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Catacomb Culture (c. 2800-1900 BCE)

Quick Facts

  • Closely related to the Corded Ware Culture.
  • Originated in the forests of central and northern European Russia, then expanded southward and eventually replaced the Yamna culture, from which it is culturally descended.
  • The Catacomb culture could be ancestral to the Indo-Iranians, and/or to the Daco-Thracians, Mycenaean Greeks, Phrygians and Armenians.
  • Stock-breeding culture of semi-nomadic herders riding on horses. Cattle were the dominant domesticated animals, followed by sheep/goat and horses. Cereal agriculture and pig-breeding was practiced in a few permanent settlements in river valleys.
  • Pottery more elaborated than Yamna. Use of similar cord-impressed pottery with geometric shapes as the Corded Ware culture. Bronze artefacts included shaft-hole axes, fanged daggers, adzes, hammer-head pins, bodkins and chisels. Stone maces, polished stone battle axes, flint arrowheads and flint spears were also used.
  • Houses were predominantly rectangular, partially sunken in the ground and built with wooden posts.
  • The dead were inhumed in kurgans similar to the Yamna culture, but with a trench dug into the main shaft, creating the "catacomb", and burial niches in its side walls. Bodies were usually placed in a crouched position on their side and were accompanied by weapons or tools (for men), or pottery and silver ornaments (for women). Graves of elevated social status also contained two- or four-wheeled wagons (and possibly some early chariots), prestige items (axes, scepters), and sacrificed animals (mostly cattle and sheep/goat). A new funeral practice emerged with the modelling of a clay mask over the face of the deceased. These masks may have been the prototypes of the Mycenaean gold masks, like the famous Mask of Agamemnon.
Distribution of the Catacomb Culture

Historical context of the Catacomb culture

Map of early to middle Bronze Age cultures in Europe between 2500 and 2000 BCE - Eupedia

Genetic Analysis


MtDNA samples from the Catacomb culture
Hg N1a R0/HV H HV0/V J T1 T2 U2 U3 U4 U5 K I W X Others
N=28 0 0 7 0 3 0 0 0 0 7 4 0 1 0 0 6
% 0% 0% 25% 0% 10.5% 0% 0% 0% 0% 25% 14.5% 0% 3.5% 0% 0% 21.5%

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.

Samples from central and eastern Ukraine

  • KNO : Krasnorechensk, eastern Ukraine
  • LIS : Lisichansk, eastern Ukraine
  • NEV : Nevskoe, eastern Ukraine
  • NOZ : Novozvanovka II, eastern Ukraine
  • SAC : Shakhta Stepnaya, eastern Ukraine
  • SUG : Kirovograd Sugokleya, central Ukraine
  • VIN : Vinogradnoe, southern central Ukraine
  • KNO4 : U4
  • LIS1 : U5a1
  • LIS2 : U4
  • LIS3 : H2a1
  • NEV1 : U5a1
  • NEV3 : H1, H3 or H6
  • NOZ1 : U4
  • NOZ2 : U4
  • SAC2 : J2b
  • SUG5 : H6
  • VIN3 : U5a1
  • VIN8 : J1b1a1

Samples from southern Russia

  • PEJ : Peschanyi, Rostov Oblast, Russia
  • TEM : Temrta, Rostov Oblast, Russia
  • PEJ2 : H1 or H13
  • PEJ3 : H1, H3 or H6
  • PEJ4 : H1, H3 or H6
  • PEJ5 : U4
  • TEM1 : U4
  • TEM2 : H (rCRS)
  • TEM3 : J1b1a1
  • TEM4 : U5a1
  • TEM5 : R1a
  • TEM6 : R1a
  • TEM7 : U4
  • TEM8 : U

Samples from Moldova

  • TET : Tetcani, northern Moldova
  • TET1 : I1d

Samples from southwest Ukraine

The following mtDNA samples from the Odessa province were tested by Newton, J.R. (2011).

  • C4a3
  • C4a6 (x2)


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