Unravelling the Events Surrounding the Frozen Burial of a Pazyryk Noblewoman

Unravelling the Events Surrounding the Frozen Burial of a Pazyryk Noblewoman

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Twenty years ago, on the Ukok Plateau in the Altai Mountains, one of the greatest discoveries of the national archaeology of the late 20th century was made in Russia: an intact “frozen” burial of Pazyryk culture dated to 5th-3rd century B.C., which contained a mummy of a noble woman.

Tumulus 1 of Ak-Alakha 3 burial ground, built of stones, was 18 meters in diameter. Such kurgans are considered medium-size in the Pazyryk culture (small kurgans are approximately 5—12 meters and the large ones can be up to 60 meters). The kurgan stones had been used for modern construction works; therefore, the mound had been destroyed. Next to it was a kurgan of a smaller size, whose mound had also been damaged. Its investigation showed that it belonged to the Turkic time.

Excavation still. The cover has been removed; below is ice. The person taking pictures is Charles O’Rear. Photo by V. Mylnikov. Courtesy of SCIENCE First Hand.

All the work of removing the remains of the mound and clearing the kurgan area was done by hand. In the less damaged eastern part, we managed to trace the structure of the mound: a compact layer of large stones was put in the foundation while smaller stones and pebbles formed the upper part of the burial construction. The edges of the mound were heavily grassed; once the grass was removed, a round wall made of large stones appeared.

According to the Pazyryk funeral ceremony, a larch framework was built at the bottom of the burial pit, and the mummified dead lying on a block or on a wooden bed was placed on top of it. The mound erected over the grave consisted of stones, boulders and pebbles and was water-permeable. Summer and autumn rains flooded the larch sepulchral vaults; the water froze during the winter and often did not melt in the summer. The permafrost rocks, which occur in the Ukok region, are known to have existed there for ages; they are of intermittent and insular nature and spread over approximately 60—80% of the entire area. The permafrost soils are about three meters deep, and the depth of the burial pits is the same. It was impossible to dig a deeper pit—even modern iron spades rebound from the frozen ground.

Tumulus 1 of Ak-Alakha 3 site looked like a typical burial monument of Pazyryk culture. The only distinguishing feature was that it stood alone whereas, as a rule, the Pazyryk burial grounds feature a chain of kurgans stretching from the north to the south.

It was the first undamaged “frozen” sepulcher of an outstanding representative of the Pazyryk culture, discovered over the whole period of its study, which started in the mid-nineteenth century. The first thing that made an unforgettable impression was the fact that the burial-place had been untouched. A man accompanying the woman into the other world “got in the way” of the robbers, who penetrated into the sepulcher through a small hole in the center of the mound; they got satisfied with destroying the man’s tomb and did not notice the large larch vault under it.

Kurgan 1 of Ak-Alakha 3 burial ground: a general view and layout of funeral construction inside the burial pit. Drawing by Ye. Shumakova. The burial chamber of the mound was filled with ice (above). After the ice melted, a larch block with a woman’s mummy was discovered at the southern wall (right). In the foreground, beyond the northern wall of the chamber, there were burials of horses. The walls of the block on which the dead woman was lying were decorated with leather appliqués (below).

The man’s burial-place located at the intersection of the main sepulcher is not at all typical of Pazyryk culture: it is truly exceptional. Taking into account the fact that the man was killed with a blow of a blunt object on the back of the skull, it can be claimed with a high degree of certainty that here we deal with a tradition of “simultaneous” death, when a person leaves this world not alone but in the company of people he or she needs in the other world. Together with the man, there was the body of a teenager, also discovered in the sepulcher, whose cause of death remained undetermined for lack of anthropological material; also, there were the bodies of three racing horses. This accompanying vault immediately shows how important this woman was for her fellow tribesmen.

Companions to the “other” world

Based upon what we know, this double burial was arranged immediately after the main burial of the mummified woman in the larch vault.

After the excavation of the tumulus, all the attention was obviously focused on the female mummy, while the robbed burial and people buried in it happened to be in her shadow. It was time for them to come out of it as they were part of the same story and had been tied (though it was not yet clear in what way) to that woman, whose rebirth generated so much interest.

Above the first human burial in Kurgan 1 of the burial ground Ak-Alakha 3 was the burial of horses. Sketch by Ye. On the ceiling of the vault with the mummy of a high-born woman there was another burial chamber with two dead people, made of blocks covered with slabs of stone (left). The back of the skull of one of the dead showed traces of a blow that must have caused his/her death (below). This grave had been violated by ancient robbers. The photo of the skull by M. Vlasenko.

Actually, judging by the diggings of the “tsar” burials of the Pazyryk burial ground, the graves often contained the bodies of two people—a man and a woman—and it was hardly the case of living a long and happy life together and dying on the same day. Undoubtedly, one of the two was killed to accompany the deceased.

Ultimately, the people buried on the ceiling of the Pazyryk vault had fulfilled their mission: they saved and preserved the incorruptible body of a respected woman. But what were they, inferior and dependable? And who was she? For now, there remain more questions to answer.

Featured image : Reconstruction of the funeral ceremony. The way it was. Drawn by William Bond.

This article is an extract from: A Different Archaeology. Pazyryk culture: a snapshot, Ukok, 2015 . Science First Hand, 17 Dec 2015, The Epoch of Acceleration, volume 42, N3

Scythian Designs Artmagik

The Ice Maiden is the famous ice mummy found in an undisturbed Pazyryk burial kurgan.   The "Ice Maiden" or   "Ice Princess" or 'Ukok Princess', was discovered by archaeologist Natalia Polosmak in 1993.  She ia a rare example of Pazyryk Scythian culture, and rarer still by being a single woman.  She was found in a full ceremonial wooden chamber-tomb known as a kurgan, which was buried in the 5th century BCE. Six horses where also found in her kurgan. The "Ice Maiden" was  buried over 2,400 years ago.  

Portrait of the 'Pazyryk Ice Maiden' drawing inspired from the forensic recontruction of her head.

Her coffin was made from the hollowed-out trunk of a larch tree, a type of pine.   Surrounding the outside of the casket were stylized images animal style known as zoomorphic style depicting deer and snow leopards carved in leather .  The Scythians worked in a wide variety of materials such as gold, wood, leather,bone, bronze, iron, silver and electrum. 

It is believed that after burial the grave may have been flooded by freezing rain causing the entire contents of the burial chamber to freeze, the chamber has remained frozen in permafrost preserving the contents for over 2,500 years.

The coffin was made large enough to accomodate a high felt headress, similar to a witches hat, which was decorated with fifteen gilded wooden-birds sewn to it.
The 'Ice Maiden's',  well-preserved body, was carefully embalmed using peat and bark, it is believe she was arranged in the coffin to lie on her side as if asleep, it is possible she may have died in this position and rigor mortis may have already occued.

She was young perhaps 25 years old.  Physically her hair was still blonde. It is estimated she had been 5 feet 6 inches tall.  
She displays animal style zoomorphic tattoos on her arms and her thumb, the zoomorphic creature on her thumb appears to be a type of deer with horns that end in flowers. 

Her appearance has caused conflict in the area, scientific evidence provided by genetics regarding the Ice Maiden's genotype or phenotype that suggest she was not an ancestor of the people now living in the region.  This has caused considerable conflict of a racial nature. The 'Ice Maiden' began deteriorating after being exposed to air and thawing out, she started to go mouldy.  There are not many photographs of her.  The people of the region believe that several natural disaster were caused by archeologist disturbing and removing the 'Ice Maiden'.  

The "Ice Maiden' and her artifacts have not been returned, a ban has been put in place specifically excluding Russian archaeologists from the excavated gravesites on the Ukok Plateau.

Discovering the Ice Maiden

Portraits from Forensic Reconstruction of Ice Maiden's Face

Deer tattoo from left shoulder of Ukok Princess


Tattoos on arm of Ukok Princess


Ice Maiden Links


Add your main content here - text, photos, videos, addons, whatever you want!

'Mummy's curse' upsets Siberians   BBC News Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004

They want scientists to return the remains, which were found in ice and offer unique insights into their time.

Archaeologists oppose reburying the mummy, which is still being examined more than 10 years after its discovery.

Shamanism is still strong in the Altai mountains and one local leader said the mummy's "spirit" had to be appeased.

Aulkhan Jatkambayev said tremors had been happening at the rate of two or three times a week, sometimes measuring up to four on the Richter scale.

"People think this will go on as long as the Princess's spirit is not allowed to rest in peace," he told AFP news agency.

"We must calm people down and bury the Altai Princess."

The region in south Siberia is no stranger to tremors, sitting along a fault zone in the Earth's crust.

Last year, it was the epicentre of an earthquake that left about 1,800 people homeless.

The Princess is being examined at the Ethnographic Institute in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

She was a prized find for archaeologists in Russia and across the world, when she was excavated in 1993 along with six saddled and bridled horses from the frozen earth of Altai's Ukok plateau.

Mummy specialists from Moscow - who were more used to embalming the body of Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin - were brought in to restore the Princess.

Nothing is known of her actual history, but DNA tests and the reconstruction of her face already indicate she was of European, not Asian, origin, Russia's Izvestia newspaper reports.

Found on the borders of China and Mongolia, she was initially thought to have been of Scythian extraction.

Archaeologists in Novosibirsk say they are willing to return the mummy to an Altai museum eventually, but only if suitable conditions are provided there for conserving the body.

"We are prepared to discuss the mummy's possible transfer to the museum, but burying it is out of the question," team leader Vyacheslav Molodin told Izvestia.

The director of the ethnographic museum in Altai's capital, Gorno-Altaisk, says there are plans to build a glass tomb for the mummy inside the museum.

"Everybody can come and bow before her," said Rima Yerkinova.

Ice Maiden triggers mother of all Siberian disputesSource: The Daily Telegraph 17 April 2004

High in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia, where Shamans still practise their ancient rites and most people are descended from Asiatic nomads, there is a whiff of revolt in the air. Local officials, urged on by the increasingly militant electorate, are collecting signatures, writing petitions and demanding audiences with regional political leaders.

Their demands are simple and have nothing to do with the inept rule, poverty, corruption and ecological disasters dogging the region.

They want a 2,500-year-old mummy, found by
Russian archaeologists 11 years ago and being studied in the Siberian capital of Novosibirsk, to be reinterred without delay.

Egged on by powerful shamans who local people believe act as go-betweens with the heavenly spirits, they say only the mummy's reburial will put an end to a rash of earthquakes and other problems assailing the region.

The mummy in question is an archaeological jewel. When her ornately tattooed body was found entombed in ice in an ancient burial chamber, the find was acclaimed as one of the most important in Russia's recent history.

The Ice Maiden, as she was dubbed, had survived almost intact in the permafrost of the southern Siberian mountains, surrounded by a burial sacrifice of six horses in gilt harnesses.

Now the battle lines over her future are being drawn up. The fight pits modern Russian science against the ancient beliefs of the Altai people who lived in the region for centuries before Russian colonisers arrived 300 years ago.

It is also at the heart of strained relations between Moscow, often seen as high-handed and out of touch, and the many indigenous peoples of Russia, growing in self-confidence and demanding ever-greater autonomy even as President Vladimir Putin seeks to rein them in.

The campaign to rebury the Ice Maiden began soon after a strong earthquake hit the region last September, destroying many buildings.

Aulkhan Djatkambayev, the head of the Kosh-Agach administration in the Southern Altai region, is a leading proponent of the cause.

"People say the failure to rebury the mummy has brought a string of misfortunes and I respect their opinions," he said. "It is not only a question of earthquakes, but there is a rising incidence of suicide and sickness.

"I respect science but we are nomads not scientists and every people has the right to its own level of understanding. Only by reburying the mummy can we lay the spirits to rest and calm people's fears."

The Russian scientists studying the mummy in Novosibirsk, some 400 miles north, scorn such talk.

Vyacheslav Molodin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, whose wife discovered the Ice Maiden, said that during the 1990s when funding was scarce, scientists at the research centre even gave some of their pay for expensive conservation materials.

He said: "Burying the mummy would make us a laughing stock of the world scientific community. As for the earthquakes, the Altai has always been a high-risk zone and earthquakes are nothing unusual there."

The discovery of the Ice Maiden was of great scientific importance. By studying her, archaeologists have been able to piece together much about a little-known people called the Pazyryks, fierce nomadic fighters and skilled horsemen who lived in the first millennium before Christ.

Previously historians had been forced to rely almost exclusively on the writings of Herodotus, who was fascinated by these warrior-nomads who grazed their herds at the ancient historical gateway known locally as the Pastures of Heaven. Today it is the point where Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan meet.

Herodotus wrote of virgin warriors, some of whom cut off a breast to make them better archers. He wrote: "No maiden may marry until she has killed a man of the enemy. Some die old women, unmarried, because they cannot fulfil the law."

The Ice Maiden, who died when she was about 25, was certainly an important member of society, though probably not a warrior or a princess, as local people claim, but a story-teller, a highly revered position in nomadic culture.

She was buried in a long coffin made of larch and a table was set out with horse-meat and mutton to accompany her into the afterlife. She worea tall wooden headdress and coriander seeds were sprinkled around her.

There were many such burial sites but most were ruined by grave-robbers during the Dark Ages. The Ice Maiden survived only because looters did not search further after finding another body buried on top of her coffin. She was preserved because her body had been stuffed with peat and bark and ice seeped into the grave.

