Neolithic-Eneolithic paleoanthropological sources from the Middle Irtysh area

Solodovnikov K.N., Bagashev A.N. (Tyumen, Russian Federation), Tur S.S. (Barnaul, Russian Federation),

Gromov A.V. (Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation), Nechvaloda A.I. (Ufa, Russian Federation), Kravchenko G.G. (Tomsk, Russian Federation)


               page 116136


The present article studies the craniofacial morphology of human skulls uncovered from Neolithic-Eneolithic burials (54 millennia BC) in the Middle Irtysh basin. The obtained skulls belong to four archaeological sites: Omsk site and Ust-Kurenga in the forest/forest-steppe zone of Russia, as well as Shiderty-3 and Zhelezinka in the steppe zone of North-East Kazakhstan. In order to study these materials, we performed craniometric analysis and an intergroup comparison drawing on the calculation of the Mahalanobis-Raos generalised distances (D2) along with using the craniological materials of the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Eneolithic periods from Central Eurasia. In addition, the intravital appearance of an individual from Zhelezinka was restored on the basis of the skull employing the method of M. Gerasimov. In general, the anthropological type of the Neolithic-Eneolithic population from the Middle Irtysh area exhibits intermediate Caucasoid-Mongoloid craniological characteristics. Of the synchronous groups, male individuals from the Middle Irtysh area share the greatest similarity with the population of the Altai foothill-plain zone. An earlier study revealed that, in terms of morphological characteristics, the only female skull from the Omsk site is most similar to Mesolithic-Neolithic craniological materials uncovered from the Shigir Peat Site (Urals). The Neolithic-Eneolithic population from the Middle Irtysh area is characterised by heterogeneous anthropological composition, which is predetermined by its belonging to different landscape zones. The structure of skulls obtained from the forest/forest-steppe zone of the Middle Irtysh area generally corresponds to that of populations associated with the Northern Eurasian Anthropological Formation, with the possibility of exhibiting considerable individual variability. The greatest morphological analogies can be drawn with the Neolithic-Eneolithic human skulls from the Baraba forest-steppe, as well as other forest-steppe regions of Western Siberia. In terms of craniofacial characteristics, paleoanthropological finds from the steppe strip of the Middle Irtysh area belong to the Southern Eurasian Anthropological Formation of the ancient Central Eurasian population. This allows us to demarcate anthropological communities (not differentiated from the perspective of traditional racial systematics), which share intermediate Caucasoid-Mongoloid features in the structure of the facial skull, with differences being detected mainly in the size and proportions of the cavitas cranium. In the forest-steppe of the Ob-Irtysh interfluve, the interaction between populations exhibiting craniological characteristics of Northern Eurasian and Southern Eurasian anthropological formations is noted. The anthropological type of Neolithic-Eneolithic population from the Middle Irtysh area did not affect the morphological appearance of the population belonging to the subsequent period time of the Yamnaya and Afanasyevo cultures. The burials of this period in East and Central Kazakhstan were probably left during the migration of population groups from the steppe and forest-steppe regions of Eastern Europe to South Siberia and Central Asia. People buried there are distinguished by strongly developed Caucasoid craniological features and belong to the proto-Caucasoid anthropological type, which is typical for the populations of the Yamnaya and Afanasyevo cultures of Eastern Europe and Southern Siberia. Aside from the studied skulls from Shiderty-3 and Zhelezinka, no craniological materials from the periods preceding that of the Yamnaya and Afanasyevo cultures have been uncovered in the steppe zone of Kazakhstan. New paleoanthropological material is required for solving the issues pertaining to racial-genetic relationships between the populations of these regions in the Pre-Bronze Age. The study also revealed a discrepancy between the cultural and anthropological differentiation of the ancient Neolithic-Eneolithic population from the Middle Irtysh region, which archaeologically belongs to one cultural community from the Middle Irtysh area (Ekaterinovka), whereas anthropologically it is associated with to two large racial-genetic communities from the central regions of North Eurasia.

Key words: Neolithic, Eneolithic, Middle Irtysh, paleoanthropology, craniometry.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2019-46-3-116-136


Acknowledgements. We would like to express our thankfulness to Dr. V.K. Mertz, Head of the Centre for Archaeological research in Pavlodar State University, for his assistance in creating this publication.


Funding. This work was supported by a grant from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research No. 18-09-00779. The article has been written within the State Projects No. -17-117050400143-4, No. AAAA-A17-117041210295-7.


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Submitted: 10.05.2019

Accepted: 10.06.2019

Article is published: 26.09.2019


Solodovnikov K.N.

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625003, Russian Federation



Bagashev A.N.

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625003, Russian Federation



Tur S.S.

Altai State University, prosp. Lenina, 61, Barnaul, 656049, Russian Federation



Gromov A.V.

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (The Kunstkamera) RAS, University embankment, 3, Saint-Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation



Nechvaloda A.I.

Federal Ufa Research Centre RAS, prosp. Oktyabrya, 71, Ufa, 450054, Russian Federation



Kravchenko G.G.

National Research omsk State University, Lenin Ave., 36, Tomsk, 634050, Russian Federation