Stara Synjava

Overarching period: European Neolithic, 9,000 - 3,700 BP
Specific period: Globular Amphora Cultures 5,400 - 4,800 BP
Carbon dating: 4,899 - 4,706 years old
Stara Synjava - 49.56° North, 27.69° East
Site location country: Ukraine
mtDNA haplogroups: J
Y haplogroups: I

Clay House A globullar amphora vessel [19]

The Globular Amphora Cultures:

The late Neolithic in Central Europe was a time of increasing complexity. Like many of the preceding agricultural period of the Neolithic of Europe, these cultures could be grouped together by common ceramic artifacts. The defining piece of the late Neolithic in Eastern Europe was the Globular Amphora. These were short-necked, large spherical pots that usually had four handles with markings pressed into them before firing. They have been found throughout much of Eastern Europe, stretching from present-day Poland to Ukraine. The Globular Amphora Culture lasted at least 700 years from 5,500 to 4,800 years ago, and replaced the earlier Funnel Beaker Cultures of the region [9,10].

The people that made these vessels were semi-nomadic and were livestock herders in addition to farmers [11]. Domestic animals had a special importance, and people were often buried with the bones of sacrificial animals [12]. This period saw the emergence of the first wagons in Europe [13].

The Ancient DNA from Stara Synjava:

The 3 individuals in this sample come from the Stara Synjava district of the Khmelnytskyi region in present-day Ukraine. The burial they were found in consisted of an elaborate chamber made out of limestone slabs. Their bones had been arranged such that small bones were laid at the bottom and skulls placed on top [14], indicating that the bodies had been revisited after they decomposed. In some societies even today such rituals are commonly viewed as a way of visiting or venerating the dead [15].

These individuals were found to be closely-related to 8 individuals dated to the same culture and time period from a site in the Żnin district of present-day Northern Poland. Genetic analysis showed that these individuals showed a much higher degree of intermixing with hunter-gatherers than ancient DNA samples from the Middle and Early Neolithic. This is consistent with the findings of other researchers [16] who have shown that hunter-gatherers still living in the area of early farmers slowly interbred with them after their arrival. The analysis also shows that these people lived at a time prior to the invasion of steppe peoples into Europe from the East.

The two males in the sample both had I haplogroup Y chromosomes, which is a common lineage within Europe today, and which has origins in the Paleolithic of Europe [17]. One male and one female had haplogroup J mitochondria, which makes up 12% of modern Europeans and likely originated in the Caucuses during the Paleolithic [18].