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Thread: The Seima-Turbino Phenomenon

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    The Seima-Turbino Phenomenon

    I was recently gifted Evgenij N. Chernykh's most recent book Nomadic Cultures in the Mega-Structure of the Eurasian World (2017). The scope of this book is massive but I have just finished reading his chapter focusing on Seima-Turbino. Because Chernykh has been a premier archeologist on this subject for over thirty years, I decided to share what I've read.

    I'll keep it concise, in point form and try to detail the main points. A lot of this may be old news for some of you, but here it goes:

    - In Chernykh's view ST was one of the most "astonishing" surges of development in Eurasian prehistory. In many respects more developed than anything seen in the Circumpontic metallurgical province.

    - ST was entirely independent from preceding metallurgical traditions in the regions it occupied.

    - The first clear example of an aggressive east-west migration "forerunners of Genghis Khan".

    - Chance finds in an expanse of up to 4 million km², from the Baltic/Lower Dniester to Central China. There is an inexplicably small number of finds throughout this area. Finds are primarily weapons, flint spearheads, metal jewelry, sculptures and in larger assemblages, nephrite "bracelets" or disks.

    - ST "cemeteries" rarely contain burial pits, and when they do, they often don't contain human remains. When human remains are present, they are usually burned beyond usefulness to anthropologists. "Memorial sanctuary" or "altar" is sometimes used to denote similar sites.

    - "Transcultural Phenomenon" is used because Seima-Turbino assemblages appear across cultural boundaries and within synchronous cultural landscapes.

    -Majority of ST monuments are found next to water (Yurino-Volga, Reshnoe-Oka, Sokolovsk-Volga/Kama, Rostovaka-Om, etc.)

    - Primary metal finds are socketed axes, spearheads (distinguished by shape of midrib), flat knife without tang and long knives/daggers with "truly outstanding" decorated handles. Sophisticated wax-casting was utilized, unseen in the west at this time.

    - Tin-bronze was favored by all ST groups, but is most common in the east. West of the Urals pure-copper, copper with arsenic and silver-copper/copper-silver alloys were used, but are rare in the east.

    -Western Altai was the most likely source of tin and bronze used by eastern groups. The slopes of the eastern Urals "north of Kargaly" likely supplied western groups.

    -Most widespread motif is the horse, only appears on single-bladed knives.

    -Rostovka skier and metal sculptures (possibly depicting shaman) have distinct "Mongoloid" features.

    - "Eastern" animal motifs (wild rams, mountain goat and tiger) suggest ST was not native to West Siberia. Instead, the extent of these animals was the Southern Altai region, Gobi Desert and Tian Shan, but not much farther west or north.

    - Highly personalized motifs on knife pommels could be totem animals, representing tribal affiliations.

    - There are almost no nephrite deposits west of the Sayan mountain chain, the most developed mines even today, are located on the eastern slopes of the Tian Shan range. ST was the first to bring nephrite jewelry to the west.

    -"It is most likely that the "Seima-Turbino" Phenomenon originated somewhere in the western parts of what is today the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous District of China, that is from the Mongolian Altai up to the Eastern Tian Shan, including Dzungaria and parts of the Tarim River Basin, perhaps including adjacent areas to the north and west".

    -All horses depicted by ST are small in stature, with a disproportionately large head. These feature suggest the probable model for these images was the wild horses of the Mongolian steppe, including the Przheval'skii's horse.

    - Why have no proto-types of ST artifacts been found in this area? Chernykh attributes this to the "Mongolian syndrome". The early ST groups may not have deposited their goods in a way that preserved them over time. Similar to the 13th century Mongols, who left little archeological trace. ST could have altered their belief system after encountering other populations.

    -Armed riders formed the nucleolus of ST and followed major rivers west. They may have used boats, but there is no evidence left to indicate whether they did.

    -After the end of ST, Samus-Kizhirovo continued their metallurgical traditions in the Taiga zone. But cut off from metal deposits in the Altai, they quickly faded from existence.

    -Karasuk knives have clear parallels in the ST-type knives, however other Karasuk assemblages are too different to be descended from ST models. There is also a gap in chronology between the two. Chernykh concludes that Karasuk can not be a considered true heirs of ST metallurgy.
    Last edited by Zelto; 01-05-2022 at 05:19 AM.

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    After reading that back it comes across as quite scattered, but is more or less the order information is presented in the book. I may have missed a few points, I'll reread the two chapters later.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelto View Post
    I was recently gifted Evgenij N. Chernykh's most recent book Nomadic Cultures in the Mega-Structure of the Eurasian World (2017). The scope of this book is massive but I have just finished reading his chapter focusing on Seima-Turbino. Because Chernykh has been a premier archeologist on this subject for over thirty years, I decided to share what I've read.

