The Forest Zone
The oldest remains of R1a1a1-M417 lineages are found in the forests north of the Pontic-Caspian steppe: ca. 6425 BC in Yzhnyy Oleni Ostrov [Haak et al. 2015], and ca. 4000 BC in Serteya VIII [Chekunova et al. 2014]. During this stage of Rudnyayan culture there is continuity in relation to the previous stage, and contacts are made with eastern Baltic area and through the Western Dvina [Mazurkevich et al. 2009].
The introduction of Typical Cord Ware, which heralded the appearance of Neolithic traits in the Forest Zone, is dated to around 3900 BC, and it was discontinued ca. 3400 BC. It was a relatively uniform culture that covered a vast area ranging from the Urals to the Baltic Sea, and from Northern Ukraine to the Arctic Ocean, although in southern Finland and Karelia variants of the older types remain still in use [Nordqvist and Mökkönen 2016].
Samples from Zvejnieki in Latvia, which had central European ancestry (70% western hunter-gatherer, 30% eastern hunter-gatherer) during the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic, show a dramatic shift with the introduction of the Comb Pit Ware culture in samples from Zvejnieki (73-100% eastern hunter-gatherer), which proves that a westward migration of peoples accompanied cultural changes [Mathieson et al. 2017]. The last sample obtained, ca. 2885 BC, reveals another marked transition to a maximum steppe-related ancestry (see Corded Ware culture).
The disintegration of the Comb Ware phase began ca. 3500 BC, coinciding with the influence of the Volga-Kama region and the birth of several variants of Asbestos- and Organic-tempered Wares, although no break has been observed in cultural development [Nordqvist et al. 2012]. These groups also maintained vast and varying intra- and inter-regional contact networks.
During this period of 3500-3000 BC a shift to drier and cooler conditions is found in the steppes, with steppes expanding, and therefore also Yamna pastoralists and their cattle following them. The emergence of Volosovo and Garino-Vor metallurgy in the fourth millennium has been attributed to external influences from Yamna.
R1a1a1-M417 formation based on modern populations is dated ca. 6500 BC, with a TMRCA ca. 3500 BC, and published research pointing to a slightly earlier date ca. 3800 BC [Underhill et al. 2015], dates that are coincident with the aforementioned cultural and climatic changes. Individuals from the Forest Zone were found not to have received genetic influx from Anatolian-farmer-related genes during the Mesolithic or Neolithic, and therefore an inner cultural diffusion of pottery, farming and metallurgy is assumed for the population of the Baltic and Dnieper Rapids [Jones et al. 2017].
Between 3500-2000 BC an interruption in cultural continuity in the Forest Zone is found, coinciding with a major change in the environment, with selective felling and subsequent regeneration of forests in the Pit-Comb Ware area [Mazurkevich et al. 2009][Poska and Saarse 2002], which could have been caused by the complex movement of peoples in this period, as reflected by the interaction or “checkerboard of regional cultures covering the rolling hills and valleys of the forest steppe zone” [Anthony 2007], and a complex set of cultures is found in the East European Forest Zone, different from Central European cultures [Czebreszuk and Szmyt 2004].
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