traced back to Catal Hoyuk, below are the Cucuteni-Trypillian version;

The Akhet type twin mountain symbolism of the horizon can also be seen within, but these are very intriguing when compared with drawings from Catal Hoyuk,

The little 'black underworld type demon figure' also finds comparison on Cucuteni-Trypillian ceramics;

A fringe benefit in these interests in the rotating of the Heavens and the dynamic driving force of the bull is that they also invented the wheel...


Fragment of design of a painted amphora with the scene of a ritual dance, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Fragment of design of a painted amphora with zoomorphic representations, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Fragment of design of a painted amphora with zoomorphic representations, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Fragment of design of a painted amphora with zoomorphic representations, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Binocular vessel, the Middle Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Painted vessels, the Middle Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Figurine of a bull, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Binocular vessel, the Middle Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Painted dishes and bowls, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture


History of the Swastika

Old Europe Vinca Cucuteni Trypillian Greece Rome Celtic Germanic

The earliest known swastika-like symbol dates from around 10,000–13,000 BCE. It appears on a late paleolithic figurine of a bird, carved from mammoth ivory, which was found in Mezine, Ukraine. The bird was found with a number of phallic objects which is consistent with the idea that the swastika pattern was used as a fertility symbol. Extensive use of the swastika can be traced to ancient India, during the Indus Valley Civilization.

Ice age Bird ... with Inscribed Swastikas...

The petroglyph with swastikas, Gegham mountains, Armenia

Swastika seals from the Indus Valley Civilization

The earliest consistent use of swastika motifs in the archaeological record date to the Neolithic. The symbol appears in the “Vinca script” of Neolithic Europe (Balkans, 6th to 5th millennium BC). Another early attestation is on a pottery bowl found at Samarra, dated to as early as 4000 BC. Joseph Campbell in an essay on The Neolithic-Paleolithic Contrast cites an ornament on a Late Paleolithic (10,000 BC) mammoth ivory bird figurine found near Kiev as the only known occurrence of such a symbol predating the Neolithic.

The swastika appears only very rarely in the archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia. It is found on prehistoric pottery, of which the Samarra bowl is the oldest known example, and on a number of early seal impressions, but then disappears from the record for the remainder of the Near Eastern Bronze Age. In India, Bronze Age swastika symbols were found at Lothal and Harappa, on Indus Valley seals.

Swastikas have also been found on pottery in archaeological digs in Africa, in the area of Kush and on pottery at the Jebel Barkal temples, in Iron Age designs of the northern Caucasus (Koban culture), and in Neolithic China in the Majiabang, Dawenkou and Xiaoheyan cultures.

Painted pottery jar with geometric design. Majiayao Culture: Banshan type (c. 2600-2300 B.C.) Neolithic Period Hong Kong Museum of Art.

An example of how the swastika was also used as a symbol in Classical Greece. Here it can be seen as a decoration on the clothing of a picture of Athene, the Goddess of Wisdom, the arts and war – and also patron of the city of Athens. This detail is from a Greek vase dating from approximately 500 BC.

The Latini tribe are apparent through their liberal use of the swastika as an emblem. Here the swastika can be seen upon the Ara  Pacis Augustae: the altar built to commemorate the peace established by Augustus, consecrated 4 July 13 BC. The swastika can also be seen in a virtually identical format in many Classical Greek designs: hence it is often called a “Greek key” pattern.

Etruscan pendant with swastika symbols, Bolsena, Italy, 700-650 BCE. Louvre Museum.

Greek helmet with swastika marks on the top part (circled), 350-325 BC from Taranto, found at Herculanum. Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.

The Vikings is illustrated by this detail from a very well preserved Viking ship uncovered by archeologists in Scandinavia, known as the Osberg ship, circa 800 AD. A handle mount on a bucket found in the ship depicts a figure carrying a shield with four swastika sun emblems in its corners. The fact that the swastika appears as a symbol from Scandinavia to Italy to India indicates precisely how far the Indo-European influence was felt.

The swastika can be seen on a carving called an ayagaptha, in Mathura, India. The emblem is one of the last remains of the Indo-Europeans tribe – who called themselves Aryans – who invaded India. In that land, they were eventually absorbed into the overwhelming non-White mass, creating the caste system still present in that country to this day.

Svastike na stećcima

Mosaic in Salona

Roman mosaics

Roman mosaics

St. Clement Church (Ohrid)

Skelani, mozaik sa svastikom

Daunian Stele, limestone grave marker (?), 610-550 BC


History of the Swastika

History of the Swastika


Swastika breads from Dalmatia

This is a wooden "peel" or spatula (called "lopar" in local Croatian dialect).

Swastika bread from Bosnia

Svastika znači Zvezdika

Zvezdika (Little Star); Z = S, Svasdika; d = t, Swastika


Svastka i Davidova zvijezda

Swastika India

In Hinduism, the symbol with arms pointing clockwise (卐) is called swastika, symbolizing surya ('sun'), prosperity and good luck, while the counterclockwise symbol (卍) is called sauvastika, symbolizing night or tantric aspects of Kali.

Nazi Germany


Swastika Today


The Largest cities:

Talianki - with up to 15,000 inhabitants, and which covered an area of 450 hectares and included 2,700 houses - circa 3,700 B.C.

Dobrovody - up to 10,000 inhabitants and covered an area of 250 hectares, and it was also fortified - circa 3,800 B.C.

Maydanets - up to 10,000 inhabitants, area 250 hectares, 1,575 houses - circa 3,700 B.C.

Reconstruction of Talianki, a large Trypillian city.

Reconstruction of a temple from Nebelivka, Ukraine, c. 4000 BC

Model of Cucuteni house.

Top view of Cucuteni house model.

The Early period:

In the second half of the 6th millennium B.C. and in the first half of the 5th millennium, the tribes settled in the basin of the Dnieper and Buh rivers. The settlements were located close to rivers, however a number of settlements have been discovered on the plateaus. Dwellings were made in the ground or half dug into the ground. The floors and fireplaces were made of clay, walls were made of wood or reeds covered in clay. Roofing was made of straw or reeds.

The inhabitants were involved with animal husbandry, agriculture, fishing and gathering. Wheat, rye and peas were grown. Tools included ploughs made of antlers, stone, bone and sharpened sticks. The harvest was collected with scythes made of flint inlaid blades. The grain was milled by stone wheels. Women were involved in pottery and clothing making, and played a leading role in community life. Men hunted, looked after cattle, made tools from flint, bone and stone. Cattle were most important, and pigs, sheep and goats took a secondary place - they had domesticated horses. Female statues and amulets were made of clay. Rarely one comes across copper items, primarily bracelets, rings and hooks. One settlement in Korbuni Moldova, had a large number of copper items, primarily jewelry which was dated back to the beginning of the 5th millennium B.C.

