Ozera and Shevchenko

Overarching period: European Neolithic, 9,000 - 3,700 BP
Specific period: Corded Ware Cultures 4,900 - 4,350 BP
Carbon dating: 4,899 - 4,706 years old
Ozera - 48.99° North, 33.95° East
Shevchenko - 48.22° North, 37.15° East
Site location country: Ukraine
mtDNA haplogroups: R0, T, H
Y haplogroups: -

Pot and axe heads Typical corded are pot and axe heads [30] Copper dagger Copper dagger found in Europe [31]

The Corded Ware Cultures of Ukraine:

The appearance of the Corded Ware Cultures of Europe have proven to be an enigmatic period in the history of the continent. This remarkably uniform culture spread relatively quickly across broad swathes of the continent, starting in the east. There has been much debate of where this culture came from but is now considered to have originated in the Pontic Steppe region of what is now Ukraine and Russia, between the Caspian and Black Seas [9-10]. The people that are believed to be source of the Corded Ware Culture were the Yamnaya, a named derived from the Russian for the pit burials that were found in present-day Ukraine and Russia [11].

Many of these cultures coexisted with earlier Neolithic societies as they spread across Europe. Chemical analyses of teeth from early Corded Ware burial sites has demonstrated that many of these people were migrants from other areas of Europe. There is also evidence for intermarriage between Corded Ware and earlier Neolithic peoples [12], as well as for conflict and resistance to these migrants [13]. Some researchers now believe that these were the people who brought Indo-European languages to Europe [14], the earliest form of most of the languages spoken in Europe today.

The Yamnaya and Early Corded Ware people were nomadic herders, and there is little evidence of settlements in the Steppe regions and during their migrations into Eastern Europe [15-16]. They lived of a diet of fish, dairy, and meat, while practicing little farming [17]. The term Corded Ware is derived from ceramic vessels made by these people that were decorated by using making impressions using ropes or ‘cords.’ These ceramic vessels have been found in burial sites throughout Europe [14]. People were often buried with a variety of other grave goods, such as battle axes, pendants, and bone plates.

This was also a period of dramatic technological change. The early Corded Ware societies were often still reliant on stone tools, but over the course of the Corded Ware period the use of copper and eventually bronze appeared and revolutionized society [18]. It was discovered that by adding tin to copper, a harder metal could be formed. Once the Bronze Age became fully underway in Europe, people started making bronze, daggers, weapons, as well as other tools [19].

The Individuals from Ozera and Shevchenko:

The three individuals in this sample came from two sites in present-day Ukraine. One from 45 kilometers (28 miles) east of the city of Kremenchuk. 9 kilometers (6 miles) south of the city of Pokrovsk. These individuals were carbon-dated to between 4,700 and 5,300 years old [20]. The site of Ozera consisted of Yamnaya pit graves as well as some burials from earlier in the Eneolithic, as well as later Bronze Age Burials [20-21]. Only one individual in this sample came from this site, which was a women determined to be in her early 20s. No grave goods were found but she was coloured by brown ochre, a pigment often used in ancient times dating back to the Paleolithic.

The site of Shevchenko was a burial mound that had seventeen burials in it, seven of which dated to the Yamnaya period, while other dated to the later Bronze Age and Sarmatian period [21]. The two skeletons from this site were poorly preserved, but there were traces of ochre on these skeletons as well. One individual was determined to be an older woman who was buried underneath two stone slabs. The other burial was middle-aged female of 35 to 45 years of age who was buried with a necklace made of bone beads. She was also buried with the remains of a newborn child [20], which might suggest that she died in childbirth. No bronze or copper objects were reported at these sites, but the burial practices, including the stone slabs over one of the women, as well as the carbon dating demonstrated that these people came this period.

Genetic analysis has shown that these individuals had a strong connection to Yamnaya people that had recently migrated out of the Caucuses into Southeastern Europe, forming the Corded Ware Culture [20]. The region has been unique in Europe during the previous Neolithic period in which more hunter-gatherer ancestry had persisted through the transition than elsewhere. However, this abruptly changed, with more genetic input from Central Asian and the Caucuses region [22]. These migrations brought sweeping changes to the genetic map of Europe. While it was initially debated whether the Corded Ware cultures represented a diffusion of technology rather than a movement of people, recent genetic analysis has shown that large scale migration did occur into Eastern and Central Europe from the Pontic Steppe area of present-day Eastern Ukraine and Southern Russia [23-25].

Each one of these individuals belonged to a different mitochondrial haplogroup. The individual from Ozera belonged to mitochondrial haplogroup R0, which is a common haplogroup worldwide today and is of very ancient ancestry. It is believed to be a split from the N haplogroup, which is known to have come from the Middle East and appeared in Europe during the Neolithic [26]. From Shevchenko, one individual belonged to haplogroup T, which is found in Europe today at low frequencies and is thought to have arrived in Europe from the Middle East through Central Asian migrations such as the Yamnaya [27-28]. The other belonged to haplogroup H, which is commonly found in Europe today and is known to have Middle Eastern origins. It has also been found in Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, and exist in Europe prior to the arrival of agriculture [29].