Poltavka culture
Geographical rangeRussia, Kazakhstan
PeriodBronze Age
Datesc. 2800 BCE – 2100 BCE
Preceded byYamnaya culture
Followed byPotapovka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture.

Poltavka culture (Russian: Полтавкинская культура, romanizedPoltavkinskaya kul'tura) was an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe in 2800—2100 BCE.[1]

The Poltavka culture emerged as an eastern outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, neighboring the Catacomb culture, another Yamnaya successor, in the west. It has been considered ancestral to later cultures that are identified as Indo-Iranian.[2] The Poltavka culture influenced the later emergence of the Potapovka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture and Srubnaya culture.


The Poltavka culture emerged ca. 2800 BC,[1] as an eastern successor of the Yamnaya culture.[3][4][5] The western successor of the Yamnaya culture was the Catacomb culture.[6]

Along with the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture, the Poltavka culture is among the cultures of the Pontic steppe sharing archaeological characteristics with the Afanasievo culture of the eastern steppe.[7]


The Poltavka culture flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe.[8] It is contemporary with the Catacomb culture, which was located on the Pontic steppe to its southwest.[8][9][10] It seems to have co-existed at times with the Abashevo culture.[11]

The Poltavka culture appears to have expanded eastwards throughout its existence. It is probable that Poltavka herders explored areas of the Kazakh Steppe. The arrival of Poltavka people onto the Kazakh Steppe is associated with various technological innovations in the area. Poltavka pottery has been discovered in northern Kazakhstan.[5]


The Poltavka culture lasted until 2200-2100 BC.[12] It seems to be an early manifestation of the Srubnaya culture. It marks the transition of the Yamnaya culture to the Srubnaya culture.[8][13][14][15] Genetic studies suggest that the end of the Poltavka culture is associated with major population changes.[16]

The Abashevo culture appears to have emerged partially through influence from the Poltavka culture. Along with the Abashevo culture,[17] it also appears to have influenced the emergence of the Potapovka culture.[8][18]

The above mentioned eastward expansion of the Poltavka culture is associated with the emergence of the Sintashta culture and the later Andronovo culture,[4][19] the Abashevo culture, the Multi-cordoned ware culture[20][21] and the Catacomb culture.[22][23][24][25]

Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.[a]


Poltavka settlements are very rare. They are confined to sand dunes in the lower Volga area.[8]

The flat-bottomed ceramics of the Poltavka culture differ from the pointed or round-based ceramics of the Yamnaya culture.[8] The decorative motifs of the ceramics of the later Sintashta culture and Andronovo culture are very similar to those of the Poltavka culture.[5]

The economy of the Poltavka culture was mobile pastoral, a continuation of the economy of the Yamnaya culture.[12]

Horses were domesticated on the Pontic-Caspian steppe.[27]

The Poltavka people carried out horse burials, a custom that had inherited from the Yamnaya culture, the Khvalynsk culture and Samara culture respectively.[28]

The Poltavka culture shares many characteristics with the contemporaneous Sintashta culture. This includes similar pottery, metal types, weapons, horse sacrifices, chariot-driving gear and similar graves. It is common for new Poltavka settlements to be constructed on top of older ones, and the later Sintashta culture would in turn construct settlements on top of earlier Poltavka ones.[5]


The Poltavka culture is distinguished from the Yamnaya culture by its marked increase in metallurgy. Metals were probably acquired from centers in the southern Urals.[8]

The presence of gold and silver rings and bronze axes similar to those of the Maykop culture, testify to North Caucasian influences on the Poltavka culture.[8]

Certain metal objects of the Poltavka culture and the Catacomb culture appear to have been copied by the Abashevo culture.[29]


The Poltavka culture is primarily known from its burials. These were situated in cemeteries along river terraces.[8]

Poltavka graves differ slightly from those of the Yamnaya culture.[12] Burial pits sometimes had a timber cover. They were generally inserted into kurgans of the Yamnaya culture.[8][5] Poltavka kurgans were typically surrounded by a circular ditch, with a single grave with ledges.[5]

80 percent of Poltavka graves contain males.[4] Almost a third of Poltavka skulls show signs of wounds, often mortal.[30] Both male and female dead were buried on their left side or back on an organic mat, with the head oriented towards the east. On occasion the body was covered with ocher, however, less common than in the earlier Yamnaya culture.

