The Influence of The Steppe People Based On The Physical Anthropological Data

(excerpts - pp. 346 - 351 and 354 - 359)


Ilse Schwidetzky

Commencing on p. 346:

(...) archeological ones. There are many cultural groups which are not represented by any human remains, and other populations which are known only by some individuals or fragments of individuals.

Let us try, however, to examine the physical anthropological relations between the South Russian Kurgan people and the populations of the kurganized cultures. The main approach to the problem had been the question whether the kurganized peoples differed from the earlier ones of the same region and whether the differences may be explained by the admixture of newcomers from the Kurgan people.

Fortunately we know the physique of Kurgan people quite well (Konduktorova 1973; Kruts 1969, Zinevich 1967 et al.): their skulls are long and broad, the face broad, the stature rather high; the robusticity of the bones is the main character. This Kurgan type called by mansy physical anthropologists Proto-European (= Cromagnoid); it is found in many other European populations too, but not so frequently in the South and West as in the East.

As the population type is the same in the different phases of the Kurgan culture (in Russian physical anthropological papers most of the findings are classified as belonging to the Drevne-Jamnaja or Catacomb-phase) for some comparisons a collective sample has been calculated. It is also well known that there are physical anthropological relations of the Kurgan people to earlier and later Eastern European populations; and that Eastern Europe differs from the West and South of the continent in all periods from the Mesotithic up to the present by the big breadth measurements of the skulls and the robusticity of the bones, but that the differences decrease gradually (Schwidetzky 1967, Rösing and Schwidetzky 1976). This is the general physical anthropological background for the special problems of the genetic kurganization of European populations.

Accordlng to Gimbutas the first wave kurganized a series of cultural groups in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, but reached also Central Europe where Kurgan elements may be distinguished. e.g. in the Baalberg group. Among all these civilisations only two are also represented by skeletal materiais: Tiszapolgár and Baalberg. Unfortunately Tiszapolgár materials are not yet published and for Baalberg only a few individuals are known.

The most important cemetery of the Tiszapolgár civilization with skeletal remains is Polgár-Basatanya Only the paleodemographic analysis is published (Nemeskéri 1956, Acsadi and Nemeskéri 1970 PP. 19 f.). During the Dubrovnik Symposium, however, Nemeskéri gave a typological analysis: there are Mediterraneans and Protoeuropoids. the Meditcrraneans may represent the Old European stratum, the Protoeropoids newcomers from the East. But unfortunately the typological analysis cannot be compared with a metrical one; as there a variability between a more gracile (mediterranean) and a more robust (protoeuropoid) type in most European populations, only a precise quantitative comparison with the earlier populations could check the hypothesis that the Protoeuropids of the Tiszapolgár people represent immigrants from thc Kurgan culture. Baalberg is the most Western point of the kurganization. Only 7 male skulls, for most or the measurements even less, could be found in the literature; 2 from Central Germany, 5 from Bohemia (Chochol 1969, Heberer 1938). They had been compared, however with the earlier population and with the kurgan type. As "earlier population" a cOllective sample for Central Germany + Bohemia haS been calculated (Danubians + Rössenians; according to the compilation Of the data by Jelinek 1973, Knussmann 1978, Schwidetzky 1973).

The Baalberg males are mucH more similar to the earlier population of the same region than to the Kurgan type (Table 1), they are even a little more gracilized as the Danubians + Rössenians. most of the absolute measurements are below the averages of the collective sample (this may be explained by the general diachrone trend to gracilisation or by the small numbers). Thus the existent material does not hint at newcomers from the East who brought the Kurgan elements into the Baalberg civilization.

For the second period Gimbutas (1980) mentions among the more or less kurganized civilizations three who are also represented by skeletal materials: The Kurgan civilization of Romania which is related however to the third period too, the Baden culture and the Globular Amphora.

The Ronianian findings are rather numerous (max. 19 males) and well published by Necrasov and Cristescu (summarized in Necrasov and Cristescu 1975). The authors have shown that they are very similar to the Kurgan people of the neigboring Ukraine from the typological as from the metrical point of view.

