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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Steppe Maykop: a buffer zone?

Unfortunately, the ancient data from the Wang et al. preprint still haven't been released online. As I've already pointed out many times, the manuscript conclusion looks horribly contrived (for instance, see here), but the data are awesome, and most of the preprint is quite solid.

One thing that I'd really like to do is to compare in detail each of the ancient populations from the preprint to groups of present-day and ancient speakers of Indo-European and Caucasian languages. What's the bet that, by and large, Eneolithic steppe will show strong links to Indo-Europeans, while Eneolithic Caucasus and Maykop to Caucasians?

But pending the release of the data, all I can do is look at what the authors have done with it.

Intriguingly, their analyses suggest that the Eneolithic steppe genotype may have vanished from the steppes abutting the Caucasus by at least 3500 BC. It seems to have been replaced there by a more heterogeneous gene pool, with both more easterly and southerly genetic affinities, associated with the Steppe Maykop archeological culture.

So who were the Steppe Maykop people and why did they show up, rather suddenly, in the North Caucasus steppes to seemingly clear out the Eneolithic steppe population from the region? I have a theory about that.

Both archeological and ancient DNA data show that the North Caucasus was being colonized by groups from Transcaucasia during the Eneolithic. But apparently this wasn't an entirely smooth and safe process, because these southern settlers were forced to build elaborate fortifications to keep the natives at bay. Indeed, at the site of Meshoko, in the Northwest Caucasus, there is evidence of such a fort being overrun and its community replaced, probably by a nearby indigenous group (see here).

On the other hand, during the Bronze Age Maykop period, the relations between the settlers from the south and the steppe peoples were apparently much more peaceful. So much so, in fact, that Maykop settlements weren't fortified. However, this was also the period when the North Caucasus steppes were home to the Steppe Maykop people.

So here's my theory: either by chance or design, Steppe Maykop territory was a buffer zone between Maykop and the potentially aggressive natives of the steppes to the north. I'm not necessarily suggesting that the Steppe Maykop people were foreign mercenaries hired by Maykop chiefs, but, in any case, they may have benefited economically in a variety of ways by keeping Maykop settlements safe.

Around 3000 BC, both Maykop and Steppe Maykop disappeared. The latter was replaced by the Yamnaya culture. I don't know much about this process. It may have been mostly driven by environmental impacts from climate change. But the fact that the Steppe Maykop population didn't contribute much, if any, ancestry to the Yamnaya people in the region suggests to me that it was a hostile takeover by Yamnaya.

Interestingly, the spread of Yamnaya into the North Caucasus steppes saw the return of the Eneolithic steppe genotype to the region, albeit in a modified form, with admixture from Middle Neolithic European farmers (see here).

See also...

Yamnaya: home-grown

A potentially violent end to the Kura-Araxes Culture (Alizadeh et al. 2018)


Hodo Scariti said...

I think that, first of all, given the fact that lately many Y-Chromosome haplogroups calls are wrong, it could be useful to know if the haplogroup assignments of that paper are correct.

Davidski said...

@Blasonario Cremonese

I don't have a high opinion of Max Planck Jena, but at least they do get the Y-haplogroup calls right, so I don't think this is a problem in this case.

George Okromchedlishvili said...

Another intriguing aspect of this is that these findings give new life to the ideas of Statistics who linked together hypothetical NC language family with the big macro family, encompassing Sinitic, Yeniseyan and the like. While this is most probably not true, the Steppe Yamnaya provides explanatory mechanism for the potential language contacts between Yeniseyan/Botai like people and NC folks

Davidski said...


Yep, but of course you mean Steppe Maykop.

George Okromchedlishvili said...

@Davidski - Yeah, my bad)

George Okromchedlishvili said...

And Starostin instead of "Statistics" - need to turn off phone autocorrect

Hodo Scariti said...

@ Davidski

Thanks for answer. I said that because for other papers there were many amateurs and users who did a spreadsheet with correct Y-SNP calls. I didn't find one about this paper on the Greater Caucasus. Do you know if there is something like what was done with the Scythian paper with the correct Y-SNP calls?

Davidski said...

@Blasonario Cremonese

The data from this preprint haven't been released yet, but once the BAM files are made available then I'm sure the usual suspects will analyze them.

Matt said...

It's a plausible theory. I think it should be hard to actually work out what exactly the main purpose would be in such a relationship between the steppe and Caucasus Maykop; it could be protection, another factor might be trade in pastoral products where Steppe Maykop were groups that used the innovations of the steppe to raise large herds of animals and this was integrally related to trade back to settled Maykop for metal goods, maybe grain, wine? That might contribute to why the Steppe Maykop are more ancestrally diverse; it's a trade relationship that's drawing people from further away, possibly as far as the Botai, for the kind of wealth that the Maykop Culture can produce.

Thinking about such a symbiotic relationship then, that might lead to a couple of expectations. If Steppe Maykop were in a close economic relationship with the Caucasus Maykop, that might tend to limit how long range mobile they were, because trade becomes more difficult with distance, and how much they could expand away from the Caucasus. Where the Yamnaya groups might be more taking wagons into the open steppe, the Steppe Maykop are going to be less interested in doing things that make getting their high status goods harder. It also might leave them more vulnerable to disruption if the Caucasus Maykop side collapsed.

Davidski said...


Interesting comments there, thanks. What's your opinion about why Yamnaya didn't mix with Steppe Maykop? Cultural differences/conflict, or was the Maykop collapse so hard that it didn't leave any significant population centers for Yamnaya to merge with?

By the way, this idea of Steppe Maykop being a buffer zone for and client of Maykop wasn't really my idea, it was suggested to me over e-mail, but I wrote up my own version of it.

Nirjhar007 said...

Maybe Majkop did not merge with Yamnaya, because they both continued until 2500 BC , and then ended.

