Afanasievo culture

Afanasievo culture
Afanasievo culture.jpg
Alternative namesAfanasevo culture; Afanasevans
Geographical rangeSouth Siberia
Dates3300 BCE — 2500 BCE
Major sitesMinusinsk Basin
Followed byOkunev culture, Andronovo culture[1]

The Afanasievo culture, or Afanasevo culture (Afanasevan culture) (Russian: Афанасьевская культура Afanas'yevskaya kul'tura), is the earliest known archaeological culture of south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains during the eneolithic era, c. 3300 to 2500 BCE. It is named after a nearby mountain, Gora Afanasieva (Russian: Гора Афанасьева, lit.'Afanasiev's mountain') in what is now Bogradsky District, Khakassia, Russia.[2]

David W. Anthony believes that the Afanasevan population was descended from people who migrated c. 3700–3300 BCE across the Eurasian Steppe from the pre-Yamnaya Repin culture of the Don-Volga region.[3] Because of its geographical location and dating, Anthony and earlier scholars such as Leo Klejn, J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair have linked the Afanasevans to the Proto-Tocharian language.[4][5][6][7]


Conventional archaeological understanding tended to date at around 2000–2500 BC. However radiocarbon gave dates as early as 3705 BC on wooden tools and 2874 BC on human remains.[8] The earliest of these dates have now been rejected, giving a date of around 3300 BC for the start of the culture.[9]


Mass graves were not usual for this culture.[10] Afanasievo cemeteries include both single and small collective burials with the deceased usually flexed on their back in a pit. The burial pits are arranged in rectangular, sometimes circular, enclosures marked by stone walls. It has been argued that the burials represent family burial plots with four or five enclosures constituting the local social group.

The Afanasievo economy included cattle, sheep, and goat. Horse remains, either wild or domestic, have also been found. The Afanasievo people became the first food-producers in the area. Tools were manufactured from stone (axes, arrowheads), bone (fish-hooks, points) and antler. Among the antler pieces are objects that have been identified as possible cheek-pieces for horses. Artistic representations of wheeled vehicles found in the area has been attributed to the Afanasievo culture. Ornaments of copper, silver and gold have also been found.[4]

Physical anthropology


The analysis of the full genome of Afanasievo individuals has shown that they were genetically very close to the Yamnaya population of the Pontic–Caspian steppe. The Afanasievo and Yamnaya populations were much more similar to each other than to groups geographically located between the two (which unlike Afanasievo samples carried a large amount of ancestry from eastern Siberian hunter-gatherers). This indicates that the Afanasievo culture was brought to the Altai region via migration from the western Eurasian steppe, which initially occurred with little admixture from local populations.[1][15][16] The genetic closeness of the Yamnaya and Afanasievo populations is also mirrored in the uniparental haplogroups, especially in the predominance of the Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b.[16][note 1]

From the Altai mountains, steppe-derived Afanasievo ancestry spread to the east into Mongolia and to the south into Xinjiang. Afanasievo-related ancestry disappeared in the course of the Bronze Age in the Altai region and Mongolia, being replaced or absorbed by the arrival of migrating populations from the east and southwest. In Xinjiang, Afanasievo-related ancestry persisted at least into the late first millenium BCE.[17][18]


At Afanasevo Gora, two strains of Yersinia pestis have been extracted from human teeth. One is dated 2909–2679 BCE; the other, 2887–2677 BCE. Both are from the same (mass) grave of seven people, and are presumed near-contemporary.[10] This strain's genes express flagellin, which triggers the human immune response; so it was not a bubonic plague.[19]

Possible links to other cultures

Because of its numerous traits attributed to the early Indo-Europeans, like metal-use, horses and wheeled vehicles, and cultural relations with Kurgan steppe cultures, the Afanasevans are believed to have been Indo-European-speaking.[4] Genetic studies have demonstrated a discontinuity between Afanasievo and the succeeding Siberian-originating Okunevo culture, as well as genetic differences between Afanasievo and the Tarim mummies.[20]

Numerous scholars have suggested that the Afanasevo culture was responsible for the introduction of metallurgy to China.[21][22]


The Afanasevo culture was succeeded by the Okunev culture, which is considered as an extension of the Paleosiberian local non-Indo-European forest culture into the region.[4] The Okunev culture nevertheless displays influences from the earlier Afanasievo culture.[1] The region was subsequently occupied by the Andronovo, Karasuk, Tagar and Tashtyk cultures, respectively.[23][24]

Allentoft and coauthors (2015) study also confirms that the Afanasevo culture was replaced by the second wave of Indo-European migrations from the Andronovo culture during late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.[1][note 2] The Yamnaya and Afanasevo cultures were also found to be genetically distinct from the Andronovo culture.[1]


  1. ^ Allentoft et al. (2015) sampled four females from the Afanasievo culture, two individuals carried mtDNA haplogroup J2a2a, one carried T2c1a2, and one carried U5a1a1. Narasimhan et al. (2019) analyzed the remains of 24 individuals ascribed to the Afanasievo culture. Of the 14 samples of Y-DNA extracted, 10 belonged to R1b1a1a2a2, 1 to R1b1a1a2a, and 3 belonged to Q1a2. The mtDNA samples belonged to subclades of U (particularly of U5), along with T, J, H and K.
  2. ^ According to Allentoft and coauthors (2015): "Afanasievo culture persisted in central Asia and, perhaps, Mongolia and China until they themselves were replaced by fierce warriors in chariots called the Sintashta (also known as the Andronovo culture)".