The Middle period

In the middle era, the Trypillian culture spread over a wide area from Eastern Transylvania in the West, to the Dniper river in the East. The population settled on the banks of the Upper and Middle bank of the Dniper river. The population grew considerably and they lived on plateaus near major rivers and springs. Their dwellings were built on poles in the form of circles or ovals. Dwellings were built on log floors covered in clay. Walls were woven from wood covered in clay and a clay stove was situated in the centre of the dwelling. With the growth in population in the area, agriculture also grew. Animal husbandry was popular, however hunting also continued. Tools made of flint, rock and bones were used for cultivation. Axes made of copper have been discovered mined in Volyn, and in the areas around the Dniper river. Pottery making was sophisticated. Characteristic were a mono-chromal spiral ornament, painted with black paint on a yellow and red base. There were large pear-shaped pottery for the saving of grain, plates etc. and statues of female figures. Figures of animals and models of houses have also been found. It is thought that the tribes were matrilineal.

Late period

In the late period, the territory expanded to include Volyn to the rivers Sluch and Horyn, and both banks of the Dnieper river near Kyiv. In the area near the Black sea, the inhabitants communicated with other cultures. Animal husbandry became more important - Horses became more important. The community transformed into a patriarchal structure. Communities were also established on the Don and Volga rivers. Houses were build differently, spiral ornaments disappeared from pottery, with a new rope-like ornament becoming more popular. Different forms of ritual burial were developed in graves with elaborate burial rituals.

The Cucuteni-Trypillia culture has been called the first urban culture in Europe. The later Cucuteni-Trypillia settlements were usually located on a plateau, fortified with earthworks and ditches. The earliest villages consisted of ten to fifteen households. In their heyday, settlements expanded to include several hundred large adobe huts, sometimes with two stories. These houses were typically warmed by an oven and had round windows. The huts had furnaces used to create pottery, which the Cucuteni-Trypillians are most known for.

Agriculture is attested to, as well as livestock-raising, mainly consisting of cattle, but goats/sheep and swine are also evidenced. Wild game is a regular part of the faunal remains. The pottery is connected to the Linear Pottery culture. Copper was extensively imported from the Balkans. Extant figurines excavated at the Cucuteni sites are thought to represent religious artifacts, but their meaning or use is still unknown.

As time progressed, the Cucuteni-Trypillians began creating better weapons using stronger metals, and the effort they put into pottery became less noticeable. The Cucuteni-Trypillians noticeably began fortifying their cities, when there was once no need for fortification or weapons. The sudden disappearance of many Cucuteni-Trypillian villages leads archaeologists to believe they were conquered and assimilated into another culture. The Cucuteni-Trypillian people, were likely kurganized by the horse riding tribes.


Back to Europe

Yamna Maykop



By about 3500 BCE the bones of large horses, probably from the steppes, began to appear outside the steppes, in the Danube valley (Bokonyi 1979), in central and western Europe (Benecke 2006), and in the North Caucasus, Transcaucasia, and eastern Anatolia (Bokonyi 1991).

Yamna-Maykop culture

According to Gimbutas' version of the Kurgan hypothesis, Old Europe was invaded and destroyed by horse-riding pastoral nomads from the Pontic-Caspian steppe (the "Kurgan culture") who brought with them violence, patriarchy, and Indo-European languages. More recent proponents of the Kurgan hypothesis agree that the cultures of Old Europe spoke pre-Indo-European languages but include a less dramatic transition, with a prolonged migration of Proto-Indo-European speakers after Old Europe's collapse because of other factors.

Colin Renfrew's competing Anatolian hypothesis suggests that the Indo-European languages were spread across Europe by the first farmers from Anatolia. In the hypothesis' original formulation, the languages of Old Europe belonged to the Indo-European family but played no special role in its transmission.


Yamna culture, c. 3500 BC - 2300 BC

Y-DNA R1a, R1b & J

Yamna culture

Yamna culture

Yamna culture

The Yamna culture, is a late copper age/early Bronze Age culture of the Bug/Dniester/Ural region (the Pontic steppe), dating to the 36th–23rd centuries B.C.

The Pontic steppe is the vast steppeland (Grasslands) stretching from the north of the Black Sea, as far as the east of the Caspian Sea, from central Ukraine across the Southern Federal District and the Volga Federal District of Russia to western Kazakhstan. The area corresponds to Scythia and Sarmatia of Classical antiquity, and forms part of the larger Eurasian steppe. 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 and in western and southern Asia.

The culture was predominantly nomadic, with some agriculture practiced near rivers and a few hillforts. Characteristic for the culture are the inhumations in kurgans (tumuli) in pit graves with the dead body placed in a supine position with bent knees. The bodies were covered in ochre. Multiple graves have been found in these kurgans, often as later insertions.

Significantly, animal grave offerings were made (cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and horse), a feature associated with both Proto-Indo-Europeans (including Proto-Indo-Iranians). The recently discovered Luhansk sacrificial site has been described as a hill sanctuary where human sacrifice was practiced.


Three such hunter-gathering individuals of the male sex have had their DNA results published. Each was found to belong to a different Y-DNA haplogroup: R1a, R1b, and J

The ancient mould for casting daggers.

Man from Yamnaya culture

west: Catacomb culture;
east: Poltavka culture, Srubna culture;
north: Corded Ware culture (derived from Yamna culture)


Yamna-Maykop invasion

Yamna-Maykop invasion


Old Europe Collapse

By 4300–4200 BCE Old Europe was at its peak. The Varna cemetery in eastern Bulgaria had the most ostentatious funerals in the world, richer than anything of the same age in the Near East. Among the 281 graves at Varna, 61 (22%) contained more than three thousand golden objects together weighing 6 kg (13.2 lb). Two thousand of these were found in just four graves (1, 4, 36, and 43). Grave 43, an adult male, had golden beads, armrings, and rings totaling 1,516 grams (3.37 lb), including a copper axe-adze with a gold-sheathed handle. Golden ornaments have also been found in tell settlements in the lower Danube valley, at Gumelniţa, Vidra, and at Hotnitsa (a 310-gm cache of golden ornaments). A few men in these communities played prominent social roles as chiefs or clan leaders, symbolized by the public display of shining gold ornaments and cast copper weapons.

Thousands of settlements with broadly similar ceramics, houses, and female figurines were occupied between about 4500 and 4100 BCE in eastern Bulgaria (Varna), the upland plains of Balkan Thrace (KaranovoVI), the upper part of the Lower Danube valley in western Bulgaria and Romania (Krivodol-Sălcuta), and the broad riverine plains of the lower Danube valley (Gumelniţa) (figure 11.1). Beautifully painted ceramic vessels, some almost 1 m tall and fired at temperatures of over 800˚C, lined the walls of their two-storied houses. Conventions in ceramic design and ritual were shared over large regions. The crafts of metallurgy, ceramics, and even flint working became so refined that they must have required master craft specialists who were patronized and supported by chiefs. In spite of this, power was not obviously centralized in any one village. Perhaps, as John Chapman observed, it was a time when the restricted resources (gold, copper, Spondylus shell) were not critical, and the critical resources (land, timber, labor, marriage partners) were not seriously restricted. This could have prevented any one region or town from dominating others.