Yamnaya ''became Catacomb'' while what happened with Majkop might become more clear with future papers.
Nevertheless, your question has an answer:

Two, no-longer existent entities cannot merge.

Also, do you really buy that Majkop needed a mercenary corps from Botai ? .

Davidski said...



The final phase of Maykop, including that of Steppe Maykop, is generally dated to around 3,000 BC.

If you look at the dates in the Wang et al. preprint, Late Maykop dates are from around that period, and Shishlina et al. 2009 dates the end of Steppe Maykop to 3000 BC.

Paleoecology, Subsistence, and 14C Chronology of the Eurasian Caspian Steppe Bronze Age

The Yamnaya Caucasus samples from the Wang et al. preprint overlap in chronology with Steppe Maykop to some extent, but Yamnaya Caucasus goes on well beyond 3000 BC.

So why is it unreasonable to expect for Yamnaya Caucasus and Steppe Maykop to have mixed? And, considering that they overlapped in chronology and were located in such close proximity to each other, why isn't it surprising that they didn't mix?

Moreover, Yamnaya did not simply become Catacomb. They significantly overlapped in chronology, with Yamnaya ending around 2300 BC and Catacomb around 2000 BC.

And yes of course I think that one of Steppe Maykop's main roles may have been to protect Maykop settlements. That's why I wrote the blog post.

Why is this an unreasonable proposition considering the clearly hostile relations during the Eneolithic between the pre-Maykop settlers from Transcaucasia and the natives of the North Caucasus? Why are you ignoring this as a factor? Did you miss it when reading my blog post?

So what the hell was the point of that drivel you just wrote? Do you enjoy making a fool of yourself here? Never mind, those were rhetorical questions.

Go away. Troll somewhere else.

epoch said...

The Botai like admixture could be interesting as it may be related to horses. Caucasian Maykop was into pastoralism and I can imagine the steppe being pretty useful for transhumance like grazing schemes, but only if one can ride.

André de Vasconcelos said...

Sorry to be derailing this, but has anyone else been unable to connect to Anthrogenica?

Mouthful said...

I wonder why those few Eneolithic Samples from Ukraine are so similar to modern populations judging by this PCA? Are the samples of which one had R1a-M417 and Corded Ware like structure?

Davidski said...


Yep, Ukraine_Eneolithic I6561 is one of these samples. You can see where he clusters compared to present-day Eastern/Northern Euros and Corded Ware in my PCA here. He's very similar to them.

The mystery of the Sintashta people

This might be something of a coincidence though, due to shared excess European farmer admixture, because early Baltic Corded Ware samples are more similar to (eastern) Yamnaya than to Ukraine_Eneolithic.

In any case, I think the really interesting thing about I6561 is that this is a sample from eastern Ukraine who is very similar to present-day Europeans, as well as to Yamnaya and Steppe Eneolithic (from the North Caucasus steppes), and dated to about the same time as Steppe Eneolithic.

So people like this were already present across a very wide range of the Pontic-Caspian steppe at the time, and not restricted to the North Caucasus region.

Samuel Andrews said...



epoch said...

@André de Vasconcelos

This seems a DNS issue:

$ host
Host not found: 2(SERVFAIL)

Synome said...


Yes, ever since their server maintenance.

André de Vasconcelos said...

Thanks Sam, I have been completely unable to access the forum since a day after their server change (which was going flawlessly), be it form the computer of the phone, with any browser. Tried my gf's and even my mom's phone, and the same thing happens.
No idea what's going on, I hope I'm not the only one and the admins manage to fix it

Davidski said...

You guys might want to start an Anthrogenica refugees support group. But not here.

Ric Hern said...

I'm sure those refugees are Yamnaya like...

Nirjhar007 said...

@ Dave

Trolling ?!.

Btw, Did you actually read that article by shishlina ? .

“”According to Trifonov (2000, 2004), the age range for the Majkop culture of the North Caucasus is 3600–3000 BC. Unfortunately, stable isotope values for most of the 14C-dated human bones are not available. Therefore, additional 14C dating of bone animal items, deer teeth, and a textile fragment taken from the Majkop graves of the North Caucasus has been performed. ''

The data are shown in Table 9.

[2730 : 2693] 0.21
[2688 : 2679] 0.04

Majkop (proper) goes into mid M3 .
Indeed, this is exactly what is stated in recent publications ,
Eg Ancient Metallurgy in the Caucasus From the Sixth to the Third Millennium BCE- Courcier .

It even has a nice picture table for little old me who is not too keen on reading too dense material.......

Of course I agree that Yamnaya did not just become catacomb overnight has that’s a given, but if you only consider the tighter confidence intervals, most can reasonably state that Yamnaya broadly ends 2500 BC, indeed as Heyd does . But whatever .....

Yeah it is perplexing. Why would Majkop , who have the most advanced weapons technology of the epoch and region need mercenaries from Stone Age people of Botai ? Maybe they served another purpose ?.

You Keep mentioning Yamnaya destroying Majkop , have you managed to track down any direct reference to quote for this?.

Davidski said...


What I said was correct...

- Maykop is generally dated up to around 3000 BC, and there's nothing you can do about it

- Maykop and Yamnaya chronologies overlap somewhat, but it's generally accepted that Yamnaya lasts much longer

I couldn't care less if you still have a problem with these facts.

Now let me ask you a question, and you'd better answer it or you're banned from here. Why did you claim that Maykop and Yamnaya both lasted until 2500 BC?

a) are you stupid?

b) are you a liar?

What's the answer and make it a good one or that will be your last post here.

Davidski said...


Actually, never mind, I'll save you the trouble of trying to dig your way out of that hole.

You're now finally banned. Congratulations.

By the way, tell Robbie that there are very accurate calibrated dates for Late Maykop in Wang et al.

EastPole said...

It is OT but it interests me very much because ritualistic use of drugs can tell us something about the culture and religion and maybe language of the people.

