Republication from the University of Michigan

Extent of mobility of population from Scythian era and earlier sites. Image credit: James Johnson and John Klausmeyer


As far back as the Greek historian Herodotus, a group of people called the Scythians were considered highly mobile warrior nomads.

Scythian-era people lived across Eurasia from about 700 BCE to 200 BCE, and have long been considered highly mobile warriors who ranged widely across the steppe grasslands. Herodotus describes Scythian populations as living in wagons and engaging in raiding and warfare, and this view has persisted throughout history—supported by archeologists’ observations of similar styles of horse harnesses, weapons, burial mounds and animal style motifs throughout what is now Ukraine.

Because of this, history has lumped the diverse cultures and periods of people in this region as a single “Scythian” identity, even calling it an “empire.” But a study including University of Michigan research reveals what previously was considered one group was likely a set of diverse peoples with varied diets.

By analyzing human bone and tooth enamel, the international team of researchers found that, rather than being wide-ranging warriors, people in this region more likely lived in urban locales, growing millet and raising livestock in mixed economic systems. The team’s results are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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