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Ahnenerbe
Friday, November 4th, 2005, 02:20 PM
The Kurgan hypothesis (also known as the Kurgan theory or Kurgan model) is the most widely accepted proposal to identify the Proto-Indo-European homelands from which the Indo-European languages spread out throughout Europe and parts of Asia. It postulates that the people of a Kurgan culture in the Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea were the most likely speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). The term is derived from the Russian kurgan (курган) meaning tumulus or burial mound.

The Kurgan hypothesis was first formulated in the 1950s by Marija Gimbutas, who used the term to group various cultures, including the Yamna, or Pit Grave, culture and its predecessors. David Anthony instead uses the core Yamna Culture and its relationship with other cultures as a point of reference.

Marija Gimbutas defined the Kurgan culture as composed of four successive periods, with the earliest (Kurgan I) including the Samara and Seroglazovo cultures of the Dnieper/Volga region in the Copper Age (early 4th millennium BC). The people of these cultures were nomadic pastoralists, who, according to the model, by the early 3rd millennium BC had expanded throughout the Pontic-Caspian steppe and into Eastern Europe.

Gimbutas believed that the expansions of the Kurgan culture were a series of essentially hostile, military incursions where a new warrior culture imposed itself on the peaceful, matriarchal cultures of "Old Europe", replacing it with a patriarchal warrior society, a process visible in the appearance of fortified settlements and hillforts and the graves of warrior-chieftains:

The process of Indo-Europeanization was a cultural, not a physical, transformation. It must be understood as a military victory in terms of successfully imposing a new administrative system, language, and religion upon the indigenous groups.

In her later life, Gimbutas increasingly emphasized the violent nature of this transition from the Mediterranean cult of the Mother Goddess to a patriarchal society and the worship of the warlike Thunderer (Zeus, Dyaus), to a point of essentially formulating a feminist archaeology.

The Yamna or Yamnaya culture, also called Pit Grave Culture and Ochre Grave Culture, was a late Copper Age/early Bronze Age culture of the Southern Bug/Dniester/Ural region (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3,500 – 2,300 BCE. The Yamna culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language.

Yamna and Yamnaya are borrowed from Ukrainian: Ямна культура and Russian: Ямная культура respectively, and both mean "pit-grave". The root in both cases is яма (yama) meaning "pit".

The people of the Yamnaya culture were the likely result of admixture between eastern European hunter-gatherers (via whom they also descend from the Mal'ta-Buret' culture or other, closely related people) and a Near Eastern people,[2] with some research identifying the latter as hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus[3] and other a Chalcolithic population from what is now Iran.[4] Their culture is materially very similar to that of the people of the Afanasevo culture, their contemporaries in the Altai Mountains; furthermore, genetic tests have confirmed that the two groups are genetically indistinguishable.

They are also closely connected to later, Bronze Age cultures which spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people, but also the Bell Beakers as well as the peoples of the Sintashta, Andronovo, and Srubna cultures. In these groups, there are present several aspects of the Yamna culture (e.g., horse-riding, burial styles, and to some extent the pastoralist economy). Studies have also established that these populations derived large parts of their ancestry from the steppes.


Physical characteristics

The genetic basis of a number of physical features of the Yamnaya people were ascertained by the ancient DNA study conducted by Haak et al. (2015), Wilde et al.(2014), Mathieson et al. (2015) : they were genetically tall (phenotypic height is determined by both genetics and environmental factors), overwhelmingly dark-eyed (brown), dark-haired and had a skin colour that was moderately light, though somewhat darker than that of the average modern European.[18][5] Surprisingly, given their pastoral lifestyle, there was little evidence of lactase persistence.

Lazaridis et al. (2016) "While the Early/Middle Bronze Age ‘Yamnaya’-related group (Steppe_EMBA) is a good genetic match (together with Neolithic Iran) for ANI (Ancestral North Indians), the later Middle/Late Bronze Age steppe population (Steppe_MLBA) is not."[22] Lazaridis et al. (2016) "The demographic impact of steppe related populations on South Asia was substantial, as the Mala, a south Indian population with minimal ANI along the ‘Indian Cline’ of such ancestry is inferred to have ~18% steppe-related ancestry, while the Kalash of Pakistan are inferred to have ~50%, similar to present-day northern Europeans."[22] Lazardie et al. (2016) study estimated 50%-30% steppe related admixture in Northern South Asians and 20% to 6% in Southern South Asians.

