Rozhdestvenno I and Barinovka I


Overarching period: Bronze Age, 5,200–2,600 BP
Specific period: The Srubnaya Culture 3,200 to 3,700 BP
Carbon dating: 6,064 to 5,746 years old
Location: Rozhdestvenno I - 53.14° North, 50.01° East
Barinovka I - 52.54° North, 50.50° East
Site location country: Russia
mtDNA haplogroups: J, I, K, U
Y haplogroups: R1a

Srubnaya Pot An example of a Srubnaya pot [6]

The Russian Bronze Age:

Bronze Age Russia was preceded by a period known as the Eneolithic, which was preceded by the Neolithic hunter-gatherer era. In Russia, around 7,000 years ago, the Neolithic cultures suddenly and simultaneously disappeared. They were replaced by groups capable of processing copper. Throughout the Eneolithic, settlements became larger and animal husbandry became more intense. Burial rituals also got more complex – graves with mounds were built alongside flat graves; social stratification became clear from grave goods; the crouch position in graves became more common rather than the supine position [1]. All of this suggests that society was becoming more complex.

Bronze is an alloy made of copper and tin and is harder than copper alone. The Bronze Age, defined by the ability of people to make bronze, occurred in Russia around 5,000 years ago. It is also believed that the horse was domesticated at the dawn of the Bronze Age, revolutionising war and transport [2].

The Srubnaya Culture:

The Srubnaya Culture, also known as the Srubna and Timber-grave Culture [3], was a late Bronze Age Culture (3,200 to 3,700 years ago) in present-day Southern Russia [4].

The Srubnaya people general lived in a single-family homestead, with a house big enough for up to twenty people. Many generations would have lived in the house together, with a single family using the same house for over one hundred years. The walls were wooden and covered with clay or thatch. There would have been a fireplace, and a single bed where the entire family slept. Houses would have been five or six kilometres (three or four miles) away from each other, generally next to rivers or creeks [3].

Each house would have had a burial ground, located not far from the house, where the deceased members of that family would have been buried. The walls of the graves would have generally been wood, giving the culture the name Timber-grave. Sroub, the root of the word Srubnaya, is the Russian word for a log cabin. Occasionally, walls would have been slabs of stone. Graves were covered by low mounds of dirt. The typical Srubnaya grave is not rich in grave gods, but usually has a pot placed near the head of the individual, and sometimes bone buckles, stone mace heads, or bronze rings and knives. Individuals were buried in a crouching position on their left sides, with their hands in front of their faces which were generally facing east. Occasionally single graves have been found outside of the identified cemeteries next to the houses, and it is believed that these represent victims of rituals [3].

The Srubnaya people also performed rituals involving animals. At one Srubnaya settlement, there is evidence for the ritualistic killing and consumption of sixty-four dogs and several wolves. It does not appear that the dogs were eaten due to starvation, because of the known presence of sheep and cattle at the settlement. Furthermore, the dogs’ heads appear to have been chopped into small pieces by an axe, whereas the other animals were butchered normally, again suggesting a ritual rather than standard food preparation. Because almost all of the dogs sacrificed were male, it has been suggested that this ritual was a male rite of passage. In a nearby cemetery, there was an unusually high number of young individuals and pollen from medicinal plants. This has led some researchers to believe that this particular settlement was known for its ritualistic abilities, and thus people from other settlements would bring their sick children there with the hope of them being healed [5].

In contrast to other cultures at this time, and in spite of the Srubnaya Culture’s long duration and large geographical area, there is no evidence of any political structure. The Srubnaya people did not seem to have any sort of social organisation beyond the family. Perhaps this is why the Srubnaya people did not seem to have any form of military – Srubnaya weapons are few and far between, and generally seem to have been for hunting or ritualistic purposes [3]. However, genetic evidence has linked the Srubnaya peoples to the Scythian Culture. This has led some to believe that the Scythians were in fact people of the Srubnaya culture who had left on military crusades [4].

The Srubnaya peoples took care of their local ecological environment. They used a lot of wood, but appear to have practiced coppicing. This means that, rather than cutting down forests, they cut lowland trees such as alder and willow to the length of around one meter. This means that, rather than killing the tree, it can grow back to its previous length in just a few years [3].

The Srubnaya peoples took care of their local ecological environment. They used a lot of wood, but appear to have practiced coppicing. This means that, rather than cutting down forests, they cut lowland trees such as alder and willow to the length of around one meter. This means that, rather than killing the tree, it can grow back to its previous length in just a few years [3].