Even the most sceptical admitted that during the work to excavate her there were suspicions of strange forces at work. Jeanne Smoot, an American archaeologist at the dig, told of a sense of foreboding that plagued the team, and frequent nightmares.

When they took the mummy to Novosibirsk, their helicopter's engine failed and it crash-landed. On arrival, the body was almost ruined when it was placed in a freezer that had been used to store cheese and began to develop fungi. The Ice Maiden was saved only when she was rushed to Moscow for treatment by the embalmers who worked on Lenin's body.

In Gorno-Altaisk, the shabby, Soviet-built capital of the stunningly beautiful Altai region, talk of ill fortune shadowing the Ice Maiden comes as no surprise.

At the local market, traders said that until she was laid to rest bad luck would continue.

Tatyana Kazantseva, 48, said: "Our princess must be reburied immediately, everybody here agrees. Having her in a laboratory might be good for the scientists but it has brought only bad for us."

The director of the ethnographic museum, Rima Yerkinova, said: "Personally I am torn. As the director of the museum, I feel she must be returned to us to be put on display for our people to see. But something inside me says she should be reburied. It is the belief of our people."

Source: The Daily Telegraph 17 April 2004

The Women of the House of Montfort

Darren Baker

The house of Montfort arose some 50 kilometres west of Paris in a place known today as Montfort l’Amaury. Their family name ‘de Montfort’ is usually associated with two Simons, father and son, the relentless Albigensian crusader and the determined English revolutionary, both men of the 13th century. Other family members went further afield and established lordships in Italy and the crusader states.

Less known is the prominence of the de Montfort women. Their influence reaches back to the 11th century, starting with Isabella. Her father, Simon I, gave her in marriage to Ralph de Tosny, who in turn forced his sister Agnes to marry this first Simon. When Isabella fell out with her father’s children with Agnes, she put on armour and led a body knights in the field against her half-brothers.

Isabella’s half-sister Bertrade was married to Fulk IV of Anjou. She grew tired of his lecherous ways and took as her next husband the king of France, Philip I, who deserted his wife to marry her. Hoping to see her son with Philip succeed to the throne over her stepson Louis (VI), Bertrade had the older youth poisoned, but the attempt failed and brought about her disgrace. She died in a nunnery in 1117, not living to see her son from her first marriage, Fulk V of Anjou, become king of Jerusalem.

Two generations later, Simon III stood loyally by the English in their fight with the French. He was rewarded with marriages for his three children into the Anglo-Norman nobility. His oldest son Amaury V married Mabel, daughter of the earl of Gloucester, the next son Simon IV married Amicia, daughter of the earl of Leicester, and daughter Bertrade II married Hugh, the earl of Chester. This Bertrade was the mother of the legendary Ranulf de Blondeville, arguably the last of the great Anglo-Norman barons.

The senior branch of the house of Montfort died out in 1213, but Amicia’s son Simon V (the crusader), who was already the count of Montfort, inherited the earldom of Leicester. It was confiscated by King John in 1207 and ended up in the custody of Ranulf. It was from Ranulf that Simon VI acquired Leicester in 1231 and became an English noble, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

Simon V’s wife was Alice de Montmorency. She was very much an active crusader against the Albigensians and often participated in her husband’s war councils. Their daughter Petronilla was born during the crusade and baptised by Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominican order. After Simon’s death in 1218, Alice placed Petronilla in a nunnery, where she became the abbess later in life. Alice’s oldest daughter Amicia founded the nunnery of Montargis, south of Paris, and died there in 1252.

In England, Alice’s son Simon VI rose high in royal favour and married Eleanor, the youngest sister of King Henry III and widow of William Marshal II. Together she and Simon had five sons and one daughter. The clash between Eleanor’s husband and brother ended in civil war and Simon’s death in 1265 at the battle of Evesham. Eleanor left England to live out the rest of her life in Montargis and took her namesake daughter with her.

Guy de Montfort was the only one of Eleanor’s sons to marry. He found service under Charles of Anjou, the king of Sicily, and rapidly advanced to become the count of Nola. He received a Tuscan heiress as his bride, but he scandalised the family in 1271 by vengefully murdering his cousin. Guy escaped punishment for the most part and had two daughters, of whom only the youngest Anastasia survived to adulthood. She became the countess of Nola at her father’s death in 1292 and married into the Orsini family of Rome.

Eleanor de Montfort died in 1275, living long enough to see her daughter marry Llywelyn of Wales by proxy. Later that year, the boat carrying young Eleanor and her brother Amaury VIII was captured by the forces of their cousin King Edward I, who had been alerted to their intentions. Eleanor was confined at Windsor Castle and not freed to marry Llywelyn until 1278.

She died four years later giving birth to a daughter Gwenllian. When Llywelyn was then killed, the baby girl was placed in a nunnery in Lincolnshire. By the time of her death in 1337, the de Montfort family, once so admired and respected across Europe and the Mediterranean, seemed long extinct. But their fortunes were about to be revived.

This part of the story goes back to Simon V and Alice’s oldest son Amaury VII, who succeeded his father as the count of Montfort. He was followed by his son John, whose wife was pregnant when he left on crusade and died overseas. The daughter born to her, Beatrice, became the countess of Montfort when she came of age. She married Robert of Dreux and had a daughter Yolande, who became the second wife of King Alexander III of Scotland in 1285 in the hope of producing an heir to that throne.

It didn’t happen, and after Alexander died, Yolande married Arthur II of Brittany. Their son John succeeded her as the count of Montfort, and when his half-brother the duke of Brittany died in 1341 without an heir, John put in a claim for the duchy. It turned into a war of succession, which was won by his son, another John of Montfort, in 1365, a hundred years after Evesham.

In 1386, this John of Montfort took as his third wife the famous Joan of Navarre. She was the mother of his children and after his death became the queen of England with her marriage to King Henry IV. It was through her and Yolande that the Montfort family line returned to England.

About the Author:

Darren Baker was born in California, raised in South Carolina, and came to Europe in 1990, settling permanently in the Czech Republic. A former submariner in the US Pacific fleet, he later studied languages at the University of Connecticut and works as a translator. A trip to the UK inspired him to revisit the events of 13th century England, which he does on his website simon2014.com and in his books. His newly released Crusaders and Revolutionaries of the Thirteenth Century: De Montfort is his fourth on the subject.

My Books

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available from Pen & Sword, Amazon and from Book Depository worldwide.

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066. Available now from Amazon, Amberley Publishing, Book Depository.

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“Scythian Thermae” and “copper fever”

The analyzed samples of hair and nails yield information about the contents of the following elements: S, K, Ca, Sc, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Ga, Se, Br, Rb, Y, Sr, Mo, Nb, Zr, I, and Pb.

The analysis of the nails of people living at the Ukok Plateau now and those found in the Pazyryk Mound reveals the same ratios of the elements. The only difference is the elevated contents of iron and manganese in the nails of the ancient inhabitants of the Ukok Plateau. Apparently, this is related to the permanent use of water with high contents of these metals.

A comparison of the results obtained for the hair of a boy, a woman, and two men from the Ak-Alakh-1 and Kuturguntas Mounds with those for contemporary people shows that the concentrations of some elements, such as K, Ca, Ti, Cr, Mn, Fe, Cu, Sr, I, and Pb, are much higher for ancient people. The concentrations of S and Zn for Pazyrykians are lower than those of our contemporaries.

This study made it possible to consider the dynamics of the quantities that characterize the ratio of Cu and Zn in human and horse hair. These values in horse hair remain almost unchanged. In the female and male hair, the concentration of Cu was higher than the concentration of Zn by a factor of 4 and more than 20, respectively. The concentration of copper for the buried boy is close to the concentration of Zn, which indicates the beginning of distorted metabolism of these elements in the child’s organism. The high content of Cu, which caused the deficit of Zn in the microelement composition of the Pazyrykians’ hair, requires some explanation, because this obvious anomaly exerted an adverse effect on their health. This fact is indirectly evidenced by the age of the buried people: 45—50 years for the man, approximately 16 years for the woman, and approximately 8 years for the boy from Mound No. 1 of the Ak-Alakh-1 burial ground, and 30—40 years for the man from the mound of the Kuturguntas burial ground.

The antagonism between copper and zinc can play an important role in pathological processes. There are many diseases associated with the disbalance of these elements in the organism, which involves changes in the metabolism of essential fatty acids (Avtsyn et al., 1991).

How could people be poisoned by copper? The first explanation is the effect of bronze foundry. The graves contain numerous bronze and copper objects made in Altai rich in polymetallic deposits. This activity, nevertheless, could hardly have such a pronounced effect on the health of representatives of all genders and ages of the Ukok population. It is known that the Pazyrykians were mainly stock-breeders, and this specific feature of their culture is clearly reflected in their burial ceremony.

Another possible reason for gradual poisoning by copper is the permanent use of copper utensils, in everyday life. The Pazyrykians knew copper utensils, but did not use them to cook food or to drink. A small kettle on a dish with two grips and a rectangular brazier resting on four legs, which were found in the Second Pazyryk Mound (for today, these are all copper utensils found in Pazyryk Mounds), contained stones cracked under the action of fire and charry seeds of hemp the censer grips were wrapped by birch bark, because the censer, apparently, was heated by hot stones to such a temperature that it could not be gripped by naked hands (Rudenko, 1953).

Judging by the entire set of objects discovered in the Large Pazyryk Mounds, the Pazyrykians had a ceremony of inhaling hemp aroma described by Herodotus: Scythians take hemp seeds, get under a felt yurta (nomad’s tent), and throw the seeds onto hot stones. This produces intense smoke and vapor, such that no Hellenic thermae can be compared to such a bath. Being delighted by this process, the Scythians shout loudly with pleasure (Book IV, 75). An analysis of the charry hemp seeds from the copper bowl exhibited in the Hermitage clearly indicated the accumulation of copper in these samples (the concentration of copper in them is more than three orders of magnitude greater than that in the seeds of a fresh plant). This shows that the vapor inhaled by the people did contain organometallic compounds of copper formed owing to the contact of hot stones with the inner surface of utensils, which exerted a poisonous effect on the organism. The contents of some other metals in the hemp seeds from the censer are also approximately an order of magnitude higher than their contents in the seeds of a fresh plant. This excess, however, did not involve any obvious deviations from the natural ratios of elements in the human organism.

Thus, if such hemp smoking was a Pazyrykian tradition (S. I. Rudenko believed that hemp smoking was practiced by both men and women), an excess of copper was accumulated in the organism, which was detrimental to the content of zinc. Modern studies demonstrated the consequences of such poisoning for the human health. Inhaling of copper dust or vapors of copper compounds provokes the so-called “copper fever”, which manifests itself in strong rigor, high temperature (up to 39° С), profuse sweating, and spasms of gastrocnemius muscles.

Thus, slight drug intoxication owing to the inhaling of hemp vapors was aggravated by copper-induced poisoning. The symptoms were gradually increasing. Mental disturbances, disorder in functions of the nervous system, and fever accompanied by intense sweating, high temperatures, and spasms, which were caused by the inhaling of copper vapors, enhanced the ecstatic state of people.*

*It should be noted that it is only a rather high concentration of copper compounds that is dangerous for human health. In small amounts, it has effective therapeutic properties

The deficit of zinc aggravated by the increasing concent-ration of copper could lead to the inhibition of growth, overexcitation of the nervous system, and rapid fatigability. Under conditions of zinc deficit, the skin is adversely affected, the mucous tunics in the mouth and gullet become swollen, and the hair becomes weak and falls out. The lack of zinc can even lead to sterility.

The results of the study suggest that events of copper poisoning were rather frequent among the Pazyrykians. The scale of this poisoning depended on whether the tradition of inhaling hemp or some other vapors from copper utensils under a felt or leather coverlet was widespread or not.

Based on the results of hair analysis, children rarely took part in the “Scythian thermae”, because the ratio of copper and zinc (about 1 mg/kg) in the boy’s hair (Mound No. 2, Ak-Alakh-1) corresponds to the beginning of copper poisoning: copper displaces zinc. The disturbance of correct relations between vitally important elements in the human organism is an indicator of the human health, and this is illustrated by the results of this study of human hair, which characterizes the conditions, way of life, and traditions of the Pazyrykians. The fact that copper poisoning is related to the cultural traditions rather than to the habitat is supported by the data on the hair of horses buried in Ak-Alakh burial grounds*. The results reveal no disturbance of the metabolism of copper and zinc in the horse organism, though the effect of the environment manifests itself in the high content of iron in the human and horse organisms the source of iron is assumed to be drinking water.

