VIII.17. Eurasian forest-steppes

VIII.17.1. Abashevo

In the forest-steppe zone of the Middle Volga and Upper Don, at the easternmost aspect of the Russian forest zone, the last culture descended from Corded Ware ceramic tradition, the Abashevo group, emerged ca. 2500 BC or later (Anthony 2007), spreading through the forest regions westward to the Upper Don, and eastward substituting the late Volosovo groups that still remained in the region, reaching the Upper Ural basin (Suppl. Fig. 12). Settlements to the south appear up to the Samara valley, in immediate neighbourhood of Poltavka settlements, around 2500–2100 BC, with Abashevo and Abashevoid ceramic assemblages appearing in the forest-steppe zone (Kuznetsov and Mochalov 2016).

Abashevo was contemporaneous with Sintashta and Multi-Corded Ware cultures to the south, in Pontic–Caspian forest-steppe and steppe regions, and shares with them similar bronze, flint, stone, and bone objects. Mostly regional ceramics help distinguish the culture, with variants of pots with deep belly and prominent funnel-shaped neck appearing only in Abashevo. Abashevo showslike Sintashta and Multi-Corded Ware culturesfortified settlements, enclosed by a ditch (Parzinger 2013), usually located on the promontories of the first river terraces in the high valleys.

The occupied area of the biggest settlements does not exceed several thousand m2, with a number of dwellings using supporting and framing posts dug into a slightly deepened foundation pit. Some storage pits and fireplaces are recognised on the floors, and size and interior design seem to be dependent on functional factors, such as small rooms for metalworking activity (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Animal husbandry is the main subsistence economy, with cattle predominating (ca. 68-78%) over sheep–goats, as was common in Corded Ware groups, and there is no evidence of agriculture. Pigs, usually associated with agriculture (because they can be fed agricultural products) appear only in the Cis-Urals area, where oak forests, and thus acorns, are available. There is a limited presence of horse bones in settlements, with some horse harness details, but only in settlements, not in funeral sites (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Copper mining and bronze casting appear at a significant scale. Bronze work included large cast bronze shaft–hole axes and small distinctive copper or bronze ornaments worn around the head and face by women. As a cattle-herding pastoralist economy, it probably competed with Poltavka during its expansion to the south into steppe grasslands (Kuznetsov and Mochalov 2016).

Figure 84. Abashevo kurgan types after Gobunov 1986, image modified from Koryakova and Epimakhov (2007).

Year-round unfortified settlements and seasonal camps are also located near rivers and consist of several houses. Kurgan cemeteries usually occupy river terraces and have several small mounds (80% not higher than 0.5 m, the remaining no more than 1 m) that contain mainly individual inhumations. More than half of the mounds are made of earth, but other elements can be found, such as circular ditches, stone, and wooden fences (Figure 84). Funerary chambers are rectangular and with a dimension connected to the age and number of individuals buried, with average depth less than 1 m. Apart from simple pits without any addition, there are a number of wood and stone inner constructions, such as walling and roofing. The presence of stone is an ethnographic feature of the Cis-Uralian Abashevo sites (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Grave goods include only limited animal sacrifices in the pit filling, with the majority including pots, some bone and metal objects, including chisels, knives–daggers, sickle-like tools, awls, and hooks, as well as stone and bone arrowheads proper of hunting, and bone “spades”. The most characteristic part of the Abashevo assemblage are the numerous ornaments: bracelets, rings, hollow ribbed tubes, rosette-like, and semi-circular plaques (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Collective burials are rare in both the Cis-Urals and the Middle Volga area. One of this early mass graves is witness to this period of intense conflict and large-scale battles in the region, with 28 violently killed men at Pepkino in the Middle Volga forest-steppe zone, a battle between forces armed with bronze axes and daggers, dated ca. 2130–1950 BC (Figure 85). Analogies of projectile points from the Turbino cemetery allow it to be dated no earlier than ca. 2100–2000 BC (Chechushkov and Epimakhov 2018).

Traces of injuriesbroken bones and skulls pierced with metal axes and stone arrowheads of the Balanovo typedetected on the bones of large number of these skeletons suggest that this represents a serious conflict between the Abashevo and forest Balanovo groups. Some of them had been dismembered, and among them there was a bonzesmith, distinguished by his powerful build (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The Sosnitsa culture succeeded the Middle Dnieper culture in the middle and upper Dnieper regions, although precise radiocarbon dates are lacking. Kurgan and flat graves with inhumation and cremation are found, and vessel forms and their ornamentation (horizontal beaded decoration on the neck and shoulders) show links to Abashevo, Multi-Cordon Ware, and to the succeeding Srubna culture in the region. East European Bronze Age features are seen in bronze findingsspiral bracelets, spiral pendants, socketed axes—in common with East Trzciniec and especially Komarov cultures, with links to eastern Carpathian cultures (Ottomány, Madarov’ce) whose influence is felt in the north Pontic region ca. 1750–1500 BC (Parzinger 2013).

Figure 85. Pepkino collective burial after Khalikov, Lebedinskaya and Gerasimova 1966, image modified from Koryakova and Epimakhov (2007).

VIII.17.2. The Seima–Turbino phenomenon

The Seima–Turbino inter-cultural network (main finds ca. 1900–1600 BC) is associated with materials present in the Abashevo, Sintashta–Petrovka, Taskovo–Loginovo (on the Middle and Lower Tobol and Middle Irtysh), Samus (on the Upper Ob), Krotovo (forest-steppe of the Middle Irtysh to the Baraba steppe on the Upper Ob), Elunino, and Okunevo cultures. This expansion through Eurasian forest and forest-steppe societies roughly corresponds to the expansions of the Srubna–Andronovo horizon through the Eurasian steppes (Carpelan and Parpola 2001).