The Individuals of Rozhdestvenno I and Barinovka I:

The three individuals in this sample were found at two sites in present-day Russia. Two individuals were found at the site of Rozhdestvenno I, which is around twenty kilometres (twelve miles) southwest of the city of Samara. The final individual was found at the site of Barinovka I, which was around eighty kilometres (fifty miles) south of Samara. The individuals in this sample were carbon-dated to between 3,200 and 3,850 years old [7].

The site of Rozhdestvenno I was a Srubnaya cemetery in a forest-steppe zone. Both individuals in this sample found at this site were female, one aged twenty-five to thirty-five, the other aged fifteen to seventeen. The individual in this sample found at the site of Barinovka I was an adult male [7].

Bronze Age Eurasia was a time of widescale migrations and population replacements [8]. Genetic analysis of the individuals in this sample found that the Late Bronze Age Srubnaya people had about seventeen percent Anatolian Neolithic ancestry. The source of this ancestry is believed to have travelled through the steppe from a more eastern region. They may have got as far as central Europe, but it does not appear that the Srubnaya people were involved in these westward migrations [7].

One of the individuals in this sample belonged to the mitochondrial haplogroup J, which can be found in about 12% of the present European population and is also found in Middle East and North-East Africa. It originated in the Paleolithic (45,000 years ago), potentially in the Caucuses area [9]. Individuals of this haplogroup may produce higher body heat – a trait which may have been selected for in northern Europe [10]. One of the individuals belonged to the mitochondrial haplogroup I, which dates to the Paleolithic Iran/Caucuses area, and likely arrived with steppe peoples into Europe [11]. The final individual belonged to the mitochondrial haplogroup K, which is common in Europe today and was recently derived from U [12], the most common haplogroup among European hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic and still exists in Europe today although at lower frequencies due to the genetic contribution of incoming European farmers [13].

The male in this sample belonged to the Y-chromosomal haplogroup R1a, which has recently origins of around 5,800 years and is associated with the spread of Indo-European languages and Steppe peoples. It is common in Eastern and Central Europe today [14,15].


References:

  1. Parzinger H. 2013. Ukraine and South Russia in the Bronze Age. The Oxford Handbook of the European Bronze Age.
  2. Damgaard PD, Martiniano R, Kamm J, Moreno-Mayar JV, Kroonen G. 2018. The first horse herders and the impact of early Bronze Age steppe expansions into Asia. Science, 360: 1422.
  3. Mikhailin V. 2010. Spatially determined behaviors and religious representations: The Srubna Culture model (Southern Russia). Revue de la Histoire des Religions, 227: 497-517.
  4. Movsesian AA, Bakholdin VY. 2017. Nonmetric cranial trait variation and the origins of the Scythians. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 162: 589-599.
  5. Anthony DW, Brown DR. 2017. The dogs of war: A Bronze Age initiation ritual in the Russian steppes. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 48: 134-148.
  6. An example of a Srubnaya pot: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=srubna&title=Special:Search&profile=default&fulltext=1&searchToken=e00cetus3zpbmlafvh8a31uc5#/media/File:Srubna_culture02.jpg
  7. Mathieson I, Lazaridis I, Rohland N, Mallick S, Patterson N, et al. 2015. Genome-wide patterns of selection in 230 ancient Eurasians. Nature, 528.
  8. Allentoft ME, Sikora M, Sjögren K, Rasmussen S, Rasmussen M, et al. 2015. Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia. Nature, 522: 167
  9. Sykes B. 2001. The Seven Daughters of Eve. London; New York: Bantam Press.
  10. Passarino G, Cavalleri GL, Lin AA, Cavalli-Sforza LL, Børresen-Dale A, Underhill PA. 2002. Different genetic components in the Norwegian population revealed by the analysis of mtDNA & Y chromosome polymorphisms. European Journal of Human Genetics, 10: 521.
  11. Terreros MC, Rowold DJ, Mirabal S, Herrera RJ. 2011. Mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosomal stratification in Iran: relationship between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. Journal of Human Genetics 56: 235-246.
  12. Núñez C, Baeta M, Cardoso S, Palencia-Madrid L, García-Romero N, Llanos A, de Pancorbo MM. 2016. Mitochondrial DNA Reveals the Trace of the Ancient Settlers of a Violently Devastated Late Bronze and Iron Ages Village. PLoS One11: e0155342.
  13. Secher B, Fregel R, Larruga JM, Cabrera VM, Endicott P, Pestano JJ, González AM. 2014. The history of the North African mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U6 gene flow into the African, Eurasian and American continents. BMC Evolutionary Biology y14: 109.
  14. Underhill PA, et al. 2010. Separating the post-Glacial coancestry of European and Asian Y chromosomes within haplogroup R1a. European Journal of Human Genetics 18: 479–484.
  15. Underhill PA, et al. 2014. The phylogenetic and geographic structure of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a. European Journal of Human Genetics, 23: 124–131.