For the Baden civlization only the remains from Alsónemedi (Hungary) which comprise measurements of max. 11 males, are available. The findings are classified by Nemeskéri as predominantly Mediterranean. But a certain facial flatness of some individuals seem to reflect also "eastern relations" (Nemeskéri: 1951, 70); also Toth (1958, 20) who measured the horizontal facial profile of 20 skulls from Baden sites (Alsónemedi, Budapest, Szente-Nagyhegy, Pabtabozsck) supposes a certain eastern influx. Nemeskéri 1956 gives preliminary remarks on human ins from Bucakalász which do not seem to be so predominantly Mediterranian as A!sónemedi as there are some robust individuals.

The Romanian findings (collective sample) and Alsónemedi have been compared statistically with the Kurgan population and the Mediterranean substratum of the Danubian region.

The latter is represented by a collective sample composed by the findings cf Cernavoda-Columbia D = Hamangia culture, Cernica and Ruse = Boian Karanovo culture; and Starčevo-Vinča culture (Boev 1972; Necrasov and Cristecu (1973). The distances between these samples are very small (Schwidetzky 1967). So they may be taken as the representatives of a common substratum.

There is certain gradation from the Mediterranean substratum through Alsonémedi and the Romanian Kurgan people to the Kurgan people of the Ukraine (Table 2). This is seen best by the bizygomatic breadth — the most imporant character of gracility/robusticity. For the other breadth measurements (maximal skull breadth, orbital breadth) the regularity is not so clear but a trend to gradation exists. There is also a certain gradation of the multivariate distance measurements. Together with the observations on the skeletons of Budakalász and the measurements of the horizontal profile this may be explained by a physical anthropological influence of the Steppe people decreasing from east to west, but existing in a certain degree still in the Baden people of Hungary.

The Globular Amphora culture has a quite different, more northern distribution. As there are relations to the Corded pottery and Battle-axe culture it may be discussed later on.

The last "wave of the Steppe people into East Central Europe" influenced "the Corded pottery complex and its offshoots in the East Baltic, central Russia (Fatjanovo), in North-

Table 1

western Europe and southern Scandinavia (Gimbutas 1980). The Corded pottery people of Central Germany are best known from the physical anthropological point of view, but there are also materials from other regional groups (last summary: Schwidetzky 1978), with the except:on of Southern Scandinavia (1 male only), the German Corded Pottery people are very similar to the findings (from Czechoslovakia and a little less to those from Poland: in any case this Central European group of Corded Pottery people may be distinguished from the East Baltic group, where a Comb Ware substratum could explain the differences. The physical anthropological position of Fatjanovo points perhaps at relations to the Polish group (Schwidetzky 1978, 86).

For the problem of the relations between the Kurgan people and the Corded Pottery, it is important that within the Corded Pottery culture of Central Europe earlier and late findings can be distinguished, though there is no full agreement among archeologists as to the number and definition of the chronological groups. Fortunately we can distinguish among the most numerous Central German skeletal material the earlier and late findings. The dating has been done on the base of the cultural remains by Ulrich Fischer, Frankfurt, one of the German specialists for the Corded Pottery culture (personal communication; Schwidetzky 1972, 1978) The earlier Corded Pottery people should have closer physical-anthropological relations to the Kurgan people if their culture or certain cultural elements had been brought by invaders from the East.

Your statistical tests have been applied to check these relations:

1. Fig. 1, 2 compare the total male sample and the males of the earlier phase from the Corded Pottery people of Cenrtal Germany with the sample from the Kurgan culture. Its mean measurements represent the base of the diagranm; the mean standardized deviations of the Corded Pottery samples from the Kurgan sample have been calculated and marked by points (total sample) or crosses (earlier phase of the Corded Pottery sample) in the diagram, then joined together by the zigzag-lines. Immediately it is to be seen that the human findings from the earlier Corded Pottery sample (dotted line) deviates more from the Kurgan people than the total sample (drawn line).

The Corded Pottery people is characterized among other (...)

Fig. 1

Continuing on p. 354:

(...) the relation of Corded Pottery individuals to the Kurgan samples. It has been asked for the probability with which each male could have belonged to the Kurgan group. Dr. Chopra — Hamburg, developed a statistical test to answer this question (Chopra and Schwidetzky: i.p.). It is based on the x2-method and considered 9 measurements in a multivariate figure. Also the Polish Corded Pottery skulls have been included.

