How the genocidal Yamnaya men loved to switch cultures

After some really interesting fantasy full of arrows, it seems Kristiansen & friends are coming back to their most original idea from 2015, now in New Scientist’s recent clickbait Story of most murderous people of all time revealed in ancient DNA (2019):

Teams led by David Reich at Harvard Medical School and Eske Willerslev at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark announced, independently, that occupants of Corded Ware graves in Germany could trace about three-quarters of their genetic ancestry to the Yamnaya. It seemed that Corded Ware people weren’t simply copying the Yamnaya; to a large degree they actually were Yamnayan in origin.

If you think you have seen that movie, it’s because you have. They are at it again, Corded Ware from Yamna, and more “steppe ancestry” = “more Indo-European. It seems we haven’t learnt anything about “Steppe ancestry” since 2015. But there’s more:

Genocidal peoples who “switch cultures”

Burial practices shifted dramatically, a warrior class appeared, and there seems to have been a sharp upsurge in lethal violence. “I’ve become increasingly convinced there must have been a kind of genocide,” says Kristian Kristiansen at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The collaboration revealed that the origin and initial spread of Bell Beaker culture had little to do – at least genetically – with the expansion of the Yamnaya or Corded Ware people into central Europe. “It started in It is in that region that the earliest Bell Beaker objects – including arrowheads, copper daggers and distinctive Bell-shaped pots – have been found, in archaeological sites carbon-dated to 4700 years ago. Then, Bell Beaker culture began to spread east, although the people more or less stayed put. By about 4600 years ago, it reached the most westerly Corded Ware people around where the Netherlands now lies. For reasons still unclear, the Corded Ware people fully embraced it. “They simply take on part of the Bell Beaker package and become Beaker people,” says Kristiansen.

The fact that the genetic analysis showed the Britons then all-but disappeared within a couple of generations might be significant. It suggests the capacity for violence that emerged when the Yamnaya lived on the Eurasia steppe remained even as these people moved into Europe, switched identity from Yamnaya to Corded Ware, and then switched again from Corded Ware to Bell Beaker.

Notice what Kristiansen did there? Yamnaya men “switched identities” into Corded Ware, then “switched identities” into Bell Beakers…So, the most aggresive peoples who have ever existed, exterminating all other Europeans, were actually not so violent when embracing wholly different cultures whose main connection is that they built kurgans (yes, Gimbutas lives on).

NOTE. By the way, just so we are clear, only Indo-Europeans are “genocidal”. Not like Neolithic farmers, or Palaeolithic or Mesolithic populations, or more recent Bronze Age or Iron Age peoples, who also replaced Y-DNA from many regions…

yamnaya-corded-ware-bell-beaker

In fact, there is much stronger evidence that these Yamnaya Beakers were ruthless. By about 4500 years ago, they had pushed westwards into the Iberian Peninsula, where the Bell Beaker culture originated a few centuries earlier. Within a few generations, about 40 per cent of the DNA of people in the region could be traced back to the incoming Yamnaya Beakers, according to research by a large team including Reich that was published this month. More strikingly, the ancient DNA analysis reveals that essentially all the men have Y chromosomes characteristic of the Yamnaya, suggesting only Yamnaya men had children.

“The collision of these two populations was not a friendly one, not an equal one, but one where the males from outside were displacing local males and did so almost completely,” Reich told New Scientist Live in September. This supports Kristiansen’s view of the Yamnaya and their descendants as an almost unimaginably violent people. Indeed, he is about to publish a paper in which he argues that they were responsible for the genocide of Neolithic Europe’s men. “It’s the only way to explain that no male Neolithic lines survived,” he says.

So these unimaginably violent Yamnaya men had children exclusively with their Y chromosomes…but not Dutch Single Grave peoples. These great great steppe-like northerners switched culture, cephalic index…and Y-chromosome from R1a (and others) to R1b-L151 to expand Italo-Celtic From The West™.