There is an article in Science:“Cannabis, opium use part of ancient Near Eastern cultures”by Andrew Lawler

“Digs in the Caucasus have uncovered braziers containing seeds and charred remains of cannabis dating to about
3000 B.C.E.”

So the use of cannabis in Yamnaya culture was probably related to Caucasus.

They also write about opium use in ancient Near Eastern cultures:

“For example, “hard scientific evidence” shows that ancient people extracted opium from poppies, says David Collard, senior archaeologist at Jacobs, an engineering firm in Melbourne, Australia, who found signs of ritual opium
use on Cyprus dating back more than 3000 years.
Residue analyses show that between 1600 and 1000 B.C.E., people poured opium alkaloids into pots crafted in the shape of the seed capsule of the opium poppy, in what Collard calls “prehistoric commodity branding.” All the jugs were found in temples and tombs, suggesting a role in ritual. Opium jugs made on Cyprus have been found in Egypt and the Levant— the first clear example of the international drug trade”

It confirms archeologists’ claims that Minoans were worshiping “Poppy Goddess” and used opium:

So in the Neolithic/Bronze Age we have different zones using different drugs for ritualistic purposes.
1. In the north we have EHG shamanic cultures using magic mushrooms.
2. In the forest and forest steppe of CE Europe EHG +CHG +EEF R1a Hyperboreans or Indo-Slavic CWC populations used alcohol, mead or beer (and hops-haoma/soma).
3. Caucasus and dry steppe EHG+CHG R1b Yamnaya people used cannabis.
4. Near East EEF used opium.

Plus the use of wine in the south. Early Bell Beakers probably used wine as Iberia, France, Italy, South Germany, Hungary were wine countries.

So we have different populations using different drugs for ritualistic purposes. It would be interesting to investigate how it all correlates with religions, languages, cultures and genes and how it can be tracked in migrations and influences.

Matt said...

@Davidski, not sure about how to answer those questions. Looking on Google scholar*, it doesn't seem like much is known about why the Maykop Culture seems to reach a zenith and then drop out fast (judging by radiocarbon dates).

There's not a lot of overlap between the date ranges of the Steppe Maykop and the Yamnaya (there is overlap between the dates but the density of dates hits different peaks and it's the tails that overlap), and if there's a lot of space out on the open steppe and if the earliest Yamnaya and latest Steppe Maykop had different patterns of interaction with the Caucasus, they may just not have met very often, let alone interacted in a way that would incorporate some of one group into the other (rather than fighting).

In terms of the samples Wang has, there's actually quite a gap after Maykop in the Caucasus until the Middle Bronze Age Caucasus samples come into play - you've got those two Kura-Araxes at Velikent in the far east of the Caucasus at about 3000 BCE, which overlaps the dates around the end of the Maykop, then the two samples from Kudachurt in the central Caucasus at about 2000 BCE. I don't think there was a genetic hiatus or change, but there's not much genetic information about what was happening during the peak of the broader Yamnaya culture which is just after 3000 BCE.

In the steppe zone studied in the paper, after Steppe Maykop, you do see the late Lola sample shows re-emergence of the Steppe Maykop genotype during what is apparently a period of aridisation (apparently with full blown pastoral economy). But I wonder if this is actually a re-emergence of population continuity with the groups that contributed to the Steppe Maykop, where they went elsewhere for a while, or a separate West Siberian Neolithic related impulse that comes from eastern arid zone? I think we'll need the samples and a more detailed less compressed PCA to work this out.


André de Vasconcelos said...

EastPole I'm not aware Iberian Beakers using wine, though

Davidski said...


Yeah, apparently there was some major aridization in the North Caucasus during the Middle to Late Bronze Age which forced communities from the Caucasus out into the steppes, further away from the problem areas.

EastPole said...

@André de Vasconcelos

“The Corded Ware people had many offspring who spread rapidly across Europe. They were among the ancestors of the Bell Beaker culture of central Europe, known by the vessels they used to drink wine, according to a study by Kristiansen and Reich published this month.”

So Corded Ware influenced Bell Beakers but Beakers used to drink wine. Which is natural because everywhere in the south where wine was available mead or beer were replaced by wine. Indo-Aryan Kalash in Central Asia were drinking wine:

Thracian/Phrygian Sabazios was originally a beer god, but later was identified with Dionysus the god of wine.

Davidski said...

My feeling is that Maykop was weakened by something around 3000 BC, like climate change in the Near East, and then this in turn weakened the economy of Steppe Maykop, which made it easier for Steppe Maykop to get whacked by the steppe hordes.

Then, soon after, Maykop got whacked as well. And then Kura-Araxes started getting whacked all over the Caucasus, and even as far south as parts of Iran, like the Mughan Steppe.

I realize that this is quite a bit of whacking over a large area, but it actually follows a coherent pattern based on archeology and ancient DNA.

André de Vasconcelos said...


That isn't a study on Iberian Beaker drinking habits, Reich has nothing to do with early Iberian beaker content

"Beer and Bell Beakers: Drinking Rituals in Copper Age Inner Iberia

Manuel Ángel Rojo-Guerra (a1), Rafael Garrido-Pena (a2), Íñigo García-Martínez-de-Lagrán (a3), Jordi Juan-Treserras (a4) ...
Published online: 01 February 2014


This article provides a summary of the archaeological context of Bell Beaker pottery from two Ambrona Valley (Soria, Spain) tombs whose chemical analysis identifies the existence of a primitive wheat beer. This is compared with other new analyses in Iberia, from both Neolithic and Copper Age sites, which also demonstrate the use of alcoholic beverages. The two Ambrona examples are Copper Age Bell Beaker intrusions into earlier Middle Neolithic Monumental graves. The archaeological features of both discoveries are described, and an interpretation is offered concerning the social and symbolic context in which these Bell Beaker inhumations were deposited, and the role that alcoholic beverages such as beer might have played in this social context."

