Conventional archaeological understanding tended to date at around 2000–2500 BC. However radiocarbon gave dates as early as 3705 BC on wooden tools and 2874 BC on human remains. The earliest of these dates have now been rejected, giving a date of around 3300 BC for the start of the culture.
The culture is mainly known from its inhumations, with the deceased buried in conic or rectangular enclosures, often in a supine position, reminiscent of burials of the Yamna culture, believed to be Indo-European. Settlements have also been discovered. The Afanasevo people became the first food-producers in the area by breeding cattle, horses, and sheep. Metal objects and the presence of wheeled vehicles are documented. These resemblances to the Yamna culture make the Afanasevo culture is a strong candidate to represent the earliest cultural form of a people later called the Tocharians. 
The culture became known from excavations in the Minusinsk area of the Krasnoyarsk Krai, southern Siberia, but the culture was also widespread in western Mongolia, northern Xinjiang, and eastern and central Kazakhstan, with connections or extensions in Tajikistan and the Aral area.
-  S. Svyatko et al. 2009. New Radiocarbon Dates and a Review of the Chronology of Prehistoric Populations from the Minusinsk Basin, Southern Siberia, Russia. Radiocarbon 2009.1, 243–273 & appendix I p.266
- D.W. Anthony, Two IE phylogenies, three PIE migrations, and four kinds of steppe pastoralism, The Journal of Language Relationship, vol. 9 (2013), pp. 1-21.
- Anthony (2007), pp. 264–265
- Anthony, David W. (2007). The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-691-05887-0.
- H. P. Francfort, The Archeology of Protohistoric Central Asia and the Problems of Identifying Indo-European and Uralic-Speaking populations (review)
- Kozshin, P, "O psaliach is afanasievskih mogil", Sovetskaya Archeologiya 4, 189–93 (1970)
- Einführung in die Ethnologie Zentralasiens Marion Linska, Andrea Handl, Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek (2003) (.doc version)
- Mallory, J. P. (1997), "Afanasevo Culture", Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Fitzroy Dearborn.
- Mallory, J. P.; Mair, Victor H. (2000), The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West, London: Thames & Hudson.