The Sintashta culture is widely regarded as the origin of the Indo-Iranian languages. The earliest known chariots have been found in Sintashta burials, and the culture is considered a strong candidate for the origin of the technology, which spread throughout the Old World and played an important role in ancient warfare. Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture.
The Sintashta culture emerged from the interaction of two antecedent cultures, the Poltavka Culture and the Abashevo Culture. Because of the difficulty of identifying the remains of Sintashta sites beneath those of later settlements, the culture was only recently distinguished from the Andronovo Culture. It is now recognized as a separate entity forming part of the “Andronovo horizon“.
Its immediate predecessor in the Ural-Tobol steppe was the Poltavka culture, an offshoot of the cattle-herding Yamnaya horizon that moved east into the region between 2800 and 2600 BCE. Several Sintashta towns were built over older Poltavka settlements or close to Poltavka cemeteries, and Poltavka motifs are common on Sintashta pottery.
Sintashta material culture also shows the influence of the late Abashevo Culture, derived from the Fatyanovo-Balanovo Culture, a collection of Corded Ware settlements in the forest steppe zone north of the Sintashta region that were also predominantly pastoralist.
Within the historical-materialist epistemology of Soviet archaeology, migration and diffusion were the predominant explanations for producing distinctly common material complexes over broad geographic areas. The thinking was shared artifact assemblages—such as Andronovo style ceramics—indicated the presence of a single ethnic group and changes in material culture were approximated with ethnic transformation.
We are becoming much more certain about ancient exchanges between Europe and Asia and migration patterns through DNA analysis of archaeological remains. Allentoft et al. (2015) found close autosomal genetic relationship between peoples of Corded Ware culture and Sintashta culture, which “suggests similar genetic sources of the two,” and may imply that “the Sintashta derives directly from an eastward migration of Corded Ware peoples.”
Sintashta individuals and Corded Ware individuals both had a relatively higher ancestry proportion derived from the early farmers of Central Europe, and both differed markedly in such ancestry from the population of the Yamnaya Culture and most individuals of the Poltavka Culture that preceded Sintashta in the same geographic region
Based on Stylistic assessments of pottery and their ordering into culture-histories, the predominant narative of northern Central Asia has been an image of a “pastoral realm,” with animals comprising the major diet of herding populations. Conventional models on the origins and spread of herding societies into northern Central Asia propose that climate change and population pressure were catalysts for eastward migrations across the steppe in the Bronze Age—resulting in broad social and economic cohesion across the continent by the mid-second millennium BC.
We are now learning that Bronze Age advances took place earlier than previously thought and there was more and earlier exchange between east and west.
The Sintashta archaeological site, in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia gives its name to the Sintashta culture, also known as the Sintashta-Petrovka culture or Sintashta-Arkaim culture, is a Bronze Age archaeological culture of the northern Eurasian steppe on the borders of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, dated to the period 2100–1800 BCE.
This nucleated, fortified settlement is an exception to the major architectural characteristics of village life the region’s built environment.