January 25, 2013

Diverse occupants of Hungarian kurgan

Antiquity Volume: 86 Number: 334 Page: 1097–1111

Immigration and transhumance in the Early Bronze Age Carpathian Basin: the occupants of a kurgan

Claudia Gerling

You never know until you look. The authors deconstruct a kurgan burial mound in the Great Hungarian Plain designated to the Yamnaya culture, to find it was actually shared by a number of different peoples. The Yamnaya were an influential immigrant group of the Late Copper Age/Early Bronze Age transition. The burials, already characterised by their grave goods, were radiocarbon dated and further examined using stable isotope analysis on the human teeth. The revealing sequence began with a young person of likely local origin buried around or even before the late fourth millennium BC—a few centuries before the arrival of the Yamnaya. It ended around 500 years later with a group of different immigrants, apparently from the eastern mountains. These are explained as contacts built up between the mountains and the plain through the practice of transhumance.

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3 comments:

Dr Rob said...

The whole "Kurgan invasion"hypothesis is a figmant of (unfortunately, most) scholars imagination. Just read some of the more nuanced archaeological readings of the archaeological record in southeastern Europe, eg Whittle.

eurologist said...

The whole "Kurgan invasion"hypothesis is a figmant of (unfortunately, most) scholars imagination.

Couldn't agree more. West of a line from ~Central/Eastern Poland south there is zero evidence of any forceful invasion (versus common, slow cultural diffusion).

Of course, part of this is that horses at the time where wholly inadequate to traverse the thick native forests and bogs, and could not be economically supported during winter.

It's like: the first winter they fed their grains to the horses. The second winter they ate their horses. The third winter they died of starvation.

Va_Highlander said...

The Kurgan hypothesis makes even less sense east of the Caspian and there are no kurgan burials at all south of the Amu Darya. It's become a procrustean bed, in the words of A V Epimakhov, to which it is increasingly difficult to fit an ever growing body of evidence.

The Afanasevo are supposed to have been a kurgan people, for instance, despite the fact that they do not appear to have practiced kurgan burial and predate Yamna, their claimed precursor far to the west, by half a millennium or more. Attempting to salvage a collapsing theory, by claiming -- hello, Maju! -- that the Afanasevo were a lost, wandering tribe of the Khvalynsk culture, or some such, is wildly anachronistic and ignores the clear cultural parallels between Afanasevo and other sheep-herding peoples of southern Central Asia, parallels wholly absent among contemporary peoples of the Eurasian steppe.

This is all to say nothing of the inherently dubious nature of any claim that a given prehistoric, preliterate people spoke a particular language. Somehow, the fruits of such idle speculation became the null hypothesis without being established as scientific facts, or even enjoying a broad consensus among informed researchers.