In general the probabilities are low. However, there are 4 among 17 individuals — 2 from Central Germany, 2 from Poland — for whom the probability goes beyond the 50% limit. But the two Central German individuals with high probabilities do not belong to the earlier layer.

The main result of these tests is that the earlier Corded Pottery people from Central Germany differs more from the Kurgan type than the later one. This does not support the hypothesis of a certain genetical kurganization. However, there are

Fig. 3

some individuals among the Steppe population who fit quite well into the Corded Pottery people, but individuals who do not correspond to the average Kurgan type.

The direct comparison of the Corded Pottery people with the Kurgan type is of course a simplified procedure provoked by the existing physical anthropological materials. According to Gimbutas, the Globular Amphora culture plays an important role in the transfer of Kurgan elernents to the Corded Pottery. Let us therefore consider finally the physical anthropological remains of the Globular Amphora people.

Unfortunately again the remains are very poor. Schwidetzky (1979) compiled max. 17 males from a very vast region: Central Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland; for some measarements the number of individuals still decreases. Multivariate comparisons have been made with other Central European, North ard East European samples. The total Globular Amphora sample is nearest to two Trichterbecher-samples, one of approximately the sane Central European region, one from Southern Sweden. There is also a "significant similarity” with Walternienburg and Fatjanovo, but also the differences from the Corded Pottery people are not important.

But "in comparison with Corded people the Globular Amphora findings show a less accentuated height and broader skulls and faces which narrow them to eastern populations" (Schwidetsky 1979): that is especially true for the 3 males from Poland which reach an average skull breadth not less than 142.0 and which have also broader faces than he total sample (Wierciński 1973, tab. 77). The line of high breadth measurements can be continued by the "megalithic graves" from Volhynia (Debets 1948: 98); they are archeologically very close to the Moldavian Globular Amphora findings (Necrasov and Cristescu 1973: 143) which are very broadheaded too. Unfortunately again the number of individuals is very small and no face measurements are known. But it seems, that there is a certain gradation from East to West within the Globular Amphora population, that means decreasing breadth measurements from East to West. The Eastern groups are, however — in this single measurement only — very similar to the Kurgan type, whereas the Western fit excellently to the other Central German populations such as Trichterbecher, Walternienburg and — in a certain distance — Corded Pottery people (Table 4).

Table 4

We have thus in the north of Central Europe the same hints at a certain population biological process as in the South (Romania, Hungary): That there is an influence of the Steppe people, parallel to the cultural kurganization, which decreases quickly from East to West; it does not reach the most Western areas of the diffusion of cultural Kurgan elements.

From the population biological point of view this seems to be quite reasonable. There are cases in population history, which demonstrate the same phenomenon; e.g. in India the invading lndo-Europeans spread their language over the whole subcontinent, but the physical anthropological traces of their migrations decrease quickly from north to south (Eickstedt 1936).

More physical anthropological materials are urgently needed for the study of these problems.


Es wird gefragt, ob der "Kurganisierung" zentraleuropäischer Kulturen vom 5. — 3. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (Gimbutas) auch eine "genetische Kurganisierung" der Bevölkerungen entspricht. Das überwiegend sehr dürftige anthropologische Material vermag jedoch nur einige Hinweise zu geben. Es scheint danach möglich, daß an der Kulturdiffusion Menschenwanderungen beteiligt waren, daß aber der anthropologische Einfluß der Steppenbevölkerung nach Westen rasch nimmt und bei den mitteldeutschen Vertretern kurganisierter Kulturen (Baalberge, Schnurkeramik, mitteldeutsche Kugelamphorenleute) überhaupt nicht mehr nachzuweisen ist.


Dr. Ulrich Fischer, Frankfurt/M., dated the Corded Pottery findings of Central Europe distinguishing an earlier and a more recent group. — Prof. Dr. Chopra, Hamburg, developed on my request the statistical test of probability with which individuals range within another population; this seems to me to be important to check problems of origin from the physical anthropological point of view. Dipl.-Biol. U. Nedder, Mainz, calculated sets of individual Penrose distances, using the materials of the data bank, in the Mainz University Rechenzentrum and identified the individuals in the dendrogram.