Figure 11.1 Map of Old Europe at 4500–4000 BCE.

Towns in the high plains atop the Balkans and in the fertile lower Danube valley formed high tells. Settlements fixed in one place for so long imply fixed agricultural fields and a rigid system of land tenure around each tell. The settlement on level VI at Karanovo in the Balkans was the type site for the period. About fifty houses crowded together in orderly rows inside a protective wooden palisade wall atop a massive 12-m (40-ft) tell. Many tells were surrounded by substantial towns. At Bereket, not far from Karanovo, the central part of the tell was 250 m in diameter and had cultural deposits 17.5 m (57 ft) thick, but even 300–600 m away from this central eminence the occupation deposits were 1–3 m thick. Surveys at Podgoritsa in northeastern Bulgaria also found substantial off-tell settlement.

Around 4200–4100 BCE the climate began to shift, an event called the Piora Oscillation in studies of Swiss alpine glaciers. Solar insolation decreased, glaciers advanced in the Alps (which gave this episode its name), and winters became much colder. Variations in temperature in the northern hemisphere are recorded in the annual growth rings in oaks preserved in bogs in Germany and in annual ice layers in the GISP2 glacial ice core from Greenland. According to these sources, extremely cold years happened first in 4120 and 4040 BCE. They were harbingers of a 140-year-long, bitterly cold period lasting from 3960 to 3821 BCE, with temperatures colder than at any time in the previous two thousand years. Investigations led by Douglass Bailey in the lower Danube valley showed that floods occurred more frequently and erosion degraded the riverine floodplains where crops were grown. Agriculture in the lower Danube valley shifted to more cold-tolerant rye in some settlements. Quickly these and perhaps other stresses accumulated to create an enormous crisis.

Between about 4200 and 3900 BCE more than six hundred tell settlements of the Gumelniţa, Karanovo VI, and Varna cultures were burned and abandoned in the lower Danube valley and eastern Bulgaria. Some of their residents dispersed temporarily into smaller villages like the Gumelniţa B1 hamlet of Jilava, southwest of Bucharest, with just five to six houses and a single-level cultural deposit. But Jilava was burned, apparently suddenly, leaving behind whole pots and many other artifacts. People scattered and became much more mobile, depending for their food on herds of sheep and cattle rather than fixed fields of grain. The forests did not regenerate; in fact, pollen cores show that the countryside became even more open and deforested. Relatively mild climatic conditions returned after 3760 BCE according to the German oaks, but by then the cultures of the lower Danube valley and the Balkans had changed dramatically. The cultures that appeared after about 3800 BCE did not regularly use female figurines in domestic rituals, no longer wore copper spiral bracelets or Spondylus-shell ornaments, made relatively plain pottery in a limited number of shapes, did not live on tells, and depended more on stockbreeding. Metallurgy, mining, and ceramic technology declined sharply in both volume and technical skill, and ceramics and metal objects changed markedly in style. The copper mines in the Balkans abruptly ceased production; copper-using cultures in central Europe and the Carpathians switched to Transylvanian and Hungarian ores about 4000 BCE, at the beginning of the Bodrogkeresztur culture in Hungary (see ore sources in figure 11.1). Oddly this was when metallurgy really began in western Hungary and nearby in Austria and central Europe. Metal objects now were made using new arsenical bronze alloys, and were of new types, including new weapons, daggers being the most important. “We are faced with the complete replacement of a culture,” the foremost expert on Eneolithic metallurgy E. N. Chernykh said. It was “a catastrophe of colossal scope … a complete cultural caesura,” according to the Bulgarian archaeologist H. Todorova.

The end of Old Europe truncated a tradition that began with the Starcevo-Criş pioneers in 6200 BCE. Exactly what happened to Old Europe is the subject of a long, vigorous debate. Graves of the Suvorovo type, ascribed to immigrants from the steppes, appeared in the lower Danube valley just before the destruction of the tells. Settlements of the Cernavoda I type appeared just after. They regularly contain horse bones and ceramics exhibiting a mixture of steppe technology and indigenous Danubian shapes, and are ascribed to a mixed population of steppe immigrants and people from the tells. The number of abandoned sites and the rapid termination of many long-standing traditions in crafts, domestic rituals, decorative customs, body ornaments, housing styles, living arrangements, and economy suggest not a gradual evolution but an abrupt and probably violent end. At Hotnitsa on the Danube in north-central Bulgaria the burned houses of the final Eneolithic occupation contained human skeletons, interpreted as massacred inhabitants. The final Eneolithic destruction level at Yunatsite on the Balkan upland plain contained forty-six human skeletons. It looks like the tell towns of Old Europe fell to warfare, and, somehow, immigrants from the steppes were involved. But the primary causes of the crisis could have included climate change and related agricultural failures, or soil erosion and environmental degradation accumulated from centuries of intensive farming, or internecine warfare over declining timber and copper resources, or a combination of all these.

The crisis did not immediately affect all of southeastern Europe. The most widespread settlement abandonments occurred in the lower Danube valley (Gumelniţa, northeastern Bulgaria, and the Bolgrad group), in eastern Bulgaria (Varna and related cultures), and in the mountain valleys of the Balkans (Karanovo VI), east of the Yantra River in Bulgaria and the Olt in Romania. This was where tell settlements, and the stable field systems they imply, were most common. In the Balkans, a well-cultivated, densely populated landscape occupied since the earliest Neolithic, no permanent settlements can be dated between 3800 and 3300 BCE. People probably still lived there, but herds of sheep grazed on the abandoned tells.

The traditions of Old Europe survived longer in western Bulgaria and western Romania (Krivodol-Sălcuţa IV–Bubanj Hum Ib). Here the settlement system had always been somewhat more flexible and less rooted; the sites of western Bulgaria usually did not form high tells. Old European ceramic types, house types, and figurine types were abandoned gradually during Sălcuţa IV, 4000–3500 BCE. Settlements that were occupied during the crisis, places like Telish-Redutite III and Galatin, moved to high, steep-sided promontories, but they retained mud-brick architecture, two-story houses, and cult and temple buildings. Many caves in the region were newly occupied, and since herders often use upland caves for shelter, this might suggest an increase in upland-lowland seasonal migrations by herders. The Krivodol–Salcutsa–Bubanj Hum Ib people reoriented their external trade and exchange connections to the north and west, where their influence can be seen on the Lasinja-Balaton culture in western Hungary.