  1. ^ a b c d e Allentoft, ME (June 11, 2015). "Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia" (PDF). Nature. Nature Research. 522 (7555): 167–172. Bibcode:2015Natur.522..167A. doi:10.1038/nature14507. PMID 26062507. S2CID 4399103.
  2. ^ Vadetskaya, E.; Polyakov, A.; Stepanova, N. (2014). The set sites of the Afanasievo culture. Barnaul: Azbuka.
  3. ^ Anthony, David W. (July 26, 2010). The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press. pp. 307–310. ISBN 978-1400831104. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d Mallory, J. P. (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. pp. 4–6. ISBN 1884964982. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  5. ^ Anthony, David W. (July 26, 2010). The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press. pp. 264–265, 308. ISBN 978-1400831104. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Mallory, J. P.; Mair, Victor H. (2000). The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05101-1.
  7. ^ Клейн Л. С. Миграция тохаров в свете археологии // Stratum plus. Т. 2. С. 178—187.
  8. ^ Svyatko, S. (2009). "New Radiocarbon Dates and a Review of the Chronology of Prehistoric Populations from the Minusinsk Basin, Southern Siberia, Russia". Radiocarbon. 2009 (1): 243–273 & appendix I p.266. doi:10.1017/S0033822200033798.
  9. ^ Anthony, D. W. (2013). "Two IE phylogenies, three PIE migrations, and four kinds of steppe pastoralism" (PDF). Journal of Language Relationship. 9: 1–21. doi:10.31826/jlr-2013-090105. S2CID 212688206.
  10. ^ a b Rasmussen, S15-16. These samples are marked "RISE509" and "RISE511".
  11. ^ Anthony, David W. (2007), The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World
  12. ^ Anthony, David (2017), "Archaeology and Language: Why Archaeologists Care About the Indo-European Problem", in Crabtree, P.J.; Bogucki, P. (eds.), European Archaeology as Anthropology: Essays in Memory of Bernard Wailes
  13. ^ Narasimhan, Vagheesh M.; Patterson, Nick; Moorjani, Priya; Rohland, Nadin; Bernardos, Rebecca (6 September 2019). "The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia". Science. 365 (6457). doi:10.1126/science.aat7487. ISSN 0036-8075. PMC 6822619. PMID 31488661.
  14. ^ Nordgvist; Heyd (2020), "The Forgotten Child of the Wider Corded Ware Family: Russian Fatyanovo Culture in Context", Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 86: 65–93, doi:10.1017/ppr.2020.9, S2CID 228923806
  15. ^ Mathieson, Iain (November 23, 2015). "Genome-wide patterns of selection in 230 ancient Eurasians". Nature. Nature Research. 528 (7583): 499–503. Bibcode:2015Natur.528..499M. doi:10.1038/nature16152. PMC 4918750. PMID 26595274.
  16. ^ a b Narasimhan, Vagheesh M. (September 6, 2019). "The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia". Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 365 (6457): eaat7487. bioRxiv 10.1101/292581. doi:10.1126/science.aat7487. PMC 6822619. PMID 31488661.
  17. ^ Zhang, F; Ning, C; Scott, A; et al. (2021). "The genomic origins of the Bronze Age Tarim Basin mummies". Nature. 599 (7884): 256–261. Bibcode:2021Natur.599..256Z. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04052-7. PMC 8580821. PMID 34707286. S2CID 240072904.
  18. ^ Wang, Chuan-Chao; Yeh, Hui-Yuan; Popov, Alexander N.; Zhang, Hu-Qin; Matsumura, Hirofumi; Sirak, Kendra; Cheronet, Olivia; Kovalev, Alexey; Rohland, Nadin; Kim, Alexander M.; Mallick, Swapan (March 2021). "Genomic insights into the formation of human populations in East Asia". Nature. 591 (7850): 413–419. Bibcode:2021Natur.591..413W. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-03336-2. ISSN 1476-4687. PMC 7993749. PMID 33618348.
  19. ^ Rasmussen, 575.
  20. ^ Hollard, Clémence; et al. (2018). "New genetic evidence of affinities and discontinuities between bronze age Siberian populations". Am J Phys Anthropol. 167 (1): 97–107. doi:10.1002/ajpa.23607. PMID 29900529. S2CID 205337212.
  21. ^ Baumer, Christoph (11 December 2012). The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Steppe Warriors. I.B. Tauris. p. 122. ISBN 978-1780760605.
  22. ^ Keay, John (1 October 2009). China: A History. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465020027.
  23. ^ "Central Asian Arts: Neolithic and Metal Age cultures". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  24. ^ "Stone Age: European cultures". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 2, 2015.

Further reading

  • H. P. Francfort, The Archeology of Protohistoric Central Asia and the Problems of Identifying Indo-European and Uralic-Speaking populations (review Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine) in : Persée 2003: Archéologie de l'Asie intérieure de l'âge du bronze à l'âge du fer
  • Haywood, Antohny (2 May 2012). Siberia: A Cultural History. Andrews UK Limited. ISBN 978-1908493378.
  • Hollard, C. (September 1, 2014). "Strong genetic admixture in the Altai at the Middle Bronze Age revealed by uniparental and ancestry informative markers". Journal of Forensic Sciences. American Academy of Forensic Sciences. 12: 199–207. doi:10.1016/j.fsigen.2014.05.012. PMID 25016250. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  • Kozshin, P (1970). "O psaliach is afanasievskih mogil". Sovetskaya Archeologiya. 4: 189–93.
  • Einführung in die Ethnologie Zentralasiens Marion Linska, Andrea Handl, Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek (2003) (.doc version)
  • Sinor, Denis (1 March 1990). The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521243041.
  • Zvelebil, Marek (13 November 1986). Hunters in Transition: Mesolithic Societies of Temperate Eurasia and Their Transition to Farming. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521268680.
Retrieved from ""