*It should be noted that the hair-analysis results in this case could not be affected by some unknown geochemical features of the environment of the Pazyrykians who lived on the Ukok Plateau, because they did not manifest themselves earlier, when the skin of the female mummy from Mound No. 1 of the Ak-Alakh-3 burial ground was scanned for some other purposes and the element composition of the substance of her wig was determined (Malakhov et al., 2001)

An analysis of the hair showed that the Pazyrykians had higher contents of many microelements than contemporary people. In our work, we tried to demonstrate that the reason for metabolism disturbances that could lead to the lethal outcome was a significant increase in the copper content and, hence, a decrease in the zinc content, which was a consequence of the inhaling of hemp vapors from copper utensils — a common Pazyryk tradition. Other dis-crepancies between the microelement composition of the hair of contemporary people and the Pazyrykians who lived more than two thousand years ago in mountainous valleys of Altai are still to be explained. The following question arises: Can the contents of some elements in the hair of ancient people who supposedly lived on an ecologically pure planet be a reference for modern researchers? Or should the reference point be the hair of contemporary people whose microelement composition reflects all “achievements” of post-industrial civilization? V. I. Vernadskii wrote: Indeed, none of the living organisms is in the free state on the Earth. All organisms are inseparably and continuously linked (first of all, via food and breathing) with the surrounding material and energy medium. They cannot exist outside the natural environment (2001, p. 339). Possibly, the analysis of the microelement composition of the ancient hair will allow the researchers to determine not only the pathologies, but also the concentrations and ratios of microelements in the organism that are more consistent with the concept of a “healthy person.”

Avtsyn A.P., Zhavoronkov A.A., Rish M.A., Strochkova L.S. Human Microelements, Meditsina, Moscow, 1991, 496 pp.

Antonovich E.A., Podrushnyak A.E., Shchutskaya T.A. Toxicity of copper and its compounds, in: Advanced Problems of Toxicology (Collected Papers) Kiev, 1999, No. 3.

Harmful Substances in Industry, Khimiya, Leningrad, 1977, Vol. 3, pp. 330—336.

Malakhov V.V., Vlasov A.A., Ovsyannikova I.A., Plyasova L.M., Kraevskaya I.L., Tsybulya S.V., Stepanov V.G. Material composition of findings in “frozen” graves of the Pazyryc culture, in: Phenomenon of Altai Mummies, UIAE SB RAS, Novosibirsk, 2001, pp. 162 — 170.

Molodin V.I. Cultural and historical characteristic of the burial complex of Mound No. 3 of the Verkh-Kal’dzhin-2 burial ground, in: Phenomenon of Altai Mummies, UIAE SB RAS, Novosibirsk, 2001, pp. 86—119.

Panova T.D. Kremlin Burial-Vaults. History, Fate, and Mystery, Indrik, Moscow, 2003, 223 pp.

Polosmak N.V. Gold-Guarding Griffins, Nauka, Novosibirsk, 1994, 122 pp.

Polosmak N.V. Ukok Riders, INFOLIO-PRESS, Novosibirsk, 2001, 335 pp.

Rudenko S.I. Culture of Gorny Altai Population in the Scythian Times, Izd. Akad. Nauk SSSR, Moscow, Leningrad, 1953, 387 pp.

Trounova V.A., Zolotarev K.V., Baryshev V.B., Phedorin M.A. Analytical possibilities of SRXRF station at VEPP-3 SR source, Nuclear Instruments and Methods, 1998, Vol. A405, pp. 532—536.

Spyrou N.M., Okanle O.A., Adans L.L., Beasley D., Butler C., Altaf W. Book of Abstracts, 7th International Conference on Nuclear Analytical Methods in the Life Sciences (Antalya, 16 — 21 June 2002), 2002, p. 217

The authors are grateful to L. L. Barkova for the hemp samples from the State Hermitage Collection granted for the analysis.

Unravelling the Events Surrounding the Frozen Burial of a Pazyryk Noblewoman - History

Posted on 04/01/2004 10:58:04 AM PST by blam

'Burying the mummy will stop the earthquakes'

Moscow - Residents of Russia's Altai region say that a 25-century-old mummy that was dug up 11 years ago is causing earthquakes in their corner of Siberia and have demanded that it be reburied.

"We must calm people down and bury the Altai Princess," which is being studied by researchers at an institute 600km away, said Aulkhan Jatkambayev, the administration chief in the area where the mummy was discovered.

"We are having tremors two or three times a week, sometimes measuring up to four (on the Richter scale). People think this will go on as long as the Princess' spirit is not allowed to rest in peace," Jatkambayev said.

Jatkambayev said he wrote a letter to the Altai authorities, asking that the mummy be buried.

'Burying it is out of the question' The 25-century-old Altai Princess was discovered on the Ukok plateau, in the South Siberian republic of Altai, and was then sent to the Archaeological and Ethnographic Institute of Novosibirsk.

The mummy is that of a girl bearing tattoos on one arm and believed to have belonged to an aristocratic family.

It has been exceptionally well preserved, as it was buried deep in frozen earth typical for this region. Six horses, saddled and bridled, were buried together with her.

The controversy surrounding the mummy has reached such proportions that even some ethnographers are of a split mind.

"This is a very painful issue. Altai's native people worry about their forbear. The Princess must return to us," said the director of Altai's capital Gorno-Altaisk's ethnographic museum, Rima Yerkinova.

However, Yerkinova does not want the mummy to be buried, saying it should instead be exhibited in her museum, where a mausoleum could be built for the Princess, thanks to 2-million rubles (about R450) already paid in advance by the local authorities.

"We shall put (the Princess) in a glass sarcophagus, so that everybody can come and bow before her," Erkinova said.

But archaeologists who are studying the Princess in Novosibirsk so far refuse to send her back, arguing that they are not yet done with examining the rare find.

And even when they are through with their work, there are limits to what they are prepared to concede, said archaeologist Vyacheslav Molodin.

"We are prepared to discuss the mummy's possible transfer to the museum, but burying it is out of the question," the Novosibirsk Ethnographic Institute's Molodin told the Izvestya daily.

In 1990-1995, South Altai troop of the North Asia complex expedition of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences conducted research at the Alpine plateau Ukok, situated near the Chinese, Mongolian and Kazakh borders. In the course of excavations of one of the mounds of Ak-Alakh sepulchre, a unique burial of a woman was discovered.

Her remains were found lying in a wooden framework (3,3m õ 2,3 m) made of larch and rough-hewed smoothly from inside. The framework was set at the bottom of the sepulchral pit. The whole space of the sepulchral cell - right from the ceiling made of eleven closely fitted logs down to the very bottom - was filled with ice.
A linen - several strips of black felt sewed together - was spread instead of a floor right over the previously laid out pebbles. There was a massive trough in the southern corner of the sepulchre.
Its lid was hammered in by copper nails with round heads. Leather ornaments presented as figures of deer were found in the trough as the ice inside of it melted. There were dishes with food near the trough.
Two flat-bottomed ceramic jugs, destroyed by ice, lied on the floor. Pieces of meat remained lying on the dishes. There was even an iron knife stuck into a piece of meat, the handle of the knife representing symmetrically arranged effigies of the upper part of a wolf's snout with Capricorn's horns.
Thus, wolf's sharp-toothed jaws appeared to be the center of the composition adorning the handle.

Six horses were laid in the northern part of the sepulchral pit just like in all other Pazyryk burials. Horses' hair, plaited tails, wooden harness ornaments, components and felt covers of saddles were preserved.

The woman was lying on her right side in a sleeping pose with her legs bent slightly in her knees and hands crossed on her belly she was lying over double-folded thick strip of felt, her head on a felt pillow-bolster. She was covered with a fur counterpane with appliques representing vegetable ornament, made of golden foil.

Her clothes were well preserved. All seams of her ample silk yellowish shirt with long sleeves covering her fingers were trimmed with thin red cord, while its hem, neck, the edges of the sleeves and the center of the shirt were decorated with a red ribbon her lengthy two-colored (red and white) woolen skirt had a thick red belt wound of woolen thread on her legs she had long white felt stockings decorated with patterns of felt appliques in the upper part.

The dead woman had her personal things in the sepulchre. A mirror in the form of a square piece of bronze plate framed by a round wooden setting with a handle and with a deer effigy cut on its back side, laid over the skirt near the woman's left hip.
The polished surface of the bronze plate was rubbed with mercury, which not only made the surface shine, but also imparted the plate with the properties of a real mirror. The amulets - beads, bronze pendants - were threaded and tied together. There was also a "vanity case" - horse hair brush some spread out blue and green powder-like substance - vivianite - a mineral used in manufacturing of blue paint components of a peculiar pencil - a rod made of iron rings where vivianite served as a slate.
Such pencil could be used for ritual face painting. There was also a stone saucer with coriander seeds.

It is obvious, that this is a sepulcher of an outstanding woman. The spacious sepulchral cell, body embalming and the body's laying over a decorated trough, the six horses with extremely beautiful and recherche harness - all these speak for the fact that this was a wealthy woman of a special society position.

The woman's shirt may be considered the real evidence of her wealth and high social status - a real value for the Pazyryks: it could be come across only in "tsar" mounds. It is noteworthy, that it was the first time when Pazyryk clothing made of silk was discovered. According to ethnographic sources, the difference in clothing between the rich and the poor among Pazyryk cattle-breeders was very often reflected in the materials used.

The Ukok young woman had tattoos on her arms - from shoulders down to her wrists. There are also tattoos on some phalanxes of her hands. The blue-color "pictures" can be quite distinctly seen on her white skin, but they preserved only on her left hand, while there are only fragments of tattoos on her right wrist and thumb.
Her right shoulder bears an effigy of a fantastic animal - a deer with gryphon's beak, and horns of a deer and a Capricorn. The horns are decorated with gryphons' heads, the latter can also be seen at the back of the animal, whose body is depicted "twisted". Below there is an effigy of a ram in the same pose with his head thrown back closed jaws of a spotted ounce with long and twisted tail are depicted at the ram's hoofs.

There are some signs indicating that the dead woman, buried by her fellow-tribesmen with such profound respect, was remarkable for a certain gift that she possessed. This does not obligatory imply that she was a shaman or a priestess. The young woman could be a healer, a story-teller, a fortune-teller. In the ritual practice of Sayan Altai, there are known over 30 titles for various specialists - those possessing certain secret knowledge - who always existed behind shamans serving an obligatory background for them.

The image of the young woman, who had died 2,5 thousand years ago, astounded imagination of many people. "I write to tell you that the spirit of Pazyryk woman turned out my life. When I saved money, I made a tattoo in the form of a she-deer on my left wrist… I made a tattoo of a male deer on my shoulder for my 39th birthday… I am a 1/8 Lenan - this is a North American Indian people, who once lived down the Delaware River… Once they lived southward of Lake Baikal (it's about 1000 km from the place, where the Lady is buried), and then moved to the North America through the Bering Straits…" - these are lines from Rosa Donnam's letter (California, USA).
And Elizabeth Johnson (California, USA) sent a slide to Novosibirsk depicting a quilt decorated with the figure of fabulous animal from the Altaian Lady's tattoo.

A Spaniard, Migel Anhel Gordilio Urkuia, is going to fly above those places where the Pazyryks were buried, and he decorated the tail of his airplane with depiction of a deer-gryphon. An ancient symbol of extinct people starts a new life…


The search by Europeans for a western shortcut by sea from Europe to Asia began with the voyages of Portuguese and Spanish explorers like Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama or even Christopher Columbus (an Italian explorer at the service of the King of Spain) in the 15th century. By the mid-19th century numerous exploratory expeditions had been mounted, originating mainly from the Kingdom of England (a part of the Kingdom of Great Britain from 1707, a part of the United Kingdom from 1801). These voyages, when successful, added to the sum of European geographic knowledge about the Western Hemisphere, particularly North America. As that knowledge grew, exploration gradually shifted towards the Arctic.

Sixteenth and seventeenth-century voyagers who made geographic discoveries about North America included Martin Frobisher, John Davis, Henry Hudson, and William Baffin. In 1670, the incorporation of the Hudson's Bay Company led to further exploration of the Canadian coastlines, interior and adjacent Arctic seas. In the 18th century, explorers of this region included James Knight, Christopher Middleton, Samuel Hearne, James Cook, Alexander MacKenzie, and George Vancouver. By 1800, their discoveries had conclusively demonstrated that no Northwest Passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans existed in the temperate latitudes. [9]

In 1804, Sir John Barrow became Second Secretary of the Admiralty, a post he held until 1845. Barrow began pushing for the Royal Navy to find a Northwest Passage over the top of Canada and to navigate toward the North Pole, organising a major series of expeditions. Over those four decades, explorers including John Ross, David Buchan, William Edward Parry, Frederick William Beechey, James Clark Ross (nephew of John Ross), George Back, Peter Warren Dease and Thomas Simpson led productive expeditions to the Canadian Arctic. Among these explorers was John Franklin, who first travelled to the region in 1818 as second-in-command of an expedition towards the North Pole in the ships Dorothea and Trent. Franklin was subsequently leader of two overland expeditions to and along the Canadian Arctic coast, in 1819–22 and 1825–27. [10]

By 1845 the combined discoveries of all these expeditions had reduced the unknown parts of the Canadian Arctic which might contain a Northwest Passage to a quadrilateral area of about 181,300 km 2 (70,000 sq mi). [11] It was into this unexplored area that the next expedition was to sail, heading west through Lancaster Sound, then west and south – however ice, land, and other obstacles might allow – with the goal of finding a Northwest Passage. The distance to be navigated was roughly 1,670 kilometres (1,040 mi). [12]

Command Edit

Barrow was now 82 years old and nearing the end of his career. He felt that the expeditions were close to finding a Northwest Passage, perhaps through what Barrow believed to be an ice-free Open Polar Sea around the North Pole. Barrow deliberated over who should command the next expedition. Parry, his first choice, was tired of the Arctic and politely declined. [13] His second choice, James Clark Ross, also declined because he had promised his new wife that he had finished polar exploration. [13] Barrow's third choice, James Fitzjames, was rejected by the Admiralty due to his youth. [13] Barrow considered Back but thought he was too argumentative. [13] Francis Crozier, another possibility, was of humble birth and Irish, which counted against him. [13] Reluctantly, Barrow settled on the 59-year-old Franklin. [13]

