Afanasievo culture

The Afanasievo culture, or Afanasevo culture (Russian Афанасьевская культура Afanas'yevskaya kul'tura; "[the] Afanasevan culture"), 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]

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]

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] Afanasevo 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 Afanasevo economy included cattle, sheep, and goat. Horse remains, either wild or domestic, have also been found. The Afanasevo 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 Afanasevo culture. Ornaments of copper, silver and gold have also been found.[4]

Biological anthropologyEdit

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.[11]


Migration of Yamnaya-related people, according to Anthony (2007),[12] 2017;[13][note 1] Narasimhan et al. (2019);[14] Nordqvist and Heyd (2020):[15]

Allentoft et al. (2015) published a genetic study including four females from the Afanasievo culture. Two individuals carried mtDNA haplogroup J2a2a, one carried T2c1a2, and one carried U5a1a1.[1][16] The authors found that the Afanasievo were "genetically indistinguishable" from the Yamnaya culture.[1] The results indicated that the expansion of the ancestors of the Afanasievo people into the Altai was carried out through "large-scale migrations and population displacements",[1] without admixture with local populations.[17][1] The Afanasievo people were also found to be closely related to the Poltavka culture.[17] The authors conclude that the Afanasievo people were Indo-Europeans, perhaps ancestors of the Tocharians.[1]

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. The authors interpreted these results as evidence for a migration from the Pontic–Caspian steppe.[18]

Avoiding some double countings, as of 2021 there have been 18 finds of R1b, 3x Q1(b), 1x J1, and a late of C2.

Possible links to other culturesEdit

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.[19]

Numerous scholars have suggested that the Afanasevo culture was responsible for the introduction of metallurgy to China.[20][21]


The Afanasevo culture was succeeded by the Okunev culture, which is considered as an extension of the 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.[22][23]

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] Tarim mummies were also found to be genetically closer to the Andronovo culture[1] than to the Yamnaya culture or Afanasevo culture.


  1. ^ See also Eurogenes Blog (December 18, 2017), Corded Ware as an offshoot of Hungarian Yamnaya (Anthony 2017)
  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 f g h i 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. ^ Rasmussen, 575.
  12. ^ Anthony, David W. (2007), The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Mathieson, Iain (February 21, 2018). "The Genomic History of Southeastern Europe". Nature. Nature Research. 555 (7695): 197–203. Bibcode:2018Natur.555..197M. doi:10.1038/nature25778. PMC 6091220. PMID 29466330.
  17. ^ a b 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Baumer, Christoph (11 December 2012). The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Steppe Warriors. I.B. Tauris. p. 122. ISBN 978-1780760605.
  21. ^ Keay, John (1 October 2009). China: A History. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465020027.
  22. ^ "Central Asian Arts: Neolithic and Metal Age cultures". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  23. ^ "Stone Age: European cultures". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 2, 2015.

Further readingEdit