"New residue analyses from six Bell Beaker sites in Spain support now strongly their function as vessels for drinking beer."

"He proposed that the Bell Beakers demonstrate the spread of alcoholic beverages,possibly beer or mead, to western Europe which existed in East Europe since the Baden Culture (nowdated to the middle and later fourth millenniumBC) and than the Globular Amphorae and Cordedware culture and whose ultimate origin must be searched in the Near East."

Maybe some drank wine, but the trend seems to be beer and mead. Even in the iron age wine seems to be mostly associated with more sophisticated cultures who were in contact with Pheonician traders and colonies, at least in west Iberia. You cannot equate Iberian Beakers with wine and completely discard the fact that beer was actually proven to be consumed locally, even before "proper Beaker folk" got to Iberia around 2500BC.
Copper/Bronze Age Iberia wasn't a "wine country" by any means

EastPole said...

@André de Vasconcelos

“This period of Vitis dominance has been dated to approximately 4480 B.P., and demonstrates that cultivation of the vine was occurring in Spain at least 1000 years before what most authors regard as the date of introduction, and corresponds to early Bronze age cultivation of the vine.”

So wine was cultivated in Spain in Bronze age.

Maybe the use of beer by Bell Beakers in Spain had some religious significance?
For example Greece was a wine country, but during Eleusinian Mysteries the initiates were forbidden to drink wine, were undergoing series of purifications and at the end participated in a ritual during which they were told some secrets, were given kykeon to drink and were singing and dancing around fire. Kykeon was an alcoholic drink made mainly of water, barley and naturally occurring substances. But there was some religious poetry and music added to it which made people very happy. The high point of the celebration was "an ear of grain cut in silence", which represented the force of the new life.
We know that mystery cults like that influenced Greek philosophy very much, from Pythagoras to Plato and Plotinus. We also see similar influences in Vedic religion and philosophy. These mystery cults arrived to Greece from the north, from Eastern Europe. Vedic India was also influenced by some migrations from Eastern Europe. There are also elements in Slavic rituals and believes which explain some of common elements in Vedic and Greek traditions.
Maybe Bell Beakers were also influenced by the same religion, from CWC for example.
I think of Bell Beakers as coming from Yamnaya. But Yamnaya were cannabis smoking and wine drinking steppe herders from the North of Caucasus and their religion was for sure very different from beer and mead drinking Indo-Slavonic Hyperboreans who had some links with magic mushroom eating shamanic cultures of EHG.

Davidski said...


Oops, deleted a whole bunch of comments from unbanned members this morning by mistake. Apologies.

Moderation is a headache. Wish I didn't have to do it, but the effin trolls spoil things for everyone.

PF said...


It's a very interesting topic; I've thought about it before. Other agricultural products are used to trace migrations but I believe using drugs has been understudied and could provide some extra insight.

Wild cannabis from which most domesticates evolved seems to have come from around the Altai. Cannabis use (for hemp and/or drugs) was almost definitely a steppe thing.

”...early inhabitants of the Eurasian steppes, such as people belonging to the Sredni Stog culture, which flourished from about 4300 to 3500 BCE, used Cannabis to make a “socially approved intoxicant,” celebrating its significance “by imprinting it on their pottery.” Sherratt argued that the ingestion of Cannabis was a fundamental aspect of Eastern European mysticism. We believe that Cannabis, along with cord-marked pottery and domesticated horses, were dispersed together as parts of a general cultural complex that developed in the Eurasian steppes during the Copper Age and Early Bronze Age (ca. 6000 to 5000 BP).”

“In the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age (ca. 3500 to 2300 BCE), people associated with what archeologists refer to as the “Yamnaya Horizon,” essentially a pastoralist kurgan culture, developed out of eastern origins in the steppes of the Don and Volga River regions. The herding people or societies of this culture were most likely speakers of “classic Proto-Indo-European” and were the first in the Eurasian steppes to generate a pastoral economy requiring regular seasonal migrations to fresh grazing land. They used wagons pulled by cattle to carry their tents and supplies far into the steppes of Central Asia when necessary to graze their animals. They also used horses to survey huge amounts of territory and to drive their large herds of domesticated animals. Beginning about 3100 BCE, people associated with the Yamnaya herding culture spread swiftly across the steppes carrying Cannabis and its use with them, eventually broadening their range to include areas to the west in the Danube Valley and then into other areas of Eastern Europe including Serbia and Hungary, where they encountered settled farmers.”

“ Eastern Europe there are two sites that have yielded hemp seeds more than 4,000 years old. One is a grave at Gurbanesti, east of Bucharest in the Danube Valley region of Romania where a clay vessel (brazier or “pipe-cup”) with carbonized hemp seeds was discovered, perhaps the earliest evidence for the burning of Cannabis. The second site where Early Bronze Age seeds of Cannabis have been found is located in the northern Caucasus region where a similar “smoking vessel” with charred hemp seeds was discovered in a burial...these charred seeds are the earliest evidence for intentional burning of Cannabis and suggest ritualistic, perhaps psychoactive use. Sherratt proposed that smoking or inhaling Cannabis fumes was introduced into the Danube Valley by immigrants of the Yamnaya culture dating back approximately 5,000 years. Indeed the relationship between Cannabis and the Yamnaya culture is important in understanding major aspects of the origin and spread of Cannabis into and throughout much of Europe.”

“we suggest that hemp was not growing in northwestern India, or anywhere else in South Asia, until the influx of migrating Indo-European speaking tribes from the north approximately 3,500 years ago.”

“The notion that Cannabis had a connection with early horse exploitation and eventual domestication of horses is admittedly speculative. However, this idea is supported by the fact that hemp has a propensity to grow around Central Asian nomad camps, even today, especially where there is nutrient-rich soil..."

All quotes from "Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany" by Mark Merlin and Robert Clarke. LOTS more discussion in the book.