The expedition was to consist of two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, both of which had been used for James Clark Ross' expedition to the Antarctic in 1841–1844, during which Crozier had commanded Terror. Franklin was given command of Erebus Crozier was appointed his executive officer and was again made commander of Terror. Fitzjames was appointed second-in-command of Erebus. Franklin received command of the expedition on 7 February 1845, and his official instructions on 5 May 1845. [14]

Ships, provisions and personnel Edit

Erebus (378 tons bm) and Terror (331 tons bm) were sturdily built and well equipped, including several recent inventions. [15] Steam engines were fitted, driving a single screw propeller in each vessel these engines were converted former locomotives from the London & Croydon Railway. The ships could make 7.4 km/h (4 kn) on steam power, or travel under wind power to reach higher speeds and/or save fuel. [16]

Other advanced technology in the ships included reinforced bows constructed of heavy beams and iron plates, an internal steam heating system for the comfort of the crew in polar conditions, and a system of iron wells that allowed the screw propellers and iron rudders to be withdrawn into the hull to protect them from damage. The ships also carried libraries of more than 1,000 books and three years' supply of food, [17] which included tinned soup and vegetables, salt-cured meat, pemmican and several live cattle. [18] The tinned food was supplied from a provisioner, Stephen Goldner, who was awarded the contract on 1 April 1845, a mere seven weeks before Franklin set sail. [19] Goldner worked frantically on the large order of 8,000 tins. The haste required affected quality control of some of the tins, which were later found to have lead soldering that was "thick and sloppily done, and dripped like melted candle wax down the inside surface". [20]

Most of the crew were English, many from Northern England, with smaller numbers of Irish, Welsh and Scottish members. The only officers with prior experience of the Arctic were Franklin, Crozier, Erebus First Lieutenant Graham Gore, Terror assistant surgeon Alexander MacDonald, and the two ice-masters, James Reid (Erebus) and Thomas Blanky (Terror). [21]

Australian connections Edit

Franklin had been Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania, Australia) from 1837 to 1843. The crew included two members with close family connections to explorers of Australia who later died on expedition. Commander Henry Le Vesconte was the first cousin of William John Wills, the co-leader of the 1861 Burke and Wills expedition, the first to cross the Australian mainland from south to north both Burke and Wills perished on the return journey. [22] [23] William Gibson, a steward on Terror, was the elder brother of Alfred Gibson, who disappeared on an 1874 expedition led by Ernest Giles to cross the deserts of Western Australia from east to west, and was honoured in the naming of the Gibson Desert. [24] [25] Giles recorded the connection in his journal entry of 21 April 1873:

I remarked to Gibson as we rode along that this was the anniversary of Burke's and Wills's return to their depot at Coopers' Creek and then recited to him, as he did not appear to know anything whatever about it, the hardships they endured, their desperate struggles for existence and death there and casually remarked that Mr Wills had a brother [sic] who also lost his life in the field of discovery, as he went out with Sir John Franklin in 1845. Gibson then remarked, "Oh, I had a brother who died with Franklin at the North Pole and my father had a great deal of trouble getting his pay from Government". [26]

The expedition set sail from Greenhithe, Kent, on the morning of 19 May 1845, with a crew of 24 officers and 110 men. The ships stopped briefly in Stromness, Orkney Islands, in northern Scotland. From there they sailed to Greenland with HMS Rattler and a transport ship, Baretto Junior the passage to Greenland took 30 days. [27]

At the Whalefish Islands in Disko Bay, on the west coast of Greenland, 10 oxen carried on Baretto Junior were slaughtered for fresh meat which was transferred to Erebus and Terror. Crew members then wrote their last letters home, which recorded that Franklin had banned swearing and drunkenness. [28] Five men were discharged due to sickness and sent home on Rattler and Barretto Junior, reducing the final crew to 129 men. [29] [ failed verification ] In late July 1845 the whalers Prince of Wales (Captain Dannett) and Enterprise (Captain Robert Martin) encountered Terror and Erebus [30] in Baffin Bay, where they were waiting for good conditions to cross to Lancaster Sound. [31] The expedition was never heard of again.

Only limited information is available for subsequent events, pieced together over the next 150 years by other expeditions, explorers, scientists and interviews with Inuit people. The only first-hand information on expedition's progress is the two-part Victory Point Note (see below) found in the aftermath on King William Island. Franklin's men spent the winter of 1845–46 on Beechey Island, where three crew members died and were buried. After travelling down Peel Sound through the summer of 1846, Terror and Erebus became trapped in ice off King William Island in September 1846 and are thought never to have sailed again: According to the second part of the Victory Point Note dated 25 April 1848 and signed by Fitzjames and Crozier, the crew had wintered off King William Island in 1846–47 and 1847–48 and Franklin had died on 11 June 1847. The remaining crew had abandoned the ships and planned to walk over the island and across the sea ice towards the Back River on the Canadian mainland, beginning on 26 April 1848. In addition to Franklin, eight further officers and 15 men had also died by this point. The Victory Point Note is the last known communication of the expedition. [32]

From archeological finds, it is believed that all of the remaining crew died on the subsequent 400 km long march [32] to Back River, most on the island. Thirty or 40 men reached the northern coast of the mainland before dying, still hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization. [33]

The Victory Point note Edit

The Victory Point Note was found 11 years later in May 1859 by William Hobson (Lieutenant on the McClintock Arctic expedition) [34] placed in a cairn on the northwestern coast of King William Island. It consists of two parts written on a pre-printed Admiralty form. The first part was written after the first overwintering in 1847, while the second part was added one year later. From the second part it can be inferred that the document was first deposited in a different cairn previously erected by James Clark Ross in 1830 during John Ross' Second Arctic expedition – at a location Ross named Victory Point. [35] The document is therefore referred to as Victory Point Note.

The first message is written within the body of the form and dates from May 28, 1847.

H.M.S ships 'Erebus' and 'Terror' wintered in the Ice in lat. 70 05' N., long. 98 23' W. Having wintered in 1846–7 at Beechey Island [a] , in lat. 74 43' 28" N., long. 91 39' 15" W., after having ascended Wellington Channel to lat. 77°, and returned by the west side of Cornwallis Island. Sir John Franklin commanding the expedition. All well.

Party consisting of 2 officers and 6 men left the ships on Monday 24th May, 1847.

(Signed) GM. GORE, Lieut.

(Signed) CHAS. F. DES VOEUX, Mate.

The second and final part is written largely on the margins of the form due to lack of remaining space on the document. It was presumably written on April 25, 1848.

[25th April 1]848 H.M. ships 'Terror' and 'Erebus' were deserted on the 22nd April, 5 leagues N.N.W. of this, [hav]ing been beset since 12th September, 1846. The officers and crews, consisting of 105 souls, under the command [of Cap]tain F.R.M. Crozier, landed here in lat. 69˚ 37' 42" N., long. 98˚ 41' W. [This p]aper was found by Lt. Irving under the cairn supposed to have

been built by Sir James Ross in 1831–4 miles to the Northward – where it had been deposited by the late Commander Gore in May June 1847. Sir James Ross’ pillar has not however been found and the paper has been transferred to this position which is that in which Sir J. Ross’ pillar was erected – Sir John Franklin died on the 11th June, 1847 and the total loss

by deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men. (Signed) JAMES FITZJAMES, Captain H.M.S. Erebus.

(Signed) F.R.M. CROZIER, Captain & Senior Offr.

and start on tomorrow, 26th, for Back's Fish River. [29]

In 1859, Hobson found a second document using the same Admiralty form containing an almost identical duplicate of the first message from 1847 in a cairn a few miles southwest at Gore Point. This document did not contain the second message. From the handwriting it is assumed that all messages were written by Commander James Fitzjames. As he did not take part in the landing party which deposited the notes originally in 1847, it is inferred that both documents were originally filled out by Fitzjames on board the ships with Gore and Des Voeux adding their signatures as members of the landing party. This is further supported by the fact that both documents contain the same factual errors – namely the wrong date of the wintering on Beechey Island. In 1848, after the abandonment of the ships and subsequent recovery of the document from the Victory Point cairn, Fitzjames added the second message signed by him and Crozier and deposited the note in the cairn found by Hobson 11 years later. [29]

Early searches Edit

After two years had passed with no word from Franklin, public concern grew and Jane, Lady Franklin – as well as members of Parliament and British newspapers – urged the Admiralty to send a search party. Although the Admiralty said it did not feel any reason to be alarmed, [36] it responded by developing a three-pronged plan put into effect in the spring of 1848 that sent an overland rescue party, led by John Richardson and John Rae, down the Mackenzie River to the Canadian Arctic coast.

Two expeditions by sea were also launched, one led by James Clark Ross entering the Canadian Arctic archipelago through Lancaster Sound, and the other, commanded by Henry Kellett, entering from the Pacific side. [37] In addition, the Admiralty offered a reward of £20,000 (£2,022,900 as of 2021) "to any Party or Parties, of any country, who shall render assistance to the crews of the Discovery Ships under the command of Sir John Franklin". [38] After the three-pronged effort failed, British national concern and interest in the Arctic increased until "finding Franklin became nothing less than a crusade." [39] Ballads such as "Lady Franklin's Lament", commemorating Lady Franklin's search for her lost husband, became popular. [40] [41]

Many joined the search. In 1850, 11 British and two American ships cruised the Canadian Arctic, including Breadalbane and her sister ship HMS Phoenix. [42] Several converged off the east coast of Beechey Island, where the first relics of the expedition were found, including remnants of a winter camp from 1845 to 1846 and the graves of John Torrington, [43] John Hartnell, and William Braine. No messages from the Franklin expedition were found at this site. [44] [45]

In the spring of 1851, passengers and crew aboard several ships observed a huge iceberg off Newfoundland which bore two vessels, one upright and one on its beam ends. [46] The ships were not examined closely. It was suggested at the time that the ships could have been Erebus and Terror, but it is now known that they were not it is likely that they were abandoned whaling ships. [47]

In 1852, Edward Belcher was given command of the government Arctic expedition in search of Franklin. This was unsuccessful Belcher's inability to render himself popular with his subordinates was peculiarly unfortunate in an Arctic voyage, and he was not wholly suited to command vessels among ice. Four of the five ships (HMS Resolute, Pioneer, Assistance and Intrepid) [48] were abandoned in pack ice, for which Belcher was court-martialed but acquitted.

One of those ships, HMS Resolute, was later recovered intact by an American whaler and returned to the United Kingdom. Timbers from the ship were later used to manufacture three desks, one of which, the Resolute desk, was presented by Queen Victoria to the U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes it has often been chosen by presidents for use in the Oval Office in the White House.

Overland searches Edit

In 1854, Rae, while surveying the Boothia Peninsula for the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), discovered further evidence of the expedition's fate. Rae met an Inuk near Pelly Bay (now Kugaaruk, Nunavut) on 21 April 1854, who told him of a party of 35 to 40 white men who had died of starvation near the mouth of the Back River. Other Inuit confirmed this story, which included reports of cannibalism among the dying sailors. The Inuit showed Rae many objects that were identified as having belonged to Franklin and his men.

In particular, Rae brought from the Inuit several silver forks and spoons later identified as belonging to Franklin, Fitzjames, Crozier, Fairholme and Robert Orme Sargent, a shipmate aboard Erebus. Rae's report was sent to the Admiralty, which in October 1854 urged the HBC to send an expedition down the Back River to search for other signs of Franklin and his men. [49] [50]

Next were Chief Factor James Anderson and HBC employee James Stewart, who travelled north by canoe to the mouth of the Back River. In July 1855, a band of Inuit told them of a group of qallunaat (Inuktitut for "whites") who had starved to death along the coast. [49] In August, Anderson and Stewart found a piece of wood inscribed with "Erebus" and another that said "Mr. Stanley" (surgeon aboard Erebus) on Montreal Island in Chantrey Inlet, where the Back River meets the sea. [49]

Despite the findings of Rae and Anderson, the Admiralty did not plan another search of its own. Britain officially labelled the crew deceased in service on 31 March 1854. [51] Lady Franklin, failing to convince the government to fund another search, personally commissioned one more expedition under Francis Leopold McClintock. The expedition ship, the steam schooner Fox, bought via public subscription, sailed from Aberdeen on 2 July 1857.

