The Yamnaya Impact North of the Lower Danube: A Tale of Newcomers and Locals

On the 31st of March 2020, an article titled “The Yamnaya Impact North of the Lower Danube: A Tale of Newcomers and Locals” was published in the Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française.

The article was authored by post-doctoral researcher in the YMPACT Project, Bianca Preda-Bălănică, together with doctor Alin Frînculeasa, researcher at Prahova County Museum of History and Archaeology, and the PI of the Yamnaya Impact Project and professor of archaeology at University of Helsinki, Volker Heyd.

The article was published open access and presents the current state of research concerning Yamnaya burials from north of the Lower Danube, their interactions with local societies and raises the question of identity at that time.

The Yamnaya Impact North of the Lower Danube
A Tale of Newcomers and Locals

Bianca Preda-Bălănică, Alin Frînculeasa & Volker Heyd

This paper aims to provide an overview of the current understanding in Yamnaya burials from north of the Lower Danube, particularly focussing on their relationship with supposed local archaeological cultures/socie­ties. Departing from a decades-long research history and latest archaeological finds from Romania, it addresses key research basics on the funerary archaeology of their kurgans and burials; their material culture and chronology; on steppe predecessors and Katakombnaya successors; and links with neighbouring regions as well as the wider southeast European context. Taking into account some reflections from latest ancient DNA revelations, there can be no doubt a substantial migration has taken place around 3000 BC, with Yamnaya populations originating from the Caspian-Pontic steppe pushing westwards. However already the question if such accounts for the term of ’Mass Migrations’ cannot be satisfactorily answered, as we are only about to begin to understand the demographics in this process. A further complication is trying to assess who is a newcomer and who is a local in an interaction scenario that lasts for c. 500 years. Identities are not fixed, may indeed transform, as previous newcomers soon turn into locals, while others are just visitors. Nevertheless, this well-researched region of geographical transition from lowland eas­tern Europe to the hillier parts of temperate Europe provides an ideal starting point to address such questions, being currently also at the heart of the intense discussion about what is identity in the context of the emerging relationship of Archaeology and Genetics.