Andronovo culture

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Map of the approximate maximal extent of the Andronovo culture. The formative Sintashta-Petrovka culture is shown in darker red. The location of the earliest spoke-wheeled chariot finds is indicated in purple. Adjacent and overlapping cultures (Afanasevo culture, Srubna culture, BMAC) are shown in green.
Archaeological cultures associated with Indo-Iranian migrations (after EIEC). The Andronovo, BMAC and Yaz cultures have often been associated with Indo-Iranian migrations. The Swat, Cemetery H, Copper Hoard and PGW cultures are candidates for cultures associated with Indo-Aryan movements.

The Andronovo culture is a collection of similar local Bronze Age cultures that flourished ca. 1800–1400 BCE in western Siberia and the west Asiatic steppe. It is probably better termed an archaeological complex or archaeological horizon. The name derives from the village of Andronovo (55°53′N 55°42′E / 55.883°N 55.700°E / 55.883; 55.700), where in 1914, several graves were discovered, with skeletons in crouched positions, buried with richly decorated pottery.

The older Sintashta culture (2100–1800), formerly included within the Andronovo culture, is now considered separately, but regarded as its predecessor, and accepted as part of the wider Andronovo horizon.

Most researchers associate the Andronovo horizon with early Indo-Iranian languages, though it may have overlapped the early Uralic-speaking area at its northern fringe.



Sub-cultures have been distinguished:

  • Alakul (1800–1400 BCE)
  • Fedorovo (1700–1300 BCE)
  • Alekseyevka (1200–1000 BCE)

Geographical extent[edit]

The geographical extent of the culture is vast and difficult to delineate exactly. On its western fringes, it overlaps with the approximately contemporaneous, but distinct, Srubna culture in the Volga-Ural interfluvial. To the east, it reaches into the Minusinsk depression, with some sites as far west as the southern Ural Mountains,[1] overlapping with the area of the earlier Afanasevo culture.[2] Additional sites are scattered as far south as the Koppet Dag (Turkmenistan), the Pamir (Tajikistan) and the Tian Shan (Kyrgyzstan). The northern boundary vaguely corresponds to the beginning of the Taiga.[1] In the Volga basin, interaction with the Srubna culture was the most intense and prolonged, and Federovo style pottery is found as far west as Volgograd.

Towards the middle of the 2nd millennium, the Andronovo cultures begin to move intensively eastwards. They mined deposits of copper ore in the Altai Mountains and lived in villages of as many as ten sunken log cabin houses measuring up to 30m by 60m in size. Burials were made in stone cists or stone enclosures with buried timber chambers.


In other respects, the economy was pastoral, based on cattle, horses, sheep, and goats.[1] While agricultural use has been posited, no clear evidence has been presented.

West Eurasian origin[edit]

Out of 10 human male remains assigned to the Andronovo horizon from the Krasnoyarsk region, 9 possessed the R1a Y-chromosome haplogroup and one the haplogroup C-M130 (xC3). MtDNA haplogroups of nine individuals assigned to the same Andronovo horizon and region were as follows: U4 (2 individuals), U2e, U5a1, Z, T1, T4, H, and K2b.

90% of the Bronze Age period mtDNA haplogroups were of west Eurasian origin and the study determined that at least 60% of the individuals overall (out of the 26 Bronze and Iron Age human remains' samples of the study that could be tested) had light hair and blue or green eyes.[3]

A 2004 study also established that, during the Bronze/Iron Age period, the majority of the population of Kazakhstan (part of the Andronovo culture during Bronze Age), was of west Eurasian origin (with mtDNA haplogroups such as U, H, HV, T, I and W), and that prior to the thirteenth to seventh century BC, all Kazakh samples belonged to European lineages.[4]

Andronovo and Indo-Iranians[edit]

The Andronovo culture is associated by the consensus among archaeologists[5] with the Indo-Iranians (Aryans) and is often credited with the invention of the spoke-wheeled chariot around 2000 BCE.[6] The Andronovo culture is also notable for regional advances in metallurgy.[1]