The Old European traditions of the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture also survived and, in fact, seemed curiously reinvigorated. After 4000 BCE, in its Tripolye B2 phase, the Tripolye culture expanded eastward toward the Dnieper valley, creating ever larger agricultural towns, although none was rebuilt in one place long enough to form a tell. Domestic cults still used female figurines, and potters still made brightly painted fine lidded pots and storage jars 1 m high. Painted fine ceramics were mass-produced in the largest towns (Varvarovka VIII), and flint tools were mass-produced at flint-mining villages like Polivanov Yar on the Dniester. Cucuteni AB/Tripolye B2 settlements such as Veseli Kut (150 ha) contained hundreds of houses and apparently were preeminent places in a new settlement hierarchy. The Cucuteni-Tripolye culture forged new relationships with the copper-using cultures of eastern Hungary (Borogkeresztur) in the west and with the tribes of the steppes in the east.

Warfare and Alliance: the Cucuteni-Tripolye Tulture and the Steppes

The crisis in the lower Danube valley corresponded to late Cucuteni A3/ Tripolye B1, around 4300–4000 BCE. Tripolye B1 was marked by a steep increase in the construction of fortifications—ditches and earthen banks—to protect settlements (figure 11.2). Fortifications might have appeared just about when the climate began to deteriorate and the collapse of Old Europe occurred, but Cucuteni-Tripolye fortifications then decreased during the coldest years of the Piora Oscillation, during Tripolye B2, 4000–3700 BCE. If climate change destabilized Old Europe and caused the initial construction of Cucuteni-Tripolye fortifications, the first phase of change was sufficient by itself to tip the system into crisis. Probably there was more to it than just climate.

Only 10% of Tripolye B1 settlements were fortified even in the worst of times. But those that were fortified required substantial labor, implying a serious, chronic threat. Fortified Cucteni-Tripolye villages usually were built at the end of a steep-sided promontory, protected by a ditch dug across the promontory neck. The ditches were 2–5 m wide and 1.5–3 m deep, made by removing 500–1,500 m3 of earth. They were relocated and deepened as settlements grew in size, as at Traian and Habaşeşti I. In a database of 2,017 Cucuteni/Tripolye settlements compiled by the Moldovan archaeologist V. Dergachev, half of all fortified Cucuteni/Tripolye sites are dated just to the Tripolye B1 period. About 60% of all the flint projectile points from all the Cucuteni/Tripolye culture also belonged just to the Tripolye B1 period. There was no corresponding increase in hunting during Tripolye B1 (no increase in wild animal bones in settlements), and so the high frequency of projectile points was not connected with hunting. Probably it was associated with increased warfare.

The number of Cucuteni-Tripolye settlements increased from about 35 settlements per century during Tripolye A to about 340 (!) during Tripolye B1, a tenfold rise in the number of settlements without a significant expansion of the area settled (figure 11.3b). Part of this increase in settlement density during Tripolye B1 might be ascribed to refugees fleeing from the towns of the Gumelniţa culture. At least one Tripolye B1 settlement in the Prut drainage, Drutsy 1, appears to have been attacked. More than one hundred flint points (made of local Carpathian flint) were found around the walls of the three excavated houses as if they had been peppered with arrows. Compared to its past and its future, the Tripolye B1 period was a time of sharply increased conflict in the Eastern Carpathians.

Figure 11.2 Habaşesti I, a fortified Tripolye B1 village. After Chernysh 1982.

Contact with Steppe Cultures during Tripolye B: Cucuteni C Ware

Simultaneously with the increase in fortifications and weapons, Tripolye B1 towns showed widespread evidence of contact with steppe cultures. A new pottery type, Cucuteni C ware, shell-tempered and similar to steppe pottery, appeared in Tripolye B1 settlements of the South Bug valley (Sabatinovka I) and in Romania (Draguşeni and Fedeleşeni, where Cucuteni C ware amounted to 10% of the ceramics). Cucuteni C ware is usually thought to indicate contact with and influence from steppe pottery traditions (figure 11.4). Cucuteni C ware might have been used in ordinary homes with standard Cucuteni-Tripolye fine wares as a new kind of coarse or kitchen pottery, but it did not replace traditional coarse kitchen wares tempered with grog (ground-up ceramic sherds). Some Cucuteni C pots look very much like steppe pottery, whereas others had shell-temper, gray-to-brown surface color and some typical steppe decorative techniques (like “caterpillar” impressions, made with a cord-wrapped, curved pressing tool) but were made in typical Cucuteni-Tripolye shapes with other decorative elements typical of Cucuteni-Tripolye wares.

Figure 11.3. Tripolye B1-B2 migrations. After Dergachev 2002, figure 6.2.

The origin of Cucuteni C ware is disputed. There were good utilitarian reasons for Tripolye potters to adopt shell-tempering. Shell-temper in the clay can increase resistance to heat shock, and shell-tempered pots can harden at lower firing temperatures, which could save fuel. Changes in the organization of pottery making could also have encouraged the spread of Cucuteni C wares. Ceramic production was beginning to be taken over by specialized ceramic-making towns during Tripolye B1 and B2, although local household production also continued in most places. Rows of reusable two-chambered kilns appeared at the edges of a few settlements, with 11 kilns at Ariusd in southeastern Transylvania. If fine painted wares were beginning to be produced in villages that specialized in making pottery and the coarse wares remained locally produced, the change in coarse wares could have reflected the changing organization of production.

Figure 11.4 Cucuteni C (bottom row) and standard Cucuteni B wares (top two rows): (1) fine ware, Novye Ruseshti I1a (Tripolye B1); (2) fine ware, Geleshti (Tripolye B2); (3–4) fine ware, Frumushika I (Tripolye B1); (5) Cucuteni C ware, Frumushika II (Tripolye B2); (6–7) Cucuteni C ware, Berezovskaya GES. After Danilenko and Shmagli 1972, Figure 7; Chernysh 1982, Figure LXV.

On the other hand, these particular coarse wares obviously resembled the pottery of steppe tribes. Many Cucuteni C pots look like they were made by Sredni Stog potters. This suggests familiarity with steppe cultures and even the presence of steppe people in some Tripolye B villages, perhaps as hired herders or during seasonal trade fairs. Although it is unlikely that all Cucuteni C pottery was made by steppe potters—there is just too much of it—the appearance of Cucuteni C ware suggests intensified interactions with steppe communities.

Steppe Symbols of Power: Polished Stone Maces

Polished stone maces were another steppe artifact type that appeared in Tripolye B1 villages. A mace, unlike an axe, cannot really be used for anything except cracking heads. It was a new weapon type and symbol of power in Old Europe, but maces had appeared across the steppes centuries earlier in DDII, Khvalynsk, and Varfolomievka contexts. There were two kinds—zoomorphic and eared types-and both had steppe prototypes that were older (figure 11.5; also see figure 9.6). Mace heads carved and polished in the shape of horse heads were found in two Cucuteni A3/A4-Tripolye B1 settlements, Fitioneşti and Fedeleşeni, both of which also had significant amounts of Cucuteni C ware. The eared type appeared at the Cucuteni-Tripolye settlements of Obarşeni and Berezovskaya GES, also with Cucuteni C ware that at Berezovskaya looked like it was imported from steppe communities. Were steppe people present in these Tripolye B1 towns? It seems likely. The integration of steppe pottery and symbols of power into Cucuteni-Tripolye material culture suggests some kind of social integration, but the maintenance of differences in economy, house form, fine pottery, metallurgy, mortuary rituals, and domestic rituals indicates that it was limited to a narrow social sector.

