Ariets Research Blog

January 3, 2015

Scythians of the north Pontic region: Between-group cranial variation, affinities, and origins

Filed under: -History, -Scythians, Asia, Indo-Europeans, Physical anthropology — Ariets @ 2:47 pm

In recent years, the controversy around the origin of the North Pontic Scythianshas become rather acute among physical anthropologists (Yablonsky, 2000;Kozintsev, 2000; Kruts, 2004). One of the key issues concerns the biologicalhomogeneity of this group. S.G. Yefimova (2000), who, like L.T. Yablonsky (2000),advocates the idea that Scythians were autochthonous and biologically homogeneous,has nevertheless convincingly revealed marked cranial differences between Scythiansof the steppe and those of the forest-steppe. In her view, these differences do notdisprove the local origin of the Scythians and are due to the biological diversity of theTimber-grave (Srubnaya) people, who, according to Yefimova and Yablonsky, wereancestral to all Scythians, as well as to microevolutionary processes that affected primarily the steppe populations. According to an alternative view, the differences aremostly explained by the affinities of the steppe Scythians with nomadic populationsliving in more eastern areas of Eurasia – Sacae, Sauromatians, early Sarmatians(Kruts, 2004) or with the inhabitants of Tuva (Kozintsev, 2000). Both principalgeographic groups of the Scythians – those of the steppe and those of the forest-steppe – appear to be heterogeneous as well.

Apparently, then, the use of the pooled Scythian cranial series is no longer justified. It is even not enough to use the two pooled geographical samples (from thesteppe and from the forest-steppe), as I did in my previous article (Ibid.). Theimmediate task is to examine the internal and external affinities of each localScythian population. The work in this direction has already been started by S.G.Yefimova (2000) and S.I. Kruts (2004).The present article is based on a huge new sample of cranial material from the North Pontic region, dating from both the Scythian period (Early Iron Age) and theBronze Age. Most specimens were studied by S.I. Kruts, whose tireless efforts overseveral decades have greatly augmented our understanding of the population historyof Eastern Europe, and who has generously allowed me to use her unpublished data.It can be hoped that the analysis of local Scythian populations will help us tounderstand both the origins of this people and the factors behind their biologicaldifferentiation. If the principal factor of the observed diversity was microevolution,one can hardly expect that separate Scythian populations would be especially close tonon-Scythian ones by chance, since, theoretically, microevolutionary processes suchas brachycephalization and gracilization cannot result in incidental similarities between unrelated groups over an entire set of traits. This is self-evident with regardto random processes. Therefore, if such similarities are observed, it is more probablethat they reflect true affinities.An additional reason for undertaking the present study was the recentappearance of important archaeological and biological facts which concern theancient Indo-Europeans of Eastern Central Asia and prompt us to revise certainscholarly assumptions.

To download the file click here (more data included).

1 Comment »

  1. “The Assyrian Princess”

    by David Szpejnowski / Spencer

    The Greek historian Herodotus ( Herodotus 1.103.3 ) says that King Esarhaddon of Assyria gave his
    daugher in marraige to the Scythian King Bartatua ( Protothyes )


    Nowhere in my research does it ever actually say that this Princess was the Lady

    Sherua – Eterat. ( ” Goddess-Sherua-is-the-one-who-saves ” )

    In the following quotes, I believe I can show that Sherua – Eterat could have been the

    “Assyrian Princess”

    In an inquiry to his god, Shamash, King Esarhaddon asks,

    “Regarding Partatua, (Bartatua) King of the Iskuza (Scythians)

    who has just sent his ambassador to Esarhaddon, King of Assyria,

    about a princess, I ask you Shamash, great lord, if Esarhaddon

    gives a princess to Partatua, king of the Iskuza for a wife, whether

    Partatua wil observe and keep his oath to Esarhaddon, King of Assyria?”

    ( to act as an ally against the Medes )

    In a letter to Libbi-Ali-Sharrat, who was the wife of the Assyrian Prince

    Ashur – Banipal, Princess Sherua – Eterat says,

    “….. word of the king’s daughter to Libbi-Ali-Sharrat, why are you not writing

    your tablet? Why are you not speaking out your exercise tablet? ”

    Sherua- Eterat continues:

    “…. while you are only a daugher-in -law, the lady of the house of Ashur-Banipal,

    the eldest son of the King born in the official residence of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria …

    after all, I, Sherua-Eterat, am the eldest daugher born in the official reaidence to Esarhaddon,

    the great and legitimate King, King of the world, King of Assyria.”

    Sherua-Eterat ” would then have been the aunt by marriage of the princess Al-
    Asshur-Sharrat. Everything would thus have given her authority over the latter … her relationship,
    her age, her position as a King’s Daughter and sister of the reigning monarch…. ”

    Lest they should say thus: ‘This is she then the mistress of Sherua-eterat, great
    princess of Bit-ridute, daugher of Asshur-etil-ilani-ukinni, (Esarhaddon) great king, powerful king

    Why does Sherua-eterat (such is the name of the king’s daughter in the opinion of
    all translators) prohibit Al-Asshur-sharrat^ from writing and speaking as she …
    Note #6 A letter sent by Sherua-eterat, the daughter of ESARHADDON, mentions

    A sister, Sherua-eterat, tried unsuccessfully to mediate between the two brothers. (Princes
    Shamash-sum-Ukin & Sin-Shar – Ishkun) A two-year siege of Babylon led to horrific famine and suffering, and …
    Another Prince was Ashur-Uballit II.


    That Sherua – Eterat, as Esarhaddon’s eldest daughter, could have been the wife of the Scythian Bartatua, & the mother of Madyes.

    Comment by David Spencer — February 14, 2015 @ 1:44 am

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