It’s hilarious how (exactly like their latest funny episode of PIE from south of the Caucasus) this new visionary idea copied by Copenhagen from amateur friends (or was it the other way around?) had been already rejected before this article came out, in Olalde et al. (2019), and that “Corded Ware=Indo-European” fans have become a parody of themselves.

What’s not to love about 2019 with all this back-and-forth hopping between old and new pet theories?

NOTE. I would complain (again) that the obsessive idea of the Danes is that Denmark CWC is (surprise!) the Pre-Germanic community, so it has nothing to do with “steppe ancestry = Indo-European” (or even with “Corded Ware = Indo-European”, for that matter), but then again you have Koch still arguing for Celtic from the West, Kortlandt still arguing for Balto-Slavic from the east, and – no doubt worst of all – “R1a=IE / R1b=Vasconic / N1c=Uralic” ethnonationalists arguing for whatever is necessary right now, in spite of genetic research.

So prepare for the next episode in the nativist and haplogroup fetishist comedy, now with western and eastern Europeans hand in hand: Samara -> Khvalynsk -> Yamnaya -> Bell Beaker spoke Vasconic-Tyrsenian, because R1b. Wait for it…

Vanguard Yamnaya groups

On a serious note, interesting comment by Heyd in the article:

A striking example of this distinction is a discovery made near the town of Valencina de la Concepción in southern Spain. Archaeologists working there found a Yamnaya-like kurgan, below which was the body of a man buried with a dagger and Yamnaya-like sandals, and decorated with red pigment just as Yamnaya dead were. But the burial is 4875 years old and genetic information suggests Yamnaya-related people didn’t reach that far west until perhaps 4500 years ago. “Genetically, I’m pretty sure this burial has nothing to do with the Yamnaya or the Corded Ware,” says Heyd. “But culturally – identity-wise – there is an aspect that can be clearly linked with them.” It would appear that the ideology, lifestyle and death rituals of the Yamnaya could sometimes run far ahead of the migrants.

NOTE. I have been trying to find which kurgan is this, reviewing this text on the archaeological site, but didn’t find anything beyond occasional ochre and votive sandals, which are usual. Does some reader know which one is it?

yamna-expansion-bell-beakers
Yamna expansion and succeeding East Bell Beaker expansion, without color on Bell Beaker territories. Notice vanguard Yamna groups in blue where East Bell Beakers later emerge. See original image with Bell Beaker territories.

Notice how, if you add all those vanguard Yamna findings of Central and Western Europe, including this one from southern Spain, you begin to get a good idea of the territories occupied by East Bell Beakers expanding later. More or less like vanguard Abashevo and Sintashta finds in the Zeravshan valley heralded the steppe-related Srubna-Andronovo expansions in Turan…

It doesn’t seem like Proto-Beaker and Yamna just “crossed paths” at some precise time around the Lower Danube, and Yamna men “switched cultures”. It seems that many Yamna vanguard groups, probably still in long-distance contact with Yamna settlers from the Carpathian Basin, were already settled in different European regions in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC, before the explosive expansion of East Bell Beakers ca. 2500 BC. As Heyd says, there are potentially many Yamna settlements along the Middle and Lower Danube and tributaries not yet found, connecting the Carpathian Basin to Western and Northern Europe.

These vanguard groups would have more easily transformed their weakened eastern Yamna connections with the fashionable Proto-Beaker package expanding from the west (and surrounding all of these loosely connected settlements), just like the Yamna materials from Seville probably represent a close cultural contact of Chalcolithic Iberia with a Yamna settlement (the closest known site with Yamna traits is near Alsace, where high Yamna ancestry is probably going to be found in a Bell Beaker R1b-L151 individual).

This does not mean that there wasn’t a secondary full-scale migration from the Carpathian Basin and nearby settlements, just like Corded Ware shows a secondary (A-horizon?) migration to the east with R1a-Z645. It just means that there was a complex picture of contacts between Yamna and European Chalcolithic groups before the expansion of Bell Beakers. Doesn’t seem genocidal enough for a popular movie, tho.