In April 1859, sled parties set out from Fox to search on King William Island. On 5 May, the party led by Lieutenant William Hobson found a document in a cairn left by Crozier and Fitzjames. [52] It contained two messages. The first, dated 28 May 1847, said that Erebus and Terror had wintered in the ice off the northwest coast of King William Island and had wintered earlier at Beechey Island after circumnavigating Cornwallis Island. "Sir John Franklin commanding the Expedition. All well," the message said. [53] The second message, written in the margins of that same sheet of paper, was much more ominous. Dated 25 April 1848, it reported that Erebus and Terror had been trapped in the ice for a year and a half and that the crew had abandoned the ships on 22 April. Twenty-four officers and crew had died, including Franklin on 11 June 1847, just two weeks after the date of the first note. Crozier was commanding the expedition, and the 105 survivors planned to start out the next day, heading south towards the Back River. [54] This note contains significant errors most notably, the date of the expedition's winter camp at Beechey Island is incorrectly given as 1846–47 rather than 1845–46. [55]

The McClintock expedition also found a human skeleton on the southern coast of King William Island. Still clothed, it was searched, and some papers were found, including a seaman's certificate for Chief Petty Officer Henry Peglar (b. 1808), Captain of the Foretop, HMS Terror. However, since the uniform was that of a ship's steward, it is more likely that the body was that of Thomas Armitage, gun-room steward on Terror and a shipmate of Peglar, whose papers he carried. [56]

At another site on the western extreme of the island, Hobson discovered a lifeboat containing two skeletons and relics from the Franklin expedition. In the boat was a large amount of abandoned equipment, including boots, silk handkerchiefs, scented soap, sponges, slippers, hair combs, and many books, among them a copy of The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. McClintock also took testimony from the Inuit about the expedition's disastrous end. [57]

Two expeditions between 1860 and 1869 by Charles Francis Hall, who lived among the Inuit near Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island and later at Repulse Bay on the Canadian mainland, found camps, graves, and relics on the southern coast of King William Island, but he believed none of the Franklin expedition survivors would be found among the Inuit. In 1869, local Inuit took Hall to a shallow grave on King Edward Island containing well-preserved skeletal remains and fragments of clothing. [58] These remains were taken to England and interred beneath the Franklin Memorial at Greenwich Old Royal Naval College, London.

The eminent biologist Thomas Henry Huxley examined the remains and it was concluded that they belonged to HTD Le Vesconte, second lieutenant on Erebus. [59] An examination in 2009 suggested that these were actually the remains of Harry Goodsir, assistant surgeon on Erebus. [60] Although Hall concluded that all of the Franklin crew were dead, he believed that the official expedition records would yet be found under a stone cairn. [61] With the assistance of his guides Ipirvik and Taqulittuq, Hall gathered hundreds of pages of Inuit testimony.

Among these materials are accounts of visits to Franklin's ships, and an encounter with a party of white men on the southern coast of King William Island near Washington Bay. In the 1990s, this testimony was extensively researched by David C. Woodman, and was the basis of two books, Unravelling the Franklin Mystery (1992) and Strangers Among Us (1995), in which he reconstructs the final months of the expedition. Woodman's narrative challenged existing theories that the expedition's survivors all perished over the remainder of 1848 as they marched south from Victory Point, arguing instead that Inuit accounts point strongly to most of the 105 survivors cited by Crozier in his final note actually surviving past 1848, re-manning at least one of the ships and managing to sail it down along the coast of King William Island before it sank, with some crew members surviving as late as 1851. [62]

The hope of finding other additional expedition records led Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka of the U.S. Army to organise an expedition to the island between 1878 and 1880. Traveling to Hudson Bay on the schooner Eothen, Schwatka, assembling a team that included Inuit who had assisted Hall, continued north by foot and dog sled, interviewing Inuit, visiting known or likely sites of Franklin expedition remains, and wintering on King William Island. Although Schwatka failed to find the hoped-for papers, in a speech at a dinner given in his honour by the American Geographical Society in 1880, he said that his expedition had made "the longest sledge journey ever made both in regard to time and distance" [63] of 11 months and four days and 4,360 kilometres (2,710 mi), that it was the first Arctic expedition on which the whites relied entirely on the same diet as the Inuit, and that it established the loss of the Franklin records "beyond all reasonable doubt". [63] However, Schwatka was successful in locating the remains of one of Franklin's men, identified by personal effects as John Irving, third lieutenant aboard Terror. Schwatka had Irving's remains returned to Scotland, where they were buried with full honours at Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh on 7 January 1881. [64]

The Schwatka expedition found no remnants of the Franklin expedition south of a place now known as Starvation Cove on the Adelaide Peninsula. This was about 40 miles (60 km) north of Crozier's stated goal, the Back River, and several hundred miles away from the nearest Western outpost, on the Great Slave Lake. Woodman wrote of Inuit reports that between 1852 and 1858 Crozier and one other expedition member were seen in the Baker Lake area, about 400 kilometres (250 mi) to the south, where in 1948 Farley Mowat found "a very ancient cairn, not of normal Eskimo construction" inside which were shreds of a hardwood box with dovetail joints. [65] [66]

Contemporary search expeditions Edit

  • East: James Clark Ross, (HMS Enterprise, HMS Investigator) only to Somerset Island because of ice.
  • Center: Rae–Richardson Arctic expedition Mackenzie River and along the coast.
  • West: HMS Plover, HMS Herald to Bering Strait William Pullen reaches Mackenzie by whaleboat.
  • West: Richard Collinson (HMS Enterprise), Robert McClure (HMS Investigator) to Bering Strait. McClure frozen in at Banks Island and Investigator abandoned after two winters, crew trek east to Belcher expedition ships, becoming first Europeans to cross the northwest passage. Collinson reaches Coronation Gulf, furthest east of any ship.
  • East: Horatio Austin (HMS Resolute), Erasmus Ommanney (HMS Assistance), plus 2 steam tenders, Pioneer and Intrepid (cpt John Bertie Cator 1850). Ommanney finds Franklin's Beechey Island camp. Austin's four and the below ships gather around Beechey Island, are frozen in and in spring send out sledge expeditions in all directions. They leave the Arctic before winter in 1851.
  • East: Charles Forsyth (Prince Albert) financed by Lady Franklin sledge on Somerset Island to Fury Beach.
  • East: William Penny (Lady Franklin and Sophia)
  • East: John Ross (schooner Felix)
  • East: Edwin De Haven (USS Rescue, USS Advance) mounted the First Grinnell expedition.
    in northern Baffin Bay. in five ships: HMS Assistance (Belcher), HMS Resolute (Henry Kellett), Pioneer (Sherard Osborn), Intrepid (Francis Leopold McClintock) and depot ship HMS North Star (William Pullen) much sledge exploration rescues crew of HMS Investigator all frozen in and abandoned except for North Star. Joined by supply ships Breadalbane, which would be crushed by ice, and HMS Phoenix, which with North Star took off crews of the other ships, including that of McClure's HMS Investigator, in 1854. led the Second Grinnell expedition.
  • Boat expedition up the Wellington Channel under the command of R. M'Cormick, R.N., in HMB Forlorn Hope.
  • Francis McClintock finds relics at King William Island, including the sole surviving written records of the Franklin expedition (the Victory Point and Gore Point records), and a ship's boat on runners containing two corpses.

King William Island excavations (1981–82) Edit

In June 1981, Owen Beattie, a professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, began the 1845–48 Franklin Expedition Forensic Anthropology Project (FEFAP) when he and his team of researchers and field assistants travelled from Edmonton to King William Island, traversing the island's western coast as Franklin's men did 132 years before. FEFAP hoped to find artefacts and skeletal remains in order to use modern forensics to establish identities and causes of death among the lost 129. [67]

Although the trek found archaeological artefacts related to 19th-century Europeans and undisturbed disarticulated human remains, Beattie was disappointed that more remains were not found. [68] Examining the bones of Franklin crewmen, he noted areas of pitting and scaling often found in cases of Vitamin C deficiency, the cause of scurvy. [69] After returning to Edmonton, he compared notes from the survey with James Savelle, an Arctic archaeologist, and noticed skeletal patterns suggesting cannibalism. [70] Seeking information about the Franklin crew's health and diet, he sent bone samples to the Alberta Soil and Feed Testing Laboratory for trace element analysis and assembled another team to visit King William Island. The analysis would find an unexpected level of 226 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the crewman's bones, which was 10 times higher than the control samples, taken from Inuit skeletons from the same geographic area, of 26–36 ppm. [71]

In June 1982, a team made up of Beattie and three students (Walt Kowall, a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Alberta Arne Carlson, an archaeology and geography student from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and Arsien Tungilik, an Inuk student and field assistant) was flown to the west coast of King William Island where they retraced some of the steps of McClintock in 1859 and Schwatka in 1878–79. [72] Discoveries during this expedition included the remains of between six and fourteen men in the vicinity of McClintock's "boat place" and artefacts including a complete boot sole fitted with makeshift cleats for better traction. [73]

Beechey Island excavations and exhumations (1984–86) Edit

After returning to Edmonton in 1982 and learning of the lead level findings from the 1981 expedition, Beattie struggled to find a cause. Possibilities included the lead solder used to seal the expedition's food tins, other food containers lined with lead foil, food colouring, tobacco products, pewter tableware, and lead-wicked candles. He came to suspect that the problems of lead poisoning compounded by the effects of scurvy could have been lethal for the Franklin crew. However, because skeletal lead might reflect lifetime exposure rather than exposure limited to the voyage, Beattie's theory could be tested only by forensic examination of preserved soft tissue as opposed to bone. Beattie decided to examine the graves of the buried crewmen on Beechey Island. [74]

After obtaining legal permission, [75] Beattie's team visited Beechey Island in August 1984 to perform autopsies on the three crewmen buried there. [76] They started with the first crew member to die, Leading Stoker John Torrington. [77] After completing Torrington's autopsy and exhuming and briefly examining the body of John Hartnell, the team, pressed for time and threatened by the weather, returned to Edmonton with tissue and bone samples. [78] Trace element analysis of Torrington's bones and hair indicated that the crewman "would have suffered severe mental and physical problems caused by lead poisoning". [79] Although the autopsy indicated that pneumonia had been the ultimate cause of the crewman's death, lead poisoning was cited as a contributing factor. [80]

During the expedition, the team visited a place about 1 km (0.6 mi) north of the grave site to examine fragments of hundreds of food tins discarded by Franklin's men. Beattie noted that the seams were poorly soldered with lead, which had likely come in direct contact with the food. [81] [82] The release of findings from the 1984 expedition and the photo of Torrington, a 138-year-old corpse well preserved by permafrost in the tundra, led to wide media coverage and renewed interest in the Franklin expedition.

Subsequent research has suggested that another potential source for the lead may have been the ships' distilled water systems rather than the tinned food. K. T. H. Farrer argued that "it is impossible to see how one could ingest from the canned food the amount of lead, 3.3 mg per day over eight months, required to raise the PbB to the level 80 μg/dL at which symptoms of lead poisoning begin to appear in adults and the suggestion that bone lead in adults could be 'swamped' by lead ingested from food over a period of a few months, or even three years, seems scarcely tenable." [83] In addition, tinned food was in widespread use within the Royal Navy at that time and its use did not lead to any significant increase in lead poisoning elsewhere.

However, and uniquely for this expedition only, the ships were fitted with converted railway locomotive engines for auxiliary propulsion which required an estimated one tonne of fresh water per hour when steaming. It is highly probable that it was for this reason that the ships were fitted with a unique desalination system which, given the materials in use at the time, would have produced large quantities of water with a very high lead content. William Battersby has argued that this is a much more likely source for the high levels of lead observed in the remains of expedition members than the tinned food. [4]

A further survey of the graves was undertaken in 1986. A camera crew filmed the procedure, shown in Nova's television documentary "Buried in Ice" in 1988. [84] Under difficult field conditions, Derek Notman, a radiologist and medical doctor from the University of Minnesota, and radiology technician Larry Anderson took many X-rays of the crewmen prior to autopsy. Barbara Schweger, an Arctic clothing specialist, and Roger Amy, a pathologist, assisted in the investigation. [85]

Beattie and his team had noticed that someone else had attempted to exhume Hartnell. In the effort, a pickaxe had damaged the wooden lid of his coffin, and the coffin plaque was missing. [86] Research in Edmonton later showed that Sir Edward Belcher, commander of one of the Franklin rescue expeditions, had ordered the exhumation of Hartnell in October 1852, but was thwarted by the permafrost. A month later, Edward A. Inglefield, commander of another rescue expedition, succeeded with the exhumation and removed the coffin's plaque. [87]

Unlike Hartnell's grave, the grave of Private William Braine was largely intact. [88] When he was exhumed, the survey team saw signs that his burial had been hasty. His arms, body, and head had not been positioned carefully in the coffin, and one of his undershirts had been put on backwards. [89] The coffin seemed too small for him its lid had pressed down on his nose. A large copper plaque with his name and other personal data punched into it adorned his coffin lid. [90]

The four graves at Franklin Camp near the harbour on Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada.

Tattooing in the Arctic

By far skin-stitched tattoos were most popular among indigenous peoples of the Arctic. In fact, this style of tattooing was practiced for over 2,000 years and was most common among women. As a general rule, expert tattoo artists were respected elderly women. Their extensive training as skin seamstresses (parkas, pants, boots, hide boat covers, etc.) facilitated the need for precision when stitching the human skin with tattoos.

Siberian Yupik woman “stitching the skin” at Indian Point, Chukotka, 1901. Photograph by Waldemar Bogoras.

Tattoo designs were usually made freehand but in some instances a rough outline was first sketched upon the face, arms, hands, and other body parts that were to be tattooed. On St. Lawrence Island, the tattoo pigment was made from the soot (aallneq) of seal oil lamps which was taken from the bottom of tea kettles or similar containers used to boil meat or other foods. The soot was mixed with urine (tequq), often that of an old woman, and sometimes graphite (tagneghli) or seal oil was added. Next, a sinew (ivalu) thread from a reindeer was drawn through the eye of a needle and dipped into the coloring substance. This thread was then inserted just under the skin for a distance of about a 1/32 of an inch and after several stitches tiny dots began to form lines and other desired motifs.

