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The Yamnaya Impact on Prehistoric Europe

Project description

A closer look at horse-riding cattle herders from Russia

What do we know about the massive changes that took place in Europe some 5 000 years ago? Its reverberations as regards genetic ancestry, social organisation and European languages remain visible. By focusing on the Yamnaya, horse-riding cattle herders from Russia, the EU-funded YMPACT project will study their distribution in the steppe landscapes of modern-day Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Serbia. The research team will also conduct field studies and sample collections. Specifically, the project will shed light on their interaction pattern, physical appearance and population dynamics as well as their mobility, diet, occupation and lifestyle. It will study the data from 320 excavated burial mounds and more than 1 000 burials to calibrate these changes.


Dramatic migrations in the third millennium BC re-shaped Europe, modifying its economy, society, ethnicity and ideological structure for ever. The best incentive proxy are populations that moved from the steppes of Russia, spreading as far west as Hungary, implanting a pastoral economy with widespread innovations. These dynamic people covered thousands of kilometres within a few centuries, and organised direct physical relations over the steppes for the first time. This synchronism is promoted by a society organised to fit to this lifestyle, with new herding techniques, likely use of wagons and domesticated horses, and a protein-rich diet, whose adaptive advantages are evident from the physical record in human skeletons and territorial extensions. This is the Yamnaya complex, whose impact remains visible today in the European gene pool and apparently the propagation of Indo-European languages. This international and interdisciplinary project examines the data from 320 excavated burial mounds and c.1350 burials to calibrate these changes, also against a control sample of supposedly local and neighbouring populations. The archaeological, biological and environmental information allows large, new datasets to be built, whose systematic interrogation and modelling should reveal the formative processes behind these changes. Assessing funeral archaeology, material culture, and exchange pattern defines their culture and impact. Scientific analyses of skeletons expose relations of origin, degrees of consanguinity, diet, and histories of individual mobility over single lifetimes with new precision and replicability. They should also act as proxy datasets for environmental changes using further analytical techniques in a context of landscape evolution. Diachronic patterns within these sets should link with aspects of the internal social dynamics, such as the creation of new status positions, visible later in the Pan-European Corded Ware and Bell Beaker groups.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 681 159,00
Yliopistonkatu 3
00014 Helsingin yliopisto

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Manner-Suomi Helsinki-Uusimaa Helsinki-Uusimaa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (5)