Poltavka burials are characterized by an increased presence of ornaments and weapons. This is interpreted as evidence of increased social stratification. Other grave goods include pottery and stone scepters.[8] A Poltavka burial in the Volga region is notable for containing a large copper club.[31]

The funeral customs of the Poltavka culture influenced the customs of the Abashevo culture further north.[29]


Mathieson et al. (2015) analyzed six skeletons of the Poltavka culture. Five of them showed Y-haplogroup R1b1a2 and its subclades. One outlier belonged to Y-hg R1a1a1b2a.[16] which notably was not included in the standard rich R1b burials.[12] All were probably closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture and the Afanasievo culture.[16][12]

Narasimshan et al. (2019) obtained seven times y-hg R1b 101 a2a (Z2103) and one R1a 1a1 (Z93-Z94), all from Samara. The authors noted a significant infusion of Central European ancestry into the steppe during the transition from the Poltavka culture to the Potapovka culture.[26]

Other genomic studies suggest that the Poltavka culture was closely genetically related to both the peoples of the eastern Yamnaya culture and the later Sarmatians.[32][33]

Physical type

The physical type of the Poltavka resemble that of the preceding Yamnaya, who were tall and massively built Europoids. A similar type prevails among the succeeding Catacomb culture and Potapovka culture. Skulls of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture are more dolichocephalic than those of the Poltavka, Yamnaya and Potapovka cultures. The physical type of the Srubnaya culture appears to have emerged as a result of mixing between Sintashta and Poltavka people.[b][c]


The Poltavka culture has been considered ancestral to what would later develop into Indo-Iranian cultures.[8][4]

See also


  1. ^ "Morphological data suggests that both Fedorovka and Alakul’ skeletons may be related to Sintashta groups, which in turn may reflect admixture of Neolithic forest HGs and steppe pastoralists, descendants of the Catacomb and Poltavka cultures."[26]
  2. ^ Skulls from Potapovka burials belong to the massive proto-Europoid type and are similar to the earlier Catacomb and genetically follow the Timber-grave and west Andronovo, but differ from Abashevo.[34]
  3. ^ "[M]assive broad-faced proto-Europoid type is a trait of post-Mariupol’ cultures, Sredniy Stog, as well as the Pit-grave culture of the Dnieper’s left bank, the Donets, and Don... During the period of the Timber-grave culture the population of the Ukraine was represented by the medium type between the dolichocephalous narrow-faced population of the Multi-roller Ware culture (Babino) and the more massive broad-faced population of the Timber-grave culture of the Volga region... The anthropological data confirm the existence of an impetus from the Volga region to the Ukraine in the formation of the Timber-grave culture. During the Belozerka stage the dolichocranial narrow-faced type became the prevalent one. A close affinity among the skulls of the Timber-grave, Belozerka, and Scythian cultures of the Pontic steppes, on the one hand, and of the same cultures of the forest-steppe region, on the other, has been shown... This proves the genetical continuity between the Iranian-speeking Scythian population and the previous Timber-grave culture population in the Ukraine... The heir of the Neolithic Dnieper-Donets and Sredniy Stog cultures was the Pit-grave culture. Its population possessed distinct Europoid features, was tall, with massive skulls... The tribes of the Abashevo culture appear in the forest-steppe zone, almost simultaneously with the Poltavka culture. The Abashevans are marked by dolichocephaly and narrow faces. This population had its roots in the Balanovo and Fatyanovo cultures on the Middle Volga, and in Central Europe... [T]he early Timber-grave culture (the Potapovka) population was the result of the mixing of different components. One type was massive, and its predecessor was the Pit-grave-Poltavka type. The second type was a dolichocephalous Europoid type genetically related to the Sintashta population... One more participant of the ethno-cultural processes in the steppes was that of the tribes of the Pokrovskiy type. They were dolichocephalous narrow-faced Europoids akin to the Abashevans and different from the Potapovkans... The majority of Timber-grave culture skulls are dolichocranic with middle-broad faces. They evidence the significant role of Pit-grave and Poltavka components in the Timber-grave culture population... One may assume a genetic connection between the populations of the Timber-grave culture of the Urals region and the Alakul’ culture of the Urals and West Kazakhstan belonging to a dolichocephalous narrow-face type with the population of the Sintashta culture... [T]he western part of the Andronovo culture population belongs to the dolichocranic type akin to that of the Timber-grave culture.[35]


