Afanasevo culture

Afanasevo culture
Geographical range South Siberia
Period Eneolithic
Dates 3300 BCE — 2500 BCE
Major sites Minusinsk Basin
Followed by Okunev culture, Andronovo culture[1]

The Afanasevo culture (Афанасьева: also transliterated Afanasievo, Afanásyva etc.) is the earliest Eneolithic archaeological culture found until now in south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains from 3300 to 2500 BC. Afanasevan sites have also been claimed for Mongolia and Western China.[2] It is named after Afanaseva Gora, also known as Bateni.[3]


Conventional archaeological understanding tended to date at around 2000–2500 BC. However radiocarbon gave dates as early as 3705 BC on wooden tools and 2874 BC on human remains.[4] The earliest of these dates have now been rejected, giving a date of around 3300 BC for the start of the culture.[5]


Mass graves were not usual for this culture.[6] Afanasevo cemeteries include both single and small collective burials with the deceased usually flexed on his back in a pit. The burial pits are arranged in rectangular, sometimes circular, enclosures marked by stone walls. It has been argued that the burials represent family burial plots with four or five enclosures constituting the local social group.

The Afanasevo economy included cattle, sheep, and goat. Horse remains, either wild or domestic, have also been found. The Afanasevo people became the first food-producers in the area. Tools were manufactured from stone (axes, arrowheads), bone (fish-hooks, points) and antler. Among the antler pieces are objects that have been identified as possible cheek-pieces for horses. Artistic representations of wheeled vehicles found in the area has been attributed to the Afanasevo culture. Ornaments of copper, silver and gold have also been found.[7]


At Afanasevo Gora, two strains of yersinia pestis have been extracted from dead men's teeth. One is dated 2909–2679 BCE; the other, 2887–2677 BCE. Both are from the same (mass) grave of seven people, and are presumed near-contemporary.[6] This strain's genes express flagellin, which triggers the human immune response; so it was not a bubonic plague.[8]


Because of its numerous traits attributed to the early Indo-Europeans, like metal-use, horses and wheeled vehicles, and cultural relations with Kurgan steppe cultures, the Afanasevans are believed to have been Indo-European-speaking.[7] According to Allentoft et al. (2015) and Haak et al. (2015) Afanasevo were genetically indistinguishable from Yamnaya people.[9][1]

Because of its eastern geographical location and early existence, the Afanasevans have been connected to the Tocharian languages.[7][10][11][12] Yet, Tarim mummies are genetically closer to Andronovo culture[1] than to Yamnaya culture or Afanasevo culture.[1][9]

Numerous scholars have suggested that the Afanasevo were responsible for the introduction of metallurgy to China.[13][14]


The Afanasevo culture was succeeded by the Okunev culture, which is considered as an extension of the local non-Indo-European forest culture into the region.[7] The region was subsequently occupied by the Andronovo, Karasuk, Tagar and Tashtyk cultures, respectively.[15][16]

Allentoft et al. (2015) study also confirms that Afanasevo culture was replaced by second wave of Indo-European migrations from Andronovo culture during late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.[1][note 1] Tarim mummies were also found to be genetically closer to Andronovo culture[1] than to Yamnaya culture or Afanasevo culture.[1][9]


  1. Accoridng to Allentoft et al (2015): "Afanasievo culture persisted in central Asia and, perhaps, Mongolia and China until they themselves were replaced by fierce warriors in chariots called the Sintashta (also known as the Andronovo culture)".


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Allentoft 2015.
  2. Simon Rasmussen et al. (2015). "Early Divergent Strains of Yersinia pestis in Eurasia 5,000 Years Ago". Cell. 163: 571–582. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.10.009.
  3. Vadetskaya, E., Polyakov, A., and Stepanova, N. (2014). The set sites of the Afanasievo culture. Barnaul: Azbuka.
  4. S. Svyatko et al. 2009. New Radiocarbon Dates and a Review of the Chronology of Prehistoric Populations from the Minusinsk Basin, Southern Siberia, Russia. Radiocarbon 2009.1, 243–273 & appendix I p.266
  5. D.W. Anthony, Two IE phylogenies, three PIE migrations, and four kinds of steppe pastoralism, The Journal of Language Relationship, vol. 9 (2013), pp. 1-21.
  6. 1 2 Rasmussen, S15-16. These samples are marked "RISE509" and "RISE511".
  7. 1 2 3 4 Mallory 1997, pp. 4–6
  8. Rasmussen, 575.
  9. 1 2 3 Haak 2015.
  10. Anthony 2010, pp. 264–265, 308
  11. Mallory & Mair 2000
  12. Клейн Л. С. Миграция тохаров в свете археологии // Stratum plus. Т. 2. С. 178—187.
  13. Baumer 2012, p. 122
  14. Keay 2009
  15. "Central Asian Arts: Neolithic and Metal Age cultures". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  16. "Stone Age: European cultures". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
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