Sintashta is a site on the upper Ural River. It is famed for its grave-offerings, particularly chariot burials. These inhumations were in kurgans and included all or parts of animals (horse and dog) deposited into the barrow. Sintashta is often pointed to as the premier proto-Indo-Iranian site, and it is conjectured that the language spoken was still in the Proto-Indo-Iranian stage.[7] There are similar sites "in the Volga-Ural steppe".[8]

The identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian has been challenged by scholars who point to the absence of the characteristic timber graves of the steppe south of the Oxus River.[9] Sarianidi (as cited in Bryant 2001:207) states that "direct archaeological data from Bactria and Margiana show without any shade of doubt that Andronovo tribes penetrated to a minimum extent into Bactria and Margianian oases".

Based on its use by Indo-Aryans in Mitanni and Vedic India, its prior absence in the Near East and Harappan India, and its 16th–17th century BCE attestation at the Andronovo site of Sintashta, Kuzmina (1994) argues that the chariot corroborates the identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian. Klejn (1974) and Brentjes (1981) find the Andronovo culture much too late for an Indo-Iranian identification since chariot-wielding Aryans appear in Mitanni by the 15th to 16th century BCE. However, Anthony & Vinogradov (1995) dated a chariot burial at Krivoye Lake to around 2000 BCE.[10]

Mallory (as cited in Bryant 2001:216) admits the extraordinary difficulty of making a case for expansions from Andronovo to northern India, and that attempts to link the Indo-Aryans to such sites as the Beshkent and Vakhsh cultures "only gets the Indo-Iranians to Central Asia, but not as far as the seats of the Medes, Persians or Indo-Aryans".

Eugene Helimski has suggested that the Andronovo people spoke a separate branch of the Indo-Iranian group. He claims that borrowings in the Finno-Ugric languages support this view.[11] Vladimir Napolskikh has proposed that borrowings in Finno-Ugric indicate that the language was specifically of the Indo-Aryan type.[12]

Since older forms of Indo-Iranian words have been taken over in Uralic and Proto-Yeniseian, occupation by some other languages (also lost ones) cannot be ruled out altogether, at least for part of the Andronovo area: i. e., Uralic and Yeniseian.[13] The area of the Andronovo culture may also have overlapped the Turkic-speaking area at its northeastern fringe.[14]

In the minority are those that believe in the multiethnic identity of the Andronovo tribes.[15] Thus, V N. Chernetsov (1973) argues for an Ugric substrate among the Andronovo tribes and a specific Indo-Iranian identity for the Alakul tribe.[16] Stokolos (1972), on the other hand, argues for an Ugric identity for the Andronovo, a local development for the Fedorov tribe, and an Indo-Iranian one for the Alakul tribe.[17]

According to Carl C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, from the common roots of the millennia-long Andronovo cultures, processes of both convergence and divergence allow for the presence of not only the Indo-Iranian languages but for other language families as well, that is, Altaic and Uralic,[18] both Proto-Turkic and Proto-Mongolian could reflect a culture like the Andronovo.[19] According to K. Jettmar, some sites show a striking similarity to the Tungusic peoples.[20]


In southern Siberia and Kazakhstan, the Andronovo culture was succeeded by the Karasuk culture (1500–800 BCE). On its western border, it is succeeded by the Srubna culture, which partly derives from the Abashevo culture. The earliest historical peoples associated with the area are the Cimmerians and Saka/Scythians, appearing in Assyrian records after the decline of the Alekseyevka culture, migrating into the Ukraine from ca. the 9th century BCE (see also Ukrainian stone stela), and across the Caucasus into Anatolia and Assyria in the late 8th century BCE, and possibly also west into Europe as the Thracians (see Thraco-Cimmerian), and the Sigynnae, located by Herodotus beyond the Danube, north of the Thracians, and by Strabo near the Caspian Sea.


