Karasuk culture

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For other uses, see Karasuk (disambiguation).
Bronze Age

Near East (c. 3300–1200 BC)

Anatolia, Caucasus, Elam, Egypt, Levant, Mesopotamia, Sistan
Late Bronze Age collapse

South Asia (c. 3000–1200 BC)

Ochre Coloured Pottery
Cemetery H

Europe (c. 3200–600 BC)

Aegean, Caucasus, Catacomb culture, Srubna culture, Beaker culture, Unetice culture, Tumulus culture, Urnfield culture, Hallstatt culture, Apennine culture
Atlantic Bronze Age, Bronze Age Britain, Nordic Bronze Age

China (c. 3000–700 BC)

Longshan, Lower Xiajiadian culture, Upper Xiajiadian culture, Erlitou, Erligang

arsenical bronze

Iron age

The Karasuk culture describes a group of Bronze Age multiracial societies[1] who ranged from the Aral Sea or the Volga River to the upper Yenisei catchment, ca. 1500–800 BC, preceded by the Afanasevo culture.[2] The remains are minimal[clarification needed] and entirely of the mortuary variety. At least 2000 burials are known. The Karasuk period persisted down[clarification needed] to c. 700 BC. From c. 700 to c. 200 BC, culture developed along similar lines. Vital trade contact is traced from northern China and the Baikal region to the Black Sea and the Urals, influencing the uniformity of the culture.[3]

The economy was mixed agriculture and stockbreeding. Arsenical bronze artefacts are present.

Their settlements were of pit houses and they buried their dead in stone cists covered by kurgans and surrounded by square stone enclosures.

Industrially, they were skilled metalworkers, the diagnostic artifacts of the culture being a bronze knife with curving profiles and a decorated handle and horse bridles. The pottery has been compared to that discovered in Inner Mongolia and the interior of China, with burials bronze knives similar to those from northeastern China.[2]


The identity of Karasuk culture is complex and problematic. There is much to support the contention that stock-dependency and, later, nomadism, emerged specifically in northern Mongolia and South Siberia, and that it was this region and the Karasuk-Tagar cultural tradition which shaped what has come to be known as the Scytho-Siberian culture. This conclusion remains, however, hypothetical.[4] A specifically Proto-Iranian identity has been proposed for it.[5]

On the other hand, a hypothesis that the appearance of a distinct bronze inventory pointed to a migration from China to Central Asia in the eleventh or tenth century BC was formulated.[6] Some scholars believe that the culture has its origin in Mongolia,[2] Northern China,[2] Kazakhstan[7] and even Korea,[2] characterized by Altaic idioms.[8]

Chlenova (1964) believes that the Karasuk tribes came from Northern Iran and finally flourished in the Minusin Basin of the Upper Yenisei.[9] Based on toponymic evidence, Chlenova also suggests that the Kets are descendants of the Karasuk tribes and "that the Irmen culture may also have been Yeniseian".[9] In 1969 and 1975, Chlenova set and expanded the thesis that the Ket-related river names in the Minusin Basin could provide evidence that the Karasuk culture was at least in part Yeniseian speaking.[10] A.M. Maloletko agrees with Chlenova that the Karasuk culture was Yeniseian,[11] and suggests that ancient agglutinative-speaking peoples of Middle East and North Caucasians are related to Kets, linguistically and anthropologically, and hence, suggesting a number of possible Semitic loan words into Proto-Yeniseian.[12] George van Driem has suggested a connection with the Yeniseian and Burushaski people, proposing a Karasuk languages group. R. V. Nikolaev (1984) assumes that "the Dingling could be Yeniseian and that Yeniseian groups participated in the Karasuk culture and the Hunnic expansion".[13]

Another possibility is that the Karasuk culture perhaps could also be seen as a place of the first westward migration of the one of the Proto-Turkic peoples.[14] The Dandybay tribes and the Karasuk culture had a similar archaic technique of producing vessels by hollowing out lumps of clay (Gryaznov 1952: 147), a method which has been preserved only by the Turkic peoples of Siberia such as the Yakuts and the Shors.[14] The Turkic Yakuts and the Mongolic Buryats use elements of the Fedorovan arnamental complex which possibly indicates their ancient contacts. M. P. Gryaznov (1952) set a thesis which still need to be proven, that the Dandybay sites belong to the Karasuk culture, suggesting a proto-Turkic identity for the Dandybay population.[14]

The Karasuk culture is preceded by the Afanasevo culture and Andronovo culture, and succeeded by the Tagar culture, whose people use the same burial places, indicating a continuity in settlements.[15] The Tagar-Karasuk connections resulted from contact rather than a common origin.[16]


Ancient DNA extracted from the remains of two males who dated back to the Karasuk culture were determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a. Extracted mtDNA from two female remains from this cultural horizon revealed they possessed the Haplogroup U5a1 and U4 lineages. The study determined that the individuals had light hair and blue or green eyes.[17]

Anthropological material[edit]

Frederick J. Simoons, described the Karasuk people as Mongoloid in his book,[18] whereas Karl Jettmar observes that only the eastern and northern parts of the Karasuk area belong to the Mongoloids but the western areas are characterized by Europoid components. The cranial material from the Karasuk time is characterized by a brachycephalic element with certain Mongoloid features, superficially similar to the mixed Turkish type often found in the medieval nomad graves of Turkistan showing some affinities to the Andronovo and Afanasevo people. This type connects the characteristics of the so-called Pamiro-Ferghan race with eastern features.[19] G.F. Debets, however, later remarked that the Karasuk people could not have belonged to the Pamiro-Ferghan race, since that type originated in a later period in quite another region.[20] Fundamental characteristics of the Karasuk people after Karl Jettmar:[19]

  1. The face is narrow and high. The differences in nose and orbits are accordingly considerable.
  2. The nose is flat — like, for example, that of the Turkish Nomads of the Middle Ages. (Hence they were at first compared to them).
  3. The brachycephaly has become a good deal stronger than in the Andronovo and Afanesevo era. This is to be explained by a diminished head length.
  4. The forehead is narrow and inclined. The skull has lost in height. The brow ridges are not much developed.