While the Okunevo culture belongs to the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2250–1900 BC), most other cultures date to a later period, during the Pre-Andronovo horizon (ca. 2100–1800 BC). The better quality of tin–bronze proper of Seima–Turbino objects makes the source of both copper and tin probably central Asian ores (e.g. Upper Irtysh–Bukhtarta area of tin, copper, and gold ores), which isapart from the knives with depicted mountain sheep and horses typical of the eastwhy it has been traditionally considered an east–west movement of objects, and potentially of people (Carpelan and Parpola 2001).

Seima–Turbino metalsmiths were the first to regularly use a tin–bronze alloy, and were masters of lost-wax casting (for decorative figures on dagger handles) and thin-walled hollow-mould casting (for socketed spears and hollow axes). Nevertheless, local Okunevo and Afanasevo metallurgy of the Sayan–Altai area is primitive, and it is unlikely that they developed the advanced technology of casting socketed spearheads as one piece around a blank. On the other hand, spearheads of this type appear first in the Caucasus ca. 2000 BC, diffusing early to the Middle Volga–Kama–southern Urals area, where “it was the experienced Abashevo craftsmen who were able to take up the new techniques and develop and distribute new types of spearheads.” The presence of specific animals seems to be a local development, since Seima materials on the Oka river depict European elk types (Carpelan and Parpola 2001).

Figure 86. Seima–Turbino objects (4, 5 – stone, the rest are bronze objects) from the burial grounds of southwestern Siberia. Image modified from Marchenko et al. (2017): 3, 9, 10 – Rostovka (Matyushchenko and Sinitsyna 1988); 2 – Elunino 1 (Kiryushin 1987); 4–6 – Sopka 2/4C (Molodin 1983); 7 – Tartas 1 (Molodin et al. 2011), 8 – Preobrazhenka 6 (Molodin et al. 2007).

Sintashta socketed spearheads were made by bending a bronze sheet around a socket form and then forging the seam, while Seima–Turbino types were made by pouring molten metal into a mould that created a seamless cast socket around a suspended core, making a hollow interior, which necessitated tin–bronze rather than arsenical bronze (Anthony 2007). This use of tin–bronzes, of hollow-mould casting method, and of the lost-wax casting technique were probably learned from BMAC, which is probably explained by the exploratory movements of Abashevo, Sintashta, Srubna, and Andronovo settlers into the tin mining sites of the Zeravshan Valley.

The proportion of tin–bronze, arsenical bronze, and pure copper in Seima–Turbino materials from Europe also speaks in favour of a western origin of the material culture and regional adaptations to ore sources. The presence of pure copper in the Altai supports the presence of Abashevo migrants from the Urals, not yet mining arsenical copper. The main ores for Abashevo metal production were on the Volga–Kama–Belaya area sandstone ores of pure copper, and more easterly Urals deposits of arsenical copper. The Abashevo people, expanding from the Don and Middle Volga to the Urals, developed their metallurgy in the Volga–Kama basin (pure copper) and then moved to the east, where they produced harder weapons and tools of arsenical copper. Further to the south, they contributed to the Sintashta society in a territory richest in copper in the whole Urals region (Parpola 2013).

Arsenical copper was probably connected to the Tash–Kazgan deposits situated on the upper reaches of the Ui River in the southern Trans-Urals, which were transported westward over the low-lying Ural range, for about 250–300 km through the mountains. The rather high variation of arsenic concentration suggests that the Tash–Kazgan ore could be smelted on-site or on the Cis-Urals settlements and then transported to Abashevo and Sintashta areas (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The finding of Abashevo-like pottery in tin miners’ camp at Karnab on the lower Zeravshan, together with contemporary Sintashta-like pottery at Gonur, points to competing exploratory movements including contact and trade from forest-steppe and steppe cultures in Central Asia in look for tin ores near BMAC sites ca. 2100–2000 BC (Anthony 2007).

The Seima–Turbino phenomenon probably shows, therefore, the connection of areas to the west and east of the Urals in a network created by Abashevo settlers expanding into West Siberia through the forest-steppe and forest regions (Figure 87). Supporting this common expansion is the appearance of similar flint projectile points in Seima–Turbino and Sintashta graves, as well as objects of Petrovka origin, and the contemporary Andronovo expansion through the steppes (Anthony 2007).

Figure 87. Formative phase of the “Eurasian Metallurgical Province”, with the distribution of the Abashevo, Sintashta and Petrovka cultures (the map does not show Petrovka’s wider extension to southern Central Asia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), and the finds of the Seima-Turbino trade network. (After Parpola 2015: 57 Fig. 7.3, based on Chernykh 2007: 77). Image from Parpola (2018).

VIII.17.3. Andronovo-like cultural horizon

Alakul and Fëdorovo material culture appear in the forest-steppe and forest zones of western Siberia, toward the northern taiga, evidenced by numerous settlement sites and decorated ware. They appear as stockbreeders, metallurgists, hunters and fishers, representing a cultural transformation of the vast area east of the Urals. These syncretic cultures are known as “Andronoid” or “Andronovo-like”, with apparently stronger connections to Fëdorovo. The horizon is composed of several cultures, including Cherkaskul (middle and southern Trans-Urals), Pakhomovo (Middle Irtysh and Tobol), Suzgun (taiga area of the Middle Irtysh), and Elovka (forest area of the Ob’-Irtysh river basin) (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

All these cultures and smaller groups show similar flat-bottomed pottery with high or middle shoulders, short necks, and compact decoration consisting of alternating geometric motives with recognisable forest “images” and “Andronovo spirit”. They share similarities with Cis-, Trans-Urals, and eastern regions of western Siberia. The appearance of Andronovo-type geometric design into the local pottery reduced the area of the local hole and combed ornamental scheme, which still covered the major part of the taiga and Circum-Arctic area. Metallurgy is present, but there is a decrease in the number of metal objects, probably due to the absence of ores. Population density probably remained low, limited by the capacity of the forest ecological niches, with communities concentrated in clusters along rivers (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The Cherkaskul tradition (ca. 1850–1500 BC) has probably a direct origin in the expansion of Abashevo with the Seima–Turbino phenomenon over the area of the previous Late Garino–Bor and Sayat culture (ca. 2500–1900 BC) of hunter-gatherers, in the middle and south Trans-Urals, with Kazan as its western neighbour. The spread of Cherkaskul materials is thus closely associated with the Seima–Turbino phenomenon, and with the spread of the Fëdorovo tradition of the Andronovo horizon (see above Figure 90), probably as a northern variant directly linked to Abashevo, and not to the Sintashta culture from the steppes (Parpola 2018).