Other Signs of Contact

Most settlements of the Tripolye B period, even large ones, continued to dispose of their dead in unknown ways. But inhumation graves appeared in or at the edge of a few Tripolye B1 settlement sites. A grave in the settlement of Nezvisko contained a man with a low skull and broad, thick-boned face like those of steppe people—a type of skull-and-face configuration called “Proto-Europoid” by Eastern European physical anthropologists. Tripolye, Varna, and Gumelniţa people generally had taller heads, narrower faces, and more gracile facial bones, a configuration called “Mediterranean.” Another indicator of movement across the steppe border was the little settlement near Mirnoe in the steppes north of the Danube delta. This is the only known classic-period Tripolye settlement in the coastal steppe lowlands. It had just a few pits and the remains of a light structure containing sherds of Tripolye B1 and Cucuteni C pots, a few bones of cattle and sheep, and more than a hundred grape seeds, identified as wild grapes. Mirnoe seems to have been a temporary Tripolye B1 camp in the steppes, perhaps for grape pickers. Some people, though not many, were moving across the cultural-ecological frontier in both directions.

Figure 11.5 Eared and horse-head maces of Old Europe, the Suvorovo migrants, and the Pontic-Caspian steppes. Stone mace heads appeared first and were more common in the steppes. After Telegin et al. 2001; Dergachev 1999; Gheorgiu 1994; Kuzmina 2003.

During Tripolye B2, around 4000–3700 BCE, there was a significant migration out of the Prut-Seret forest-steppe uplands, the most densely settled part of the Tripolye B1 landscape, eastward into the South Bug and Dnieper valleys (figure 11.3c). Settlement density in the Prut-Seret region declined by half. Tripolye, the type site first explored in 1901, was an eastern frontier village of the Tripolye B2 period, situated on a high terrace overlooking the broad, fertile valley of the Dnieper River. The population consolidated into fewer, larger settlements (only about 180 settlements per century during Tripolye B2). The number of fortified settlements decreased sharply.

These signs of demographic expansion and reduced conflict appeared after the tell settlements of the Danube valley were burned and abandoned. It appears that any external threat from the steppes, if there was one, turned away from Cucuteni-Tripolye towns.

Steppe Riders at the Frontiers of Old Europe

Frontiers can be envisioned as peaceful trade zones where valuables are exchanged for the mutual benefit of both sides, with economic need preventing overt hostilities, or as places where distrust is magnified by cultural misunderstandings, negative stereotypes, and the absence of bridging institutions. The frontier between agricultural Europe and the steppes has been seen as a border between two ways of life, farming and herding, that were implacably opposed. Plundering nomads like the Huns and Mongols are old archetypes of savagery. But this is a misleading stereotype, and one derived from a specialized form of militarized pastoral nomadism that did not exist before about 800 BCE. And Bronze Age war bands were not organized like armies. The Hunnic invasion analogy is anachronistic, yet that does not mean that mounted raiding never occurred in the Eneolithic.

There is persuasive evidence that steppe people rode horses to hunt horses in Kazakhstan by about 3700–3500 BCE. Almost certainly they were not the first to ride. Given the symbolic linkage between horses, cattle, and sheep in Pontic-Caspian steppe funerals as early as the Khvalynsk period, horseback riding might have begun in a limited way before 4500 BCE. But western steppe people began to act like they were riding only about 4300–4000 BCE, when a pattern consistent with long-distance raiding began, seen most clearly in the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka horizon. Once people began to ride, there was nothing to prevent them from riding into tribal conflicts-not the supposed shortcomings of rope and leather bits (an organic bit worked perfectly well, as our students showed in the organic-bit riding experiment, and as the American Indian “war bridle” demonstrated on the battlefield); not the size of Eneolithic steppe horses (most were about the size of Roman cavalry horses, big enough); and certainly not the use of the wrong “seat” (an argument that early riders sat on the rump of the horse, perhaps for millennia, before they discovered the more natural forward seat-based entirely on Near Eastern images of riders probably made by artists who were unfamiliar with horses).

Although I do see evidence for mounted raiding in the Eneolithic, I do not believe that any Eneolithic army of pitiless nomads ever lined up on the horizon mounted on shaggy ponies, waiting for the command of their bloodthirsty general. Eneolithic warfare was tribal warfare, so there were no armies, just the young men of this clan fighting the young men of that clan. And early Indo-European warfare seems from the earliest myths and poetic traditions to have been conducted principally to gain glory. If we are going to indict steppe raiders in the destruction of Old Europe, we first have to accept that they did not fight like later cavalry. Eneolithic warfare probably was a strictly seasonal activity conducted by groups organized more like modern neighborhood gangs than modern armies. They would have been able to disrupt harvests and frighten a sedentary population, but they were not nomads. Steppe Eneolithic settlements like Dereivka cannot be interpreted as pastoral nomadic camps. After nomadic cavalry is removed from the picture, how do we understand social and political relations across the steppe/Old European frontier?


Comparison of Cucuteni-Trypillian and Yamna cultures


Cucuteni-Trypillian culture

Yamna culture


Blending of the Boian culture, with some traces of the Hamangia culture (both originally from Anatolia), and the Musical note culture (also known as the Middle Linear Pottery culture, or "LBK"), from the northern Subcarpathian region of southeastern Poland and western Ukraine; all of which were Neolithic and non-Indo-European. An amalgam of Eneolithic Proto-Indo-European tribes from the southern region of the great Pontic steppe, mostly along river valleys, including (from west to east) the Dniester, the Bug, the Dnieper, the Donetz, the Don, West Manych, and the middle Volga rivers.

Agricultural model

Sedentistic subsistence agriculture Pastoral nomadism

Social stratification

Egalitarian acephalous society Tribal chiefdom with social hierarchical levels

Economic model

Generalized reciprocity or gift economy Traditional economy featuring trade bartering

Division of labour

No occupational specialization, each household produced all necessary goods and services independently. Many specialized occupations, including priests, warriors, healers, metalsmiths, traders, herders, and slaves.

Technological Sophistication

Superior work in agricultural techniques, as well as in ceramics, compared to the Yamna. Cucuteni-Trypillian ceramics have been found in Yamna sites. Superior work in copper metalworking than the Cucuteni-Trypillian during the Eneolithic. Later, the Yamna worked in brass, and some of their brass artifacts have been found in Cucuteni-Trypillian sites. The Yamna also used domestic horses for travel, which the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture most likely did not have.