St. Lawrence Island Yupik woman with facial tattoos. Photograph © 1997 Lars Krutak.

Tattooing needles were traditionally made from slivers of bone, but as time passed St. Lawrence Islanders (Sivuqaghhmiit) began using steel needles for skin-stitching. According to one of the last tattooed elders, a very small bag of seal intestine was used to hold the tattoo needle: “they don’t use this needle for anything else, they just keep it in there and nobody else is supposed to touch it except the one who used it.” When anyone was injured either accidentally or willfully by the needle, it was not used again until the wound had healed. If sickness resulted on account of such an injury or if death occurred, the needle was taken with the body of the dead or it was destroyed.

ABOVE: Pazyryk chief with medicinal dot-tattooing and elaborate zoomorphic body tattooing, 500 B.C.

Although ornamental and family designs were applied to most parts of the body (e.g., face, arms, torso and hands), medicinal tattoos akin to acupuncture were placed on particular joints. Of course, the Sivuqaghhmiit were not the only indigenous people to sport such markings. The 5,000-year-old Iceman wore similar medicinal tattoos at rheumatic joints as did members of the nomadic Pazyryk people who ruled the Siberian steppes some 2,500 years ago. The Unangan and Alutiiq of the Aleutian Islands also utilized this medicinal treatment.

RIGHT: The 5,000-year-old Iceman. Small lines of therapeutic tattooing have been found on his rheumatic joints, and 80% of the Iceman’s tattoos correspond to actual acupuncture points. Interestingly, archaeological evidence indicates that the earliest form of tattooing was not medicinal but rather cosmetic. And around 6,000 years ago, at least one man of the Chinchorro culture of Chile was tattooed with what looks like a small mustache on his upper lip. It is believed that this tattoo was pricked-in rather than sewn.
Tattooed Unangan woman of Unalaska Island, Alaska, 1778. Drawing by John Webber.

Unravelling the Events Surrounding the Frozen Burial of a Pazyryk Noblewoman - History

MUSE, Musée d l’Homme, Paris, France.

In order to assess population history and structure, we include both modern crania from Siberia and Central Asia (18th–20th centuries) and pooled samples of ancient crania from Siberia, Mongolia, and China. We assume the provenance of our modern samples to derive from the last few centuries. Most of our ‘modern’ samples have documented provenience. However, several samples from the Musée de l’Homme in Paris contain little or no provenance. The only information available to us was the geographic location from which the skulls were collected.

For instance, the linguist and ethnographer N.N. Pantusov, who excavated Kurgan remains dating from the Bronze Age to modern times in Kazakhstan, also excavated our sample labeled ‘Kazakhs’ during the late 1800s and early 1900s, now curated at the Museé de l’Homme. These Kazakh crania were collected from a region historically known as Semirechye, now known as Zhetysu in Almaty Province. However, records indicate that the Semirechye Oblast, a former administrative locale of the Russian Empire, also included lands now part of northern Kyrgyzstan and adjacent provinces of Kazakhstan. Modern Kazakh peoples share similar biological features with modern ethnic Kyrgyz. In our analysis, the Kazakh and Kyrgyz crania appear very different. Therefore, we have, as a caveat, tentatively labeled the Kazakh sample ‘modern,’ though they could most certainly date to the medieval period (1100–1500 AD) or perhaps even earlier.

We also use one sample, the Kalmyks, as representing the northern Caucasus and Lower Volga region. The reason we include Kalmyks in the analysis is their recent western Mongolian origin: they began migrating through the steppes of present days Kazakhstan and Central Asia at the end of 16th century AD and settled in the northern Caucasus steppes and Volga basin in the 17th century AD (Nasidze et al., 2005).

All of our ‘ancient’ samples have sufficient provenance (Keyser-Tracqui et al., 2003 Tumen, 2006 Chikisheva, 2008 Zubova, 2008, 2013). Some of the samples used in the present study have been used in previous studies of ancient population history and structure (Pozdnyakov, 2004 Moiseyev, 2006 Tumen, 2006 Chikisheva, 2008) however, our methodology (GMM coupled with multivariate analyses) has not been used previously. In addition, the sample comparisons we make have not been previously analyzed, with the exception of Chikisheva (2008), who included a more diverse dataset with different aims (specifically uncovering the population history of the Tuvan peoples), and Moiseyev (2006) who analyzed non-metric traits of the skull.

The medieval Siberian sample (1100–1500 AD) contains pooled remains from several sites located in western and southern Siberia (Pozdnyakov, 2004). The other Early Iron Age Siberian sample (5th–3rd centuries BC) comes from one site (Bystrovka-2) in southern Siberia (Moiseyev, 2006). The Iron Age Tuva sample (7th–3rd centuries BC) is pooled from two sites (Arzhan-2 and Dogehe-Baary II) (Chikisheva, 2008). In addition, we include a Turkic-Mongolian sample (Xiongnu, pooled series from several sites in Central and Western Mongolia) that dates to the Iron Age (3rd century BC–2nd century AD) (Keyser-Tracqui et al., 2003 Schmidt, 2012). Lastly, we include a Bronze Age sample (Tianshanbeilu, Hami City) from the eastern Xinjiang Province (4th– 3rd centuries BC) (Schmidt, 2012). We include this ancient sample as previous studies indicated some biological affinity among ancient Siberians and Bronze Age Xinjiang peoples of the Tian Shan mountain range. This sample also included distinct pottery closely linked to types seen in southern Siberia and Western Mongolia (Liu and Cheng, 2012).

The raw data were analyzed using the software program MorphoJ (Klingenberg, 2011). Landmark configurations were processed by means of GMM (Klingenberg, 2010). Original configurations were superimposed according to the generalized Procrustes analysis (GPA) procedure in MorphoJ using the total covariance matrix. Sample variance was assessed using canonical variates analysis (CVA) and Mahalanobis distances generated from the total covariance matrix. In this study we do not attempt to interpret morphological shape changes between samples, rather our goal is overall classification.

Three separate CVA analyses (CVA1, CVA2, CVA3) were performed to assess ancient Siberian classification (for samples included in each analysis, see Table 1 and Table 2). In CVA1, we chose only representative samples from southern and western Siberia that date from the Iron Age to the medieval period. This was done in order to assess male and female distances among ancient Siberian groups. Differential patterns of sex-biased distances may indicate whether the local autochthonous component in southern Siberia was due to female or male groups. In CVA2, we chose both ancient and modern Siberian groups. This analysis was performed in order to assess the apparent differences of the Iron Age groups to modern northeastern Siberian groups. That is, we included these groups intentionally to show the significant differences among southern and eastern Siberian groups. Based on previous research, there have been suggestions of the influence of a Turkic-speaking people in southern Siberia. Therefore, in CVA3, we included both male and female Pazyryk and Tagar samples and compared them with modern and ancient Turkic groups located in southern Siberia, Central Asia, and Western China.

Male and female Tagar and Pazyryk craniofacial diversity was initially examined against several other contemporaneous samples from the Iron Age in southern Siberia (CVA1), in addition to a pooled sample from the Siberian medieval period (

1100–1500 AD). The CVA results show differential patterns for Iron Age males and females. The plot of the first two canonical variates accounts for 86.4% of the total variance for males (Figure 3A) and 71.7% for females. It is clear from this plot (Figure 3A) that along CV1 Pazyryk males cluster closer to Iron Age Tuvans, while the Tagar sample and Iron Age males from the Bystrovka-2 site are more isolated. On the other hand, female Pazyryk and Iron Age Tuvans are separate along CV1, while the female Tagar are closely related to the Bystrovka-2 Iron Age females (Figure 3B). In both males and females, the pooled medieval series is separated along CV2.

CVA plot for ancient male and female Southern/Western Siberians (CVA1). Closed circles are individual crania. (A) Male crania (n = 77 CV1 = 71.8%, CV2 = 14.6%). (B) Female crania (n = 75 CV1 = 47.9%, CV2 = 23.8%).

The Tagar and Pazyryk males and females were then compared to modern Siberian crania (CVA2), including groups from northeastern Siberia (Evenks, Orochi, Ulchi) and the Caspian Sea region (Kalmyks) and ancient Siberian crania, mainly from southern and western Siberia (pooled medieval sample, Iron Age Bystrovka-2, pooled Iron Age Tuva). The plot of the first two canonical variates accounts for 56.2% of the total variance for males, and 53.6% for females (Figure 4). The ellipses drawn around the population mean are 75% frequency ellipses. The CVA plots for both males (Figure 4A) and females (Figure 4B) indicate a general separation of eastern Siberian groups and the Kalmyk sample compared to southern Siberian and ancient Siberian groups. However, female crania appear more diverse. For example, although there is still a general separation among ancient and modern groups along CV1, the modern Tuvan females cluster tightly with the Kalmyk females. This is not the case for modern male Tuvans, who appear in an intermediate position perhaps reflecting a mixed ancestry related to greater gene flow from ancient groups compared with modern Tuvan females. In this analysis, the Tagar and Pazyryk male samples are more closely related due to the introduction of more highly differentiated groups. However, the females for both groups do not show a similar pattern. Although female Tagar and Pazyryk are fairly close in Figure 4B, they do not overlap. The female Iron Age Tuvans are now more closely related to both female Tagar and female Pazyryk. Also, the Tagar males have become less isolated in this analysis.

CVA plot of the first two canonical variates of ancient and modern Siberian samples (CVA2). (A) Male crania (n = 142 CV1 = 40.2%, CV2 = 16.0%). (B) Female crania (n = 152 CV1 = 42.5%, CV2 = 11.1%). Closed circles are individual crania, ellipses are drawn as equal frequency ellipses (75%) around group mean.

It has been suggested that Central Asian Turkic (or Turkish speaking) groups have played a role in shaping the genetic diversity seen today in southern Siberia. Therefore, the Tagar and Pazyryk were analyzed against samples collected from Central Asia (Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uighur, Uzbek, and Turkmen), Siberia (modern Tuvans, a Turkic ethnic group), a Mongol-Turkic Iron Age group from Mongolia (Xiongnu), and a Bronze Age sample from Xinjiang (Xinjiang Bronze) (CVA3). For male crania, the first two canonical variates account for 48.8% of the variance (Figure 5A), while for females, the first two canonical variates account for 53.8% of the variance (Figure 5B). Similar to Figure 4, the ellipses are 75% frequency ellipses. In Figure 5A, the Xinjiang males are clear outliers along CV1. The Tagar males are also slight outliers, clustering loosely with the Pazyryk, modern Uzbeks, and the Kazakhstan sample. Interestingly, the female CV plot shows a tight cluster of female Pazyryk, Tagar, and Yakut to the exclusion of the other samples, which is not shown among male crania (Figure 5B). Mahalanobis distances among modern Siberian and Central Asian groups indicate more similarity of the Tagar and Pazyryk peoples to some Central Asian samples as opposed to modern Siberian samples (Table 4, Table 5, Table 6, Table 7). Although the result of NE Siberian groups separating from southern Siberian groups is not surprising given the history of the region, the relative closeness of Kazakh male and female crania (that could date to as early as the medieval period) and male Xiongnu sample to Pazyryk and Tagar could indicate ancient admixture or gene flow among these groups.

CVA plot of the first two canonical variates for Pazyryk, Tagar and modern ethnic Turkic or ancient Turkic-speaking groups (CVA3). (A) Male crania (n = 140 CV1 = 31.9%, CV2 = 16.9%). (B) Female crania (n = 125 CV1 = 36.9%, CV2 = 16.9%). Closed circles are individual crania, ellipses are drawn as equal frequency ellipses (75%) around group mean.