Cherkaskul sites are mainly found concentrated in the southern forest and northern forest-steppe of the Ural Mountains, with some findings as far south as the steppe zone. Cherkaskul materials are also found in thick concentrations on the southern forest and northern forest-steppe of central Asia, including the Upper Irtysh, Upper Ob’, and Upper Yenissei rivers, close to the Altai and Sayan mountains. Cherkaskul pottery appears frequently along with Fëdorovo types, and many sites produced pottery mixing both types. About half of the bone finds in Cherkaskul sites come from hunted animals, attesting to a predominantly hunter-gatherer population (Parpola 2018).

Its pottery includes the frequent use of carpet design in ornamentation, in common with Fëdorovo types, but is denser and more sophisticated than the Fëdorovo tradition, with flat-bottomed pots having a smooth and pleasing profile. In the forest, houses show shallow basements with rectangular pits as grounds for small frame-pillar wooden constructions (ca. 22–50 m2), showing internal hearths. Houses had corridor-like entrances. In the forest-steppe and steppe, houses were larger (ca. 100–200 m2) with deeper basements (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Settlements show evidence of a stable and settled life, with tolls for hunting, fishing, and bones of domestic animals, including bone dice, and remains of a developed metallurgy. Funerary tradition includes small kurgans with stone fences and mounds, covering individual burials with traces of cremation in the southern area; and inhumation in shallow pits in contracted left-sided position and modest assemblages in the northern and western regions. From the mid–2nd millennium on, different cultures without precise radiocarbon dates evolve from the previous expansion of Cherkaskul (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The Pakhomovo groups constitute the southern part of the Andronovo-like complex, and are located in the northern forest-steppe and forests of the Tobol-Irtysh basin, with pottery similar to Fëdorovo in morphology, decoration, and manner of surface treatment. Pots covered by monotonous ornaments of the forest style with various holes and figured stamps are common. Settlements are not large (ca. 4,500 m2 in average), with varied large rectangular houses (ca. 100 m2), wooden built with vertical pillars supporting a pyramidal roof, which include fixed hearths and wooden constructions for economic use. Tools related to hunting, fishing, metallurgy, and metal objects evidence their mainly fishing and hunting activity complemented by cattle and horse breeding (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The Suzgun groups occupy the area to the north of Pakhonovo, partially overlapping it in the northern Isim and Irtysh forest-steppe. Settlements are located on high promontories of the Irtysh River valley and on low fluvial terraces, with the environment conditioning the economy. A wooden walled enclosure with rectangular houses formed with vertical pillars in perpendicular rows and corridor-like entrances is possibly the model settlement. Mass ritual actions connected to sacrifices and common eating of oblational food are found in common sanctuaries (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Several individual inhumations and collective burials are found in cemeteries, where dead were buried in the extended supine position, with some apparently Pre-Andronovo and some Andronovo-like customs found in the funerary ritual. Bronze metalworking seems to be a part of ritual actions, and the most common artefact found is pottery, with flat and round bottomed pots with well pronounced profiles decorated with geometric motifs. The subsistence economy was diverse, with hunting and fishing being an essential part, but cattle being also dominant, and horse occupying the second position (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

VIII.17.4. Mezhovska–Irmen cultural horizon

The Mezhovska–Irmen cultural horizon (ca. 1500–800 BC) involves a group of cultures with common stylistic similarities and local differences, in the forest-steppe area on both sides of the Ural Mountains, from the middle Kama and Belaya rivers to the Tobol river in western Siberia, with sites reaching up to the Altai (Suppl. Fig. 13). They emerged from the previous Andronovo-like cultural complex of the forest-steppe and southern forest of western Siberia, with influence coming from cross-stamped cultures of the north, and include Mezhovska and Irmen cultures around the Urals, the Sargary–Alekseevka culture to the south, and the Karasuk culture to the east (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Mezhovska sites were present in the forest and forest-steppe zones on both sides of the Urals, including the forest-steppe region from the Belaya bend to the Middle Kama up to the Chusovaya river (in the Cis-Urals), the Trans-Urals, the Ishim–Irtysh area. The Irmen cultures were distributed in the Ob-Irtysh forest-steppe, with its influence found in Sargary–Alekseevka culture in northern Kazakhstan (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

