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Early Influence of the Steppe Tribes in the Peopling of Siberia

From: Human Biology
Volume 78, Number 5, October 2006
pp. 531-549 | 10.1353/hub.2007.0001


The Yakuts, Middle Age Turkic speakers (15th–16th centuries), are widely accepted as the first settlers of the Altai-Baikal area in eastern Siberia. They are supposed to have introduced horses and developed metallurgy in this geographic area during the 15th or 16th century a.d. The analysis of the Siberian grave of Pokrovsk, recently discovered near the Lena River (61°29' N) and dated by accelerator mass spectrometry from 2,400 to 2,200 years b.p., may provide new elements to test this hypothesis. The exceptional combination of various artifacts and the mitochondrial DNA data extracted from the bone remains of the Pokrovsk man might prove the existence of previous contacts between autochthonous hunters of Oriental Siberia and the nomadic horse breeders from the Altai-Baikal area (Mongolia and Buryatia). Indeed, the stone arrowhead and the harpoons relate this Pokrovsk man to the traditional hunters of the Taiga. Some artifacts made of horse bone and the pieces of armor, however, are related to the tribes of Mongolia and Buryatia of the Xiongnu period (3rd century b.c.). This affinity has been confirmed by the match of the mitochondrial haplotype of this subject with a woman of the Egyin Gol necropolis (Mongolia, 2nd/3rd century a.d.) as well as with two modern Buryats. This result allows us to postulate that contacts between southern steppe populations and Siberian tribes occurred before the 15th century.

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