So yeah, tons of evidence that cannabis was spread by the early steppe cultures. I think a hearty thank you is in order. ;-)

Bob Floy said...

Maybe this is a minority opinion, I dunno, but since moderation has been on this blog has been a better place.

rozenblatt said...

Volker Heyd is going to Finland to study Western Yamnaya:

Davidski said...


Ah, of course, horse sh*t. I just got that.

Ric Hern said...

I doubt that Herders had the time to invest in a Vineyard...or anything that takes more than half a year to cultivate and harvest...

Ric Hern said...

When we look at the majority of Yamnaya territory and period it did not look favourable for the growth of Cannabis. Cold and dry climate with Acidic soils are not favourable conditions. Apples on the other hand love the Cold and Acid...

So how about Apple Cider ? Since Apples were basically native to those areas.

EastPole said...

@Ric Hern
“I doubt that Herders had the time to invest in a Vineyard...or anything that takes more than half a year to cultivate and harvest...”

We know from Herodotus that Scythians were smoking cannabis and drinking a lot of wine. There was the stereotype of drunkenness among the Scythians.
Yamnaya steppe herders were getting wine from the farmers in the south. Caucasus was a wine producing area very early in history.
Those far away from wine producing areas were probably drinking kumis, a fermented dairy product traditionally made from mare's milk.
Herodotus describes the Scythians processing of mare's milk which is widely believed to be the first description of ancient kumis-making.
The possibility is high that kumis was produced in Botai culture.

Samuel Andrews said...

Anybody, think humans adapted to drinking alcohol? Like, mutations that prevent alcoholism.

Ric Hern said...

@ Samuel

Ric Hern said...

@ Samuel

Looks to me like a combination of things. How the human brain interprets reward seems to be at the centre of things. So it looks more like the programming....rather than the computer.

Grey said...


"I think it should be hard to actually work out what exactly the main purpose would be in such a relationship between the steppe and Caucasus Maykop..."

miners (caucasus) needing food providers (steppe herds)?

Matt said...

Not a bad idea Grey, though apparently one of the odd things about Maykop in one of the papers I was reading is an apparent lack of evidence for mining... I may have to check that out again.

Grey said...

also food providing and security buffer zone could be a twofer

Davidski said...


In your recent travels with Google Scholar have you come across any detailed literature on Steppe Maykop?

Mikkel said...

I thought "steppe Maikop" was a new concept invented by the Wang paper. By the way, the konstantinovka site relatively high up in the steppes is described by Anthony as a sort of Maikop outpost in the steppes. But I don't know that there is any DNA from that site

Davidski said...

@Mikkel Nørtoft

I thought "steppe Maikop" was a new concept invented by the Wang paper.

It's been around since at least 2009. Shishlina et al. used it back then, and from memory that wasn't the first instance.

Paleoecology, Subsistence, and 14C Chronology of the Eurasian Caspian Steppe Bronze Age

So it's very interesting that it turned out to be distinct genetically from Maykop proper.

And obviously it's also very interesting that both Maykop and Steppe Maykop are distinct genetically from Yamnaya, and not ancestral to it in any obvious way.

A said...

@ Eastpole

Diodorus Siculus (Biblioteca Historica, 60-30 BC):

“Now for our part, since we have seen fit to make mention of the regions of Asia which lie to the north, we feel that it will not be foreign to our purpose to discuss the legendary accounts of the Hyperboreans. Of those who have written about the ancient myths, Hecataeus [c.350 BC] and certain others say that in the regions beyond the land of the Celts there lies in the ocean an island no smaller than Sicily. This island, the account continues, is situated in the north and is inhabited by the Hyperboreans, who are called by that name because their home is beyond the point whence the north wind (Boreas) blows; and the island is both fertile and productive of every crop, and since it has an unusually temperate climate it produces two harvests each year. Moreover, the following legend is told concerning it: Leto was born on this island, and for that reason Apollo is honoured among them above all other gods; and the inhabitants are looked upon as priests of Apollo, after a manner, since daily they praise this god continuously in song and honour him exceedingly. And there is also on the island both a magnificent sacred precinct of Apollo and a notable temple which is adorned with many votive offerings and is spherical [or round] in shape. Furthermore, a city is there which is sacred to this god, and the majority of its inhabitants are players on the cithara; and these continually play on this instrument in the temple and sing hymns of praise to the god, glorifying his deeds. […]

The account is also given that the god visits the island every nineteen years, the period in which the return of the stars to the same place in the heavens is accomplished; and for this reason the nineteen-year period is called by the Greeks the "year of Meton."  At the time of this appearance of the god he both plays on the cithara and dances continuously the night through from the vernal equinox until the rising of the Pleiades, expressing in this manner his delight in his successes. And the kings of this city and the supervisors of the sacred precinct are called Boreadae, since they are descendants of Boreas, and the succession to these positions is always kept in their family.”*.html

This account is talking about Britain, and Stonehenge.

The ‘city of Apollo’ probably refers to the large hillfort next to Stonehenge known as Vespasian’s Camp (even though it has nothing to do with Vespasian).

Stonehenge demonstrates a precise knowledge of ‘Pythagorean’ geometry and astronomy over two thousand years before Pythagoras was born. It also demonstrates a knowledge of the Metonic cycle, mentioned above in Diodorus’ account, again over two thousand years before the Greek astronomer Meton supposedly discovered it.

The Berlin Gold Hat from southern Germany (Urnfield Culture, c.1000 BC) also shows a sophisticated understanding of the Metonic cycle over 500 years before Meton.

The Nebra Sky Disk (c.1600 BC) is also connected to Stonehenge and clearly depicts the Pleiades. It is described by historians as 'the earliest concrete depiction of the cosmos' in the world.

The Iron Age Druids knew about all this stuff and were described by various classical authors as following a ‘Pythagorean’ philosophy. The evidence suggests however that Pythagoras may have been influenced by the Druids (or their Bronze Age forebears) rather than the other way round.

