Anthropological Differentiation in South-Western Siberian Population



The aim of the study is to research processes of morphological differentiation among the ancient inhabitants of southern Siberia in chronological, historical, cultural, and geographical aspects.

The object of the study is culture-forming processes in the Altai-Sayan region of Eurasia in the cultural and chronological range from the Neolithic to the Early Iron Age, inclusive.

The subject of anthropological research is the features of the historical and cultural groups in the Altai-Sayan upland.

By the mid-20th century were developed several schemes systematizing morphological diversity of humanity. All of them are based on the appearance of living people. A number of craniometric parameters are taxonomically important analogues to salient race-diagnostic cranial and facial features (cranial diameters, size of the skull facial part, horizontal and vertical angles of face profile, angle of the nose protrusion), which are successfully used for the racial typology of the craniological material [Debets, 1951].

In today’s nomenclature, substitute for “race” is a phenotype, which is not only less offensive, but also closer to reality, where all “salient” race-diagnostic cranial and facial features are arbitrarily selected segments of the continuous range, arbitrarily ascribed to a particular “race”. The same segments found in a different “race” would not be considered to be “salient”, but rather discounted as an aberration.

Bio-archaeological research focuses on various life aspects of the studied population (nutrition, physical activity, injuries, illnesses, episodic physiological ontogenetical stresses, human body manipulation methods for ritual or medicinal purposes, etc.).

The methodology uses chemical analysis of bone tissue, description of its histological structure, computed tomography, and bone radiography. This work summarizes common anthropological features to determine their origin.

In the late 1990s, the Laboratory of Human Genetics at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences joined research on reconstruction of main vectors in the genetic relationships of the Gorny Altai population at different stages of historical and cultural human development.

They analyzed mitochondrial DNA samples from ancient populations of Gorny Altai, i.e. of the people of the Neolithic historical and cultural community, Afanasev and Karakol Cultures, and historical-cultural community of the Early Nomads. The thesis reflects the results of the correlation between the traditional anthropological group-differentiating complex of craniometrical and odontological traits with the markers of mitochondrial DNA.

A clinal distribution of genetic markers or anthropological features in the Asian part of Eurasia was disrupted by historical events that caused movements of large groups of people, and for the most part, these events do not have written information.

We only have elements of material culture, often borrowed from neighbours and not always indicative of the change in the population, and morphology of the humans, i.e., the anthropological type, the arrival of which outside the range of its formation is the most accurate evidence of migration. The study conducts:

1. Generalization and systematization of paleoanthropological material of archaeological cultures in accordance with the present state of archaeological sources.

2. A detailed account of the studied ancient Altai-Sayan highlands population groups by two systems of physical traits – odontological and craniometrical. This portion of the study fills gaps in the factual material needed for reconstruction of the race and culture forming processes reflected in the anthropological evidence in the unique historical, cultural, and geographical region.

3. Determination of population and super-population epochal and local trends in the variability of anthropological traits and their complexes in the southern region of Siberia.

4. Identifying anthropologically close groups in terms of craniometric and odontological traits to determine geographical, historical, and cultural space where flowed common race-forming processes.

5. Isolation of main morphological components, i.e. craniological types, of the Altai-Sayan highlands’ population within the anthropological composition of the Southern Siberia region, and their taxonomic assessment.

6. Comparison of the paleoanthropological analysis findings with conclusions of the archaeological research.

Investigation studied paleoanthropological materials found in the past two decades in the Southern region of Western Siberia for Neolithic (6th – 5th mill. BC), Early Metal (2nd mill. BC – 300AD), Bronze (35/33 — 13/11 cc. BC) and Early Iron Age (12 вв. до н. э. – 300AD).

Paleoanthropological material for the ancient population of southern Siberia varies for the archaeological eras of their cultural and chronological periods and individual cultures. For the Neolithic period (6th – 5th mill. BC) is a typical dispersed distribution of single fragmentary finds in a wide chronological range across the whole region, originating in single burials of small cemeteries.

