воскресенье, 18 ноября 2018 г.

What happened to Maykop?

The Maykop culture was probably the result of migration waves of settlers from Transcaucasia and beyond into the Northwest Caucasus during the Eneolithic and Early Bronze Age. Its peak lasted for roughly 700 years, from about 3700 BC to 3000 BC, after which it seems to have vanished suddenly. Why? Are there any decent papers on the topic?
The currently rather popular idea that Maykop gave rise to the Yamnaya culture is likely false. It was probably somehow involved in the rise of the contemporaneous Steppe Maykop culture in the steppes abutting the North Caucasus. But, thanks to ancient DNA, we now know that the people associated with this culture were distinct from those associated with Yamnaya.
In fact, when Steppe Maykop disappeared, Yamnaya spread into much of its former territory, and this turnover registers clearly in the time transect of ancient genomic data from the North Caucasus steppes (see here).
My view is that Maykop was generally an alien entity to the indigenous peoples of the steppes. These natives may have emulated it in some ways, much like the Amerindians sometimes emulated the European colonizers of the Americas. But there’s no need, I’d say, to go as far as to assume that Maykop was the vector for the spread of Indo-European languages into the Pontic-Caspian steppe.
Indeed, it seems to me that when the technological and economic advantages of Maykop over the steppe peoples eventually eroded, it couldn’t hold its ground on the edge of a vastly different and perhaps largely hostile world, and quickly disappeared.
Here’s a quote from a recent paper by Trifonov et al. on Maykop jewellery that I found very enlightening in regards to these issues (emphasis is mine):

These deep-rooted Near East traditions of ritualization of the production and use of jewellery pieces made of gold, silver and gemstones in the Maykop culture, on the one hand, maintained familiar canons of ritual behaviour and, on the other, made perception of sophisticated symbolism of gemstones more difficult for neighbouring cultures with different living standards, levels of social development and value systems to understand. The jewellery traditions of the Maykop culture had no successors in the Caucasus or the adjacent steppes. In the third millennium BC , the goldsmiths of Europe and Asia had to reinvent the technique of making thin-walled jointless gold beads from scratch (Born et al. 2009).

I do wonder, in fact, if the language spoken by the Maykop people was even part of a still existing language group, let alone if it belonged to the Indo-European language family.
See also…
Big deal of 2018: Yamnaya not related to Maykop


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