"Some say that philosophy began among the barbarians; that the Persians had Magi; the Babylonians or Assyrians had Chaldaeans; the Indians, gymnosophistai; and amongst Celts and Galatai, those who were called Druids and semnotheoi, as Aristotle says in his Magikos, and Sotion in the third book of his Succession of Philosophers."

(Diogenes Laertius, 'Lives of the Eminent Philosophers', c.200AD)

A said...

According to legend the oracle at Delphi was established by the Hyperboreans, possibly in the Mycenaean era. Pythagoras (named after the oracle, Pythia) is said to have learnt his ‘moral philosophy’ from a priestess at Delphi. According to Aristotle, Pythagoras’ followers called him ’The Hyperborean Apollo’.

Diodorus Siculus’s account mentions a Hyperborean ‘cithara’, a stringed instrument like a lyre. The lyre is associated with both the early Pythagoreans and also with Celtic Britain. The oldest known lyre in Europe was found in Britain.

There was trade between Britain and Greece from the Bronze Age. Artefacts from Britain have been found in Mycenaean shaft graves. There’s also evidence that people travelled to Stonehenge from the Mediterranean in the Bronze Age (a very high status young male from the Med has been found buried there). There’s a lot more...

Hyperborea was Britain dude.

Davidski said...


You think Hyperborea was Britain, because people from Hyperborea moved there just like they moved to Greece.

I'm pretty sure Hyperborea was the steppes around the Urals.

The Origin of the Indo-Iranians - Page 123

A said...

can you show me any concrete evidence of pythagorean geometry, astronomy etc in the ural steppes, long before they appear in greece?

Davidski said...


What does that got to do with it?

Hyperborea is a cold place in the north, so definitely not Greece, right?

And your idea that it's Britain makes little sense, because the ancestors of the Mycenaeans came from the steppes.

A said...

Who said the Hyperboreans were the ancestors of the Mycenaeans (other than you)?

"Hyperborea is a cold place in the north, so definitely not Greece, right?"

It's in the north but the name means 'beyond the north wind' and the Diodorus Siculus account describes it as unusually temperate rather than cold. This fits with the mild climate of Britain, which is warmed by the Gulf Stream and which also used to be warmer and drier in the Bronze Age.

Davidski said...


I don't find these sorts of discussions very useful, to be honest, but if anyone's still interested, there's a whole bunch of stuff about the Rhipean Mountains (probably the Urals), Hyperborea (probably the steppes beyond the Urals), and how the Hyperboreans came down to Greece at the link below. Happy reading.

Hyperboreans: Myth and History in Celtic-Hellenic Contacts

Davidski said...


Who said the Hyperboreans were the ancestors of the Mycenaeans (other than you)?

I don't think I ever said that the Hyperboreans were exactly the ancestors of the Mycenaeans.

A said...

okay you didn't explicitly say that but your argument was that Hyperborea can't be Britain because the ancestors of the Mycenaeans came from the steppes.. which implies that the Hyperboreans were the ancestors of the Mycenaeans.

Davidski said...


okay you didn't explicitly say that but your argument was that Hyperborea can't be Britain because the ancestors of the Mycenaeans came from the steppes.. which implies that the Hyperboreans were the ancestors of the Mycenaeans.

The relationship between the early Greeks and the so called Hyperboreans isn't very clear, at least to me.

But apparently they did have a close relationship and contacts, and it seems that the Hyperboreans had a major role in the formation of Greek religion.

So I don't know who they were, but I'm pretty sure you'll find that the contacts between the Mycenaeans and steppe peoples, and their close relatives in Central Europe, were much tighter than between Mycenaeans and Britons.

In fact, the Mycenaeans show a signal of Sintashta-related ancestry from the steppes, and according to serious sources, the Mycenaean dynasty may have originated around the Ural Mountains, which are often thought to be the mythical Rhipean Mountains near Hyperborea.

So yeah, Britain = Hyperborea? Don't think so.

Samuel Andrews said...


How can there be a link between Sintashta & Greece if R1a Z93 is completely absent in Greece? Possibly, the R1b M269* and R1b Z2103 lineages in southeast Europe everyone has forgotten about is the paternal marker of IE expansion in SE Europe. Maybe.

Davidski said...

Actually, my personal feeling is that the Hyperboreans were the Indo-European speaking ancestors of the Mycenaeans from the steppes (as opposed to their non-Indo-European speaking ancestors native to the Balkans and Aegean).

But I don't know how well that stands up to the finer details of the Hyperborean myth.

I don't really care though for the time being. I'm open to a different interpretation of the relationship between the Hyperboreans and early Greeks, like, for instance, contacts between the so called Hyperboreans and proto-Greeks on the Pontic-Caspian steppe.

Davidski said...

@Samuel Andrews

How can there be a link between Sintashta & Greece if R1a Z93 is completely absent in Greece?

We've been through this before.

R1a-Z93 is definitely present in Greece, and even in areas of Italy that were once Greek colonies.

There's also an ancient sample from a site in southern Bulgaria dated to the pre-Mycenaean or early Mycenaean period with a genetic profile very similar to Sintashta and belonging to R1a-Z93. See here...

Steppe invaders in the Bronze Age Balkans

The archeological and ancient DNA links between Mycenaean Greece and the Bronze Age steppes are far more important than the frequencies of Y-haplogroups in present-day Greece.

And of course it's possible that R1a-Z93 was not the sole Y-haplogroup of the peoples from the steppes who brought the chariot, horses, and so on to the Aegean region during the Bronze Age.

A said...

The description of Hyperborea given by Diodorus Siculus, based on the account of Hecateus clearly indicates that it's Britain.

And amazingly we have some fundamental aspects of the teachings of the 'Hyperborean Apollo' present in Britain a very long time before he was born.

Grey said...