Such material is difficult for traditional anthropological analysis. The researcher is forced to accept typological characteristics of individual findings and often attribute them to the individual characteristics of a hypothetical group (paleo population or a group of pale populations) as a whole.

There are problems in applying methods of group comparison by statistical analysis since a sample formed from singular and scattered over vast area materials does not meet representation criteria.

They also rather are not probabilistic, i.e., based on the random and equiprobable selection of individuals from the general population (paleo population or a group of pale populations) that allow the production of more or less accurate conclusions about population as a whole. Therefore, special attention is paid to the formation principles of the Neolithic samples (6th – 5th mill. BC) fir the analyzed and compared material.

In the post-Neolithic Era (post-5th mill. BC), the situation for the researcher improves. The cultures discovered by the present in the region and adjacent areas are mainly represented by skeletal material from large and fully excavated burials, which allows the use of a population-based approach in the methodological toolbox.

The territorial scope of the study includes forest-steppe regions of the West Siberian Plain and some of the Altai-Sayan mountain country.

The territories of archaeological cultures in this study are geographically located in the landscape region of the forest-steppe zone between Irtysh and Enisei, punctuated by areas of steppes and mountains. Territories have a continental climate.

The contact region of modern continuous taiga and forest-steppe zone can be taken as a conditional northern boundary of the region. The paleoanthropological material retrospectively and modern comes from multiple zones.

The forest-steppe zone extending from the Urals to Enisei is punctuated by areas of steppes in the West Siberian Plain, in the Altai foothills, and in the Kuznetsk Basin. Mountains separate the steppes between Ob and Enisei, namely the Biy, Kuznetsk, Achinsk, Minusinsk, Abakan, Krasnoyarsk, and Kansk steppes, into separate island sections.

The steppes are located at different topographic levels, with a variety of morphological and climatic conditions, so they are very different one from another. At the western foothills of the Altai and Salair ridge ends the latitudinal extension of the steppe and forest-steppe zones, and begins to appear the high-altitude zone.

In the Altai-Sayan mountains, high-altitude belt occupies a large mountain area, with significant differences in this belt between the Altai, Sayan, and Eastern Tuva Highlands.

The local landscape variety in the Western Siberia southern region largely predetermined development of ethnocultural processes and facets of anthropological outcome in the different regions which produced paleoanthropological materials: Baraba province of the West Siberian Plain, Altai area of the Altai-Sayan mountain1233 country, Sayan-Tuva area of the Altai- Sayan mountain country.

Justification for the choice of this region is in numerously proven connection across its space of the cultural, ethnic, political, and race-forming processes.

Therefore, the targeted study of the dynamics in the anthropological composition of southern Western Siberia population, if possible, considers this process in the context of synchronic and diachronic race-forming ethnogenetic events in this region and in the adjacent territories.

To implement this aspect of the study, the author can rely on personal anthropological examinations of a number of groups that represent a population in a fairly wide range of archaeological cultures within the southern regions of Siberia (a registry of studied and used paleoanthropological materials is compiled in tabular form).

The comparative anthropological parameters from other researchers, obtained from publications, is compiled as a listing with an indication of archaeological context.

Accumulated to date experience in research of the southern Western Siberia archaeological cultures, and dispersion and dynamics of the population’s anthropological composition indicate that differentiation of craniological complexes and culture-forming processes in this region were zonal.

Consequently, the areas of the synchronously developing cultures and the areas of the anthropological communities were overlapping and interlaced, and sometimes stretched widely, not only across the whole Siberia (e.g., cultures of Okunev and Karasuk circle) but also across the entire Eurasian continent (cultures of Andronov and Scytho-Siberian Cultural Communities).

This conditioned the multipartite composition of the cultures and anthropological conglomeration of their people. Therefore, a very important methodological principle in the study of southern Siberia is to examine widest synchronous profiles of the population’s anthropological composition against the background of diachronic data.

Only in that case can be achieved anthropological reconstructions that objectively reflect dynamics of the race-forming processes associated with stability, evolutionary transformations, or blending of different physical complexes.