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{{Redirect|Scythian|the obsolete stratigraphic term|Early Triassic|the languages|Scythian languages|other uses|Scythian (disambiguation)}}{{Redirect|Scyth|the tool|Scythe|other|Scythe (disambiguation)}}{{pp-semi-indef}}File:Фрагменты Пекторали.jpg|right|thumb|upright=1.1|Gold pectoral, or neckpiece, from a royal kurgan in Tolstaya Mogila, Pokrov, Ukraine, dated to the second half of the 4th century BC, of Greek workmanship. The central lower tier shows three horses, each being torn apart by two griffins. Scythian artScythian artFile:Scythians shooting with bows Kertch antique Panticapeum Ukrainia 4th century BCE.jpg|thumb|upright=1.1|Scythian archers shooting with the Scythian bow, Kerch (ancient Panticapeum), Crimea, 4th century BC. The Scythians were skilled archers, and their style of archery influenced that of the (Achaemenid army|Persians]] and subsequently other nations, including the Greeks.BOOK, Potts, D. T., The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State, 1999, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-56496-0, 345,weblink en, )File:Gold scythian belt title from Mingachevir, Azerbaijan.JPG|thumb|upright=1.1|Gold Scythian belt title, Mingachevir (ancient (:ru:Ишкуза|Scythian kingdom)), AzerbaijanAzerbaijan{{Indo-European topics}}{{History of Ukraine}}{{History of Russia}}The Scythians ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|s|ɪ|θ|i|ə|n|,_|ˈ|s|ɪ|ð|-}}; from Greek ), also known as Scyth, Saka, Sakae, Sai, Iskuzai, or Askuzai, were Eurasian nomads, probably mostly using Eastern Iranian languages, who were mentioned by the literate peoples to their south as inhabiting large areas of the western and central Eurasian Steppe from about the 9th century BC up until the 4th century AD.{{harvtxt|Sinor|1990|p=97}}{{harvtxt|Bonfante|2011|p=110}}{{harvtxt|Sinor|1990|p=97 Iranian-speaking tribes}}{{harvnb|West|2009|pp=713–717}} The "classical Scythians" known to ancient Greek historians, agreed to be mainly Iranian in origin, were located in the northern Black Sea and fore-Caucasus region. Other Scythian groups documented by Assyrian, Achaemenid and Chinese sources show that they also existed in Central Asia, where they were referred to as the Iskuzai /Askuzai, Saka (Old Persian: Sakā; New Persian/; Sanskrit: Śaka; Greek: ; Latin: Sacae), and Sai ({{zh|c=塞}}; Old Chinese: *{{IPA|sˤək}}), respectively.{{harvtxt|Drews|2004|pp=86–90}}The relationships between the peoples living in these widely separated regions remains unclear, and the term is used in both a broad and narrow sense. The term "Scythian" is used by modern scholars in an archaeological context for finds perceived to display attributes of the wider "Scytho-Siberian" culture, usually without implying an ethnic or linguistic connotation. The term Scythic may also be used in a similar way,Watson, William, "The Chinese Contribution to Eastern Nomad Culture in the Pre-Han and Early Han Periods", World Archaeology, Vol. 4, No. 2, Nomads (Oct., 1972), pp. 139–149, Taylor & Francis, Ltd., JSTOR {{Webarchive|url= |date=2017-03-27 }} "to describe a special phase that followed the widespread diffusion of mounted nomadism, characterized by the presence of special weapons, horse gear, and animal art in the form of metal plaques".Di Cosimo, Nicola, "The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China (1,500 – 221 BC)", in: M. Loeuwe, E.L. Shaughnessy, eds, The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221BC, 1999, Cambridge University Press 1999, {{ISBN|9780521470308}}, "Even though there were fundamental ways in which nomadic groups over such a vast territory differed, the terms “Scythian” and “Scythic” have been widely adopted to describe a special phase that followed the widespread diffusion of mounted nomadism, characterized by the presence of special weapons, horse gear, and animal art in the form of metal plaques. Archaeologists have used the term “Scythic continuum” in a broad cultural sense to indicate the early nomadic cultures of the Eurasian steppe. The term “Scythic” draws attention to the fact that there are elements – shapes of weapons, vessels, and ornaments, as well as lifestyle – common to both the eastern and the western ends of the Eurasian steppe region." Their westernmost territories during the Iron Age were known to classical Greek sources as Scythia, and in the more narrow sense "Scythian" is restricted to these areas, where the Scythian languages were spoken. Different definitions of "Scythian" have been used, leading to a good deal of confusion.Ivantchik, iiThe Scythians were among the earliest peoples to master mounted warfare.ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink Scythian, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 31 December 2014, They kept herds of horses, cattle and sheep, lived in tent-covered wagons and fought with bows and arrows on horseback. They developed a rich culture characterised by opulent tombs, fine metalwork and a brilliant art style.