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Sintashta Culture

Indo-European Sintashta Culture Site

This culture existed from 2100 BC to 1800 BC. It was present around modern Chelyabinsk Oblast of Russia.

The earliest known chariots have been found in Sintashta burials and the culture is considered a strong candidate for the origin of this warfare technology, which spread throughout Europe, Anatolia and Egypt. Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture.

The Sintashta Culture emerged from the interaction of two antecedent cultures, the Poltavka Culture and the Abashevo Culture. Because of the difficulty of identifying the remains of Sintashta sites beneath those of later settlements, the culture was only recently distinguished from the Andronovo Culture. It is now recognised as a separate entity forming part of the "Andronovo horizon".

Its immediate predecessor in the Ural-Tobol steppe was the Poltavka Culture, an offshoot of the cattle-herding yamna Culture horizon that moved East into the region between 2800 BC and 2600 BC. Several Sintashta towns were built over older Poltavka settlements or close to Poltavka cemeteries, and Poltavka motifs are common on Sintashta pottery.

Sintashta material culture also shows the influence of the late Abashevo Culture, derived from the Fatyanovo-Balanovo Culture, a collection of CORDED WARE Culture settlements in the forest steppe zone north of the Sintashta region that were also predominantly pastoralist.

The ancestors of Fatyanovo-Balanovo originated in the South-Eastern Poland Carpathia region (3000 BC Chłopice-Vesele Culture, the ancestors of Proto-Slavic Mierzanowice Culture) where the first R1a-Z93 samples were found. From there next to the Fatyanovo group towards north went the migration of the Corded Ware Culture Baltic group, moving towards the region of Lithuania and Latvia and creating there the Eastern Baltic Corded Ware Culture. On the basis of numerous old Proto-Indo-European words in the Baltic languages it is even possible to assume that this migration happened jointly with the Fatyanovo people (the future inhabitants of India and Persia, the Indo-Iranian Aryans - the creators and users of Sanskrit and Avestan languages) and a long close neighborhood of the Balts with them. It made it easier for the Balts to retain many elements of the Proto-Indo-European vocabulary and culture in common with the Sintashta.

A proof of the theory above in linguistics is a verb "to swim", which is uniquely the same only in Slavic and Sanskrit languages. Those two branches of Indo-European kept its unchanged form for over 5000 years:

    • Sanskrit: प्लवते (plavate)
    • Old Church Slavonic: плавати (plavati)
    • Slovene: plávati
    • Ukrainian: пла́вати (plávaty)
    • Russian: пла́вать (plávatʹ)
    • Old Polish: pławać, spławiać
    • Slovak: plávať

Another word present only in Slavic languages and Sanskrit is "game":

    • Sanskrit: खेला (khela) (from *ghera), क्रीडा (krida, krīḍā́)
    • Polish: gra
    • Slovak: igra

Let's also compare Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian names for "everything", "entire", "whole":

    • Sanskrit: विश्व (víśva, víśvaḥ)
    • Avestan: vispa
    • Old PersianL 𐎻𐎿 (vi-s /visa/)
    • Lithuanian: visas, viska
    • Prussian: wissa, visi
    • Latvian: viss
    • Polabian: vis
    • Old East Slavic: вьсь (vĭsĭ)
    • Polish: wszy-, wszech- (from *vsih)
    • Bulgarian: вси (vsi)


💀 Sintashta people buried their dead in a grave in a form of a kurgan (tumulus). Animals sacrificed as grave offerings were mostly horses (up to eight of them in a single grave). There were also found various stone, copper, bronze weapons and silver, gold ornaments. It has been noted that the kind of funerary sacrifices evident at Sintashta have strong similarities to funerary rituals described in the Rig Veda. 💀

Many males from this culture belonged to Y-DNA haplogroup R1a-Z93 and Q1a.


Sintashta horses

A horse DNA found at Sintashta was determined to be most related to one found in Gordinesti II (DOM2 sample) from Western Ukraine. Horses from the Yamnaya Culture showed the same Gordinesti II characteristics but with additional 15% Botai horse admixture[1]. The Gordinesti II sample comes from around 3000 BC and at the same time horses from the territory of Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Germany and France showed the Old European horse characteristics (Uralic and European) and lacked the Gordinesti II and Yamna horse related DNA. This changed around 2400 BC - 2000 BC and from that time whole European horse population could be modeled after Gordinesti II sample. By around 2200 BC - 2000 BC, the typical DOM2 ancestry profile appeared in Holubice, Bohemia, Czechia, the lower Danube (Gordinesti II) and central Anatolia (Acemhöyük), spreading across Eurasia shortly afterwards, eventually replacing all pre-existing lineages.

This means that it was the Unetice Culture and Urnfield Culture that spread the Indo-European horse DNA to Western and Southern Europe, not earlier Corded Ware Culture or Bell Beaker Culture, and especially not the Yamna Culture itself.

DOM2 horse ancestry reached a maximum 12.5% in one Hungarian horse dated to 2500 BC and was associated with the Somogyvár-Vinkovci Culture, its DOM2 ancestry was acquired following gene flow from Southern Thrace (Kan22_Tur_m2386), but not from the Dnieper steppes Yamna Culture[1]. Certainly the horses found in the Nordic Bronze Age and Unetice Culture gravs, were already the same horses as those used in the Sintashta Culture (to pull their chariots). It might even be possible that in the future even earlier examples of chariots will be discovered in Western Ukraine or Southern Belarus. More horse DNA samples from around 3000 BC - 1800 BC from Fatyanovo-Balanovo, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Scandinavia are still needed to make this theory much stronger.


Fatyanovo-Balanovo

It was the culture ancestral to the Sintashta and Abashevo cultures that flourished from 2900 BC to 1900 BC.

Saag et al. 2020 examined 24 individuals of the Fatyanovo Culture. All 14 male samples belonged to subclades of Y-haplogroup R1a-M417. Six of these could be further specified to haplogroup R1a2-Z93. The 24 samples of mtDNA extracted belonged to various subclades of maternal haplogroups U5, U4, U2e, H, T, W, J, K, I and N1a. Both the paternal and maternal lineages of the examined Fatyanovo individuals were characteristic of the Corded Ware Culture. They were mostly of steppe ancestry with slight Early European Farmer (EEF) admixture.

They were most closely related to Late Neolithic and Bronze Age populations of Central Europe, Scandinavia and the Eastern Baltic, and also grouped together with modern Northern and Eastern Europeans. Around a third of the samples had blue eyes and/or blond hair, while the rest had brown eyes and black or brown hair. The genetics of the people of the Fatyanovo Culture was found to be substantially different from preceding Volosovo Culture, with whom they do not appear to have mixed. Their EEF admixture has not been detected in the earlier Yamnaya Culture, suggesting that the Fatyaovo people did not directly descend from the Yamnaya. The authors of the study suggested that the Fatyanovo Culture emerged through a rapid migration towards the north-east from the Middle Dnieper Culture of modern-day Ukraine and Belarus.