    I'll keep it concise, in point form and try to detail the main points. A lot of this may be old news for some of you, but here it goes:

    - In Chernykh's view ST was one of the most "astonishing" surges of development in Eurasian prehistory. In many respects more developed than anything seen in the Circumpontic metallurgical province.

    - ST was entirely independent from preceding metallurgical traditions in the regions it occupied.

    - The first clear example of an aggressive east-west migration "forerunners of Genghis Khan".

    - Chance finds in an expanse of up to 4 million km², from the Baltic/Lower Dniester to Central China. There is an inexplicably small number of finds throughout this area. Finds are primarily weapons, flint spearheads, metal jewelry, sculptures and in larger assemblages, nephrite "bracelets" or disks.

    - ST "cemeteries" rarely contain burial pits, and when they do, they often don't contain human remains. When human remains are present, they are usually burned beyond usefulness to anthropologists. "Memorial sanctuary" or "altar" is sometimes used to denote similar sites.

    - "Transcultural Phenomenon" is used because Seima-Turbino assemblages appear across cultural boundaries and within synchronous cultural landscapes.

    -Majority of ST monuments are found next to water (Yurino-Volga, Reshnoe-Oka, Sokolovsk-Volga/Kama, Rostovaka-Om, etc.)

    - Primary metal finds are socketed axes, spearheads (distinguished by shape of midrib), flat knife without tang and long knives/daggers with "truly outstanding" decorated handles. Sophisticated wax-casting was utilized, unseen in the west at this time.

    - Tin-bronze was favored by all ST groups, but is most common in the east. West of the Urals pure-copper, copper with arsenic and silver-copper/copper-silver alloys were used, but are rare in the east.

    -Western Altai was the most likely source of tin and bronze used by eastern groups. The slopes of the eastern Urals "north of Kargaly" likely supplied western groups.

    -Most widespread motif is the horse, only appears on single-bladed knives.

    -Rostovka skier and metal sculptures (possibly depicting shaman) have distinct "Mongoloid" features.

    - "Eastern" animal motifs (wild rams, mountain goat and tiger) suggest ST was not native to West Siberia. Instead, the extent of these animals was the Southern Altai region, Gobi Desert and Tian Shan, but not much farther west or north.

    - Highly personalized motifs on knife pommels could be totem animals, representing tribal affiliations.

    - There are almost no nephrite deposits west of the Sayan mountain chain, the most developed mines even today, are located on the eastern slopes of the Tian Shan range. ST was the first to bring nephrite jewelry to the west.

    -"It is most likely that the "Seima-Turbino" Phenomenon originated somewhere in the western parts of what is today the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous District of China, that is from the Mongolian Altai up to the Eastern Tian Shan, including Dzungaria and parts of the Tarim River Basin, perhaps including adjacent areas to the north and west".

    -All horses depicted by ST are small in stature, with a disproportionately large head. These feature suggest the probable model for these images was the wild horses of the Mongolian steppe, including the Przheval'skii's horse.

    - Why have no proto-types of ST artifacts been found in this area? Chernykh attributes this to the "Mongolian syndrome". The early ST groups may not have deposited their goods in a way that preserved them over time. Similar to the 13th century Mongols, who left little archeological trace. ST could have altered their belief system after encountering other populations.

    -Armed riders formed the nucleolus of ST and followed major rivers west. They may have used boats, but there is no evidence left to indicate whether they did.

    -After the end of ST, Samus-Kizhirovo continued their metallurgical traditions in the Taiga zone. But cut off from metal deposits in the Altai, they quickly faded from existence.

    -Karasuk knives have clear parallels in the ST-type knives, however other Karasuk assemblages are too different to be descended from ST models. There is also a gap in chronology between the two. Chernykh concludes that Karasuk can not be a considered true heirs of ST metallurgy.
    Thank you so much Zelto!
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    pm me for a soft copy of this book.
    Quoted from this Forum:

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  8. #5
    Does the book say anything about the "Siberian phalanx" ? I've seen this term few times in connection of S-T in west Siberia and Urals. It likely connects with S-T war against Abashevo culture area west of Urals. I havent found anything more specific about it. It's just fascinating name; Siberian phalanx.