All settlements are small or middle-sized open settlements (200–300 individuals), mainly seasonal camps, but also stable long-term habitation settlements. They are situated on river terraces or lake or river promontories, possibly with defensive constructions. The largest pillar-frame structures are found to the south, related to the Sargary culture, while smaller houses (ca. 100 m2) are proper of the forest zone. There were vertical pillar-frame constructions, and constructions with deep basement and horizontal frame in its low part. Fireplaces and storage pits are found inside houses, and a corridor-like entrance usually faces the water (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Subsistence economy in both the Cis-Urals and Trans-Urals depends on the specific ecological niche. It usually includes wild species (up to 15%), with a smaller percentage for ‘fur’ animals; horse and cattle (ca. 30%), and a small percentage of sheep (ca. 13%), as well as fish. Food producing branches were more prevalent in the south, and the high proportion of horses compared to previous periods is probably related to their ability to forge in the winter. Metallurgy was probably not using local ores (as in the succeeding Itkul’ culture), and it was most likely based on domestic needs (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Characteristic is the decoration of the pottery, usually covering the neck and shoulder, with carved (fretted) elements becoming popular, contrasting with the previous comb–stamped techniques of the region. Ornament patterns are simple, and pottery shapes include pots of globular bodies with short straight or turned up necks, and cans and korchags (large earthenware pots). Bronze objects are represented by massive tools, like celts–axes of the Cimmerian type, gouges of Derbeden type, sickles of Derbeden and Kataisk types, daggers of Kardashinsky and Cimmerian types, as well as double-edged knives with smooth passage to tengue, awls, and needles. Bone and stone arrowheads are also numerous (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

There seems to be a kurgan burial tradition, using stone in the erection of mounds, with one to three inhumations for kurgan, and the dead in extended supine or side position. Secondary burials appear on the ancient surface. Graves are shallow with modest wooden arrangement. Animal bones, mainly cattle, represent remains of the funeral feast, and assemblages include pottery, metal daggers, spearheads, knives, and ornaments (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The eastern part of the Mezhovska–Irmen horizon is formed by the Irmen culture, with material culture intermediate between Mezhovska and Karasuk. Settlements include traditional large house buildings in variable open villages, small camps and, in a later phase, fortified sites. Houses have several hearths and traces of domestic activities, including animal stabling during the winter, and there are separate houses with structures of economic function. Subsistence economy is also based on livestock breeding, with their bones prevalent over wild animals, and only traces of cultivation. Metallurgy developed depending on the sites and raw material resources (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Pottery includes large flat-bottomed massive pots, and (proper of burials) smaller pots and jars with flat or round bottoms. Ornamentation includes incised techniques, sometimes accompanied by combed stamps and ‘pearls’, and Andronovo-like motifs appear in funerary pottery. Cemeteries include kurgans with multiple individual burials, with inhumations in crouched right-sided position with southern direction and orientation. Graves are shallow, and wooden frames furnish them. Assemblages consist of metal goods (nail-like pendants, earrings, sewn plaques) and pottery. Collective burials are rare (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The Sargary culture emerged from Fëdorovo and Cherkaskul traditions in the forest-steppe between Tobol and Irtysh, in northern and central Kazakhstan. It formed part of the “horizon of cultures of the Valikova pottery tradition” (Chernykh 1992), which comprised cultures from the Don–Volga–Ural steppes (late Srubna), southern Urals and Trans-Urals, and Kazakhstan (Sargary, Trushnikovo, Dandybai–Begazy, Amirabad), characterised by poorly ornamented flat-bottomed pottery with clay rollers stuck around the shoulder or neck. Other similarities involved metal artefacts, economic structure, and funerary ritual.

In the Dandybai–Begazy culture, mausoleums were constructed especially for people of high social status. The characteristic pottery of globular form and very small bottoms and cylindrical necks, often with polished surfaces and black, yellow, or red colour, and both Sargary and this culture probably formed a unity with a core area in central Kazakhstan, where the centres of metallurgy lied. In the Trans-Urals region, Sargary material culture is found with Mezhovska, and some Meshovksa finds contain Sargary material, probably from the 13th century BC on (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Sargary settlements include large territories (ca. 20,000 m2) with semisubterranean buildings with deep basements and up to several dozen large houses, and smaller settlements (1,000–2,500 m2) with up to fifteen houses, yielding a similar number of finds, suggesting that they were inhabited seasonally. Houses are rectangular, frame-pillar constructions with a floor deepened into the ground, and are placed freely along the river bank. Metal tools are numerous (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Subsistence economy reveals a pattern connected to the steppe area of eastern Europe, with domestic animals predominating, first cattle, then horse and sheep, with likely yearly cycle herding practices. The first trace of agriculture in the region is associated with this culture. Small cemeteries comprising up to three mounds and solitary kurgans of earth and stone are placed on high ground of the initial riverbank and far from river streams, unlike in the preceding period. The dead are placed in contracted position on their side, and assemblages are modest. Funerary rituals are complex and varied, and kurgan ritual and inhumation were reserved for some people, with society tending to atomisation in the forest-steppe, and to concentration in larger settlements in the south (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The Karasuk culture (ca. 1400–900 BC), genetically at least partly derived from Fëdorovo, flourished around the upper Yenissei, Mongolia and the Ordos region of China. It probably came into being as a result of a migration of different people from the southeast, from the periphery of Shang period China. The beginning of the Karasuk period also marked the return of some Okunevo traditions that did not manifest themselves during the Fëdorovo period (Parpola 2018).

It preceded the transition of the LBA to the EIA Proto-Scythian period, when the use of saddled horse, composite bow, and the ‘animal style’ art became integral parts of the steppe life. Around 1000 BC, the Eurasiatic steppes became uniform culturally from Mongolia to Hungary (see §VIII.19.4. Scythians and Sarmatians), and for a thousand years East Iranian languages were spoken in the region (Parpola 2013). Among the pictorial tradition of petroglyphs in Andronovo-related groups, those of burials of the Karasuk culture in southern Siberia and Kazakhstan represent the latest tradition (Novozhenov 2012).

VIII.17.5. Itkul’–Gamayun and Sargat

The Gamayun and Itkul’ cultures evolved (ca. 800–200 BC) from the Mezhovska cultural region in a narrow band (ca. 150 km wide) on the eastern slope of the Urals. Itkul’ constituted the main metallurgical centre of the Trans-Urals region during the Iron Age. They were in contact with the Ananyino and Akhmylovo cultures, which were the metallurgical centres of the western Urals, and neighboured the Gorokhovo culture (Parpola 2018).