Almost no artifacts have been found that would have been meant for defense against a human enemy. No skeletal remains have been found that would indicate the person had been killed with a weapon. Only at the end of their culture did they begin to build walls and ditches around their settlements, yet still no weapons have been found. The Yamna perfected military weapons, rode domesticated horses, and probably conducted raids against other peoples regularly. Many weapons have been found in their grave sites. In addition, they also constructed hill-top fortresses, similar to the Medieval Motte-and-bailey design.


The archaeological record indicates the worship of a female fertility goddess. There is also evidence to indicate that they used clay fetishes in various ritualistic purposes, ranging from fertility to sigils for protection against evil spirits or human enemies. There is evidence to indicate that they probably participated in ritual human sacrifice of captured enemies. They worshipped a warlike male deity.

Trade network

Very rudimentary trade network involving only a handful of goods, the most important of which was salt. No indication of traders or merchants as a profession. Some evidence does indicate the possible use of barter tokens as an early form of exchange. An extensive trade network spanning a large region from central and southeast Europe to modern-day Kazakhstan and Russia, involving many trade goods, and indication of a class of merchants and traders.

Encounters with each other

Starting around 4500 BC, Cucuteni-Trypillian settlements began to appear in western Ukraine, where they encountered Yamna tribes. Some scholars hold that this is partly the cause for the creation of very large settlements in this region, to aid in defense against Yamna raids. Also beginning around 4500 BC, the Yamna culture began to establish settlements as far west as Transylvania, which existed side-by-side with Cucuteni-Trypillian settlements.

Decline and end of the Cucuteni–Trypillian culture
Old Europe (archaeology)


Altyndepe, c. 3000 BC

Turkmenistan (Altyndepe)

Kuftin was invited to Central Asia to carry out explorations in 1949. He first reconnoitered Turkmenistan and selected a very large tepe (hill), the Altyndepe (in Turkmen language meaning: the "Golden Hill" ). This tepe overlooks the Tedzen delta at the foot of Kopetdag. He found a Neolithic settlement extending into Bronze Age in southern Turkmenistan near the village of Miana, a settlement of 25 ha area with a total stratification thickness of 30 metres (98 ft) with an 8 metres (26 ft) strip of human habitation. This excavated tepe turned out to be a large settlement, 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) in length and 0.5 kilometres (0.31 mi) in width, and was identified as a major Bronze Age town. From the highest point of this tepe, a trench was dug to a depth of 30 metres (98 ft) and the section was logged, which revealed layers of the Bronze Age, of neolithic and aneolithic periods. Ceramics collected from the different layers of the trench enabled Kuftin to establish the sequence and chronology of the findings. One year after he started sequencing the site, he died suddenly and was replaced by Vadim Mikhailovich Masson who published a book on the Bronze Age sequence of this site. The settlement of Ilgynly had also shifted to Altyndepe. Early Bronze period fort walls with decorated towers and a huge entrance had encircled this settlement, though when found, they were in ruins. Discoveries by Soviet archeologists dated the finds at this place, in a chronological order, to the later half of the third millennium BC. Altyn-Depe also provided a link to the several Bronze Age cultures of Eurasia.

The most notable findings in the burial ground of the elite, located in the outskirts of Altyndepe, were "a disk-like stone 'weight', a miniature column, more than 1500 beads, a steatite plate with an image of cross and half-moon, a moulded clay wolf, as well as a golden head of a bull with a turquoise sickle inlaid in the forehead"

Excavations revealed bone and copper artifacts of the fifth millennium BC (Neolithic period), female figurines painted with ornaments and necklaces of the fourth million BC, brick walls of 1.5–2 metres (4 ft 11 in–6 ft 7 in) thickness with brick kilns and a hearth in the middle of the house dated to early third millennium, and small temple buildings and rectangular hearths of Namazga V type of the middle third millennium. In the period from late third millennium to early second millennium, the antiquaries revealed an urban habitation with artisans' houses. Also unearthed were 62 double-tiered kilns, beads and seals, four stepped ziggurats, female terracotta figurines with plaited hair, stone vessels, hafted bronze and copper daggers with flat blades, tabbed silver and bronze seals, paintings of animals such as goats, eagles, panthers and three headed composite animal, a priest's tomb with gold heads of a wolf and a bull, and other tombs with silver ornaments, precious stones and seals. One quarter of a ‘nobility’ seal with two signs in Indus script is conjectured to be that of Bronze Age settlers in Altyndepe. However, the settlement gradually disappeared (it was deserted around 1600 BC) as a result of climatic changes; people migrated to the Mugrab region, another area of South Uzbekistan (Sapali), and Northern Afghanistan (Dashli). Further, these findings confirmed the Middle Asian interaction from the north to the Oxus civilization.


Namazga V and Altyndepe were in contact with the Late Harappan culture (ca. 2000-1600 BC), and Sarianidi affiliates the site with Indo Iranians. Masson (1988) views the culture as having a Proto-Dravidian affiliation. The site is notable for the remains of its "proto-Zoroastrian" ziggurat.

Models of two-wheeled carts from c. 3000 BC found at Altyndepe are the earliest complete 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 Altyndepe.

For several decades scientists excavate ancient settlement Altyndepe that situated some kilometers away from Tedjen city. Altyndepe translates like “gold hill”, because there was found a lot of gold jewelry. The city prospered during the Bronze Age, more than 4-6 thousand years ago.

Nowadays there’re formless clay hills on the large territory of ancient settlement. But all the hills together form a single system of architectural symbols and patterns. That’s why settlement often call as Turkmen Stonehenge.

The plan of the settlement

Scientists can’t tell the name of the country and what language its people spoke. But excavations revealed that settlement was well fortified: there were heavy defensive walls with towers. The main material for constructions was adobe bricks that used for house buildings.

There were a lot of blocks inside the city and only representatives of specific profession can live there. For example there was craftsmen block, ceramists block and so on.  

Ordinary people lived in large apartment house very closely. Each house has utility, living rooms, kitchens and small patios. Rich people lived in the western part of the city and their buildings differed greatly. There were large rectangular houses and each family lived in their own house.

Cult center

The territory of the city was more than 46 hectare. That’s why scientists considered that there had to be temple. Some years was spent to find the temple. Near it was the whole complex with centre of the tower with 4 stages. Its height was 12 meters and there was altar on the top of it.

Priests used the complex for observation of stars and planets. By received data priests determined the timing of irrigation and supervised agricultural work. The complex was devoted to the god of the moon as during the excavation was found golden bull's head with silver horns and moon in the forehead made from turquoise.


  • Preceded by; Maykop culture


Central Asia Seals

Seals/seal impressions from Mesopotamia and the Indus region have been found at Gonur Tepe in Turkmenistan.

About two dozen sealings and ten sealed bullae (some baked) have been discovered at Gonur and Togolok. I.S. Klotchkov suggests that signs on a potsherd of Gonur contain Elamite linear script.