    Edit & addendum:

    "We can suggest that
    in the last third of the 3rd millennium BC, certain groups of warriors were moving from
    southern and southeastern regions of Central Asia through the Ob-Irtysh interfluve, which
    resulted in the spread of bronze warfare objects. The defined synchroneity of bronze objects,
    most likely produced in different metallurgical centers, indicates the accumulation of
    specialized bronze weapons in southwestern Siberia in the last third of the 3rd to the transition
    to the 2nd millennia BC. Most probably, this region became the area of formation of the
    so-called “Siberian phalanx” military units (Kozhin 1993) for long-distance western campaigns.
    The aim and the most likely enemy of the Siberian units was the Abashevo Culture population
    of the Volga-Urals region and, somewhat later, the Sintashta people of southern Urals"

    ZV Marchenko 2017
    Last edited by Gininabottle; 01-05-2022 at 08:17 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelto View Post
    ...from the Mongolian Altai up...
    Also based on the map on page 4 here:

    https://tuhat.helsinki.fi/ws/portalf...s_Accepted.pdf

    the three most promising initial expansion points of Uralic are in my understanding in the upper reaches of Irtysh, Ob and Yenisei, sort of next to Mongolian Altai area. Despite the fact that so many people in this forum seem to prefer the Yenisei area, I'd personally still look at Irtysh, if not also Ob. River Ob however, -and the more northern expansion route linked to that, does not explain the locations of languages stemming from ancient Uralic so neatly. Yenisei area, on the other hand, is according to my understanding more related to other languages than Uralic.

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  12. #7
    If the "Siberian phalanx" are S-T troopers who surged acros the Urals then look no further. These are the proto-Uralic speakers.

    Originating point or region for S-T plays very small role, if any. You can compare the situation with later surges from east to west. Hunnish armies did not speak Hunnic but (east) Germanic. Hunnish incursions made the east Germanic language spread far and wide. Slightly later Avars emerged from Asiatic steppes but their armies did not speak Avar but proto-Slavonic, leaving the South Slavonic languages as evidence. Next big wave came with the Mongol armies, which spoke in Turkic language as their military Lingua Franca.

    I see no reason why S-T would be any different. Originator and the language that spread were different. You could say that the language of the first victim won.

    These archeological contacts between S-T/Abashevo and their aftermath, are allmost too good match with PII-Uralic contacts imho.

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  14. #8
    Given that the Chemurchek has an old example of a ST casting molds, them having trade connections to southern central asia (where lost-wax casting goes back to the chalcolithic), plus the location of origin as Chernykh described, it makes quite a lot of sense to attribute the metallurgical shift in the STP to them.

    What happened further is a bit more complex and will need genetic samples as well as an archaeological reassessment of STP sites but particularly their contemporaries in west-Siberia. It probably isnt the case that Pepkino remains were "Seima-Turbino phalanx" victims as they were slain by the same type of axes they made themselves.

    I think a big issue is that if you imagine the STP as a massive spread of Uralic languages, for now at least, is that there really is a lack of Uralic related ancestries in where we are supposed to see it, at least with the current samples. That goes both for samples in proximity of the STP source region, as well as the Andronovo samples afterwards in South Siberia. I can think of only one sample and it is dated to about 1500-1400 BC and it is from Krasnoyarsk.

    know Davidski talked about one sample in a STP context looking a lot like Kra001, but no mention of the context and it was only one out if the several which looked more like West-Siberians or steppe derived (or mixed?).

    Basically it looks like a nice proposal on paper but there really isn't any strong evidence for it yet. Obviously archaeological evidence for significant migrations will be complex as STP type goods appear everywhere and you dont have a "STP material culture" either.
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  16. #9
    That said I do find the STP a very fitting context to explain how the very east Siberian component of Uralic speaking peoples ended up much further west. We already had Kra001 near the Yenisei (although I doubt he was native to the region tbh) and from there a population travelling to the Ob-Irtysh interfluve which is also a convenient explanation how this ancestry became so ubiquitous in Northeastern Europe, but without having much of an impact on steppe_mlba populations and later Scytho-Siberians. But we will see how that works out.

    P.s Zelto regarding the STP horses, in my latest blog entry I did briefly cover the Rostovka horse skier, and I found a Yelunin culture horse bone in that recent article regarding the DOM2 horses. It was a different horse breed as it wasnt labelled DOM2 but it also wasnt labelled BOTAI as the previous horses in the region, although on the haplotree it seemed quite closely related.
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    IIRC(I heard this a while ago) more N-P189.2 was found in unpublished samples from the Altai with some links to STP. What I think happened was that kra001-related people had entered the fringes of this cultural-technological zone just at the right time and because of human barriers elsewhere ended up with an almost complete monopoly on westward migration. That's a pretty economic idea I think, and leaves quite little to be explained as it stands.
    However not all of the kra001-related ancestry in (ancient) Europe is likely due to "northern STP" as BOO is an apparently unrelated culture so multiple distinct migrations might be necessary, maybe even fairly constant migration to the Middle Ages in Northern Russia and Volga-Ural.

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