Andronovo culture

Andronovo culture

The Andronovo culture, or Sintashta-Petrovka culture is a collection of similar local Bronze Age cultures that flourished "ca." 2300–1000 BCE in western Siberia and the west Asiatic steppe. It is probably better termed an archaeological complex or archaeological horizon. The name derives from the village of Andronovo (coord|55|53|N|55|42|E|), where in 1914, several graves were discovered, with skeletons in crouched positions, buried with richly decorated pottery.

At least four sub-cultures have been since distinguished, during which the culture expands towards the south and the east:
*Sintashta-Petrovka-Arkaim (Southern Urals, northern Kazakhstan, 2200-1600 BCE,
**the Sintashta fortification of ca. 1800 BCE at the Chelyabinsk Oblast;
** the Petrovka settlement fortified settlement in Kazakhstan;
**the nearby Arkaim settlement dated to the 17th century;
*Alakul (2100-1400 BCE) between Oxus and Jaxartes, Kyzylkum desert;
**Alekseyevka (1300-1100 BCE "final Bronze") in eastern Kazakhstan, contacts with Namazga VI in Turkmenia
*Fedorovo (1500-1300 BCE) in southern Siberia (earliest evidence of cremation and fire cult [Harvcolnb|Diakonoff|1995|p=473]
**Beshkent-Vakhsh (1000-800 BCE)

The geographical extent of the culture is vast and difficult to delineate exactly. On its western fringes, it overlaps with the approximately contemporaneous, but distinct, Srubna culture in the Volga-Ural interfluvial. To the east, it reaches into the Minusinsk depression, overlapping with the area of the earlier Afanasevo culture. [Harvcolnb|Mallory|1989|p=62] Additional sites are scattered as far south as the Koppet Dag (Turkmenistan), the Pamir (Tajikistan) and the Tian Shan (Kyrgyzstan). The northern boundary vaguely corresponds to the beginning of the Taiga. In the Volga basin, interaction with the Srubna culture was the most intense and prolonged, and Federovo style pottery is found as far west as Volgograd.

Towards the middle of the 2nd millennium, the Andronovo cultures begin to move intensively eastwards. They mined deposits of copper ore in the Altai Mountains and lived in villages of as many as ten sunken log cabin houses measuring up to 30m by 60m in size. Burials were made in stone cists or stone enclosures with buried timber chambers.

In other regards, the economy was pastoral, based on horses and cattle, but also sheep and goats, with some agriculture in clear evidence.

Andronovo and Indo-Iranians

The Andronovo culture is strongly associated with the Indo-Iranians and is often credited with the invention of the spoke-wheeled chariot around 2000 BCE. [Harvcolnb|Anthony|Vinogradov|1995]

Sintashta is a site on the upper Ural River. It is famed for its grave-offerings, particularly chariot burials. These inhumations were in kurgans and included all or parts of animals (horse and dog) deposited into the barrow. Sintashta is often pointed to as the premier proto-Indo-Iranian site, and that the language spoken was still in the Proto-Indo-Iranian stage. [Harvcolnb|Mallory|1989 "The settlement and cemetery of Sintashta, for example, though located far to the north on the Trans-Ural steppe, provides the type of Indo-Iranian archaeological evidence that would more than delight an archaeologist seeking their remains in Iran or India."] There are similar sites "in the Volga-Ural steppe". [Harvcolnb|Mallory|1997]

The identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian has been challenged by scholars who point to the absence of the characteristic timber graves of the steppe south of the Oxus River. [or south of the region between Kopet Dagh and Pamir-Karakorum. Francfort, in Harv|Fussman et al.|2005|p=268
Fussman, in Harv|Fussman et al.|2005|p=220
Francfort (1989), Fouilles de Shortugai
Klejn (1974), Lyonnet (1993), Francfort (1989), Bosch-Gimpera (1973), Hiebert (1998), and Sarianidi (1993), as cited in Harvcoltxt|Bryant|2001|loc=ch. 10, pp. 206–207
] Sarianidi (as cited in Harvcolnb|Bryant|2001|p=207) states that "direct archaeological data from Bactria and Margiana show without any shade of doubt that Andronovo tribes penetrated to a minimum extent into Bactria and Margianian oases".