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30 thoughts on “How the genocidal Yamnaya men loved to switch cultures

  1. Given the developments around Basque, it is very unlikely that corded ware was “IE”. More likely to have been a relative of Uralic or Etruscan. There is lots of work done on the non-IE substratum in Germanic. Honestly, at this point, it seems that Celtic and even Germanic are projections of the later Roman era. Imitation of the Empire has always been an obsession in these regions. This would bring Yamnaya to be Circassian. And Slavonic would be derived from the Scythian expansion of Iranian, but even more likely from the Serbo-Croat region where the Iranian converges into Slavic. To the east would be Altaic, the last of the great agglutinative continuum in Pan-Siberia.

  2. Given the developments around Basque, it is very unlikely that corded ware was “IE”. More likely to have been a relative of Uralic or Etruscan. There is lots of work done on the non-IE substratum in Germanic. Honestly, at this point, it seems that Celtic and even Germanic are projections of the later Roman era. Imitation of the Empire has always been an obsession in these regions. This would bring Yamnaya to be Circassian. And Slavonic would be derived from the Scythian expansion of Iranian, but even more likely from the Serbo-Croat region where the Iranian converges into Slavic. To the east would be Altaic, the last of the great agglutinative continuum in Pan-Siberia.

    1. celtic was spoken in subalpine northern italy ( Lombardy and Piedmont, Tessin ) already in the 6/7h century BC when Rome was still under etruscan rule and was yet to conquer even a tiny bit of Latium itself.

      1. The turnover in Europe in terms of genetics and languages and the lateness/transientness of IE in this scheme is the point. It was the Roman Empire and attendant Latinization that cemented the “IE”-ness of Europe. Even Greek would likely have been replaced by later Eastern migrations had it not been for the “stabilizing” effects of Rome.

        1. So without Rome, Yamnaya’s western descendents would have been, mostly, “absorbed” by the pre/non Indo-European cultures of Western Europe? My apologies if I am misunderstanding your comment.

          1. I think what xdarkprince was saying is that the western Yamnaya (and any other European group for that matter) would have likely been replaced by new invaders; just as the neolithic farmers replaced the hunter-gatherers, and then the Yamnaya replaced the neolithic farmers; something new would have replaced the Yamnaya descendants in Europe if it wasn’t for Rome, who basically stabilized Europe’s frontiers, imposibilitating new invasions. FYI – Not sure I agree with this.

  3. I agree, it sounds like propaganda from both Kristiansen and Reich. Its sensationalist at best and spiteful at worst. I dont know why they use the word genocide for only the Indo Europeans but not the neolithic peoples who more fully replaced the previous mesolithic inhabitants.

    On the yamnaya migrations there isnt even evidence of mass violence but rather population collapse in the late neolithic Europe followed by migration of yamnaya and yamnaya related folks.

    1. Doesn’t seem like Reich is in with this new adventure, though. It seems more like promotion for a new paper by Kristiansen and his “Viking-like Yamnayans” (complementing his idea of “Viking-like Bronze Age Europeans”)… Everything Indo-European in Europe always very (Danish) Viking-like, it seems.

      I don’t know how he intends to represent a 1,000-year evolution of Yamna-Bell Beaker expansion (or, worse, a 2,000/4,000-year expansion of “R1a+R1b+Steppe ancestry” in Europe) as a genocide, but hey, we are not the “leading archaeologist” of the Copenhagen group, so what do we know…

    2. Doesn’t seem like Reich is in with this new adventure, though. It seems more like promotion for a new paper by Kristiansen and his “Viking-like Yamnayans” (complementing his idea of “Viking-like Bronze Age Europeans”)… Everything Indo-European in Europe always very (Danish) Viking-like, it seems.