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Scythians, Encarta, Microsoft Corporation, 2008, Some scholars contend that in the 8th century BC, a Scythian raid on Altai may be 'connected' with a raid on Zhou China.ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink The Steppe, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 31 December 2014, 30 June 2019,weblink Soon after, they expanded westwards and conquered the Cimmerians on the Pontic Steppe.ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink History of Central Asia, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 31 December 2014,weblink" title="">weblink 2014-05-05, no, At their peak, Scythians dominated the entire steppe,{{harvnb|Beckwith|2009|p=117}} "The Scythians, or Northern Iranians, who were culturally and ethnolinguistically a single group at the beginning of their expansion, had earlier controlled the entire steppe zone."{{harvnb|Beckwith|2009|pp=377–380}} "... conquest of the entire steppe zone by theNorthern Iranians—literally, by the "Scythians"-in the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age" stretching from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to central China (Ordos culture) and the south Siberia (Tagar culture) in the east,{{harvtxt|Davis-Kimball|1995|pp=27–28}}{{harvtxt|Bonfante|2011|p=71}} creating what has been called the first Central Asian nomadic empire, although there was little that could be called an organised state.{{harvnb|Beckwith|2009|p=11}}Based in what is modern-day Ukraine, Southern European Russia and Crimea, the western Scythians were ruled by a wealthy class known as the Royal Scyths. The Scythians established and controlled the Silk Road, a vast trade network connecting Greece, Persia, India and China, perhaps contributing to the contemporary flourishing of those civilisations.{{harvnb|Beckwith|2009|pp=58–70}} Settled metalworkers made portable decorative objects for the Scythians. These objects survive mainly in metal, forming a distinctive Scythian art.ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink Scythian Art, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 31 December 2014, In the 7th century BC, the Scythians crossed the Caucasus and frequently raided the Middle East along with the Cimmerians, playing an important role in the political developments of the region.Around 650–630 BC, Scythians briefly dominated the Medes of the western Iranian Plateau,ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink Ancient Iran: The Kingdom of the Medes, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 31 December 2014, {{harvnb|Beckwith|2009|p=49}} stretching their power to the borders of Egypt. After losing control over Media, the Scythians continued intervening in Middle Eastern affairs, playing a leading role in the destruction of the Assyrian Empire in the Sack of Nineveh in 612 BC. The Scythians subsequently engaged in frequent conflicts with the Achaemenid Empire. The western Scythians suffered a major defeat against Macedonia in the 4th century BC and were subsequently gradually conquered by the Sarmatians, a related Iranian people from Central Asia.ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink Sarmatian, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 31 December 2014, In the 2nd century BC, the Eastern Scythians (Saka) of the Asian steppe were attacked by the Yuezhi, Wusun and Xiongnu, prompting many of them to migrate into South Asia,WEB,weblink The Yuezhi Migration and Sogdia, Benjamin, Craig, Craig Benjamin, March 2003, Ērān ud Anērān Webfestschrift Marshak, March 1, 2015,weblink" title="">weblink 2015-02-18, no, WEB,weblink Chinese History – Sai 塞 The Saka People or Soghdians, Chinaknowledge, March 1, 2015,weblink" title="">weblink 2015-01-19, no, where they became known as Indo-Scythians.{{harvnb|Beckwith|2009|p=85}} "The Saka, or Śaka, people then began their long migration that ended with their conquest of northern India, where they are also known as the Indo-Scythians."At some point, perhaps as late as the 3rd century AD after the demise of the Han dynasty and the Xiongnu, Eastern Scythians crossed the Pamir Mountains and settled in the western Tarim Basin, where the Scythian Khotanese and Tumshuqese languages are attested in Brahmi scripture from the 10th and 11th centuries AD. The Kingdom of Khotan, at least partly Saka, was then conquered by the Kara-Khanid Khanate, which led to the Islamisation and Turkification of Northwest China. In Eastern Europe, by the early Medieval Ages, the Scythians and their closely related Sarmatians were eventually assimilated and absorbed (e.g. Slavicisation) by the Proto-Slavic population