Nonmetric cranial trait variation and the origins of the Scythians

Research paper by Alla A. Movsesian, Varvara Yu. Bakholdina

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 24 Jan '17Published in: American Journal of Physical Anthropology


Within the fields of archaeology and anthropology, there is a long history of disputes concerning the origin of the northern Black Sea Scythians. One of the main points of contention is whether the Scythian gene pool was derived from the preceding local Bronze Age population or whether their population history can be connected to invaders from Central Asia. To test these hypotheses, we investigated Late Scythian populations from the northern Black Sea region and compared them to Bronze Age groups from Eastern Europe and Central Asia.We studied a cranial series of five Late Scythian populations from the northern Black Sea region (N = 323), as well as local Bronze Age groups (N = 109), Central Asian Bronze Age groups (N = 79), and Sarmatians (N = 110). Biological diversity was analyzed by the mean measure of divergence (MMD).The Late Scythian population considered in this study proved to be genetically homogeneous, although some connections with the Sarmatians were found. We also revealed similarities between the Scythian groups and the local Bronze Age population of the Srubnaya culture, as well as, to a lesser extent, a group representative of the Central Asian Bronze Age Okunevo culture.The similarities between Late Scythians and various Sarmatian groups could be the result of genetic contacts between the groups, as well as shared genetic origins. The gene pool of the Scythian population likely comprises both local and Central Asian genetic components, though the exact origins and proportion of the eastern component currently remains unknown.

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