Hayagriva was a Sintashta!


The paper is not out, but since the data has been uploaded they posted the abstract for the world to see, Project: PRJEB44430:

Horse domestication fundamentally transformed long-range mobility and warfare. However, modern domesticates do not descend from the earliest domestic horse lineage associated with archaeological evidence of bridling, milking and corralling at Botai, Central Asia ~3,500 BCE (Before Common Era). Other long-standing candidate regions for horse domestication, such as Iberia and Anatolia, were also recently challenged. Therefore, the genetic, geographic and temporal origins of modern domestic horses remained unknown. Here, we pinpoint the Western Eurasian steppes, especially the lower Volga-Don region, as the homeland of modern domestic horses. Furthermore, we map the population changes accompanying domestication from 273 ancient horse genomes. This reveals that modern domestic horses ultimately replaced almost all other local populations as they rapidly expanded across Eurasia from ~2,000 BCE, synchronously with equestrian material culture, including Sintashta spoke-wheeled chariots. We find that equestrianism involved strong selection for critical locomotor and behavioral adaptations at the GSDMC and ZFPM1 genes. Our results reject the commonly held association between horseback riding and the massive expansion of Yamnaya steppe pastoralists into Europe ~3,000 BCE driving the spread of Indo-European languages. This contrasts with the situation in Asia where Indo-Iranian languages, chariots and horses spread together, following the early second millennium BCE Sintashta culture.

If you ever inspect the domestic horse lineages you will note that they’re a monophyletic clade. They are recently descended from a common ancestor. Additionally, there is a massive skew in stallion lineages toward a few breeders. Ancient DNA has now solved the question of which prehistoric horse population the modern domestic breeds descend from: the horses from the eastern edge of the post-Yamnaya cultural zone.

19 thoughts on “Hayagriva was a Sintashta!”

  1. @Razib

    Hayagriva is a horse-headed god alright, but he is worshipped by students in India today – Hayagriva is the Munificient Lord of Knowledge and Exam Takers. His temples and worship are confined almost exclusively to the South Indian states.

    1. Hayagriva is relatively new diety compared to Indra and even Vishnu. He is venerated in Tibetan Buddhism and his statues can be found in almost all monasteries in Tibet.

  2. Let us hope the paper comes out soon. Looks like a big paper.

    However, a few things off the top of my head worth mentioning:-

    As per the paper, Yamnaya folks did not spread horses into Europe. Obviously they did not spread chariots too. But they are thought of as the ones who spread IE languages in Europe.

    So, it is becoming clear that horses and chariots only spread out after 2000 BC and that too apparently, as per their logic, only with the Indo-Iranians.

    Unfortunately, the European IE seem to share the words for chariot and horses with the Indo-Iranians. How is that possible if the European IE had already separated from the Indo-Iranians by 3000 BC and spread into Europe a few centuries later without any horses or chariots ?

    Chariots begin appearing in the European archaeological record only after 1500 BC.

    How is this adding up ?

  3. See also this new paper on Nature:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03798-4

    From the abstract:

    “Here we draw on proteomic analysis of dental calculus from individuals from the western Eurasian steppe to demonstrate a major transition in dairying at the start of the Bronze Age. The rapid onset of ubiquitous dairying at a point in time when steppe populations are known to have begun dispersing offers critical insight into a key catalyst of steppe mobility. The identification of horse milk proteins also indicates horse domestication by the Early Bronze Age, which provides support for its role in steppe dispersals. Our results point to a potential epicentre for horse domestication in the Pontic–Caspian steppe by the third millennium BC, and offer strong support for the notion that the novel exploitation of secondary animal products was a key driver of the expansions of Eurasian steppe pastoralists by the Early Bronze Age.”

  4. Unfortunately, the European IE seem to share the words for chariot and horses with the Indo-Iranians. How is that possible if the European IE had already separated from the Indo-Iranians by 3000 BC and spread into Europe a few centuries later without any horses or chariots ?

    i think it’s pretty clear indo-iranians were the mediators of these technologies. i do think it is plausible that european indo-europeans had horses, but the chariot is CLEARLY an indo-iranian innovation and spread by them from egypt to china. but, they didn’t have a cultural genetic impact everywhere.

    the shang dynasty chariots show up 1300 BC. they’re clearly replica-copies/modifications of iranian chariots.

    so the words must have been borrowed. is this an exotic theory? the mitanni were hurrian speakers

    1. Mittani didn’t speak Hurrian. They spoke an Indo-European language that may have been an Indo-Aryan language – all the way in Central Anatolia! They wrote about a paragraph of words, and they worshiped 3 or more Vedic gods, like Indra, Varuna, and Mitra. The paragraph that they wrote pertained to animal husbandry of horses.

      Anyways, this paper has left me with more questions than answers.

      1. I thought that IE spread to Europe about 5,500 years ago, and not 4,000 years ago.
      2. I thought that the horse was extremely important in the Yamnaya and their descendents to dominate and replace over the different groups in Europe. It allowed them to be 5x more productive at rounding up animals.

      1. this comment is so stupid i am thinking you actually are stupid, but are interested in this stuff. sorry if this comes off as harsh, but i think this is the most likely probability

        1 – central anatolia was inhabited by the nesa (hittites). they spoke a very different indo-european language from indo-iranian (might be outgroup to other IE languages)

        2 – the mitanni empire spoke/used hurrian as their lingua franca. indo-aryan was preserved specifically in manuals relating to charioteering

        again, i will ban you if i get more low IQ comments

        1. Wouldn’t it be more correct to say, Mittani elite used to speak Indo-European language – than just restricted to horse stuff, while common people use their native language of Hurrian?

  5. So just for clarification, horses were for dairying then carts and riding with the Yamnaya, and then became chariot animals under the Indo-Iranians?

  6. dairy culture was widespread even before yamnaya
    the cart was something that emerged simultaneously (lots of arguments where) 3500 bc
    the light war chariot seems to be a clear sintashta invention

    1. What do you mean when you say: “but the chariot is CLEARLY an indo-iranian innovation and spread by them from egypt to china.”?

      The Indo-Iranians didn’t spread this from Egypt to China. The II never went to Egypt in 1000 BC. Maybe the Persians may have went to Egypt – I don’t know.

      1. if you reply at me like a retard again i will ban you (i apologize if you are just low IQ and sincere).

        it is quite likely that the indo-europeans as service professionals spread the chariot as far as egypt (hyksos, who were semites, but likely had some other groups).

        also, there were clearly in china. this is clear in the ancient DNA, but also in the nature of some archaeological remains in the ordos. are you low IQ or stupid?

  7. dairy culture was widespread even before yamnaya

    With horses? If so that’s really cool. Are you talking about Botai, or was horse milk far more prevelant?

  8. So its looking like Yamanya used dairy and the horse driven carriage (to transport goods) to expand into Europe.

    The brown man’s ancestors used dairy, the horse driven carriage and the horse drawn chariot to expand into Eurasian land mass.

    Am I correct?

  9. So its looking like Yamanya used dairy and the horse driven carriage (to transport goods) to expand into Europe.

    probably oxen.

    it’s up in the air whether the yamnaya had horses. i think they did.

  10. Europe already had horses and cattle before steppe incursion. Yamnaya did not introduce domesticates, but may have relied more on dairying than the existing farming population of Europe did. Steppe horses became more prevalent during the bell beaker phase

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