The Gamayun culture is rather archaic in appearance, featuring open or fortified settlements and early fortified house-refuges (of ca. 600 m2), having solid wooden walls with a ditch and strengthened by an earthen bank, and a variable living space (ca. 40–400 m2). Open settlements include small stable villages consisting of several houses, and seasonal short-time hunting-fishing camps. Fortified villages, chiefly concentrated on the periphery of the occupied territory, were variable in size, and occupied the low hills and promontories along riverbanks, with smaller ones representing frontier-guard stations. Houses vary from small hovels and chums to stable pillar-framed wooden houses with one or two sections, and were also used for economic activities (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Characteristic of the Gamayun culture is the crosslike stamp ornamentation, which was found widespread among the massive of cultures with stamped crosslike ornaments in the southernmost taiga zone and northern forest-steppe, from the Trans-Urals to the Middle Ob’. These cultures emerged from the Late Bronze Age of the Lower Ob’ River forest area, represented by the Lozva–Atlym phase of the Late Bronze Age, when some population groups moved southward in search for game due to the humid conditions at the turn of the 2nd/1st millennium BC. Most migrating communities of the LBA and Gamayun sites show a rather small size (ca. 20–30 people), perhaps extended families or clans (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

The Itkul’ culture represents thus the strict cultural continuation of Mezhovska in the region, and the initial relations with the Gamayun culture seems to be one of conflicts, based on the fortification of houses and on traces of destruction of Gamayun villages. Eventually, both communities formed a symbiotic system based on division of labour and specialisation. Local Itkul’ communities, having harnessed local mineral resources for metal production in a previous period, specialised in metallurgy, while Gamayun groups were hunters, fishers, and most likely miners (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Itkul’ sites were fortified villages or fortified metallurgical workshops, with the vast majority occupying high ground of rivers or lake terraces. Fortifications were simple, with a wall, moat, ditch, or grove, and bigger settlements took up very high topographic positions usually with an open-order defensive line. Buildings included houses, workshops, and structures connected with special productive functions. Houses were rectangular semisubterranean and surface-based buildings of a pillar-framed construction, and they were rather small, with a simple interior, including one or two hearths. Small working areas served for copper smelting, iron working, and most often metal processing, while mass production of metal was done on larger dwellings or outdoor (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Artefacts and structures evidence the intensive dedication of the sites to metallurgical activity, with specialisation mainly in bronze production with local mineral deposits. There is operational division involving metal smelting and casting in mountain clusters (and further divisions into full or limited cycle of production), and metalworking in the periphery. Their distinctive pottery includes round-bottomed pots, of chiefly horizontal proportions, and decorated with rather standard comb–stamped patterns, covering the pot’s upper third (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

Itkul’ metallurgists had close relations with the Ananyino populations, which used in part Trans-Uralian ores for manufacturing various objects that diffused westwards. Closer connections existed with neighbouring cultures, with Itkul’ supplying regularly metal products to Gorokhovo and to the southern Siberian Sargat groups. More or less regular contacts existed also with The Upper Ob’ Bolsherechye culture, and with the southern Kazakhstan Saka culture (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

To the east of the Itkul’ culture, up to the Ob river, the Nosilovo, Baitovo, Late Irmen, and Krasnoozero cultures (ca. 900–500 BC) developed, some of them in contact with the Akhmylovo culture of the Middle Volga. All these cultures of the forest steppe were later absorbed into the Sargat culture (Parzinger 2006),

The spread of the Suzgun culture with the Baraba trendmarked by the Baraba–Suzgun pottery, featuring slightly and well-profiled pots with a short throatprobably represents a wide-ranging population expansion in pre-taiga and taiga zones in the Irtysh basin. Later, the Berlik tradition expanded with migrants from the south, interacting in certain sitesas in the local Late Irmen cultural traditionwith Late Irmen people inhabiting the citadel of the settlement, and Berlik immigrants inhabiting the surrounding territory (Molodin, Mylnikova, and Kobeleva 2008).

The Sargat culture emerged from the Late Irmen tradition, succeeding the Sargary culture in its territory, comprising all cultural groups between the Tobol–Irtysh forest-steppe interfluve. Apart from the core settlers of the Mezhovska–Irmen horizon of the Final Bronze Age, intercommunity formation was completed by taiga settlers of the Lozva–Atlym LBA from the north, and southern influence from the Valikova pottery horizon and Arzhan phase of the Scythian and Saka confederation. These groups superimposed each other chronologically and territorially, as evidenced in the Chicha settlement. Open and fortified settlements are characteristic (Molodin, Mylnikova, and Kobeleva 2008).

The Gorokhovo cultural group of the Iset–Tobol area also resulted from a population of Sargary–Mezhovska roots, under the influence of climatic, economic, and social factors. With a clear cultural root in the Trans-Uralian forest-steppe, evidenced by its architecture, fortification system, and pottery, they probably adopted pastoral herding under the cultural and possibly political influence of the Saka confederation, evidenced by the funerary ritual. They formed part of a “forest-steppe–steppe system” that involved the Iktul’ metallurgical centre, South Urals nomads, and the Sargat culture (Parzinger 2006).

Both Gorokhovo and Sargat eventually developed (ca. 5th c. BC on) the “Golden Age” of the western Siberian forest-steppe, under Sargat dominance coming from the east, and increased influence from steppe nomads from the south. Fortified settlements demonstrate a more complex level of architecture, with large elite barrows including very big kurgans, analogous to those found in the steppes, and mainly individual inhumations. Seminomadic stockbreeding became the main subsistence economy. The expansion of Sargat may have caused an initial expansion of Gorokhovo settlers to the west, until their eventual integration under Sargat (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007).

viii.17. Ugrians and Samoyeds

Seima–Turbino-related migrations through the Eurasian forest and forest-steppe zones in western Siberia reflect population movements from west to east, coinciding with the arrival of pastoralists in central Asia (Kılınç et al. 2018), which supports the traditional interpretation of Uralic expanding from west to east, originally with Abashevo-related groups, most likely associated with individuals of Steppe MLBA ancestry associated with the Andronovo-like cultural horizon (see §viii.18.1. Late Indo-Iranians).

