A new study has discovered that horses were first domesticated by descendants of hunter-gatherer groups in Kazakhstan who left little direct trace in the ancestry of modern populations. The research sheds new light on the long-standing 'steppe theory' on the origin and movement of Indo-European languages made possible by the domestication of the horse.
"The successful spread of the Indo-European languages across Eurasia has puzzled researchers for a century. It was thought that speakers of this language family played a key role in the domestication of the horse, and that this, in combination with the development of wheeled vehicles, allowed them to spread across Eurasia from the Yamnaya culture."
However, as this study shows, domesticated horses were used by the Botai people already 5,500 years ago, and much further East in Central Asia, completely independent of the Yamnaya pastoralists. A further twist to the story is that the descendants of these Botai were later pushed out from the central steppe by migrations coming from the west. Their horses were replaced too, indicating that horses were domesticated separately in other regions as well.
No link between Botai and Yamnaya cultures
The study does not find a genetic link between the people associated with the Yamnaya and Botai archaeological cultures, which is critical to understanding the eastward movement of the Yamnaya. Apparently, their eastward expansion bypassed the Botai completely, moving 3000 kilometres across the steppe to the Altai Mountains in Central and East Asia.
Professor Alan Outram from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Exeter and one of the paper's authors, states:
"We now know that the people who first domesticated the horse in Central Asia were the descendants of ice age hunters, who went on to become the earliest pastoralists in the region. Despite their local innovations, these peoples were overrun and replaced by European steppe pastoralists in the middle and later Bronze Age, and their horses were replaced too."
Languages spread through exchanges between several cultures
Gojko Barjamovic, Senior Lecturer on Assyriology at Harvard University, explains:
"In Anatolia, and parts of Central Asia, which held densely settled complex urban societies, the history of language spread and genetic ancestry is better described in terms of contact and absorption than by simply a movement of population."
"The Indo-European languages are usually said to emerge in Anatolia in the 2nd millennium BCE. However, we use evidence from the palatial archives of the ancient city of Ebla in Syria to argue that Indo-European was already spoken in modern-day Turkey in the 25th century BCE. This means that the speakers of these language must have arrived there prior to any Yamnaya expansions."
The study also shows that the spread of the Indo-Iranian languages to South Asia, with Hindi, Urdu and Persian as major modern offshoots, cannot result from the Yamnaya expansions. Rather, the Indo-Iranian languages spread with a later push of pastoralist groups from the South Ural Mountains during the Middle to Late Bronze Age.
Prior to entering South Asia, these groups, thought to have spoken an Indo-Iranian language, were impacted by groups with an ancestry typical of more western Eurasian populations. This suggests that the Indo-Iranian speakers did not split off from the Yamnaya population directly, but were more closely related to the Indo-European speakers that lived in Eastern Europe.
Abstract The Yamnaya expansions from the western steppe into Europe and Asia during the Early Bronze Age (~3000 BCE) are believed to have brought with them Indo-European languages and possibly horse husbandry. We analyze 74 ancient whole-genome sequences from across Inner Asia and Anatolia and show that the Botai people associated with the earliest horse husbandry derived from a hunter-gatherer population deeply diverged from the Yamnaya. Our results also suggest distinct migrations bringing West Eurasian ancestry into South Asia before and after but not at the time of Yamnaya culture. We find no evidence of steppe ancestry in Bronze Age Anatolia from when Indo-European languages are attested there. Thus, in contrast to Europe, Early Bronze Age Yamnaya-related migrations had limited direct genetic impact in Asia.
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Meta-Ethnicity: Slavic/Turkic Ethnicity: Mostly Russian Country: Ukraine Ancestry: East Slavic + some ancient Altaic roots Taxonomy: North Pontid+ Baltid Politics: God save the Tsar Religion: Eastern Orthodoxy Relationship Status: In a relationship with eternity... Hero: Yeshua haMashiach, Alexander Nevsky, Dmitry Donskoy, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Peter the Great Philosophy: Eurasian
It is generally assumed that the Hittites came into Anatolia some time before 2000 BC. While their earlier location is disputed, it has been speculated by scholars for more than a century that the Kurgan cultures of the Pontic Steppe, in present-day Ukraine, around the Sea of Azov spoke an early Indo-European language during the third and fourth millennia BC.
The arrival of the Hittites in Anatolia in the Bronze Age was one of a superstrate imposing itself on a native culture (in this case over the pre existing Hattians and Hurrians), either by means of conquest or by gradual assimilation. In archaeological terms, relationships of the Hittites to the Ezero culture of the Balkans and Maikop culture of the Caucasus have been considered within the migration framework. The Indo-European element at least establishes Hittite culture as intrusive to Anatolia in scholarly mainstream (excepting the opinions of Colin Renfrew, whose Anatolian hypothesis assumes that Indo-European is indigenous to Anatolia, and, more recently, Quentin Atkinson).
Five cemeteries have been found associated with the site, the largest of which (known as Sintashta mogila or SM) consisted of forty graves. Some of these were chariot burials, producing the oldest known chariots in the world. Others included horse sacrifices—up to eight in a single grave—various stone, copper and bronze weapons, and silver and gold ornaments. The SM cemetery is overlain by a very large kurgan of a slightly later date. It has been noted that the kind of funerary sacrifices evident at Sintashta have strong similarities to funerary rituals described in the Rig Veda, an ancient Indian religious text often associated with the Proto-Indo-Iranians.