Lazaridis et al. (2016) further notes that "A useful direction of future research is a more comprehensive sampling of ancient DNA from steppe populations, as well as populations of central Asia (east of Iran and south of the steppe), which may reveal more proximate sources of the ANI than the ones considered here, and of South Asia to determine the trajectory of population change in the area directly." [24]

Haak et al. (2015) conducted a genome wide study of 69 ancient skeletons from Europe and Russia. They concluded that Yamnaya autosomal characteristics are very close to the Corded Ware culture people, with an estimated a 73% ancestral contribution from the Yamnaya DNA in the DNA of Corded Ware skeletons from Germany. The same study estimated a 40–54% ancestral contribution of the Yamnaya in the DNA of modern Central & Northern Europeans, and a 20–32% contribution in modern Southern Europeans, excluding Sardinians (7.1% or less), and to a lesser extent Sicilians (11.6% or less).[2][15][web 2] Haak et al. also note that their results "suggest" that haplogroups R1b and R1a "spread into Europe from the East after 3,000 BCE."[20]

Autosomal tests also indicate that the Yamnaya are the most likely vector for "Ancient North Eurasian" admixture into Europe.[2] "Ancient North Eurasian" is the name given in literature to a genetic component that represents descent from the people of the Mal'ta-Buret' culture[2] or a population closely related to them. That genetic component is visible in tests of the Yamna people[2] as well as modern-day Europeans, but not of Europeans predating the Bronze Age.[21]

The Yamna may have brought Indo-European languages with them. The Yamna altered the gene pools of northern and central Europe; some populations such as Norwegians, owe around 50% of their ancestry to this group.[43][44]

The Yamna component contains ancestry from an Ancient North Eurasian component first identified in Mal'ta.[42] According to Iosif Lazaridis, "the Ancient North Eurasian ancestry is proportionally the smallest component everywhere in Europe, never more than 20 percent, but we find it in nearly every European group we’ve studied."[45]
The term "Ancient North Eurasian" (ANE) is the name given in genetic literature to an ancestral component that represents descent from the people of the Mal'ta-Buret' culture or a population closely related to them.[3] The genetic component ANE descends from Ancient South Eurasian.[10][note 1]

According to a 2016 study, it was found that the global maximum of ANE ancestry occurs in modern-day Kets, Mansi, Native Americans, Nganasans and Yukaghirs.[3] Additionally it has been reported in ancient Bronze-age-steppe Yamnaya and Afanasevo cultures.[2]

Genomic study also indicates that the Yamnaya migration from steppes introduced "Ancient North Eurasian" admixture into Europe.[2][3] "Ancient North Eurasian" genetic component is visible in tests of the Yamnaya people, which makes up 50% of their ancestry.[2][3] It is also reported in modern-day Europeans (5%-18% ANE admixture), but not of Europeans predating the Bronze Age.[2][3]

Mongoloid features had been originally acknowledged in the skeletal remains of a child found at the site of Mal'ta. Alexeev (1998, 323) in his later publication was more cautious, stating that this area was "inhabited by a population of Mongoloid appearance".[4] Raghavan et al. (2014) and Fu et al. (2016) found that Mal'ta-Buret had brown eyes, dark hair and darker skin.[1][5]

Research published in 2016 suggests that a Mal'ta like people were important genetic contributors to the American Indians, Europeans, Central and South Asians, and minor contribution to East Eurasians.[8] Lazaeridie et al (2016) notes "a cline of ANE ancestry across the east-west extent of Eurasia."[8] Mal'ta had a type of R* y-dna that diverged before the hg R1 and R2 split and an unresolved clade of haplogroup U mtdna.[9]

Between 14 and 38 percent of American Indian ancestry may originate from gene flow from the Mal'ta Buret people, while the other geneflow in the Native Americans appears to have an Eastern Eurasian origin.[1] Sequencing of another south-central Siberian (Afontova Gora-2) dating to approximately 17,000 years ago, revealed similar autosomal genetic signatures as Mal'ta boy-1, suggesting that the region was continuously occupied by humans throughout the Last Glacial Maximum.