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Yamna Culture (c. 3500-2500 BCE)

Quick Facts

  • Also known as the Yamnaya Culture, Pit Grave Culture or Ochre Grave Culture.
  • Generally considered by linguists as the homeland of the Proto-Indo-European language.
  • Probably originated between the Lower Don, the Lower Volga and North Caucasus during the Chalcolithic, around what became the Novotitorovka culture (3300-2700 BCE) within the Yamna culture.
  • Highly mobile steppe culture of pastoral nomads relying heavily on cattle (dairy farming). Sheep were also kept for their wool. Hunting, fishing and sporadic agriculture was practiced near rivers.
  • First culture (along with Maykop) to make regular use of ox-drawn wheeled carts. Metal artefacts (tools, axes, tanged daggers) were mostly made of copper, with some arsenical bronze. Domesticated horses used as pack animal and ridden to manage cattle herds.
  • Coarse, flat-bottomed, egg-shaped pottery decorated with comb stamps and cord impressions.
  • The dead were inhumed in pit graves inside kurgans (burial mounds). Bodies were placed in a supine position with bent knees and covered in ochre. Wagons/carts and sacrificed animals (cattle, horse, sheep) were present in graves, a trait typical of later Indo-European cultures.
Distribution of the Yamna, Novotitorovska and Maykop cultures

DNA Samples

MtDNA samples from the Yamna culture
Hg N1a R0/HV H V J T1 T2 U2 U3 U4 U5 K I W X
N=44 1 0 10 0 1 4 7 1 0 3 9 3 1 3 1
% 2.5% 0% 22.5% 0% 2.5% 9% 15.5% 2.5% 0% 6.5% 20.5% 6.5% 2.5% 6.5% 2.5%

The following mtDNA and Y-DNA samples were tested by Haak et al. (2015).

Samples from the Volga-Ural region

Sample Y-DNA mtDNA Location Date
I0231 - U4a1 Ekaterinovka, Samara 2910-2875 BCE
I0355 - K1b2a ? ?
I0357 - W6 Lopatino, Samara 3090-2910 BCE
I0370 R1b1a2a2 (Z2103) H13a1a1 Ishkinovka, Orenburg 3300-2700 BCE
I0429 R1b1a2a2 (Z2103) T2c1a2 Lopatino, Samara 3339-2917 BCE
I0438 R1b1a2a2 (Z2103) U5a1a1 Luzhki, Samara 3021-2635 BCE
I0439 R1b1a (P297) U5a1a1 Lopatino, Samara 3305-2925 BCE
I0441 - H2b Kumanaevskii, Samara 3010-2622 BCE
I0443 R1b1a2a (L23) W3a1a Lopatino, Samara 3300-2700 BCE
I0444 R1b1a2a2 (Z2103) H6a1b Kutuluk, Samara 3300-2700 BCE


Most of the following mtDNA samples were tested by Wilde et al. (2014). Deep subclades were not reported in the paper and were determined by Maciamo based on the raw data. The RISE546 to RISE552 samples were tested by Allentoft et al. (2015).

Samples from the Volga region

Sample Y-DNA mtDNA Location Region/Country
KAL1 - N1a1a Kalinovka I Samara Oblast, Russia
KAL2 - H* Kalinovka I Samara Oblast, Russia
NIK1 - T1a Nikolaevka III Samara Oblast, Russia
NIK7 - H (rCRS) Nikolaevka III Samara Oblast, Russia
POD1 - W6 Podlesnyj Samara Oblast, Russia
POD2 - T2 Podlesnyj Samara Oblast, Russia

Samples from the Don and Kuban regions

Sample Y-DNA mtDNA Location Region/Country
OLE1 - T2 Olennii Krasnodar Krai (Sea of Azov), Russia
OLE7 - J2b Olennii Krasnodar Krai (Sea of Azov), Russia
PEJ1 - U5a1 Peschanyi Rostov Oblast, Russia
RISE240 - U5a1d1 Sukhaya Termista I Rostov Oblast, Russia
RISE546 R1b1a2 (M269) U5a1d2b Temrta IV Rostov Oblast, Russia
RISE547 R1b1a2a2 (Z2103) T2a1a Temrta IV Rostov Oblast, Russia
RISE548 R1b1a2a2 (Z2103) U4 Temrta IV Rostov Oblast, Russia
RISE550 R1b1a2 (M269, xL51) U5a1i Temrta IV Rostov Oblast, Russia
RISE552 I2a2a1b1b2 (S12195) T2a1a Peshany V Rostov Oblast, Russia

Samples from central and eastern Ukraine

Sample Y-DNA mtDNA Location Region/Country
PES7 - H1a1 or H5a1j Pestchanka II Central eastern Ukraine
SUG2 - I1a Kirovograd Sugokleya Central Ukraine
SUG6 - H1, H3 or H6 Kirovograd Sugokleya Central Ukraine
SUG7 - H (rCRS) Kirovograd Sugokleya Central Ukraine
SUG8 - H (rCRS) Kirovograd Sugokleya Central Ukraine
VIN2 - T1a Vinogradnoe Southern central Ukraine
VIN5 - T1a Vinogradnoe Southern central Ukraine
VIN12 - T1 Vinogradnoe Southern central Ukraine

Samples from western Ukraine & Moldova

Sample Y-DNA mtDNA Location Region/Country
MAJ3 - U5a1 Mayaki Southwest Ukraine
MAJ4 - U5b2 Mayaki Southwest Ukraine
MAJ5 - X2h (?) Mayaki Southwest Ukraine
TET2 - U4a1 Tetcani Northern Moldova

Samples from Bulgaria

Sample Y-DNA mtDNA Location Region/Country
OVI2 - K Ovchartsi Southeast Bulgaria
OVI3 - U/K Ovchartsi Southeast Bulgaria
POP1 - T2a1b Popovo Southeast Bulgaria
POP2 - U2e Popovo Southeast Bulgaria
POP3 - U5a1 Popovo Southeast Bulgaria
RIL - K1 Riltsi North-east Bulgaria

Expansion of the Proto-Indo-European Yamna culture in the Early Bronze Age

Expansion of the Proto-Indo-European Yamna culture in the Early Bronze Age (4000-3500 BCE)

Follow-up

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