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Image copyright: A.I. Solovyev

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This is another rare representation by the Russian archaeologist A.I. Solovyev, of a heavy charioteer warrior of the Indoeuropean Andronovo culture (2nd millennium BC) which flourished mainly in western Siberia and Kazakhstan, although the first archaeological evidence of this civilisation comes from a small area southwest of Krasnoyarsk. Its southern varieties were extended to modern Uzbekistan, Kirghizistan and Turkmenistan. Minusinsk Basin is specifically a region were the Andronovo culture evolved considerably.

The Andronovo culture, named after the homonymous modern village, was the cradle of the Proto-Indo-Iranian IE group which later was divided to the Indo-Aryan and the Iranian subgroup. The Proto-Indo-Aryans gradually invaded and settled in the larger part of the Indian subcontinent although some of their tribes moved to the west, to the Zagros Mountains and the Black Sea steppes. The Proto-Iranians were divided into two branches. The southern branch – archaeologically represented along with the Indo-Aryans by Neo-Andronovo varieties and the Srubnaya culture – gradually invaded and settled in the regions of modern Iran, Afghanistan, western Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Zagros Mountains area, becoming the ancestors of the Sogdians, Medes, Persians, Bactrians and many other ancient peoples. The northern Iranian branch – archaeologically represented by the Karasuk culture being a local variety of the Andronovo– became the ancestors of the numerous Saka, Scythian and Sarmatian tribes.

The Andronovo culture is relatively uniform in its wide area, in spite of some local variations. Agriculture played an important role. People lived in earth huts and reared cattle, sheep, and horses. Andronovo warriors used weapons and ornaments initially made mainly of stone, gradually being replaced by bronze (until almost totally replaced) and their primary fighting force was the war chariots. Bronze objects became more and more numerous, and workshops existed for working copper. The metal probably came from mines in the Minusinsk Basin, Kazakhstan, and the western Altai Mountains, the latter having been worked as early as the 14th century BC. Wooden constructions in rich graves have designated social differentiation. The Andronovo complex is intimately related to the Timber-Grave (Srubna) group in southern Russia: both represent branches of the Proto-Indo-Iranian group.

BC1700-1300Andronovo

A map of the Proto-Indo-Iranian Andronovo culture and its overlapping with neighbouring groups, around 1700-1300 BC (Wikimedia commons).

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The Andronovo culture war chariots seem to have been powerful constructions manned by a charioteer driver and a heavy warrior (probably noble) and sometimes possibly a lighter warrior.

The depicted Andronovo combatant is a heavy warrior of a chariot ca. 1500 BC, armed with a bronze battle-axe, a stone-headed alpeen, a bronze dagger, a quiver (and of course a bow not depicted here), a bronze spear and a rectangular shield made of wood and leather. A round shield made from the same materials and richly decorated with characteristic Andronovo motives, is also depicted. The warrior is protected by early armour made of leather enhanced with bronze buttons, and a leather cap.

Once again A.I. Solovyev deserves kudos for the reconstruction of such a difficult to restore warrior due to the scant archaeological evidence and the general lack of resources.

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Periklis Deligiannis

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