Buryat Evenks Kalmyk Orochi Pazyryk Tagar Tuva
Evenks 8.36
Kalmyk 6.38 8.56
Orochi 7.55 7.31 7.53
Pazyryk 9.50 11.72 9.08 9.82
Tagar 10.16 12.30 10.53 10.66 6.55
Tuva 7.42 11.05 9.12 9.89 7.47 8.44
Ulchi 9.29 7.63 9.83 7.66 11.35 12.41 10.81
Kazakh Kyrgyz Pazyryk Tagar Turkmen Tuva Uighur Uzbek Xinjiang Bronze Xiongnu
Kyrgyz 11.11
Pazyryk 6.55 8.78
Tagar 10.39 11.93 8.48
Turkmen 9.09 7.34 6.59 9.34
Tuva 8.58 8.15 7.50 9.74 8.55
Uighur 9.17 9.47 7.85 11.06 6.45 8.64
Uzbek 7.32 9.08 6.63 7.83 6.77 7.66 7.87
Xinjiang Bronze 10.51 13.91 9.25 9.43 12.57 11.49 12.72 10.41
Xiongnu 7.73 9.13 6.23 9.91 8.84 7.02 9.49 7.73 9.59
Yakut 7.44 9.62 6.99 10.15 8.80 8.12 10.62 7.35 10.59 6.81
Buryat Evenks Kalmyk Orochi Pazyryk Tagar Tuva
Evenks 7.62
Kalmyk 6.81 7.35
Orochi 8.32 7.30 8.09
Pazyryk 10.25 10.68 7.37 10.48
Tagar 11.04 12.15 8.99 12.49 6.57
Tuva 7.87 8.20 6.43 8.62 8.16 10.54
Ulchi 8.06 7.22 7.92 7.01 10.66 12.84 7.63
Kazakh Kyrgyz Pazyryk Tagar Turkmen Tuva Uighur Uzbek Xinjiang Bronze Xiongnu
Kyrgyz 11.53
Pazyryk 8.44 9.80
Tagar 8.99 10.62 5.95
Turkmen 11.14 8.97 11.81 12.35
Tuva 9.56 8.72 8.20 10.79 10.38
Uighur 10.07 8.70 7.75 8.85 9.53 9.37
Uzbek 9.90 10.83 8.61 8.98 11.83 11.52 8.59
Xinjiang Bronze 12.14 16.74 11.08 10.15 17.02 14.47 14.16 13.72
Xiongnu 10.09 13.53 8.84 9.86 13.21 10.62 11.81 13.32 10.76
Yakut 7.59 13.13 8.11 9.02 12.67 11.21 10.41 9.62 12.11 9.26

Southern Siberian groups, both modern and ancient, have been investigated extensively, owing to a rich and diverse cultural hybrid zone that has seen significant contact among peoples originating from both Western and Eastern Eurasia since as early as the Upper Paleolithic. Importantly, this region has been hypothesized to be the origin of modern-day Native American peoples, while also maintaining high levels of genetic and cultural diversity (Quintana-Murci et al., 2004 Dulik et al., 2012 Raghavan et al., 2013). This study has attempted to reconcile the population history of southern Siberia by examining a small temporal slice during the Iron Age. Notably, two important cultural groups with questionable origins were investigated craniometrically to elucidate questions owing to divergent morphological appearances and mtDNA haplotype composition (Voevoda et al., 1998 Chikisheva et al., 2007). These cultural groups, the Tagar and Pazyryk, are important to understanding the broader history of the region. Our results have shown these two groups to be outliers when compared to many modern living peoples of Siberia and Central Asia (Figure 5), while maintaining a connection to some peoples from the Iron Ages of southern and western Siberia (Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5). These findings are similar to previous research done in ancient DNA studies and physical anthropological studies (Chikisheva, 2000a Moiseyev, 2006 Chikisheva et al., 2007 Pilipenko et al., 2010).

It is well known that the modern genetic diversity seen in the region of southern Siberia today stems from extensive contacts among diverse peoples (Comas et al., 1998, 2004). Mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome studies have been conducted on a range of living peoples in Northern Asia, including Tuvinans, Buryats, Khakassians, Sojots, Todjins, Tofalars, Kalmyks, Kazakhs, Kizhi, Mongols, Evenks, and Yakuts, among others (Kolman et al., 1996 Wells et al., 2001 Zerjal et al., 2002 Derenko et al., 2003, 2006, 2007 Pakendorf et al., 2003, 2006 Nasidze et al., 2005 Starikovskaya et al., 2005 Phillips-Krawczak et al., 2006 Gokcumen et al., 2008). These groups range in linguistic diversity as well, covering Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic language families. The majority of these studies include analyses of haplogroup reconstruction for the uniparentally inherited mtDNA and Y chromosome. The general consensus among these studies is that the mountain belt zone of southern Siberia is where populations began to expand into Eastern and Northern Europe following the Last Glacial Maximum. From the Mesolithic, the region of southern Siberia has witnessed extensive migrations, most notably during the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Paleogenetic studies of the southern Siberian region during the Bronze and Iron Ages have included mtDNA and Y chromosome analyses of Pazyryk, Xiongnu, Scythian, Tagar, and Kazakhstan peoples (Clisson et al., 2002 Keyser-Tracqui et al., 2003 Lalueza-Fox et al., 2004 Ricaut et al., 2004a, b Chikisheva et al., 2007 Keyser et al., 2009 Pilipenko et al., 2010 Gonzalez-Ruiz et al., 2012). The general consensus among these studies is that the region of southern Siberia and Central Asia is quite diverse. However, studies have shown that Pazyryk and Tagar peoples possessed haplogroups that are rare or absent in southern Siberia today, such as mtDNA haplogroups U and U5a1 (Pilipenko et al., 2010). Interestingly, haplogroup U is present in high frequencies in ancient hunter-gatherers of Europe (Bramanti et al., 2009 Malmstrom et al., 2009) and was also found in a 24000 year old Upper Paleolithic boy from the Lake Baikal region (Mal’ta) of south-central Siberia (Raghavan et al., 2013). Haplogroup U5a1 has also been observed in eastern Kazakhstan from the Bronze Age (Lalueza-Fox et al., 2004). Therefore, the connection between pre-agricultural European peoples and the Pazyryk peoples may have been established from as early as the pre-Neolithic.

Our craniofacial study did not include peoples of modern-day Europe with high frequencies of haplogroup U or other typical Western Eurasian haplogroups such as R (Quintana-Murci et al., 2004). We did, however, observe stark differences between the Iron Age Siberians and modern Siberians that contain higher frequencies of common Eastern Eurasian haplogroups, such as M (Derenko et al., 2012 Gonzalez-Ruiz et al., 2012). Our results would therefore suggest the Pazyryk and Tagar peoples either had greater contact with West Eurasian peoples, or their ancestors originated or had close connections with the hunter-gatherers of Paleolithic Europe. This observation is reinforced through ancient DNA analysis. Keyser et al. (2009) analyzed mtDNA and Y chromosome haplotypes of Middle and Late Bronze Age, and Iron Age southern Siberian samples, including samples from the Tagar culture. Their results revealed that all of their samples contained the Y haplogroup R1a1, which is widely distributed on the Eurasian continent (Karafet et al., 2008). This haplogroup most likely reflects the expansion of peoples after the Last Glacial Maximum (

20–12 kya) and therefore the Bronze and Iron Age peoples of Siberia were part of a continuation of West Eurasian peoples that may have reached as far as Lake Baikal during the Upper Paleolithic (Raghavan et al., 2013).

While population genetic studies point mostly to Western (European) direction of relationships of Tagar and Pazyryk peoples, both archaeological and craniological data suggest fairly strong influence of Central or even East Asian populations on the Iron Age tribes of southern Siberia (Chikisheva, 2000a, 2008). It is known from ancient DNA studies (Keyser et al., 2009 Pilipenko et al., 2010) that western and southern Siberian Bronze Age samples harbored higher frequencies of Western Eurasian than Eastern Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups prior to the Iron Age. In the Keyser et al. (2009) study, the frequency of Western Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups reached 90%, but lowered to 67% during the Iron Age. This is similar to the results of Lalueza-Fox et al. (2004), who found that lineages in Kazakhstan before the Iron Age all belonged to Western Eurasian lineages. During the Late Iron Age, the influx of Turko-Mongolian Xiongnu increased the Eastern Eurasian lineages present in Kazakhstan (Lalueza-Fox et al., 2004). Therefore, the Tagar male outlier position in Figure 3 may be the result of incoming East Eurasian peoples during the Late Iron Age.

More generally, our results show some population differences between the Pazyryk and Tagar peoples. As seen in Figure 3, the two Iron Age groups do not overlap for the first two canonical variates when compared with a small number of contemporaneous groups. In fact, the Tagar males seem to be greater outliers than the Pazyryk while we can see the opposite situation for females of both groups. The Pazyryk in Figure 3 overlap with, and are close to the Iron Age Tuvans, and to a lesser degree to other Siberian Iron Age samples. Therefore, the connection between the Pazyryk peoples in Siberia may be stronger than for Tagar peoples.

The situation for female groups looks to be otherwise: the Pazyryk females seem to be outliers while Tagar females are similar to the Iron Age Siberia sample from Bystrovka-2. Taken together, these results point to a high probability of sex-biased admixture in both groups where migrating Tagar males assimilated some previous Iron Age population while Pazyryk males are more similar to neighboring Iron Age Tuvan peoples who may have had other sources of marital partners. Chikisheva (2008) showed that the nomads of Iron Age Tuva formed a subcluster with the pooled Pazyryk sample, but not the Tagar peoples. This result is clearly seen in our CVA shown in Figure 3, but only for the male sample while the females obviously differ from the Iron Age Tuvan group, at least on CV1. It should be noted that the Iron Age Tuvan sample is the closest group for both males and females of Tagar. However, this result should not be overemphasized as the comparison here is done among very few groups of generally common origin and cranial morphology.

After introducing several northeastern Siberian groups into the analysis (Figure 4), the Tagar and Pazyryk males do not differ greatly and strongly overlap, while females of both groups are still fairly distinguishable and do not overlap, indicating greater heterogeneity among ancient southern Siberian females. Overall, females of the Iron Age and medieval southern Siberian groups look more diverse compared to males of the same groups even against the background of such morphologically different groups such as Northeast Asians (Figure 4B).

However, when we compared the Pazyryk and Tagar samples to crania collected from Central Asian groups (Kazakhs, Turkmen, Uzbeks, Uighurs) with the addition of ancient Xiongnu, who originated in Mongolia and date to the Iron Age, and a Bronze Age sample from Xinjiang (Figure 5), we found the Pazyryk males to be more closely related to Central Asian groups than Tagar males, who show an outlier position though fairly close to Pazyryk males (Figure 5A). On average, both the Tagar and Pazyryk peoples are more closely related to Central Asian groups, namely the Uzbek sample and Pantusov’s collection from Kazakhstan (see Materials and Methods section for details of this sample provenance) than modern northern Siberian groups. Interestingly, when the ancient Xiongnu and the Bronze Age Xinjiang are included in the analysis, neither the Tagar nor Pazyryk peoples overlap with individuals from the Xiongnu sample (Figure 5). Thus, a direct genetic influx from the Xiongnu population does not look very probable in either the Tagar or Pazyryk peoples.

Since the Pazyryk and Tagar samples are pooled from different sites and different time periods, their affinity to the Central Asian Kazakh sample could stem from later incursions of Eastern Eurasian peoples toward the end of the Iron Age. These results have not been demonstrated previously, though Chikisheva (2000a) did observe for both male and female Pazyryk crania a close biological similarity to the ancient Saka and Wusun groups of eastern Kazakhstan and Xinjiang. Unfortunately, to our knowledge, we were unable to include ancient samples from Kazakhstan, however, we do show a similar pattern for our pooled Pazyryk sample, which could indicate that our Kazakh sample dates from much earlier than the last few centuries. Importantly, the Kazakh sample is the only one showing similarity to both sexes of (Tagar and Pazyryk) cultures. Pazyryk females, unlike males, do not show close affinity to modern Uzbek sample, and this fact again points to possible different origins of both sexes for this group. Tagar females, unlike males, overlap with Yakut females, which is very interesting when one accounts for the close geographical position of Tagar culture to the Pazyryk culture. Both Tagar and Pazyryk females are even less similar to Xiongnu than males of these groups.

The other interesting result in our data suggests the Pazyryk sample to be very closely related to a pooled sample from Iron Age Tuva. Chikisheva (2008) showed that the nomads of Iron Age Tuva formed a subcluster with the pooled Pazyryk sample, but not the Tagar peoples. This result is clearly seen in Figure 3. We have shown that the Tagar and Pazyryk males are closely related when multiple comparisons are made. This is not the case for females, who show similarity in only one of the analyses performed, and Tagar females display similarity to Yakut females, which may point to their possible origin.

These results suggest that the peoples of the Tagar and Pazyryk cultures each have a shared population history and contributed to the diversity of the southern Russian Altai. To better understand their population structure, definitive Iron and Bronze Age samples from Central Eurasia need to be included in the analyses. To get a clearer picture of these two important Iron Age nomadic groups, more Bronze and Iron Age samples from Siberia, Central Asia, and perhaps even Europe, should be analyzed using various physical anthropological, archaeological, and molecular methods in an effort to understand the early Iron Age of southern Siberia.


Genome-wide data for 117 ancient individuals were obtained using an in-solution DNA capture technique designed to enrich for 1,233,013 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) commonly referred as 1240K capture (Materials and Methods). Genome-wide data for 96 present-day Kazakh individuals were generated with the Affymetrix Axiom Genome-wide HumanOrigins SNP-chip (“HO”) (Materials and Methods). After performing quality controls, we retained all the 96 modern Kazakh individuals and 111 ancient individuals with at least >20,000 SNPs covered, obtaining a median of 793,636 successfully recovered SNPs and 1.5× autosomal coverage on the 1240K panel across all individuals (Materials and Methods and data file S1).

We then merged the new data with a reference dataset of previously published modern and ancient individuals compiling a “1240KHO” dataset consisting of 586,594 SNPs overlapping with the modern genotype data that we used for performing global population structure analyses [i.e., PCA (principal components analysis) and ADMIXTURE]. We also produced a “1240K”-only dataset consisting of 1240K capture or whole-genome shotgun data pooled down to include 1240K sites only that we used for the rest of the analyses (Materials and Methods and tables S2 and S3). For population-based analyses, we grouped individuals according to their archaeological culture affiliation, spanning a defined time range after excluding genetic outliers shifted more than ±2 SD from the median PCs of their respective group (Materials and Methods and table S1).