      I don’t know how he intends to represent a 1,000-year evolution of Yamna-Bell Beaker expansion (or, worse, a 2,000/4,000-year expansion of “R1a+R1b+Steppe ancestry” in Europe) as a genocide, but hey, we are not the “leading archaeologist” of the Copenhagen group, so what do we know…

    3. @colin_shanahan:disqus I don’t believe it is propaganda. The process of replacement done by ‘Yamnaya’ & Neolithic farmers was different. For, Neolithic farmers the process took thousands of years. ‘indigenous’ hunter gatherers continued to exist for a long time after farmers arrived (Though, no doubt farmers pushed them out, killed them at times). By, the late Neolithic most farmers in Europe actually had hunter gatherer Y DNA/male lineage. After, Yamnaya migration most Europeans had Yamnaya Y DNA.

      In contrast, to long process of Neolithic replacement, ‘Yamnaya’ replacement took a a handful of generations or at he most several hundred years.

      The most, irrefutable examples come from Britain & Iberia. After, a few hundred years the descendants of Neolithic Brits are no where to be found. They disappeared. In, Iberia, after a few hundred years native male lineages are no where to be found. New hybrid populations formed by mixture of invading males & native women formed.

      In Britain they killed the native population. In Iberia, they made them subservient (taking the women, killing the men).

      1. So were the East Bell Beakers that conquered Britain too gay for native neolithic British girls? But seriously what if its the case that Western Europe was not as densely populated as the Balkans and Anatolia? Clearly Yamnaya settled those areas yet we don’t see a huge replacement of male lineages.

        1. I agree. I have wondered if that is why. Really, it’ll take lots of experts from lots of different fields to do lots of research to understand Kurgan migrations. I bet, there won’t be decent theories put out for like another 30 years. For now, all we can do is guess.

          1. I think that may play a role on top of the agressive and warlike character of Yamnaya. But are there really no pre-Indo-European maternal lingeages in Britain?

            1. There are pre-Beaker paternal lineages. All Neolithic Brits belonged to two subclades of I2a only found in British Isles today.

              1. Still if most paternal lineages were replaced in Western because of low population density; then why were male lineages not replaced overwhelmingly in Scandinavia? I doubt Scandinavia was more populated then Western Europe. So the higher population density argument cannot explain male replacement. Maybe this was a violent conquest of some sort.

              2. Only a few % of the male population and the associated Y haplogroups survived.

                A few generations seem having been enough to replace “Megalithic” European Y lineages with Bell-beaker ones.

    4. Doesn’t seem like Reich is in with this new adventure, though. It seems more like promotion for a new paper by Kristiansen and his “Viking-like Yamnayans” (complementing his idea of “Viking-like Bronze Age Europeans”)… Everything Indo-European in Europe always very (Danish) Viking-like, it seems.

      I don’t know how he intends to represent a 1,000-year evolution of Yamna-Bell Beaker expansion (or, worse, a 2,000/4,000-year expansion of “R1a+R1b+Steppe ancestry” in Europe) as a genocide, but hey, we are not the “leading archaeologist” of the Copenhagen group, so what do we know…

      1. Check the beginning of the Y-chromosome bottleneck. It’s been a global genocidal conquest that began 10,000 years ago and is still continuing. There are only 2 groups in the world, aggressive mammoth hunters that began to spread out of the Eurasian Steppe 15,000 years ago, and everyone else. Humans are the only species to ever succeed through monumental attempts at self destruction.

    5. Doesn’t seem like Reich is in with this new adventure, though. It seems more like promotion for a new paper by Kristiansen and his “Viking-like Yamnayans” (complementing his idea of “Viking-like Bronze Age Europeans”)… Everything Indo-European in Europe always very (Danish) Viking-like, it seems.