Matt said...
"apparently one of the odd things about Maykop in one of the papers I was reading is an apparent lack of evidence for mining"


given the swords i assumed local mining

but apparently not - some kind of mystery copper-arsenic-nickel ore

Davidski said...


I guess you know, but may have momentarily forgotten, that there was a major migration and population replacement in Britain involving a people ultimately derived from the steppe.

Migration of the Bell Beakers—but not from Iberia (Olalde et al. 2018)

A said...

@ Davidski

right, but there is quite a lot of evidence that there was an intellectual continuation from the megalithic culture to the bronze age, and then ultimately to the iron age. That's why you can find the same concepts embodied in numerous and varied artefacts from the bronze age to the iron age.

Grey said...


gold panning?

Katharós said...

@ EastPole
“It is OT but it interests me very much because ritualistic use of drugs can tell us something about the culture and religion and maybe language of the people”
I am not going to go into detail on this , too complicated to explain in my clunky English ,but you should checkout the work of the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg (I recommend - Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath), he exactly touches the subject you mentioned via analyzing certain concepts of witchcraft. Even though a very complicated subject matter, he establishes a link between pre-Christian hallucinogenic shamanistic like practices that survived into the early modern period and certain concepts of witchcraft aka the concept of the Witches' Sabbath is partly rooted in the idea that the witches had the ability to leave their body to travel to distant places. These so-called night travels seem to be remains and fragments of former pre-Christians shamanistic like believes/practices that survived into 17th century Europe. The Church condemned these beliefs as "superstitio" and as illusions caused by the devil. In the end they were ultimately interpreted as a form of mental illness through endless discussions. "What among other things led to the early formation of protopsychology". Anyone interested in this should wiki the Canon Episcopi , a medieval canon law that condemned these night flights as dreams and phantasms of delusional women. Simply said, you are dealing with out-of-body experiences thanks to substance abuse. lol

-Also interesting-
Hippolytus of Rome (170–235 AD) Philosophumena "Refutation of All Heresies" it is an early 3rd century writing which catalogs both pagan and above all contemporary Gnostic systems of thoughts. Naturally a polemic text , but never the less an interesting insight into the contemporary religious thinking of the time , both ways.

Synome said...

From the supplementary material of Wang et al 2018:

"Imports such as lapis lazuli and turquois from Afghanistan showcase the extensive range of the exchange-network the Maykop communities participated in."

Maybe the Steppe Maykop were engaged with these eastern trade networks? That might explain the close relationship between the Botai-like/WSHG (also found in Central Asia) Steppe Maykop and the wealthy Maykop where demand for valuable imports was likely high.

Samuel Andrews said...

I'm getting tired of the "Migration, Migration!" interpretation from ancient DNA. People I think are making the wrong conclusions humans constantly replace each other and that none of us have old ancestral claims to our homes.

There's more migration/replacement than people expected but most modern populations have old roots in their respective regions.

I'm looking at ancient DNA from SW Asia. I think we can safely say that most Caucasian-speakers trace the vast majority of their ancestry to their homeland going back to 4000 BC. Ultimately, many trace ~50% of their ancestry to Epipaleolithic Caucasians.

The Hajji Firuz Chalcolithic samples dating to 6000 BC aren't that different from modern Assyrians. They also, look like a good representative for the pre-Indo European ancestry of Kurds.

Chalcolithic Levant genomes dating 4000 BC are significantly different from modern Levanties. But, by the Bronze age they look just like modern Levanties due to admixture from the north and south.

There's a lot more continuation than discontinuation in ancient DNA.

Davidski said...


Maybe the Steppe Maykop were engaged with these eastern trade networks? That might explain the close relationship between the Botai-like/WSHG (also found in Central Asia) Steppe Maykop and the wealthy Maykop where demand for valuable imports was likely high.

The key question for me is this: why would the diverse new Steppe Maykop population settle in the part of the steppe that was home to the native Steppe Eneolithic population that probably aggressively raided Caucasus Eneolithic forts?

Are these things connected?

That's because apparently after the Steppe Maykop people did settle there, the forts disappeared and were replaced by open settlements, presumably because there were no more raids by the steppe natives.

Grey said...

"wealthy Maykop where demand for valuable imports was likely high."

is it known what Maykop had to trade?

Ric Hern said...

So did most of the Steppe Eneolithic people move to die Dnieper River and Samara during the Steppe Maykop period ? Did Steppe Maykop focus more on Sheep farming ? Sheep can survive much dryer conditions than cattle...

Davidski said...


Steppe Maykop came into existence during a wet peak on the steppe.

When Yamnaya moved into the North Caucasus region, the conditions were still very good, but more arid.

Serious aridization started during the Yamnaya period, and really took hold during the Catacomb period, pushing the Catacomb and other peoples north towards the less affected areas.

Ric Hern said...

@ Davidski


So there was no real reason for competition for resources between Eneolithic Steppe and Maykop Steppe people. Hence the relative peace.

Davidski said...


The Eneolithic steppe genotype disappeared or started disappearing from the North Caucasus region during the Steppe Maykop period. There was a continuation of the Eneolithic Caucasus genotype though in the North Caucasus mountains, because Maykop is similar to Eneolithic Caucasus.

So I don't know about peace. People usually don't move out of their homelands unless they're forced to, especially during favorable climatic conditions.

It seems to me that the Eneolithic steppe population was either wiped out, forced out and/or absorbed by Steppe Maykop.

Yamnaya represents a return of something very close to Eneolithic steppe to the region, but clearly from somewhere much further north, because it shows European farmer ancestry.

Mikkel said...

Ah great. Thanks for that, Davidski 😊

Matt said...

@David, I don't think I found a great in depth coverage of Steppe Maykop as a phenomenon, and nothing on the whys of the decline of Maykop. The works I found were mainly using both as data points within the broader picture of change on the steppe and in Caucasus. It seems pretty likely that there's more in Russian.