Based on its use by Indo-Aryans in Mitanni and Vedic India, its prior absence in the Near East and Harappan India, and its 16th–17th century BCE attestation at the Andronovo site of Sintashta, Kuzmina (1994) argues that the chariot corroborates the identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian. Klejn (1974) and Brentjes (1981) find the Andronovo culture much too late for an Indo-Iranian identification since chariot-wielding Aryans appear in Mitanni by the 15th to 16th century BCE. However, Harvcoltxt|Anthony|Vinogradov|1995 dated a chariot burial at Krivoye Lake to around 2000 BCE. [Harvcoltxt|Anthony|Vinogradov|1995
Kuzmina (1994), Klejn (1974), and Brentjes (1981), as cited in Harvcoltxt|Bryant|2001|p=206

Mallory (as cited in Harvcolnb|Bryant|2001|p=216) admits the extraordinary difficulty of making a case for expansions from Andronovo to northern India, and that attempts to link the Indo-Aryans to such sites as the Beshkent and Vakhsh cultures "only gets the Indo-Iranian to Central Asia, but not as far as the seats of the Medes, Persians or Indo-Aryans".

An alternative possibility for the language of Andronovo may be Burušaski (now spoken in Kašmīr) or Ĥapirti (ʕelamitic), anciently spoken in Ĥuzistan.

Since older words of Indo Iranian have been taken over in Uralian and Proto-Yeneseian, occupation by some other languages (also lost ones) cannot be ruled out altogether, at least for part of the Andronovo area: i.e., Uralic and Yeneseian. [ [] M. Witzel - Linguistic Evidence for Cultural Exchange in Prehistoric Western Central Asia, 2003, Sino-Platonic Papers 129]


The Sintashta-Petrovka culture is succeeded by the Fedorovo (1400-1200 BCE) and Alekseyevka (1200-1000 BCE) cultures , still considered as part of the Andronovo horizon.

In southern Siberia and Kazakhstan, the Andronovo culture was succeeded by the Karasuk culture (1500-800 BCE), which is sometimes asserted to be non-Indo-European, and at other times to be specifically proto-Iranian. On its western border, it is succeeded by the Srubna culture, which partly derives from the Abashevo culture. The earliest historical peoples associated with the area are the Cimmerians and Saka/Scythians, appearing in Assyrian records after the decline of the Alekseyevka culture, migrating into the Ukraine from ca. the 9th century BCE (see also Ukrainian stone stela), and across the Caucasus into Anatolia and Assyria in the late 8th century BCE, and possibly also west into Europe as the Thracians (see Thraco-Cimmerian), and the Sigynnae, located by Herodotus beyond the Danube, north of the Thracians, and by Strabo near the Caspian Sea. Both Herodotus and Strabo identify them as Iranian.



*Fussman, G.; Kellens, J.; Francfort, H.-P.; Tremblay, X.: Aryas, Aryens et Iraniens en Asie Centrale. (2005), Institut Civilisation Indienne ISBN 2-86803-072-6
*Jones-Bley, K.; Zdanovich, D. G. (eds.), "Complex Societies of Central Eurasia from the 3rd to the 1st Millennium BC", 2 vols, JIES Monograph Series Nos. 45, 46, Washington D.C. (2002), ISBN 0-941694-83-6, ISBN 0-941694-86-0.

ee also

* Indo-Iranians
** Aryan
** Soma
* Chariot, Chariot burial
* Kurgan hypothesis

External links

* [ Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads] (
** [ Late Bronze Age Indo-Iranians in Central Asia]
** [ Sintashta-Arkaim Culture]
* [ The Discovery of Sintashta] (a Russian-language article by two archaeologists who directed the excavations)
* [ Archaic Motifs in North Russian Folk Embroidery and Parallels in Ancient Ornamental Designs of the Eurasian Steppe Peoples] S. Zharnikova

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