of the region.BOOK, (..) Indeed, it is now accepted that the Sarmatians merged in with pre-Slavic populations., The Sarmatians, 600 BC-AD 450, Richard, Brzezinski, Mariusz, Mielczarek, Osprey Publishing, 2002, 39, BOOK, (..) In their Ukrainian and Polish homeland the Slavs were intermixed and at times overlain by Germanic speakers (the Goths) and by Iranian speakers (Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans) in a shifting array of tribal and national configurations., Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Douglas Q., Adams, Taylor & Francis, 1997, 523, BOOK,weblink (..) Ancient accounts link the Amazons with the Scythians and the Sarmatians, who successively dominated the south of Russia for a millennium extending back to the seventh century B.C. The descendants of these peoples were absorbed by the Slavs who came to be known as Russians., Women in Russia, Dorothy, Atkinson, Stanford University Press, 1977, 3, etal, 2016-09-24,weblink 2017-03-27, no, 9780804709101, BOOK, (..) For example, the ancient Scythians, Sarmatians (amongst others), and many other attested but now extinct peoples were assimilated in the course of history by Proto-Slavs., Slovene Studies, Society for Slovene Studies, 9-11, 1987, 36,

Names and terminology

File:Xerxes detail three types of Sakas cleaned up.jpg|thumb|350px|For the Achaemenids, there were three types of Scythians: the Sakā tayai paradraya ("beyond the sea", presumably between the Greeks and the Thracians on the Western side of the Black Sea), the Sakā tigraxaudā (“with pointed caps”), the Sakā haumavargā ("Hauma drinkers", furthest East). Reliefs depicting the soldiers of the Achaemenid army, Xerxes IXerxes IIn the strict sense 'Scythian' refers to the nomads north of the Black Sea and is distinguished from the very similar Sarmatians who lived north of the Caspian and later replaced the Scythians proper. The Persian term Saka is used for the Scythians in Central Asia. The Chinese used the term Sai ({{zh|c=塞}}; Old Chinese: *{{IPA|sˤək}}), for Sakas who once inhabited the valleys of the Ili River and Chu River and moved into the Tarim Basin. Herodotus said the Scythians called themselves Skolotoi.Ivanchik, iIskuzai or Askuzai is an Assyrian term for raiders south of the Caucasus who were probably Scythian. A group of Scythians/Sakas went south and gave their name to Sakastan. They, or a related group, invaded northern India and became the Indo-Scythians.Oswald Szemerényi studied the various words for Scythian and gave the following: Skuthes Σκύθης, Skudra, Sug(u)da, and Saka.{{harvnb|Szemerényi|1980|see bibliography}}.
  • The first three descend from the Indo-European root (s)kewd-, meaning "propel, shoot" (cognate with English (:wikt:shoot|shoot)). skud- is the zero-grade form of the same root. Szemerényi restores the Scythians' self-name as skuda (roughly "archer"). This yields the ancient Greek SkuthÄ“s Σκύθης (plural Skuthai Σκύθαι) and Assyrian AÅ¡kuz; Old Armenian: skiwtÊ° is from itacistic Greek. A late Scythian sound change from /d/ to /l/ gives the Greek word Skolotoi (Σκώλοτοι, Herodotus 4.6), from Scythian skula which, according to Herodotus, was the self-designation of the Royal Scythians. Other sound changes gave Sogdia.
  • The form reflected in Old Persian: Sakā, Greek: ; Latin: Sacae, Sanskrit: Åšaka comes from an Iranian verbal root sak-, "go, roam" and thus means "nomad".WEB,weblink Scythians / Sacae, Lendering, Jona, 25 January 2017, Livius,weblink" title="">weblink 2018-02-01, no,
In the broadest sense and in archaeology Scythian and Scythic can be used for all of the steppe nomads at the beginning of recorded history.Di Cosimo, Nicola, "The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China (1,500 – 221 BC)", in: M. Loeuwe, E.L. Shaughnessy, eds, The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221BC, 1999, Cambridge University Press 1999, {{ISBN|9780521470308}} "They are used to describe a special phase that followed the widespread diffusion of mounted nomadism, characterized by the presence of special weapons, horse gear, and animal art in the form of metal plaques. Archaeologists have used the term "Scythic continuum" in a broad cultural sense to indicate the early nomadic cultures of the Eurasian steppe.The term "Scythic" draws attention to the fact that there are elements – shapes of weapons, vessels, and ornaments, as well as lifestyle – common to both the eastern and the western ends of the Eurasian steppe region." The grasslands of Mongolia and north China are often excluded, but the Ordos culture and Tagar culture seem to have had significant 'Scythian' features.More commonly 'Scythian' is restricted to the nomads of the western and central steppe who spoke Scythian languages of the Iranian family. If other languages were used in the region we have no definite evidence.