      I don’t know how he intends to represent a 1,000-year evolution of Yamna-Bell Beaker expansion (or, worse, a 2,000/4,000-year expansion of “R1a+R1b+Steppe ancestry” in Europe) as a genocide, but hey, we are not the “leading archaeologist” of the Copenhagen group, so what do we know…

    6. Neolithic and Mesolithic peoples coexisted for a long time in Europe.

      Neolithic cultures, on the other hand, rather quickly disappeared when the I-E arrived. The spread of patriarchal, whether I-E or Semitic, peoples inevitably involved massive slaughter of the overrun peoples.

      The presence of a few very early I-E people in Spain and elsewhere without the concomitant disappearance of the Neolithics is simply due to the small numbers of I-E in the earliest migrations. But look what happens when the climate worsens in the steppes. The Old European cultures are gone.

    7. Look at the Y-chromosome bottleneck that began 10,000 years ago and study how and why this drastic reduction in the diversity of human males was occurring. Then study the violence and conflict that began to occur in Northern Europe, the massacres and mass graves that begin to appear during the Neolithic. Consider which haplotypes were being exterminated and which haplotypes were expanding their territory. The same extermination of the Native Americans by Europeans, the same extermination of farmer/shepherds by Nazi Germans, it began about 10,000 years ago, and it continues today with the displacement of aboriginal people by wealthy industrialist. It’s pretty simple to see and understand if you look at the physical evidence, the archaeology, the genetics, and historical evidence. This is what Kristianson and Reich were talking about.

  4. I think the finding of the yamnaya like burial in Spain could be connected to this paper that speaks about an early diffusion of single grave /war like culture and anthropomorphic stelae in the western mediterranean ( focusing especially in Spain, southern France and Northern Italy).

    https://www.academia.edu/35229773/JEUNESSE_C._2017_Emergence_of_the_Ideology_of_the_Warrior_in_the_Western_Mediterranean_during_the_second_Half_of_the_fourth_Millennium_BC_Eurasia_Antiqua._Zeitschrift_für_Archäologie_Eurasiens_14_2014_p._171-184

    1. I don’t know. I think this “steppe package” or warrior ideology expanding into western Europe is more or less known, and is older than Yamna vanguard groups. Corded Ware was part of this steppe package, like Chalcolithic groups from Iberia, Italy, or France, including the Proto-Beaker package.

      This specific burial with Yamna traits is another level of interesting. Probably not new, but new for me… Just like finding a burial with Yamna traits south of the Alps before the (East) Bell Beaker expansion, Yamna findings in Iberia would help complete the picture of early connections of Yamna settlers with succeeding East Bell Beaker expansions…

      1. I agree with you, that the Steepe package is much older than the Yamnaya. I think you are absolutely correct. It’s only after human populations grew large enough to leave substantial archaeological evidence that we begin to see what was occurring using physical (archaeological) evidence. But the genetic record can be used to show what was occurring prior to cultural development of significant archaeological sites, prior to large settlements that are relatively easy to locate and identify.

  5. The Kurgan Culture still lives on. Even today, it is easy to recognize the personality traits of people who have steppe ancestry versus the people whose ancestors were Anatolian farmers. If you pay close attention to the way that people act, to how they treat others, you will notice Yamnaya traits in self-serving, irrational, aggressive, elitists.

  6. Changing Y genes: Sadly for us mere males women mostly do not care who is the baby father [they know its theirs and only they might know who the real daddy was up to recent times]. You might wonder how women would support Muslim “male dominance” and harems. A harem with a wealthy owner can support them and they can bring up children with the support of the other wives. Many tribal groups encourage the young females to get pregnant as soon as possible to keep the group strong. Polygamy does have the unfortunate genetic defects from inbreeding consequences [they tend to be more deformed and “ugly”] KARMA?

  7. The notion of pottery types representing ethnicities, or “cultures”, as in “Bell Beaker”, “Funnel Beaker”, and so on, is being attacked by archaeologists.

    And so the adoption of a new set of technological aspects, such as the “Bell Beaker” complex, need not represent an ethnic change any more than people in India adopting televisions made them Yanks.

    The essential cultural components of the IE’s—individualism, class structure, etc.—did not change, did they?

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