The IA transition in the Kazakh Steppe

Overall, PCA and ADMIXTURE suggest that a substantial demographic shift occurred during the transition from the BA to the IA in the Kazakh Steppe (Fig. 2 and figs. S1 and S2). In contrast to the highly homogeneous steppe_MLBA cluster found across the Kazakh Steppe until the end of the second millennium BCE, the IA individuals are scattered across the PC space, most notably along PC1 and PC3. Their spread along these PCs suggests a varying degree of extra eastern Eurasian affinity compared to the MLBA population and extra affinity to southern populations ultimately related to the Neolithic Iranians and the Mesolithic Caucasus hunter-gatherers (from here on referred to as Iranian-related ancestry), respectively. Despite the high genetic variability, it is possible to appreciate homogeneous clusters of ancient individuals belonging to the same archaeological culture and/or geographic area (Fig. 2 and fig. S1). Following a chronological order, most of the individuals from the sites associated with the Early IA Tasmola culture (“Tasmola_650BCE”) and the published “Saka_Kazakhstan_600BCE” of central-north Kazakhstan cluster together in the middle of the PCA plot and show a uniform pattern of genetic components in ADMIXTURE analyses (Fig. 2, A and D, and figs. S1 and S2). The two previously published individuals from the Aldy Bel site in Tuva (Aldy_Bel_700BCE) also fall within this genetic cloud (Fig. 2A). This genetic profile persists in the later Middle and Late IA, shown by most individuals from the Pazyryk site of Berel (“Pazyryk_Berel_50BCE”) (Fig. 2B). This IA cluster is distinct from the previous steppe_MLBA groups inhabiting the same regions, most notably because of its substantial shift toward eastern Eurasians along PC1. In addition, we find outliers showing an even stronger shift to eastern Eurasians than the main cluster: two outliers from Pazyryk Berel time (“Pazyryk_Berel_50BCE_o”), three outliers from the Tasmola site of Birlik (“Tasmola_Birlik_640BCE”), and three of four individuals from the Korgantas phase of central-north Kazakhstan (24) (Fig. 2B and table S2). One female individual from Birlik (BIR013.A0101) with an eastern Eurasian genetic profile was unearthed with grave goods (a bronze mirror) that presented typical Eastern Steppe features (text S1).

(A to C) PC1 versus PC3 (outer plot) and PC1 versus PC2 (inner plot in the bottom right box) including all the IA, new and previously published individuals (filled symbols), relevant published temporally preceding groups (empty symbols), and present-day Kazakh individuals (small black points). The gray labels in this and the following panel indicate broad geographical groupings of the modern individuals used to calculate PCA that in the plots are shown as small gray points. The ancient samples are distributed in (A) to (C) sliced in three different time intervals as reported in the top right corner. (D) Histograms of ADMIXTURE analysis (K = 12 fig. S2) for the new IA and post-IA individuals and selected subset of temporally preceding groups maximizing key genetic components and a randomly selected subset of present-day Kazakh from the three main Zhuzs.

The classical IA Sakas from the Tian Shan region to the south (“Saka_TianShan_600BCE,” “Saka_TianShan_400BCE,” and previously published “Pub_Saka_TianShan_200BCE”) are distributed along a cline between the Tasmola/Pazyryk cluster and the Iranian-related gene pool, along PC3 (Fig. 2, A and B). A stronger affinity to the Neolithic Iranians is also found in ADMIXTURE analyses (Fig. 2D and fig. S2). The shift toward the Iranian-related gene pool is found as early as

650 BCE in one Eleke_Sazy_650BCE individual (ESZ002) retrieved from an elite Saka burial, while three of four individuals from one of the earliest Tian Shan Saka site of Caspan_700BCE fall within the Tasmola/Pazyryk cloud.

The individuals associated with the sedentary Sargat culture in the forest-steppe zone north of the Kazakh Steppe (“Sargat_300BCE”) partially overlap with the Tasmola/Pazyryk cluster although forming a cloud in PCA that is shifted toward western Eurasians and toward the uppermost cline of northern Inner Eurasians (PC1 and PC2, respectively Fig. 2B). In line with PCA, Sargat individuals carry a small proportion of a different type of northeast Asian ancestry not detected in the nomad groups further to the south (Fig. 2D).

With the exception of one outlier falling in the Tasmola/Pazyryk cloud, the individuals associated with the Sarmatian culture are highly homogeneous despite being spread over a wide geographic area and time period (i.e., early “Sarmatians_450BCE,” late “Sarmatians_150BCE,” and western “Sarmatians_CaspianSteppe_350BCE” Fig. 2, A and B). Our new data from seven early Sarmatian sites in central and western Kazakhstan (Sarmatians_450BCE) document that this gene pool was already widespread in this region during the early phases of the Sarmatian culture. Furthermore, Sarmatians show a sharp discontinuity from the other IA groups by forming a cluster shifted toward west Eurasians (Fig. 2 and table S2).

Admixture modeling of IA steppe populations

Genetic ancestry modeling of the IA groups performed with qpWave and qpAdm confirmed that the steppe_MLBA groups adequately approximate the western Eurasian ancestry source in IA Scythians while the preceding steppe_EBA (e.g., Yamnaya and Afanasievo) do not (data file S4). As an eastern Eurasian proxy, we chose LBA herders from Khovsgol in northern Mongolia based on their geographic and temporal proximity. Other eastern proxies fail the model because of a lack or an excess of affinity toward the Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) lineage (25). However, this two-way admixture model of Khovsgol + steppe_MLBA does not fully explain the genetic compositions of the Scythian gene pools (data file S4). We find that the missing piece matches well with a small contribution from a source related to ancient populations living in the southern regions of the Caucasus/Iran or Turan [we use the term “Turan” for consistency with (7), only its geographical meaning, designating the southern part of Central Asia Fig. 3A]. The proportions of this ancestry increase through time and space: a negligible amount in the most northeastern Aldy_Bel_700BCE group,

6% in the early Tasmola_650BCE,

12% in Pazyryk_Berel_50BCE,

13% in Saka_TianShan_600BCE, and

20% in Saka_TianShan_400BCE (Fig. 3A), in line with f4-statistics (table S2). Sarmatians also require 15 to 20% Iranian ancestry while carrying substantially less Khovsgol and more steppe_MLBA-related ancestry than the eastern Scythian groups.

(A) Fitting models for the main IA groups using LBA sources, the major genetic shift with the “new” East Asian influx (DevilsCave_N-like) observed in the Middle IA outliers and Korgantas. (B) Fitting models for the post-IA groups using IA groups as sources. A transparency factor is added to the models presenting poor fits (P < 0.05 only Konyr_Tobe_300CE). On the top is shown the color legend for the sources tested. (C) Summary of the admixture dates obtained with DATES for the main groups studied. The y axis is the temporal scale from BCE (negative) to CE (positive) dates. The x axis represents the results for the different target groups reported in the legends in each box using the two-way sources reported at the bottom of the three panels formed along the x axis (e.g., source1 + source2). The colored bars represent the date ranges of the culture, while the filled symbols show the admixture dates ± SEs obtained from DATES and converted into dates considering 29 years per generation starting from the median point of the culture’s age. The three set of sources reported correspond to the summary of the main admixture events described in the text from left to right: the LBA formation of the Scythian gene pools the BMAC-related influx increasing through time in the Tian Shan Sakas and the new eastern influx starting in the IA and continuing throughout the centuries. A number-based key (the white numbers from 1 to 6 inside the black circles) connects different tests and analyses shown in the figure with the corresponding arrow in Fig. 4.

For Sarmatians and later Tian Shan Sakas, only the groups from Turan (i.e., Turan_ChL, BMAC, and postBMAC) match as sources, while groups from Iran and Caucasus fail we chose BMAC and postBMAC as the representative proxies (Fig. 3A and data file S4). The extra eastern Eurasian influx in the outliers (Tasmola_Birlik_640BCE, Korgantas_300BCE, and Pazyryk_Berel_50BCE_o) is not sourced from the same eastern proxies as the previous groups (i.e., Khovsgol) instead, it can only be modeled with an ancient northeast Asian (ANA) lineage, represented by the early Neolithic groups from the Devil’s Gate Cave site in the Russian Far East (DevilsCave_N) (Fig. 3A and data file S4).

Post-IA genetic turnovers in the Kazakh Steppe

We observe an intensification of the new eastern Eurasian influx described above among the individuals from the early 1st millennium CE (“Xianbei_Hun_Berel_300CE”) as well as the later 7th- to 11th-millennium CE individuals (“Karakaba_830CE” and “Kayalyk_950CE”). They are scattered along PC1 from the main IA Tasmola/Pazyryk cluster toward the ANA groups (Fig. 2C). The two individuals associated with Hun elite burials dated from the third century CE, one from the site of Kurayly in the Aktobe region in western Kazakhstan and the other from Budapest, Hungary (“Hun_elite_350CE”), cluster closely together along this cline (Fig. 2C and figs. S1 to S3).

The individuals from the ancient city of Otyrar Oasis in southern Kazakhstan show a quite distinct genetic profile. Three of five individuals (“Konyr_Tobe_300CE”) fall close to the published Kangju_250CE individuals from a similar time period and region (11), between Sarmatians and BMAC (Fig. 2C). KNT005 is shifted toward BMAC in PCA (Fig. 2C and fig. S1). Furthermore, KNT005 is the only one carrying a South Asian Y haplogroup, L1a2 (data file S1), and showing a South Asian genetic component in ADMIXTURE (Fig. 2D and fig. S2). KNT004 is shifted in PC1 toward East Asians (figs. S1 to S3). Admixture models including

50% eastern Eurasian influx adequately explain KNT005 and KNT004, respectively (data file S4). In contrast, the individuals from the site of Alai Nura (Alai_Nura_300CE) in the Tian Shan mountains (

200 km east from the Konyr Tobe site) still lay along the IA cline of the Tian Shan Saka, with four individuals falling closer to Konyr_Tobe_300CE and four closer to the Tasmola/Pazyryk cloud (Fig. 2C and figs. S1 to S3).

Dating ancient admixture

Admixture dating with the DATES program reveal an early formation of the main Scythian gene pools during 1000 to 1500 BCE (Fig. 3C and fig. S4). DATES is designed to model only the two-way admixture, so to account for the estimated three-way models obtained with qpWave and qpAdm, we independently tested the three pairwise comparisons (steppe_MLBA, BMAC, and Khovsgol). DATES was successful in fitting exponential decays for the two western + eastern Eurasian pairs, steppe_MLBA + Khovsgol, and BMAC + Khovsgol, while failing in the western + western Eurasian pair (steppe_MLBA + BMAC) (fig. S4 and table S3). For each target, steppe_MLBA + Khovsgol and BMAC + Khovsgol yielded nearly identical admixture date estimates (table S3). We believe that our estimates mostly reflect an average date between the genetically distinguishable eastern (Khovsgol) and western (steppe_MLBA + BMAC) ancestries, weighted by the relative contribution from the two western sources, rather than reflecting a true simultaneous three-way admixture. It is noteworthy that DATES found increasingly younger admixture dates in the Tian Shan Saka groups as the BMAC-related ancestry increases: from Saka_TianShan_600BCE to the Saka_TianShan_400BCE and especially in the later Alai_Nura_300CE as well as for Pazyryk_Berel_50BCE and Sargat_300BCE with respect to the date of Tasmola_650BCE (

1100 to 900 BCE with respect to

1300 to 1400 BCE Fig. 3C). A small-scale gene flow from a BMAC-related source continued over IA may explain both the increase in the BMAC-related ancestry proportion and increasingly younger admixture dates (Fig. 3A). Again, the inferred dates reflect an average over the IA admixture with a BMAC-related source and the LBA one with steppe_MLBA therefore, they are likely shifted toward older time periods than the actual time of the IA gene flow.

Confirming the results from qpAdm, the admixed individuals from Tasmola_Birlik_640BCE and Korgantas_300BCE (“admixed_Eastern_out_IA”) show very recent admixture dates (Fig. 3C, fig. S4, and table S3). The later groups of Xianbei_Hun_Berel_300CE, Hun_elite_350CE, and Karakaba_830CE further corroborate this trend of recent dates of admixture, revealing that this new eastern influx likely started in the IA and continued at least during the first centuries of the first millennium CE (Fig. 3C, fig. S4, and table S3).

Present-day Kazakhs

PCA, ADMIXTURE, and CHROMOPAINTER/fineSTRUCTURE fine-scale haplotype-based analyses performed on present-day Kazakhs reveal a tight clustering and absence of detectable substructure among Kazakhs regardless of the geographic location or Zhuz affiliation (Fig. 2 and fig. S5). We still grouped the Kazakh individuals according to their Zhuz affiliations (which roughly reflects their geographic origin) and ran Globetrotter analyses following the pipeline in (26) as independent replicates to identify the different ancestry sources contributing to the gene pool of Kazakhs and date admixture events. Globetrotter analyses confirmed that the three groups have the same source composition and admixture dates and are a result of a complex mixture of different western, southern, and eastern Eurasian ancestries (table S4). The dates of admixture identified by Globetrotter highlight a narrow and recent time range for the formation of the present-day Kazakh gene pool, between 1341 and 1544 CE (table S5).


Author thanks two reviewers for constructive comments on the original form of the paper: Dr. Peter Hommel, University of Oxford, for additional suggestions and text corrections improving the final manuscript. Quaternary geology and geoarchaeology investigations in the Altai region (Gorno Altai and East Kazakhstan) were supported by IRBIS, ngo., the Czech Development Program (Ministry of Environment), the Government of the Republic of Gorno Altai and the National Geographic Society.


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