Culture of Afanasievo

The ” Afanasievo ” ‘(or Afanasevo, Afanasyevo) culture is a southern Siberian culture, dated from 3300/3200 to 2600/2400 BCE. From an archaeological point of view, it expresses a material culture of the age of copper.

The Afanasievo culture is best known from excavations carried out in the Minusinsk region of southern Krasnoyarsk Krai in southern Siberia, but is also found in western Mongolia, northern Xinjiang. East and central Kazakhstan, with connections or extensions to Tajikistan and the Aral Sea region, or even further east to Xinjiang and beyond, to western China, through Qijia culture

The culture of Afanasievo is best known through his burials, where the deceased is buried in conical or rectangular enclosures, often lying down. These burials have a remarkable resemblance to those, much more Western of the Yamna culture (north of the Black Sea), and to a lesser extent of the culture of the catacombs and the culture of Poltavka, which are all considered Indo-European and pertaining to the culture of the kurganes, herself considered by Marija Gimbutas as the matrix of the Indo-European peoples. Beyond the burial sites, there are also traces of a number of settlements. Objects in metal (copper then bronze), as well as the presence of wheeled vehicles are documented. This culture plays an important role for the archeology of East Asia, because through it the bronze metallurgy could have been introduced for the first time in China. However, it will be necessary to wait for the culture of Qijia in China, in contact with the complex of Seima-Turbino and Andronovo culture which are later in the steppe, to see the start of the Bronze Age in China. The culture of Afanasievo also mastered the work of gold and silver. The economy seems to have been semi-nomadic pastoralism, with the breeding of cattle, sheep, goats and horses, supplemented by hunting wild game.

The ancient, Indo-European and Eastern character of this culture makes it a good candidate as an ancestor of the Tokharian people (or Arśi-Kuči). These populations spoke two related Indo-European languages ​​in the Tarim Basin (western China), still used by the end of the millennium AD. These populations seemed to descend from the “mummy people of Tarim”, who had already lived in the Tarim since the beginning of the millennium BC. Bernard Sergent writes that there is “some consistency [in] the idea, defended by James Mallory, that the Arśi-Kuči stem from the Siberian culture of Afanasievo, and settled in the region of Tarim well before the beginning of the expansion of speakers of Indo-Iranian languages ​​from the same European regions to Asia “.

The culture of Afanasievo disappeared by being gradually replaced by Okunevo culture, largely of Siberian origin and supposedly non-Indo-European. The latter was itself later replaced by the Andronovo culture, which constitutes a new Indo-European wave originating in Europe, which would be at the origin, this time of the branch of the Indo-Iranian languages.

Several autosomal DNA samples from the graves of the Afanasievo culture were studied and published in 2015. They reveal that the genomes of this population are remarkably identical to those of the Yamna culture, contemporary in the European steppe several thousand kilometers away. This makes it necessary to consider from now on that the culture of Afanasievo is directly resulting from a migration of a group of the culture of Yamna, without intermediary and without any mixture with other populations. The Y chromosome haplotypes of three men could also be determined: they are all three R1b, including one R1b M269, the same haplotypes as those found in the Yamna culture. This has also determined that Andronovo culture, later in Central Asia and also with strong Indo-European cultural and anthropological characteristics, certainly has a genetically very close population to that of Afanasievo culture, but that it does not come out of it. The Andronovo culture is in fact derived from the culture of Sintashta, itself a direct result of a migration from the culture of corded ceramics in north-central Europe, which is another Indo-European culture also closely linked. Yamna culture (the population of the Corded Ceramic culture is also largely genetically derived from that of the Yamna culture, but it has a weak mixture with other European populations that give it a genetic signature that allows to differentiate it from the samples of the cultureof Yamna, and this signature is found in the samples of the cultures of Sintashta and Andronovo but not in those of the culture of Afanasievo). The Andronovo culture is therefore the result of a second wave of migration from Europe to Central Asia, independent of that which gave rise to the Afanasievo culture. The Y haplotypes found in the Andronovo culture also confirm this since they are mainly R1a, like those of the culture of corded ceramics in Central Europe.

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