Jettmar concludes, the Karasuk skull differs from the Andronovo skull not only formally but also in the direction of its development. It is obvious, then, that the Karasuk people cannot be the direct descendants of the Andronovo people. Only to a limited extent could the ancestors of this people be of Andronovo type. Strong differences in the skeletons are also pointed out by Debets.[19]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ R. V. Nikolaev. 1982. In: In: Edward J. Vajda, Yeniseian Peoples and Languages: A History of Yeniseian Studies with an Annotated Bibliography and a Source Guide. 2013. p.204.
  2. ^ a b c d e Geraldine Reinhardt: Bronze Age in Eurasia, Lecture 13 delivered 5 August 1991.
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ Esther Jacobson: Burial Ritual, Gender, and Status in South Siberia in the Late Bronze-early Iron Age, 1987, page 2.
  5. ^ Mallory, Adams, J.P, Douglas Q. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. p. 326. 
  6. ^ Karl Jettmar, “The Karasuk Culture and Its South-Eastern Affinities”, BMFEA 22 (1950): 116-23
  7. ^ Papers on Inner Asia, Vol. 1-10, 1987, page 12: "It is becoming increasingly clear now that these cultures which we are discussing, spread out from Kazakhstan to the Altai region, and are related to the Scythians or Sakas."
  8. ^ Gernot Wilhelm: Boğazköy-Texten, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2001, 246
  9. ^ a b Natal'ja L'vovna Chlenova. 1964. "Karasukskaja kul'tura v Juzhnoj Sibiri." Istorija Sibiri 1, ed. A.P. Okhladnikov: 263-79. Ulan-Ude. In: Edward J. Vajda, Yeniseian Peoples and Languages: A History of Yeniseian Studies with an Annotated Bibliography and a Source Guide. 2013. p.78.
  10. ^ N.L. Chlenova. 1969. "Sootnoshenie kul'zur karasukskogo tipa i ketskikh toponimov na territori Sibiri." PASJ: 143-6. T. |+| N.L. Chlenova. 1975. "Sootnoshenie kul'tur karasukskogo tipa i ketskikh toponimov na territorii Sibiri." Etnogenez i etnicheskaja istorija narodov Severa: 223-30. M: Nauka. In: Edward J. Vajda, Yeniseian Peoples and Languages: A History of Yeniseian Studies with an Annotated Bibliography and a Source Guide. 2013. p.78.
  11. ^ Maloletko, A.M. 1989. "Opyt rekonstruktskii jazykovoj prinadlezhnosti nostitelej kul'tur epokhi bronzy Zapadnoj Sibiri." Metodicheskie problemy rekonstruktskii v arkheologii i paleoekologii: 191-206. Nsk: Nauka. In: Edward J. Vajda, Yeniseian Peoples and Languages: A History of Yeniseian Studies with an Annotated Bibliography and a Source Guide. 2013. p.185.
  12. ^ Maloletko, A.M. 1993. "Peredneaziatskie istoki nekotorykh narodov Sibiri." Vosprosy geografii Sibiri 20: 91-113. T: TGU. In: Edward J. Vajda, Yeniseian Peoples and Languages: A History of Yeniseian Studies with an Annotated Bibliography and a Source Guide. 2013. p.185.
  13. ^ R.V. Nikolaev. 1984. "Khunnskaja ekspansija i svyazannye s nej etnokul'turnye protsessy v Sibiri (k postanovke problemy)." Problemy akheologii stepej Evrazii. Sovetsko-vengerskij sbornik: 29-34. Kem.: KGU. In: Edward J. Vajda, Yeniseian Peoples and Languages: A History of Yeniseian Studies with an Annotated Bibliography and a Source Guide. 2013. p.204.
  14. ^ a b c Elena Efimovna Kuzʹmina, J. P. Mallory: The Origin of the Indo-Iranians, BRILL, 2007, p.364: "According to M. P. Gryaznov (1952), Dandybay sites belong to the Karasuk culture. It is impossible to judge the ethnic identity of this population which might have come from Central Asia. But a supposition could not be excluded that it was the first wave of the westward movement of the one of the proto-Turkic peoples."
  15. ^ Nejat Diyarbekirli in: Hasan Celāl Güzel, Cem Oğuz, Osman Karatay: The Turks: Early ages, Culture and Arts among Ancient Turks, Yeni Türkiye 2002, p.919
  16. ^ Natal'ja L'vovna Chlenova. 1967. Proiskhozhdenie i rannjaja istorija plemen tagarskoj kul'tury. M: Nauka.. In: Edward J. Vajda, Yeniseian Peoples and Languages: A History of Yeniseian Studies with an Annotated Bibliography and a Source Guide. 2013. p.78.
  17. ^ [1] C. Keyser et al. 2009. Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people. Human Genetics.
  18. ^ Simoons, Frederick J. Eat Not this Flesh: Food Avoidances from Prehistory to the Present. p. 98. 
  19. ^ a b c "The Karasuk culture and its south-eastern affinities," by Karl Jettmar, In: Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 22, 1950, p. 83-126
  20. ^ DEBETS, G. F.: Paleoantropologiia SSSR. Trudy inst. etnogr., nov. ser. t. IV, ML 1948. In: "The Karasuk culture and its south-eastern affinities.