  1. ^ a b c d Okladnikov, A. P. (1994), "Inner Asia at the dawn of history", The Cambridge history of early Inner Asia, Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press, p. 83, ISBN 0-521-24304-1 
  2. ^ Mallory 1989:62
  3. ^ [1] C. Keyser et al. 2009. Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people. Human Genetics.
  4. ^ [2] C. Lalueza-Fox et al. 2004. Unravelling migrations in the steppe: mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient central Asians
  5. ^ The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. Edwin Bryant, Associate Professor of Early Indian Religions and Laurie Patton. "Archaeology and language" by C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky. Routledge 2013, pp.145
  6. ^ Anthony & Vinogradov 1995
  7. ^ Mallory 1989 "The settlement and cemetery of Sintashta, for example, though located far to the north on the Trans-Ural steppe, provides the type of Indo-Iranian archaeological evidence that would more than delight an archaeologist seeking their remains in Iran or India."
  8. ^ Mallory 1997
  9. ^ or south of the region between Kopet Dagh and Pamir-Karakorum. Francfort, in (Fussman et al. 2005, p. 268)
    Fussman, in (Fussman et al. 2005, p. 220)
    Francfort (1989), Fouilles de Shortugai
    Klejn (1974), Lyonnet (1993), Francfort (1989), Bosch-Gimpera (1973), Hiebert (1998), and Sarianidi (1993), as cited in Bryant (2001, ch. 10, pp. 206–207)
  10. ^ Anthony & Vinogradov (1995)
    Kuzmina (1994), Klejn (1974), and Brentjes (1981), as cited in Bryant (2001:206)
  11. ^ Helimski, Eugene. The southern neighbours of Finno-Ugrians: Iranians or an extinct branch of Aryans („Andronovo Aryans“)? – In: Finnisch-ugrische Sprachen in Kontakt. Maastricht, 1997. S. 117–125.
  12. ^ Напольских В. В. Уральско-арийские взаимоотношения: история исследований, новые решения и проблемы // Индоевропейская история в свете новых исследований. М.: МГОУ, 2010. С. 229—242.
  13. ^ [3] M. Witzel – Linguistic Evidence for Cultural Exchange in Prehistoric Western Central Asia, 2003, Sino-Platonic Papers 129
  14. ^ Róna-Tas, András. “The Reconstruction of Proto-Turkic and the Genetic Question.” In: The Turkic Languages, pp. 67-80. 1998.
  15. ^ Edwin Bryant, Laurie L. Patton, The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History, Psychology Press, 2005, p.147
  16. ^ Chernetsov, V N., 1973. "The Ethno-Cultural Regions in the Forest and Subarctic Zones of Eurasia in the Neolithic Period" (in Russian), edited by A, P. Smirnov, Problemv Arkheologi Urala i Sibiri (Archaeology of the Urals and Siberia). Moscow: Nauka, pp. 10-17.
  17. ^ Stokolos, V. S., 1972. Kultura Naseleniia Brvnzovogo Veka luznoeo Zauralia: Khronologii i Periodizatsiia. Moscow: Nauka.
  18. ^ Carl C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, "Archaeology and language: the case of the Bronze Age Indo-Iranians", In "The Indo-Aryan Controversy. Evidence and inference in Indian history Edited by Edwin E Bryant and Laurie L. Patton, 2005, p.170. ISBN 0-700-71462-6, ISBN 0-700-71463-4.
  19. ^ C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, "Archaeology and Language: The Indo-Iranians", Harvard University, Current Anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002, © by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, pp.63-84.
  20. ^ K. Jettmar, "The Altai before the Turks", Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 23 (1951), pp.135-223. In: Gernot Wilhelm, "Akten des IV. Internationalen Kongresses für Hethitologie: Würzburg, 4.-8. Oktober 1999", Issue 45, 2001, p.246.

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