Gonur and Toglok are type sites of BMAC - Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex (ca. 2500 to 1500 BCE)extended over parts of northern Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, eastern Iran and Baluchistan.

Cult vessel from Togolok-1 temple.

The cult vessel is found at Margiana and Bactria. Winged felines are found at Margiana and southwest of Afghanistan. Winged-feline is a motif found on Indus script objects and also on Nal pot (the site Nal has also yielded other Indus script objects).

Bronze axes; a human figure at the butt-end.

Silver ceremonial axe covered with gold lamina;a winged feline and heads of two eagles are shown at the butt-end. Double-headed eagle on the axe is comparable to the motif depicting two one-horned heifers flanking nine-leaves on a unique Indus seal. The pattern of double-heading in artistic representation and duplication of signs or glyphs (e.g. two bulls facing each other) in an inscription have been explained in decoded Indus script as connoting dula 'pair'; rebus: dul 'casting (metal)'. If the eagle is read rebus using a lexems of Indian linguistic area to connote pajhar 'eagle' (rebus: pasra 'smithy'), the double-headed eagle can be read as: dul pajhar = metal casting smithy. The body of a person ligatured to the double-headed eagle can denote the smith whose metalworking trade is related to casting of metals.

Chlorite and gold leaf representation of a feline, with semiprecious stone inlay.

Limestone goat with horns, eyes and beard in lapis lazuli; lapis lazuli is also used for the horns,and limestone is used for the rest of the body.

The BMAC seals were made of metals, such as copper / bronze and silver, while the amulets were usually of stone, mostly black steatite. These latter usually show, amongst other motifs, snakes, scorpions, eagles, two-humped (typically Bactrian) camels, felines, etc.

The hieroglyphs used on BMAC objects and seals have their parallels in Indus script hieroglyphs: winged feline, rhinoceros, goat, eagle, snake. Each of these hieroglyphs is read rebus on Indus script using lexemes of Indian linguistic are and relate to metalworking trades. In the Avestan tradition related to Verethragna, ‘Vrahran Fire’ is the most sacred of all fires. It is a combination of 16 fires, most of which belong to those in the metalworking trades. This is the closest link to Rigvedic depiction of Indra as Vrtraghna.

Impression of cylinder seal from Gonur-1. "In this connection worthy of utmost attention is the impression of a cylinder seal on one of the Margianian vessels, found .... at Gonur. The central figure of a frequently repeated frieze composition is a standing nude anthropomorphic winged deity with an avian head holding two mountain goats by the legs...Such anthropomorphic winged and avian-headed deities are represented fairly fully in the glyptics and on the seals of Bactria.... These Bactrian images find the most impressive correspondence in Syro-Hittite glyptics...If the fact that it’s for the Mittani kingdom that the names of Aryan deities are evidenced is taken into account the importance of the Bactrian-Margianian images will become obvious in the light of solving the Aryan problem on the basis of new archaeological data." (Sarianidi,V., 1993, Margiana in the Ancient Orient. In IASCCA Information Bulletin, 19, pp. 5-28. Nauka.)

Cylinder seal from Togolok-21 and its impression.

Scene on a cosmetic flacon, Bactria.

The cylinder seal impressions do carry some motifs which can be argued to show parallels with comparable motifs (of conflict) shown on Indus script inscriptions/hieroglyphs. The scene on a cosmetic flacon,Bactria and a cylinder seal impression from Toglok-21 are NOT comparable with any Indus script glyptic motifs.

Sarianidi notes that the conflict motif (involving an avian-headed person and animals) is recurrent at a number of BMAC contact areas to the west of Bactria upto Greece. The conflict motif on Indus script inscriptions do not show an avian-headed person, but perhaps a woman in conflict with two felines on either side of the person.

Spread of the motif of acrobats jumping over bulls shown on objects from Bactria to Greece. Indus script does show a motif of men vaulting over a bovine (buffalo), but the artistic rendering are not exactly comparable to the acrobat motif of BMAC.

The motifs on Indus seals (winged feline, conflict of a woman with two felines, rhinoceros, snakes, eagle (or, bird-in-flight), goat) have been decoded as hieroglyphs of Indian linguistic area related to metalworking trades.

For example, rhinoceros is decoded as: baḍhia = a castrated boar, a hog; rebus: baḍhi ‘a caste who work both in iron and wood’; baḍhoe ‘a carpenter, worker in wood’; badhoria ‘expert in working in wood’(Santali) Thus, when an eagle is shown attacking rhinoceros, the motif can be read rebus: pajhar badhia = pasra badhoe, 'carpenter's workshop or workshop of an artisan working in wood and metal.'

Amulets and seals made of soft stone and pierced lengthwise often have a swastika engraved on one side. (Sarianidi, V. I., Die Kunst des Alten Afghanistan, Leipzig, 1986, Abb. 100; Fig. 1 after Sarianidi, V. I., Bactrian Centre of Ancient Art, Mesopotamia, 12 / 1977, Fig. 59 / 18; Fig. Of inter-locked snakes after Sarianidi, V. I., Seal- Amulets of the Murghab Style, in: Kohl, Ph. L., ed., The Bronze Age Civilization of Central Asia, New York, 1981.

The user of Indus script hieroglyphs on the Gonur Tepe inscriptions – showing eagle hieroglyphs, wings of falcon (seals/seal impressions) is describing the nature of metalworking he or she is engaged in. It would also appear that the explanations of the narratives in Rigveda and in Mesopotamian hieroglyphs (cf. Apkallu) are echoes of these metalworking activities of Indus artisans (smiths and mine-workers).

Electrum is believed to have been used in coins circa 600 BC in Lydia under the reign of Alyattes II.

Early 6th century BC Lydian electrum coin (one-third stater denomination). KINGS of Lydia. Uncertain King. Early 6th century BC. EL Third Stater - Trite (4.71 gm). Head of roaring lion right, sun with multiple rays on forehead / Double incuse punch. In Lydia, electrum was minted into 4.7-gram coins, each valued at 1/3 stater (meaning "standard"). Three of these coins (with a weight of about 14.1 grams, almost half an ounce) totaled one stater, about one month's pay for a soldier. To complement the stater, fractions were made: the trite (third), the hekte (sixth), and so forth, including 1/24 of a stater, and even down to 1/48th and 1/96th of a stater. The 1/96 stater was only about 0.14 to 0.15 grams. Larger denominations, such as a one stater coin, were minted as well.

An image of the obverse of a Lydian coin made of electrum

The 'wart' on the nose of the tiger is clearly intended to depict rays of the sun.