While Mezhovska is the best candidate for the original Proto-Ugric-speaking population, Karasuk has been traditionally proposed as the Pre-Samoyedic-speaking community (Parpola 2013). Both Mezhovska and Tagar samples can be modelled as almost completely of Corded Ware-derived ancestry, in contrast to neighbouring groups like Pazyryk or Zevakino-Chilikta—traditionally considered East Iranian cultures—which show likely contributions from neighbouring Altaic populations.

viii.17.1. Ugrians

Individuals of the Mezhovska culture from the Kapova cave (one dated ca. 1500 BC) are part of the Western Steppe MLBA cluster. It shows mainly Steppe MLBA (ca. 75–84%) and Baikal EBA/Nganasan-like ancestry (ca. 17–20%), with contributions of an ANE-related population (Jeong et al. 2019). One sample is of hg. R1a1a1b1a2-Z280+, and another of hg. R1b1a1b-M269 (Allentoft et al. 2015). Interesting is the presence of one outlier, with ancestry close to the later South-Eastern Iranian cluster, with increased Near Eastern ancestry, which suggests the potential emergence of this cluster in the Andronovo–Srubna complex, i.e. much earlier than suggested by the available samples. The position of Mezhovska samples is close to later Scythians from Samara, and also close to modern Finns, northern Russians, Early Sarmatians, Estonians, Mordovians, Lithuanians or Belarusians (Unterländer et al. 2017).

The Sargat culture is probably to be identified (at least partly) with the expansion of Proto-Hungarians, who around the 5th century BC “were caught up in a wave of migrations that swept the steppe… Migrating westwards, they settled between the Urals and the Middle Volga region”, staying in Bashkiria until ca. 600 BC, in the so-called Hungaria Magna of medieval sources (Suppl. Fig. 18). That Ugric peoples were horsemen is supported by the number of equestrian terms in Ugric languages, including the word for horse (Parpola 2018), and by the presence of horse riding equipment and horse bones in graves of Early Hungarian frequent riders, evidenced by their skeletal hip changes (Berthon et al. 2018).

Seven individuals of the Sargat culture from the Baraba forest (ca. 500 BC – AD 500) show five hg. N-M231, two hg. R1a-M420 (Bennett and Kaestle 2010), which is expected to be found in a late Ugric community integrating with Palaeosiberian peoples from the LBA cultures of the Lower Ob’ River forest area, likely expanding with hg. N-M231, and becoming integrated both in the Itkul’ culture through its association with Gamayun, and in Sargat through the gradual integration of migrants from the taiga region.

Given the sample of hg. N-M231 from the Mezőcsát Culture (ca. 900 BC) in Hungary (Gamba et al. 2014), belonging to expanding Cimmerians, and the Siberian ancestry expanding with Scythian groups (see §viii.19. Iranians) and later with Altaic peoples (see §viii.21.2. Turkic peoples and Mongols) it is conceivable that at least part of the N-M231 lineagesand N1a1-Tat in particular, including N1a1a1a1a-L392integrated among Ugric and part of the Samoyedic peoples accompanied westward steppe migrations (see Suppl. Graph. 15 and Suppl. Graph. 17), which is in line with some known shared traits of Uralic and Altaic (Kortlandt 2010).

Modern Ugric populations include Mansis, in the immediate Trans-Urals region, which have more Steppe MLBA (ca. 38–42%) and less Baikal EBA/Nganasan-like ancestry (ca. 54–61%) than other Ugric and Samoyedic populations, and show variable contributions of an ANE-like population (ca. 0–8%). They show more N-M231(xN1a1-Tat) (ca. 33–60%) than N1a1-Tat (ca. 16–28%), R1a-Z280 (ca. 19%), other R1a1a-M198 (ca. 6%), I-M170 (ca. 6–8%), R1b-M343 (ca. 4%), or J-M304 (ca. 4%). Eastern Khants, on the other hand, show more N1a1-Tat (ca. 49%) than N-M231(xN1a1-Tat) (ca. 31%) or N1a1-Tat (ca. 16%), but they also show R1b-M343 (ca. 11%), R1a1a-M198 (ca. 6%), I-M170 (ca. 8%), or J-M304 (ca. 4%) (Tambets et al. 2018).

Khants and Nenets share similar ancestry, showing a close affinity with Selkups (in turn intermingled with Yeniseian-speaking Kets), too, which suggests the origin of the admixture among Uralic-speaking peoples in the expansion of Corded Ware-related populations to the east, including language shift of neighbouring Palaeosiberian peoples (Karafet et al. 2018; Dudás et al. 2019; Jeong et al. 2019).

Hungarians, on the other hand, show an ancestry indistinguishable from neighbouring European populations around the Carpathian Basin, and similar contributions of hg. R1a-M420 (ca. 21-60%), R1b-L23 (ca. 15–20%) and I-M170 (ca. 11-26%), with intermediate frequency of J-M304, E1b-P177 and G2a-P15 (ca. 5–15%), and much lesser N-M231(xN1a1-Tat) and N1a1-Tat (ca. 1-6%) (Semino 2000; Csányi et al. 2008; Pamjav et al. 2011; Pamjav et al. 2017).

The closest link between Finno-Ugric populations from around the Uralsincluding Maris, Mansis, and Hungariansis found in four different haplotypes of hg. R1a1a1b1a2-Z280 (Csáky et al. 2019), derived from the expansion of Corded Ware groups (see above §vii.1. Western and Eastern Uralians), most likely within subclade R1a1a1b1a2b-CTS1211, which appears in modern populations in both West and East Uralic speakers, and is also found in ancient Battle Axe populations.