Literary evidence

(File:ScythianGroups.png|thumb|Scythian and related archaeological groups in circum- Pontic region, c. 7th to 3rd centuries BC)File:Scythia-Parthia 100 BC.png|thumb|right|The approximate extent of Eastern Iranian languagesEastern Iranian languagesThe Scythians first appeared in the historical record in the 8th century BC.Szemerényi, Oswald (1980) "Four old Iranian ethnic names: Scythian; Skudra; Sogdian; Saka" in: Sitzungsberichte der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften; 371 = Scripta minora, vol. 4, pp. 2051–93 Herodotus reported three contradictory versions as to the origins of the Scythians, but placed greatest faith in this version:Herodotus 4.11 trans. G. Rawlinson.Accounts by Herodotus of Scythian origins has been discounted recently; although his accounts of Scythian raiding activities contemporary to his writings have been deemed more reliable.{{harvtxt|Drews|2004|p=92|quote="ever since critical history began, scholars have recognized that much of what Herodotos gives us is silly}} Moreover, the term Scythian, like Cimmerian, was used to refer to a variety of groups from the Black Sea to southern Siberia and central Asia. "They were not a specific people", but rather a variety of peoples "referred to at variety of times in history, and in several places, none of which was their original homeland."K Kristiansen. Europe Before History. Cambridge University Press. 1998, p 193 The New Testament includes a single reference to Scythians in Colossians 3:11.WEB,weblink Colossians 3:11 NIV – Here there is no Gentile or Jew, Bible Gateway, 2012-06-30,weblink" title="">weblink 2012-06-18, no,


File:Roman Empire 125 (cropped).png|thumb|right|The territory of the Scythae Basilaei ("Royal Scyths") along the north shore of the Black SeaBlack SeaModern interpretation of historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence has proposed two broad hypotheses. The first, formerly more espoused by Soviet and then Russian researchers, roughly followed Herodotus' (third) account, holding that the Scythians were an Eastern Iranian group who arrived from Inner Asia, i.e. from the area of Turkestan and western Siberia.Mallory, J.P. (1989), In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language Archaeology and Myth. Thames and Hudson. Read Chapter 2 and see 51–53 for a quick reference.See further:
  • Szemerényi, Oswald (1980) "Four old Iranian ethnic names: Scythian; Skudra; Sogdian; Saka" in: Sitzungsberichte der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften; 371 = Scripta minora, vol. 4, pp. 2051–93
  • Sulimirski, T. "The Scyths" in: The Cambridge History of Iran; vol. 2: 149–99
  • Grousset, René (1989) "The empire of the Steppes". Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press; p. 19
  • Jacobson, Esther. "The Art of Scythians", Brill Academic Publishers, 1995, pg 63 {{ISBN|90-04-09856-9}}
  • Gamkrelidze and Ivanov. Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Typological Analysis of a Proto-Language and Proto-Culture (Parts I and II). Tbilisi State University., 1984
  • Newark, T. The Barbarians: Warriors and wars of the Dark Ages, Blandford: New York. See pages 65, 85, 87, 119–139.,1985
  • Renfrew, C. Archeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European origins, Cambridge University Press, 1988
  • Abaev, V.I. and H. W. Bailey, "Alans", Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. 1. pp. 801–803.;
  • Great Soviet Encyclopedia, (translation of the 3rd Russian-language edition), 31 vols., New York, 1973–1983.
  • Willem Vogelsang The rise & organisation of the Achaemenid empire – the eastern evidence (Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East Vol. III). Leiden: Brill. pp. 344., 1992 {{ISBN|90-04-09682-5}}.
  • Sinor, Denis. Inner Asia: History – Civilization – Languages, Routledge, 1997 pg 82 {{ISBN|0-7007-0896-0}} ;
"Scythian." (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 7, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service
  • Masica, Colin P. The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge University Press, 1993, pg 48 {{ISBN|0-521-29944-6}}
The second hypothesis, according to Ghirshman and others, proposes that the Scythian cultural complex emerged from local groups of the "Timber Grave" (or Srubna) culture at the Black Sea coast, although this is also associated with the Cimmerians. According to Dolukhanov this proposal is supported by anthropological evidence which has found that Scythian skulls are similar to preceding findings from the Timber Grave culture, and distinct from those of the Central Asian Sacae.Pavel Dolukhanov, The Early Slavs. Eastern Europe from the initial Settlement to the Kievan Rus. Longman, 1996. Pg 125 Yet, according to Mallory, the archaeological evidence is poor, and the Andronovo culture and "at least the eastern outliers of the Timber-grave culture" may be identified as Indo-Iranian.Others have further stressed that "Scythian" was a very broad term used by both ancient and modern scholars to describe a whole host of otherwise unrelated peoples sharing only certain similarities in lifestyle (nomadism), cultural practices and language. The 1st millennium BC ushered a period of unprecedented cultural and economic connectivity amongst disparate and wide-ranging communities. A mobile, broadly similar lifestyle would have facilitated contacts amongst disparate ethnic groupings along the expansive Eurasian steppe from the Danube to Manchuria, leading to many cultural similarities. From the viewpoint of Greek and Persian ancient observers, they were all lumped together under the etic category "Scythians".