M428b The ‘rays of the sun’ glyph of this Mohenjodaro seal also recurs on early punch-marked coins of India. Rebus reading: arka ‘sun’; agasāle ‘goldsmithy’ (Ka.)erka = ekke (Tbh. of arka) aka (Tbh. of arka) copper (metal); crystal (Ka.lex.) cf. eruvai = copper (Ta.lex.) eraka, er-aka = any metal infusion (Ka.Tu.); erako molten cast (Tu.lex.) Rebus: eraka = copper (Ka.) eruvai = copper (Ta.); ere - a dark-red colour (Ka.)(DEDR 817). eraka, era, er-a = syn. erka, copper, weapons (Ka.)

It is remarkable that the Indian linguistic area attests the following lexeme for sun: aru m. ʻ sun ʼ lex. Kho. yor Morgenstierne NTS ii 276 with ? <-> Whence y -- ? (CDIAL 612)

Aramaic aryaa 'l' aryeh 'lion'. A Northwest Semitic root *ryh 'lion'. (Kaplan, 1957-58, The lion in the Hebrew bible). Akkadian aleru. von Soden points out that Akkadian eru is also attested as aru. Akkadian a/eru 'eagle'.

Akkadian aru/eru may be equivalent of the Hebrew 'rh 'eagle'. The concise dictionary of Akkadian (Jeremy A. Black, 2000) notes: eru, aru, also ru 'eagle'. Bab. also vulture?

The winged sun was an ancient (3rd millennium BC) symbol of Horus, later identified with Ra.
ra 'possession, increase, seizure' (Akkadian); Hence, raaraa 'increasing or giving possession'.

Gayatri mantra of Rigveda when linked with the episode of Gayatri as a winged bird fetching soma is also an adoration of Savitr, Sun divinity. Savitr (Sanskrit सवित्र्, meaning stimulator, rouser). Savitr (stem), Savitā (nominative singular) is a solar deity and one of the Adityas i.e. off-spring of Vedic deity Aditi. His name in Vedic Sanskrit connotes "impeller, rouser, vivifier". Apam napat (Born of the Waters): Savitr is at least once called “apam napat” (Child of Waters), an epithet otherwise exclusively belonging to Agni. Savitr is an asura.

Nippur vessel with combatant snake and eagle motif. Istanbul Museum. The design is raised above the base; the vessel of chlorite was found in a mixed Ur III context at Nippur in southern Mesopotamia.

Bird Vareghna representing Xvarnah , royal glory and the worship of Ahura Mazda is aniconic. Glyptics relate to seated or kneeling deities on thrones, heroes in combat, serpents, winged lions, griffins, animals, birds, scorpions, snakes. About a bird depicted on BMAC seals, Sarianidi notes, asssociating the bird with Varaghna, the symbol of might and victory in Avesta: 'I suppose that this image was generated in the local Indo-Iranian milieu before Zarathustra.' (Sarianidi V. 1998, Myths of Ancient Bactria and Margiana on its Seals and Amulets. Moscow, p. 23) BMAC seals are distinctive indigenous to the Central Asian bronze age and have been found in the Indus civilization, on the Iranian plateau, at Susa and in the Gulf. Clearly, BMAC demonstrates contacts among people from Indus, Mesopotamia and people from Egypt to Aegean.

"Over most of human history there has been an equilibrium situation. In a given geographical area there would have been a number of political groups, of similar size and organization, with no one group having undue prestige over the others. Each would have spoken its own language or dialect. They would have constituted a long-term linguistic area, with the languages existing in a state of relative equilibrium."(Dixon, R. M. W., 1997. The Rise and Fall of Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 3)

Sites: A, Mikhailovka; B, Petrovka; C, Arkhaim; D, Sintashta; E, Botai; F, Namazga; G, Gonur; H, Togolok; I, Dashly Oasis; J, Sapelli; K, Djarkutan; L, Hissar; M, Shahr-i-Sokhta; N, Sibri; O, Shahdad; P, Yahya; Q, Susa. Cultures: 1, Cucuteni (NWM)-Tripolye; 2, Pit Grave/Catacomb;3, Sintashta/Arkhaim; 4, Abashevo; 5, Afanasievo; 6, Andronovo; 7, Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex; 8, Indus; 9, Akkadian; 10, Hurrian; 11, Hittite (See CC Lamberg-Karlovsky,2002, Archaeology and Language. The Indo-Iranians, Current Anthropology, Vol. 43, No. 1, February 2002).

In this perspective of a linguistic area, is it reasonable to hypothesise that Indus language speakers were also present in sites on Iranian plateau, Baluchistan, Afghanistan and Indus-Sarasvati river valleys -- sites such as Susa, Shahdad, Yahya, Khurab, Sibri, Miri Qalat, Deh Morasi Ghundai, Nausharo, Gonur, Togolok, Djarkutan, Sapalli etc.? What linguistic area could explain the delineation of hieroglyphs of Gonur Tepe seals/seal impressions, using the rebus principle of depicting pictographs to denote similar sounding words?


Eurasian Steppe

Haplogroup R1a

Haplogroup R1a

The expansion of Y-DNA subclade R-Z93 (R1a1a1b2), according to Mascarenhas et al. (2015), is compatible with "the archeological records of eastward expansion of West Asian populations in the 4th millennium BCE, culminating in the socalled Kura-Araxes migrations in the post-Uruk IV period." According to Pamjav et al. (2012), "Inner and Central Asia is an overlap zone" for the R -Z280 and R -Z93 lineages, implying that an "early differentiation zone" of R-M198 "conceivably occurred somewhere within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region as they lie between South Asia and Eastern Europe". According to Underhill et al. (2014/2015), R1a1a1, the most frequent subclade of R1a, split into R-Z282 (Europe) and R-Z93 (Asia) at circa 5,800 before present, in the vicinity of Iran and Eastern Turkey. According to Underhill et al. (2014/2015), "[t]his suggests the possibility that R1a lineages accompanied demic expansions initiated during the Copper, Bronze, and Iron ages."



Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) were expanding from 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.

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.

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.

Diachronic map of Copper Age migrations in Asia ca. 3100-2600 BC


Catacomb culture, c. 2800 - 2200 BC

Catacomb culture

Preceded by; Dnieper-Donets culture > Yamna culture


Poltavka culture, c. 2700 - 2100 BC

Y-DNA R1a1a1b2 & R1a1a1

Poltavka culture

Poltavka culture, 2700—2100 BCE, an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture of the middle Volga from about where the Don-Volga canal begins up to the Samara Bend in Russia, with an easterly extension north of present Kazakhstan along the Samara River valley to somewhat west of Orenburg.

It is like the Catacomb culture preceded by the Yamnaya culture, while succeeded by the Sintashta culture. It seems to be an early manifestation of the Srubna culture. There is evidence of influence from the Maykop culture to its south.

The only real things that distinguish it from the Yamnaya culture are changes in pottery and an increase in metal objects. Tumulus inhumations continue.


  • 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

Preceded by; Dnieper-Donets culture / Yamna culture


Abashevo culture, c. 2500 - 1900 BC


Abashevo culture

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

Diachronic map of migrations in Asia ca. 2250-1750 BC


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