On the other hand, all Bashkirian Mari R1a1a1b2-Z93 samples (seven haplotypes) formed a very isolated branch, different from a Hungarian sample by seven mutational steps, which support their relative isolation since the initial expansion. Other haplotypes found in Khants or Hungarians are scattered and not particularly related to those of Altaians, Khakassians, or Uzbeks (Csáky et al. 2019).

Another shared Finno-Ugric lineage is hg. N1a1a1a1a2-Z1936 (formed ca. 2900 BC, TMRCA ca. 2300 BC), with the most common Ugric subclade being N1a1a1a1a2a1c-Y13850 (formed ca. 2300 BC, TMRCA ca. 2200 BC): a Y24361 branch (TMRCA ca. 350 BC) is found among Tatars and Bashkirs, and also among Hungarians, while a L1034 branch (TMRCA ca. 2200 BC) is found among Bashkirs and Ugric peoples (Post et al. 2019).

These lineages were likely incorporated into the Ugric stock during their expansion through the forest-steppes and the taiga, and did probably expand further among them during the Turkic migrations through the forest-steppes up to the Middle Volga. In particular, population genetic analyses indicate that Hungarian Conquerors had the closest connection to Volga Tatars (Neparáczki et al. 2019), suggesting that the Y24361 branch belongs to recently assimilated Turkic paternal lines.

An origin of the expansion of N1a1a1a1a2-Z1936 in the central Siberian forests is supported by the likely finding of sister clade N1a1a1a1a2a-Z1934 in Palaeo-Laplandic speakers from Lovozero Ware (ca. 1500 BC), likely stemming from the Taymir Peninsula, and originally from the Imiyakhtakhskaya expansion in Yakutia (see §viii.16.1. Saami and Laplandic peoples); the presence of N1a1-Tat subclades in Northern Eurasia likely connected to Neolithic populations to the north of Lake Baikal; their recent TMRCA in the west and the lack of findings in ancient samples, compared to their early split and presence in the east; as well as the presence of both lineages in modern populations of the Siberian Taiga and around the Arctic, up to Lake Baikal in the south.

viii.17.1.1. Hungarians

The distribution of haplogroups among early Hungarian conquerors from Karos (ca. AD 895–950)without taking into account local paternal lineagesis similar to the expected proportion of N1a1-Tat vs. R1a-M420 lineages, based on the available ancient samples from the Trans-Urals forest-steppes and on modern Ob-Ugric peoples: there are four R1a1a1b1a2-Z280, at least three of them R1a1a1b1a2b-CTS1211, one of them an elite individual from Karos II; two R1a1a1b2a2-Z2124, one of them an elite individual; and one N1a1a1a1a2-Z1936(xL1034)[36], one of them an elite individual.

Likely ‘eastern’ samples include two N1a1a1a1a4-B2118 (formed ca. 4300 BC, TMRCA ca. 1700 BC), prevalent among Turkic-speaking Yakuts and Dolgans, and linguistically distant Evenks and Evens living in Yakutia, but also appearing around the Urals and particularly scattered among modern Turkic peoples. This patrilineage is a prime example of a male population of broad central Siberian ancestry that is not intrinsic to any linguistically defined group of people, with the deepest branches being represented by a Lebanese and a Chinese sample, and a separate sub-lineage found in Bhutan. This supports a recent strong founder effect primarily in central Siberia (Ilumäe et al. 2016).

A military leader from of Karos II and another elite individual show hg. I2a1a2b-L621(xI2a1a2b1a1a1-S17250). Lineages of likely ‘western’ origin at Karos1 and Karos2 include two E1b1b-M215, at least one E1b1b1a1b1a-V13, one J1-M267, one G2a2b-L30, and one I1-M253(xI1a1b1-L22).

Samples from a small Karos III cemetery stand out from the rest, with three R1b1a1b1a1a1-U106 lineages, likely stemming from an East Germanic population, and its leader being of hg. I2a1a2b-L621 and brother of the leader from Karos2, with whom he shares mitogenome and Y-STR haplotypes. The nearby Kenézlő cemetery shows one ‘eastern’ hg. Q1a-F1096(xQ1a2-M25), one R1b1a1b-L23 (likely R1b1a1b1b-Z2103), and two N1a1a1a1a2-Z1936(xL1034) lineages.

Samples from the small eastern cemetery of Magyarhomorog (ca. AD 10th)with typical partial horse burials of the early Hungarians containing horse cranium with leg bones and harness objectsshow three I2a1a2-M423, at least two of them I2a1a2b-L621(xI2a1a2b1a1a1-S17250). The widespread presence of hg. I2a1a2b-L621 among the elites, as well as the finding of hg. E1b1b1a1b1a-V13 among early conquerors, both lineages found among early Slavs (see §viii.9.2. Slavs), suggests that the local population of the Carpathian Basinhome to Slavonic-speaking peoples since the late Avar period, from the 8th century onbecame integrated into the new Hungarian-speaking community.

Later samples from Sárrétudvari, representing commoners from the second half of the 10th century, show hg. R1b1a1b1a1a2b-U152 and J2a1a-L26. Unpublished conquerors. Among twelve males from Karos-Eperjesszög (AD 900–1000), at least two are of hg. R1b1a1b-M269, two I2a-L460 (Neparáczki et al. 2017). Another two N1a1-Tat samples have been published (Csányi et al. 2008), one from Szabadkigyos-Palliget (ca. AD 950) and another one from Örménykút[37] (ca. AD 975–1000).