For the question about replacement of Steppe_Eneolithic by Steppe_Maykop, I really think we're gonna need better analyses than in the paper.

After all, some of the qpAdm specifications of the paper model S_M as mostly Steppe_Eneolithic with some of what we know is West_Siberia_N, some as totally Steppe_Eneolithic, some as mostly EHG. This is all clearly very sensitive to the outgroups they use! I don't think they do any tree models at all, and the PCA is badly compressed. Y-dna is not too informative, one of the Steppe Maykop outliers is R and the only other male Steppe Maykop is Q1a2. Mt may be able to tell us more if a mt expert looks at the haplotypes.

So I don't think we can understand well at the moment how much they were a Steppe_Eneolithic with some admixture from Botai/West_Siberia_N people, and how much they were a replacement of Steppe_Eneolithic, on the data we have.

Davidski said...


My arguments in this blog post are based on my overall impression of the available data, including the mtDNA haplotypes.

I didn't have the energy to go into all of the details in the post, but I'm happy to do so in a quick and dirty way here.

Even though there are only three Eneolithic steppe samples in Wang et al., two of them show rather impressive maternal links with LNBA Europe/European steppe via mtDNA HGs I3a (also found in Bell Beakers, Poltavka and Unetice) and T2a1b (also found in Bell Beakers and Corded Ware).

On the other hand, we've got six samples from Steppe Maykop, and overall they look kind of weird, and not especially connected to Eneolithic steppe or LNBA Europe/European steppe.

One does belong to mtDNA HG H2a1, which is seen in European steppe and steppe-derived groups, but two show mtDNA HG U7b, which looks like a likely link to Iran.

That's not much to go on, but coupled with the way the Steppe Maykop samples cluster in terms of genome-wide ancestry, I'm skeptical that Steppe Maykop was mostly of local origin. For now, I'd say that it's a group with very complex ancestry from several different sources, including the Eneolithic North Caucasus steppe.

Davidski said...

By the way, just also wanted to say that even though Eneolithic steppe, Steppe Maykop and Yamnaya Caucasus all look rather similar in the ADMIXTURE bar graph and PCA from Wang et al., Eneolithic steppe and Steppe Maykop do clearly have different profiles, right down to each individual in the bar graph.

So my comment in the blog post that "the Eneolithic steppe genotype may have vanished from the steppes abutting the Caucasus by at least 3500 BC" is correct, despite the close similarity between Eneolithic steppe and Steppe Maykop.

Moreover, we don't know where that similarity really derives from. It may mostly derive from shared Eneolithic North Caucasus steppe ancestry, but maybe not, and most of it might well be coincidental, with Steppe Maykop being mostly of Central Asian and Caucasus origin.

Davidski said...

Potentially pertinent question...

How would Dali_EBA come out in the Wang et al. ADMIXTURE bar graph?

Samuel Andrews said...

I can't wait for ancient DNA to answer these questions.

-The origin of Italians. How, the north-south Italian cline formed. Are Italians mostly mixture between R1b U152+ Indo Europeans & migrants from the Aegean/Anatolia? Who were the Aegean people(s) they migrated into Italy.

-The origin of the northern Beaker folk & Sintashta/Andronovo. They're two huge, widespread homogenous farmer/Steppe ethnic groups. One was in the Asian Steppe, one in western Europe but genetically very similar.

Btw, I found an smooth way to get EEF, Natufian, IranNeo, CHG, WHG, ANE ancestry percentages for west Eurasians.

Matt said...

Yeah, I can't really dispute that they have a distinct genomic profile so "the Eneolithic steppe genotype may have vanished from the steppes abutting the Caucasus by at least 3500 BC" is not incorrect, albeit the sample size is limited.

I'm kind of more, let's take it slow and consider what limited data we have here, than anything being precluded.

Re; U7b, interesting point, and point about lack in Yamnaya samples is well taken.

Referring to the mega U7 paper from your post on, the peaks of U7 generally seem to be in the dual position of northern South Asia with Iran_N influence (Brahui 10.5%, Pakistani Pathan 9.6%) and Iran itself (7%), but also Khanty (14.2%) and Tatars (11.5%) in the north (Mansis also have somewhat relatively higher frequency than a number of other populations about 3-5%).

U7b seems rarer in general frequency seems to have a similar pattern, but more bias towards the central Caucasus (seems basically caused by highest frequency being among North Ossetian sample) and overlap with SE Europe.
The point about later expansion and coalescence of U7b than U7a is also pretty noteworthy.

Both the samples of U7b also from Sharakhalsun 6 site, looks about within 300-400 years and have a fairly similar ADMIXTURE profile.

Matt said... - Early pastoral economies along the Ancient Silk Road: Biomolecular evidence from the Alay Valley, Kyrgyzstan - Published: October 31, 2018 - Major corridor of Silk Road already home to high-mountain herders over 4,000 years ago - October 31, 2018, Max Planck Society -

Davidski said...

Thanks Matt. What's the significance of these findings?

Mem said...

Hi everybody,

I found the most current article on the Seima turbino phenomenon,but the site wants membership.

Can anyone find a free link or if you are a member of the site can send a free link to the internet?

Mikkel said...

I don't know what Matt thinks, but I see at least one really cool thing about the plos one study. That is the use of the ZoomS method in prehistoric nomadic societies, since this is probably the most cost effective and certain way to distinguish sheep from goat using only a bit of collagen like in C14. Thus, it would be quite a game changer in studying slaughtering patterns of sheep and thus early use of wool (when none of it is preserved) in e.g. yamnaya and perhaps earlier, which is again quite significant when we try to assign and date the reconstructed word for wool in Indo-European to the yamnaya. At the moment ,no wool has been found in yamnaya, which some (even prominent scholars) use as argument that they did not have it and thus that the word and the language cannot be assigned to the yamnaya culture. But of course, no evidence does not equal negative evidence, especially when we are talking about a material as fragile as wool 😊