Maykop culture

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Maykop culture
Maykop culture-en.svg
Geographical range Eurasian Steppe
Period Bronze Age
Dates c. 3700 BC – 3000 BC
Preceded by Dnieper–Donets culture
Followed by Yamna culture
Golden ox figurine found in the Maykop kurgan (mid-3rd millennium BC.), Hermitage Museum
Bronze Age

Near East (c. 3300–1200 BC)

Anatolia, Caucasus, Elam, Egypt, Levant, Mesopotamia, Sistan
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, Canegrate culture, Golasecca culture,
Atlantic Bronze Age, Bronze Age Britain, Nordic Bronze Age

China (c. 2000–700 BC)

Erlitou, Erligang

arsenical bronze
writing, literature
sword, chariot

Iron age

The Maykop culture (also spelled Maikop), ca. 3700 BC3000 BC,[1] was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern Russia.

It extends along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River. The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop kurgan in the Kuban River valley.


In the south it borders the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.

The Kuban River is navigable for much of its length and provides an easy water-passage via the Sea of Azov to the territory of the Yamna culture, along the Don and Donets River systems. The Maykop culture was thus well-situated to exploit the trading possibilities with the central Ukraine area.[citation needed]

New data revealed the similarity of artifacts from the Maykop culture with those found recently in the course of excavations of the ancient city of Tell Khazneh in northern Syria, the construction of which dates back to 4000 BC.[citation needed]

Radiocarbon dates for various monuments of the Maykop culture are from 3950 - 3650 - 3610 - 2980 calBC.[2]

After the discovery of the Leyla-Tepe culture in the 1980s it was suggested that elements of the Maykop culture migrated to the south-eastern slopes of the Caucasus in modern Azerbaijan.[citation needed]

The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 B.C. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture.

The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region. The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.

In 2010, nearly 200 Bronze Age sites were reported stretching over 60 miles between the Kuban and Nalchik rivers, at an altitude of between 4,620 feet and 7,920 feet. They were all "visibly constructed according to the same architectural plan, with an oval courtyard in the center, and connected by roads."[3]


Its inhumation practices were characteristically Indo-European, typically in a pit, sometimes stone-lined, topped with a kurgan (or tumulus). Stone cairns replace kurgans in later interments.

The Maykop kurgan was extremely rich in gold and silver artifacts; unusual for the time.


In the early 20th century, researchers established the existence of a local Maykop animal style in the artifacts found. This style was seen as the prototype for animal styles of later archaeological cultures: the Maykop animal style is more than a thousand years older than the Scythian, Sarmatian and Celtic animal styles.

Attributed to the Maykop culture are petroglyphs which have yet to be deciphered.[4]

Horse breeding[edit]

The Maykop people lived sedentary lives, and horses formed a very low percentage of their livestock, which mostly consisted of pigs and cattle. Archaeologists have discovered a unique form of bronze cheek-pieces, which consists of a bronze rod with a twisted loop in the middle and a thread through her nodes that connects with bridle, halter strap and headband. Notches and bumps on the edges of the cheek-pieces were, apparently, to fix nose and under-lip belts.[5]

Terrace agriculture[edit]

The construction of artificial terrace complexes in the mountains is evidence of their sedentary living, high population density, and high levels of agricultural and technical skills. The terraces were built around the fourth millennium BC. and all subsequent cultures used them for agricultural purposes. The vast majority of pottery found on the terraces are from the Maykop period, the rest from the Scythian and Alan period. The Maykop terraces are among the most ancient in the world, but they are little studied. The longevity of the terraces (more than 5000 years) allows us to consider their builders unsurpassed engineers and craftsmen.

Recent discoveries[edit]

Recent discoveries by archaeologist A. Rezepkin include:

  • The most ancient bronze sword, dating from the second third of the 4th millennium BC. It was found in a stone tomb near Novosvobodnaya, and is now on display in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. It has a total length of 63 cm and a hilt length of 11 cm.
  • The most ancient column.
  • The most ancient stringed instrument, resembling the modern Adyghian shichepshin, dating from the late 4th millennium B.C., now also in the Hermitage Museum.


Because of its burial practices, it is in terms of the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas seen as an Indo-European intrusion from the Pontic steppe into the Caucasus. However, critics point out that:

... where the evidence for barrows is found, it is precisely in regions which later demonstrate the presence of non-Indo-European populations.

— J.P.Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans[6]

The culture has been described as, at the very least, a "kurganized" local culture with strong ethnic and linguistic links to the descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It has been linked to the Lower Mikhaylovka group and Kemi Oba culture, and more distantly, to the Globular Amphora and Corded Ware cultures, if only in an economic sense. However:

Such a theory, it must be emphasized, is highly speculative and controversial although there is a recognition that this culture may be a product of at least two traditions: the local steppe tradition embraced in the Novosvobodna culture and foreign elements from south of the Caucasus which can be charted through imports in both regions.

— J.P. Mallory, EIEC, Maykop Culture

Anatolian theory[edit]

Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, whose views are highly controversial,[citation needed] suggest that the Maykop culture (or its ancestor) may have been a way-station for Indo-Europeans migrating from the South Caucasus and/or eastern Anatolia to a secondary Urheimat on the steppe. This would essentially place the Anatolian stock in Anatolia from the beginning, and in this respect only, agrees with Colin Renfrew's Anatolian hypothesis. Considering that some attempt has been made to unite Indo-European with the Northwest Caucasian languages, an earlier Caucasian pre-Urheimat is not out of the question (see Proto-Pontic). However, most linguists and archaeologists consider this hypothesis incorrect, and prefer the Eurasian steppes as the genuine IE Urheimat.[citation needed]

List of researchers of the Maykop culture[edit]

  • Ebert M., 1921
  • Tallgren A.M., 1926; 1929 1933;
  • Child G., 1936 and 1952
  • Hancar F. 1937
  • Schaeffer With., 1948
  • Deshayes J. 1960
  • Piggot S., 1965
  • Formozov A. A., 1965


  • J. P. Mallory, "Maykop Culture", Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997.
  • Р.М. Мунчаев, Н.Я. Мерперт, Ш.Н. Амиров ТЕЛЛЬ-ХАЗНА I. Культово-административный центр IV–III тыс. до н. э. в Северо-восточной Сирии. Издательство «Палеограф». Москва 2004. ISBN 5-89526-012-8


  1. ^ Ivanova, Mariya (2007). "The Chronology of the "Maikop Culture" in the North Caucasus: Changing Perspectives". Armenian Journal of Near Eastern Studies II: 7–39. 
  2. ^ Кореневский. Древнейшие земледельцы и скотоводы Предкавказья
  3. ^ "Bronze Age Civilization Spotted in Old Photographs". Agence France-Presse ( October 12, 2010. Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  4. ^ Е.И.Крупновым «О загадочной майкопской надписи // Вопросы истории № 3, М. 1964г
  5. ^ Мунчаев Р. М. Бронзовые псалии майкопской культуры и проблема возникновения коневодства на Кавказе,«Кавказ и Восточная Европа в древности», М.,1973.
  6. ^ In Search of the Indo-Europeans - J.P. Mallory, Thames and Hudson, 1987, ISBN 0-500-27616-1, p233