Among early Hungarians interred in Saint Stephen Basilica, Székesfehérvár (AD 12th c.), there are three of hg. R1a-M420, including King Béla III of the Árpád dynasty, of hg. R1a1a1b2a2a1d7-YP451(xYP499)+, common in modern populations of the northern Caucasus, among Karachays and Balkars; two of hg. R1b-M343, one J1-L255, and one E1b1-P2 (Olasz et al. 2018).

The early mixture found among early Hungarian elites and among modern populations points to the likely domination of a minority of Magyar clansprobably already admixed with Turkic peoplesover a majority of the population of the Carpathian Basin, composed of local lineages, most from Germanic and Slavic populations. The finding of haplogroup R1a1a1b1a2-Z280 (ca. 14-15%) and lesser R1a1a1b2-Z93 (ca. 1%) among modern Hungarians[38]  suggests the arrival of some R1a1a1b1a2-Z280 lineages with Magyar tribes, in contrast to the typical Slavic subclades of the area, mainly R1a1a1b1a1a-M458 (ca. 7-20%), I2a1a2b1a1-CTS10228 (ca. 16%), apart from lineages also found among early conquerors.

Further support of the spread of Hungarian conquerors from the Urals region is found in the shared mitogenomes with the ancient populations (AD 6th – 10th c.) of the Volga–Ural region (Szeifert et al. 2018).

viii.17.2. Samoyeds

Seven individuals of the Karasuk culture from Arban, Sabinka and Bystrovka (ca. 1530–1260 BC) form a wide cluster reaching from Western to Eastern Steppe MLBA, and can be modelled as Steppe MLBA (ca. 50–57%) and Baikal EBA/Nganasan-like ancestry (ca. 37–43%), with contributions of an ANE-related population (Jeong et al. 2019), which is compatible with their admixture with populations of the Trans-Uralian and Cis-Baikalic regions, with one particular outlier clustering closely with Khövsgöls in northern Mongolia (see §viii.21.2. Turkic peoples and Mongols). Reported haplogroups include two R1a1a1b2a2-Z2124, and one Q1a2a-L712+ (Allentoft et al. 2015).

The Tagar culture (ca. 1000–200 BC) largely continues the traditions of the Karasuk culture in the Minusinsk basin of the Upper Yenissei. This area is considered the homeland to Proto-Samoyedic, based on the Bulghar Turkic loanwords, and thus the Tagar culture probably represents the expansion of the language (Parpola 2018). Sampled Tagar individuals (probably ca. 9th c. BC) display increased EHG ancestry compared to other Inner Asian Scythian groups, with unequal ancestry contributions of Steppe MLBA (ca. 83.5%), WSHG (ca. 7.5%), with additional ANE ancestry (ca. 9%), and clear differences of hunter-gatherer ancestry sources with other sampled Sakas, which likely formed a confederation of different peoples (de Barros Damgaard, Marchi, et al. 2018). This is compatible with their origin in the eastern European forest zone, and reported haplogroups include two hg. R1-M173, and one R1a1a1b2a2-Z2124+.

Modern Samoyedic peoples show a higher admixture of Siberian populations relative to Corded Ware ancestry (Jeong et al. 2019). The southern Selkups show Steppe MLBA (ca. 24%), Baikal EBA (ca. 73%), and ANE ancestry (ca. 3%). with a majority of ‘eastern’ haplogroups (ca. 58-66%) like P-P295, Q-M242, R-M207 (xR1a1a-M198, xR1b-M343), or R2-M479, but also more R1a1a-M198 (ca. 14-19%), than other Samoyedic peoples, with lesser R1b-M343 (ca. 6-7%), I-M170 (ca. 0–7%), N-M231(xN1a1-Tat) (ca. 7%), N1a1-Tat (ca. 0–2%), or C2-M217 (ca. 2-5%).

Among northern groups, Enets in central regions have similar proportions of Steppe MLBA ancestry (ca. 21–23%), with more Baikal EBA/Nganasan-like (ca. 79–88%) and less ANE-related ancestry (ca. 0–4%), and show hg. N-M231(xN1a1-Tat) (ca. 78%), R1b-M343 (ca. 11%), and N1a1-Tat (ca. 11%). Nenets to the west show N-M231(xN1a1-Tat) (ca. 57%), N1a1-Tat (ca. 41%), while Nganasans to the east, the most recent Palaeosiberian group to adopt Samoyedic languages (Dolgikh 1960, 1962), show N-M231(xN1a1-Tat) (ca. 92%) and N1a1-Tat (ca. 3%), and an elevated “Siberian component” which has the highest frequency in three Karasuk samples (Karafet et al. 2018).

Eastern and western Circum-Arctic nomads show a prevalence of N1a1-Tat lineages, which appear in the western area as N1a1a1a2-B211 lineages (formed ca. 5400 BC, TMRCA 1900 BC) among Khanty and Mansi peoples, and in the east among some Nganasans in contact with Yukaghirs (see §viii.21.1. Yukaghirs). Most Nganasans show a deeper N1b-F2905 subclade (formed ca. 16000 BC, TMRCA ca. 13700 BC), though, also found in lesser proportions among Dolgans, Evenks, Evens, as well as in south Siberian Tofalars, Khakassians, Tuvinians, and Shors (Fedorova et al. 2013).

Central Siberian peoples show a majority of N1a2b-P43 lineages (formed ca. 6800 BC, TMRCA ca. 2700 BC), which may suggest an expansion of N1a-F1206 lineages precisely from this central Siberian area. Its western branch N1a2b2-Y3195 (TMRCA ca. 2200 BC) is found in the Cis-Urals region, with Permic peoples and Volga Finns, while its eastern branch N1a2b1-B478/VL64 (formed ca. 2700 BC, TMRCA ca. 1300 BC) is found in central Siberia and East Asia, and N1a2b1b1-B170 in particular coincident with the interaction east of the Urals (Ilumae et al. 2016; Karafet et al. 2018).