The Copper Age began in Bulgaria ca. 5200-5000 BC, and Old European copper-trade network included the Pontic-Caspian steppe societies after ca. 4600 BC.
The Late Neolithic and the Caspian Sea region culture had coexisted during the Eneolithic in the mid-6th millennium, and in the Lower Volga a change is noticed ca. 5000-4800 BC among the carriers of the North Caspian culture[Vybornov et al. 2016]. The early Khvalynsk culture may have been an autochthonous culture based on the previous North Caspian culture, or its genesis could be the result of a migration of tribes from the southern region of the Trans-Caspian area[Vybornov 2016]. Both these possibilities may account for the introduction of CHG ancestry in the steppe region.
During the 5th millennium, a strong, long-lasting, east-west oriented exchange network can be observed in the north Pontic area between the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the forest-steppe and Skelja (including the site at Deriivka) in the coastal steppe[Reingruber and Rassamakin 2016].
The revolution of herding, travel, and raiding – and thus the change in the steppe – came with horseback riding, appearing ca. 4800 BC in early Khvalynsk, and spreading south- and eastward. The early Sredni Stog culture began about 4400 BC, probably related to the influence of people from the east Pontic Caspian steppe[Anthony 2007].
Within this new culture, a new elite group associated with the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka complex[Anthony 2007], probably from the eastern steppe (and thus probably speaking Middle Proto-Indo-European), was involved in raiding and trading with the lower Danube valley during the Trypillian B1 period, before and during the collapse of Old Europe.
Settlements of Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs have been found along the lower Danube, and sites of the posterior Cernavodă I culture (ca. 3600 BC) seem to represent the assimilation of migrants from the steppes, therefore linked to Anthony’s first expansion from the Pontic-Caspian steppes into the Balkans ca. 4200-4000 BC[Anthony 2007][Anthony 2013].
Three samples dated ca. 5150 BC are found in early Khvalynsk, one of R1b1a-L754 (probably M269), one of R1a1-M459, and one of Q1a-F903 lineage. While the R1b1a-L754 sample was reported as from a high-status burial, similar to high-status individuals buried under kurgans in later Yamna graves, and therefore founder of an elite group of patrilineally-related families, the R1a1-M459 individual shows scarce decoration and his lineage is not found in later high-status Yamna graves[Mathieson et al. 2015 Supplementary materials]. A sample attributed to the Dnieper-Donets culture (predating Sredni Stog in the same region), dated to a similar time (ca. 4380 BC) belong to haplogroup R1a-M420 (Jones et al. 2017), which points – together with the diversity found in the Khvalynsk II cemetery – to a time preceding or coinciding with the successful expansion of R1b1a1a2-M269 lineages.
Two individuals of haplogroups R-M207 and R1b1a-L754 (dated ca. 4500 BC) are found in Smyadovo and one of haplogroup R1-M173 (dated ca. 4460 BC) in Varna I cemetery[Mathieson et al. 2017]. Steppe-related ancestry (defined by posterior samples from east Yamna) are found in an individual from Varna I (ca. 4630 BC) and in both samples from Smyadovo (ca. 4500 BC), in contrast with the resurgence of WHG ancestry in central Europe and Iberia.
These samples are not proven to correspond to R1b1a1a2-M269 lineages, and dates are slightly earlier for the mass migration proposed by Anthony[Anthony 2007]. Nevertheless, the region shows a discontinuity in R1b1a1a-P297 lineages in the Balkans after the arrival of Middle East Neolithic farmers (of G2-P15 lineages), which represent around half of more than 30 Y-DNA samples in the period from 6000 BC to 4500 BC. (Mathieson et al. 2017). The fact that haplogroup R-M207 is not found in later Balkan samples either (until the second Yamna expansion) is also significant, potentially pointing to a transitory presence of this haplogroup from the steppe. Also, steppe imports are already found in Gumelnița, in the Lower Danube region, from about 4400 BC[Reingruber and Rassamakin 2016].
The older origin of haplogroup R1b1a1a2-M269 (ca. 11300 BC) compared to a later TMRCA (ca. 4300 BC) for the subclades survived in the modern population, coinciding with the successful spread of basal R1b1a1a2a-L23* (formed ca. 4300 BC, TMRCA ca. 4200 BC), point to an expansion that occurred around this time period. This population expansion came probably from some eastern clans of Pontic-Caspian herders that developed the Sredni Stog culture in the west, and turned into Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs and south-eastern European settlers.
Both lineages are found in the Balkans, Central Europe, and Armenia[Myres et al. 2011][Herrera et al. 2012], and their expansion is therefore to be associated with the split of Proto-Anatolian[Kortlandt 1990][Ringe 2006] from a common Middle Proto-Indo-European language[Tischler and Oettinger 1989][Lehrman 1996][Melchert 1998].
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