|Geographical range||Russia, Kazakhstan|
|Dates||c. 2500 BCE - 2100 BCE|
|Preceded by||Yamnaya culture|
|Followed by||Potapovka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture.|
Poltavka culture (Russian: ? , romanized: Poltavkinskaya kul'tura) was an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe in 2500—2100 BCE.
The Poltavka culture emerged as an eastern outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, neighboring the Catacomb culture, another Yamnaya successor, in the west. It has been considered ancestral to later cultures that are identified as Indo-Iranian. The Poltavka culture influenced the later emergence of the Potapovka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture and Srubnaya culture.
Along with the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture, the Poltavka culture is among the cultures of the Pontic steppe sharing archaeological characteristics with the Afanasievo culture of the eastern steppe.
The Poltavka culture flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe. It is contemporary with the Catacomb culture, which was located on the Pontic steppe to its southwest. It seems to have co-existed at times with the Abashevo culture.
The Poltavka culture appears to have expanded eastwards throughout its existence. It is probable that Poltavka herders explored areas of the Kazakh Steppe. The arrival of Poltavka people onto the Kazakh Steppe is associated with various technological innovations in the area. Poltavka pottery has been discovered in northern Kazakhstan.
Poltavka settlements are very rare. They are confined to sand dunes in the lower Volga area.
The flat-bottomed ceramics of the Poltavka culture differ from the pointed or round-based ceramics of the Yamnaya culture. The decorative motifs of the ceramics of the later Sintashta culture and Andronovo culture are very similar to those of the Poltavka culture.
The economy of the Poltavka culture was mobile pastoral, a continuation of the economy of the Yamnaya culture.
The Poltavka culture shares many characteristics with the contemporaneous Sintashta culture. This includes similar pottery, metal types, weapons, horse sacrifices, chariot-driving gear and similar graves. It is common for new Poltavka settlements to be constructed on top of older ones, and the later Sintashta culture would in turn construct settlements on top of earlier Poltavka ones.
The Poltavka culture is distinguished from the Yamnaya culture by its marked increase in metallurgy. Metals were probably acquired from centers in the southern Urals.
Certain metal objects of the Poltavka culture and the Catacomb culture appear to have been copied by the Abashevo culture.
The Poltavka culture is primarily known from its burials. These were situated in cemeteries along river terraces.
Poltavka graves differ slightly from those of the Yamnaya culture. Burial pits sometimes had a timber cover. They were generally inserted into kurgans of the Yamnaya culture. Poltavka kurgans were typically surrounded by a circular ditch, with a single grave with ledges.
80 percent of Poltavka graves contain males. Almost a third of Poltavka skulls show signs of wounds, often mortal. Both male and female dead were buried on their left side or back on an organic mat, with the head oriented towards the east. On occasion the body was covered with ocher, however, less common than in the earlier Yamnaya culture.
Poltavka burials are characterized by an increased presence of ornaments and weapons. This is interpreted as evidence of increased social stratification. Other grave goods include pottery and stone scepters. A Poltavka burial in the Volga region is notable for containing a large copper club.
In a 2015 study published in Nature, the remains of six individuals ascribed to the Poltavka culture were analyzed. Five of the individuals were determined to belong to haplogroup R1b1a2 and various subclades of it, while one individual, who belonged to the outliers of the culture, was determined to belong to haplogroup R1a1a1b2a. People of the Poltavka culture were found to be closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture and the Afanasievo culture. It is possible that R1a males lived within the territory of the Poltavka culture, but were not included in the rich burials of the culture, which contain R1b males instead.
Narasimshan et al. (2019) genetically analyzed the remains of two Poltavka males from separate sites. One carried Y-hg R1b1a1a2a2 and U5a1g, while the other carried Y-hg R1b1a1a2a2 and U5a1b. The authors of the study noted that there was a significant infusion of Central European ancestry into the steppe during the transition from the Poltavka culture to the Potapovka culture.
The physical type of the Poltavka resemble that of the preceding Yamnaya, who were tall and massively built Europoids. A similar type prevails among the succeeding Catacomb culture and Potapovka culture. Skulls of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture are more dolichocephalic than those of the Poltavka, Yamnaya and Potapovka cultures. The physical type of the Srubnaya culture appears to have emerged as a result of mixing between Sintashta and Poltavka people.[a][b]
The Poltavka culture lasted until 2200-2100 BC. It seems to be an early manifestation of the Srubnaya culture. It marks the transition of the Yamnaya culture to the Srubnaya culture. Genetic studies suggest that the end of the Poltavka culture is associated with major population changes.
The Abashevo culture appears to have emerged partially through influence from the Poltavka culture. Along with the Abashevo culture, it also appears to have influenced the emergence of the Potapovka culture.
The emergence of the Sintashta culture and the later Andronovo culture is associated with an eastward expansion of the Poltavka culture, the Abashevo culture, the Multi-cordoned ware culture and the Catacomb culture.
Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.[c]
[P]opulation interactions and the origin of Scythians of the Pontic-Caspian steppe remain poorly understood. Similarly, little is known about the origins and genetic affinities of the Sarmatians. Genomic studies suggest that the latter group may have been genetically similar to the eastern Yamnaya and Poltavka Bronze Age groups.
The two Early Sarmatian samples from the West... fall close to an Iron Age sample from the Samara district... and are generally close to the Early Bronze Age Yamnaya samples from Samara... and Kalmykia... and the Middle Bronze Age Poltavka samples from Samara...