Ariets Research Blog

February 6, 2012

Scythians of the North Pontic region

Filed under: -Scythians, Indo-Europeans, Physical anthropology — Ariets @ 10:21 am

Took from: Archaeology, Ethnology, and Anthropology of Eurasia, vol. 4 (32), 2007, pp. 143-157

“Scythians of the north Pontic region: Between-group cranial variation, affinities and origins” by A.G. Kozintsev

(no abstract)

First of all, the variation between the Scythian groups must be assessed in order to compare it with the total variation. The average distance between all the 22 Scythian groups is 6.30; that between the 17 steppe groups, 5.25; that between the five forest-steppe groups, 5.88; and that between the steppe and the forest-steppe groups, 8.04. As will be seen below, these values are not at all small by the general standard.

Our results agree with the conclusions made by A.Yu. Alekseyev (1993), who speaks of two Scythian cultures, separated by a sharp gap: one archaic, distributed mostly in the forest-steppe and in the northern Caucasus, another classical, distributed in the steppe. It appears reasonable to assume that the two cultures were associated with tribes differing in origin, and that the term “Scythians” can be used with regard to the forest-steppe people only in a broad sense.

Therefore, contrary to a widely held belief, which, until quite recently, was shared by all physical anthropologists, not a single biological fact (at least insofar as craniometry is concerned) suggests that the only, or at least the principal ancestors of the steppe Scythians were people of the Timber-grave culture. Now that this culture is represented by numerous populations from various parts of its distribution area, the above statement can be made with certainty not only with regard to the steppe Scythians in general, but also with regard to the vast majority of local steppe populations as well.

“The hypothesis formulated by Kovalev (see above) does not contradict the fact that gracilization began in the southern part of the Caucasoid distribution range. At the same time, this hypothesis agrees with the theory of two Indo-European homelands – the early one, Near Eastern, and the late one, European, situated in regions from the Balkans (Diakonov, 1982) to Central or even Northern Europe (Safronov, 1989; Klein, 1990 and in print), i.e., areas covered by the depigmentation process.”

Craniometrical findings indirectly support the theory that the forest-steppe Scythians were autochthonous. Both for this group as a whole and for its local populations, including the earliest one, from Medvin, the most distinct ties are those with people of the Timber-grave culture of the Ukraine, especially with the group from the ground burials of that culture. No less relevant are ties with the Belozerskaia group. The isolated position of certain forest-steppe Scythian groups, which reveal no ties with other populations, may point to a key role of microevolutionary (especially random) processes.

4. Parallels between the steppe Scythians and people of the Timber-grave culture evidently do not attest to the local origin of the former. They are less distinct than parallels with earlier Bronze Age populations (those associated with the Pit-grave and Catacomb cultures) and therefore point not so much to the local roots of the steppe Scythians as to the fact that their ancestors were Indo-Europeans (most likely Indo-Iranians), some groups of which migrated during the Bronze Age as far east as Eastern Central Asia. The return of their descendants to the North Pontic steppes in the Early Iron Age was apparently the key factor in the origin of the steppe Scythians (at least of the relatively late populations represented in our database).

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