GENERICO.ruScienceBetween East and West. The mystery of the origin of the peoples of southern Russia has been revealed

Between East and West. The mystery of the origin of the peoples of southern Russia has been revealed

MOSCOW, November 24, Vladislav Strekopytov. The results of paleogenetic studies showed that the Sarmatians moved to the Black Sea region from Central and East Asia. And the Meotians – the supposed ancestors of the North Caucasian peoples – turned out to be ethnic Europeans. Read about what scientists have found out about those who once lived in the south of modern Russia.

On the border of cultures

In ancient times, these lands were located at one of the world's busiest crossroads. Numerous evidence of human habitation has been preserved here, with the earliest dating back to the beginning of the Stone Age. About ten thousand years ago, nomadic Iranian-speaking tribes came here – the Scythians, and then the related Sarmatians, Sakas and Massagetae. These peoples did not have a written language, but they left a rich archaeological heritage – many objects of art with elements of a characteristic “animal” style, weapons, and riding equipment.

In the 6th century BC, the Greeks founded their colonies along the coast of the Black and Azov Seas. Here, in addition to nomads, they met indigenous people engaged in agriculture, cattle breeding and fishing. In the writings of Herodotus, Hecataeus of Miletus and Hellanicus of Mytilene there are references to such sedentary tribes as the Sindians, Dandarii, Toreates, Agri, Arrechi, Tarpeti, Obidiacene, Sittakeni, Doschi, Aspurgians. But more often, ancient historians use the collective name “Meotians” for all the inhabitants of the “Maeotian swamp,” as they called the Don delta.

From the ancient Greek chronicles it follows that the Meotians were skilled warriors, lived in a tribal system, obeyed the rulers of the ancient city of Tanais, the ruins of which were found 30 kilometers from modern Rostov-on-Don, and the Bosporan kingdom with its capital on the site of present-day Kerch. Today, the remains of their fortified settlements are found along the banks of rivers in the territory of the modern Krasnodar Territory, the republics of Adygea and Abkhazia, as well as in the Rostov region.

The layout of the settlements indicates that the Meotians were forced to defend themselves from warlike nomads. The fortifications were erected in hard-to-reach places, surrounded by steep earthen ramparts, wooden walls and ditches with water. Small oval adobe houses were built inside, covered with thatch, reeds, and later with imported Greek tiles.
The houses had small clay ovens where food was prepared and home altars. Not far from the dwellings, pits were dug, their walls were coated with clay – grain and other products were stored there. The Meotians raised cows, horses, pigs and poultry, sold grain to the Greeks, made clay and metal utensils, forged tools, weapons and armor from bronze and iron, and periodically entered into armed clashes with neighboring tribes, the Greeks and Romans.
< h3 id="1911400537-2">Meots – who are they?

Scientists have studied the life of the Meotians in some detail. It remained to find out the main thing: their origin, where they came from, who their ancestors were. Without an answer to these questions, it is impossible to unravel the complex tangle of historical events that led to the formation of a kaleidoscope of ethnic groups in the North Caucasus. Most ethnographers agree that the Meotians gave rise to the Abkhaz-Adyghe family of Caucasian peoples, which includes the Abkhazians, Abazins, Adygeis, Circassians, Kabardians, Shapsugs and some other smaller nationalities.

The Meotians did not have a written language, and it is very difficult to say what language they spoke. The only Meotian word recorded by sources is the name of the Meotian Tirgatao, the wife of the king of the Sinds, Hecataeus. Some philologists see Indo-Iranian roots in it, others – Scythian, and still others – ancient Babylonian. There are versions about the relationship of the North Caucasian languages ​​with Hattic – the oldest language of the northeastern part of Asia Minor – or with Hurrian and Akkadian, which were spoken in Northern Mesopotamia. But all these are just hypotheses.

Eastern Europeans

Recently, geneticists have been actively helping archaeologists. They use DNA extracted from bone and tissue fragments as research material. Modern genetic methods make it possible not only to restore the external features of ancient people, but also to determine the routes of migration of peoples.

Recently, scientists from the Southern Federal University (SFU), subordinate to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, conducted a paleogenetic study of samples from Sarmatian and Meotian burials of the 1st-3rd centuries AD, located in the Rostov region. In total, it was possible to extract ancient DNA from seven Sarmatian skeletons found in the Cherkasov burial mound, as well as from 27 Meotian skeletons from two Lower Don necropolises. Genetic analyzes were carried out in the laboratory “Identification of objects of biological origin” of the Academy of Biology and Biotechnology named after D.I. Ivanovsky Southern Federal University under the leadership of Igor Kornienko and Olga Aramova.

By studying the DNA of the Meotians and Sarmatians, scientists identified for each people a set of characteristic alleles – different forms of the same gene. We calculated the frequency of their occurrence in all studied samples and compared them with information in databases for representatives of various metapopulations – European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and so on. And then, using statistical methods, we assessed the probability of the Meotians and Sarmatians belonging to each of these ethnic groups.

It turned out that the belonging of the Meotians to the European metapopulation is 4.27 times higher than to the East Asian one. As for the Sarmatians, paleogenetic analysis data confirmed that they are an Asian people. Moreover, most likely, it came from East Asia. The researchers also managed to prove that the gene pool of the Meotians is older, and their relationship with the surrounding tribes is closer than that of the Sarmatians.

“As a result of the project, it was revealed that the Sarmatians are associated with Asian metapopulations, and the Meotians with European ones,” says Evgeniy Vdovchenkov, head of the Department of Archeology and History of the Ancient World at the Institute of History and International Relations of the Southern Federal University, head of the Russian Science Foundation grant allocated for this research, candidate of historical sciences. “This result was expected, since we have ideas about the migrations of the Sarmatians from the east, from the Urals and Central Asia, and the connection of the Meotians with the autochthonous population of the Ciscaucasia and Kuban region.”

The authors note that the article discusses only Don Meotians, but their connection with the Meotians of the Kuban and Eastern Azov region is generally recognized. It is noteworthy that scientists have expressed various hypotheses, including the most exotic. For example, some argued that the Meotians were an Indo-Aryan people who came to the shores of the Azov and Black Seas from Northern India. Thus, according to researchers, it is possible to put an end to the long-term debate about the origins of the indigenous peoples of the region.


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