  1. ^ a b Kuznetsov & Molchalov 2016, p. 74.
  2. ^ Nichols, Johanna (January 14, 2021). "The Origin and Dispersal of Uralic: Distributional Typological View". Annual Review of Linguistics. 7 (1): 351–369. doi:10.1146/annurev-linguistics-011619-030405. ISSN 2333-9683. ...the ancestor of Proto-Indo-Iranian had almost certainly been the language of the nomadic pastoral Poltavka culture of the Caspian steppe
  3. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 92.
  4. ^ a b c d Anthony 2007, p. 306.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Anthony 2007, pp. 386–390.
  6. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, pp. 651–653.
  7. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, pp. 4–5.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mallory & Adams 1997, pp. 439–440.
  9. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 305.
  10. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 350.
  11. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 222.
  12. ^ a b c d e Mathieson, Iain; Reich, David (March 14, 2015). "Eight thousand years of natural selection in Europe". bioRxiv: 016477. doi:10.1101/016477.
  13. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, pp. 541–542.
  14. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 169.
  15. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 234.
  16. ^ a b c Mathieson, Iain (December 24, 2015). "Genome-wide patterns of selection in 230 ancient Eurasians". Nature. 528 (7583): 499–503. Bibcode:2015Natur.528..499M. doi:10.1038/nature16152. PMC 4918750. PMID 26595274.
  17. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, pp. 446–447.
  18. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 354.
  19. ^ Anthony 2007, p. 374.
  20. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 6.
  21. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 69.
  22. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 206.
  23. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 323.
  24. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 332.
  25. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 387.
  26. ^ a b Narasimhan 2019.
  27. ^ Librado, Pablo (2021). "The origins and spread of domestic horses from the Western Eurasian steppes". Nature. 598 (7882): 634–640. Bibcode:2021Natur.598..634L. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04018-9. PMC 8550961. PMID 34671162.
  28. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 330.
  29. ^ a b Anthony 2007, p. 383.
  30. ^ Kuzmina 2007, p. 384.
  31. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 112.
  32. ^ Krzewińska, Maja (October 3, 2018). "Ancient genomes suggest the eastern Pontic-Caspian steppe as the source of western Iron Age nomads". Nature Communications. 4 (10): eaat4457. Bibcode:2018SciA....4.4457K. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aat4457. PMC 6223350. PMID 30417088. [P]opulation interactions and the origin of Scythians of the Pontic-Caspian steppe remain poorly understood. Similarly, little is known about the origins and genetic affinities of the Sarmatians. Genomic studies suggest that the latter group may have been genetically similar to the eastern Yamnaya and Poltavka Bronze Age groups.
  33. ^ Unterländer, Martina (March 3, 2017). "Ancestry and demography and descendants of Iron Age nomads of the Eurasian Steppe". Nature Communications. 8: 14615. Bibcode:2017NatCo...814615U. doi:10.1038/ncomms14615. PMC 5337992. PMID 28256537. The two Early Sarmatian samples from the West... fall close to an Iron Age sample from the Samara district... and are generally close to the Early Bronze Age Yamnaya samples from Samara... and Kalmykia... and the Middle Bronze Age Poltavka samples from Samara...
  34. ^ Kuzmina 2007, pp. 169–170.
  35. ^ Kuzmina 2007, pp. 383–385.