Classical Antiquity (600 BC to AD 300)

{{refimprove section|date=December 2015}}File:Avarárok.JPG|thumb|upright=0.8|Scythian defence line 339 BC reconstruction in Polgár, HungaryPolgár, HungaryHerodotus provides the first detailed description of the Scythians. He classes the Cimmerians as a distinct autochthonous tribe, expelled by the Scythians from the northern Black Sea coast (Hist. 4.11–12). Herodotus also states (4.6) that the Scythians consisted of the Auchatae, Catiaroi, Traspians, and Paralatae or "Royal Scythians". In 512 BC, when King Darius the Great of Persia attacked the Scythians, he allegedly penetrated into their land after crossing the Danube. Herodotus relates that the nomadic Scythians frustrated the Persian army by letting it march through the entire country without an engagement.BOOK, Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, Rutgers University Press, 1970, 0-8135-1304-9, 9, According to Herodotus, Darius in this manner came as far as the Volga River.File:KulObaTreasure.jpg|thumb|left|Treasure of Kul-Oba, near KerchKerchDuring the 5th to 3rd centuries BC, the Scythians evidently prospered. When Herodotus wrote his Histories in the 5th century BC, Greeks distinguished Scythia Minor, in present-day Romania and Bulgaria, from a Greater Scythia that extended eastwards for a 20-day ride from the Danube River, across the steppes of today's East Ukraine to the lower Don basin. The Don, then known as Tanaïs, has served as a major trading route ever since. The Scythians apparently obtained their wealth from their control over the slave trade from the north to Greece through the Greek Black Sea colonial ports of Olbia, Chersonesos, Cimmerian Bosporus, and Gorgippia. They also grew grain, and shipped wheat, flocks, and cheese to Greece.File:Scythian Warriors.jpg|thumb|upright=1.45|Scythian warriors, drawn after figures on an electrum cup from the Kul-Oba kurgan burial near Kerch, Crimea. The warrior on the right strings his bow, bracing it behind his knee; note the typical pointed hood, long jacket with fur or fleece trimming at the edges, decorated trousers, and short boots tied at the ankle. Scythians apparently wore their hair long and loose, and all adult men apparently bearded. The gorytos appears clearly on the left hip of the bare-headed spearman. The shield of the central figure may be made of plain leather over a wooden or wicker base. (Hermitage MuseumHermitage MuseumStrabo (c. 63 BC – AD 24) reports that King Ateas united under his power the Scythian tribes living between the Maeotian marshes and the Danube. His westward expansion brought him into conflict with Philip II of Macedon (reigned 359 to 336 BC), who took military action against the Scythians in 339 BC. Ateas died in battle, and his empire disintegrated. In the aftermath of this defeat, the Celts seem to have displaced the Scythians from the Balkans; while in south Russia, a kindred tribe, the Sarmatians, gradually overwhelmed them. In 329 BC Philip's son, Alexander the Great, came into conflict with the Scythians at the Battle of Jaxartes. A Scythian army sought to take revenge against the Macedonians for the death of Ateas, as they pushed the borders of their empire north and east, and to take advantage of a revolt by the local Sogdian satrap. However, the Scythian army was defeated by Alexander at the Battle of Jaxartes. Alexander did not intend to subdue the nomads: he wanted to go to the south, where a far more serious crisis demanded his attention. He could do so now without loss of face; and in order to make the outcome acceptable to the Saccae, he released the Scythian prisoners of war without ransom in order to broker a peace agreement. This policy was successful, and the Scythians no longer harassed Alexander's empire. By the time of Strabo's account (the first decades AD), the Crimean Scythians had created a new kingdom extending from the lower Dnieper to the Crimea. The kings Skilurus and Palakus waged wars with Mithridates the Great (reigned 120–63 BC) for control of the Crimean littoral, including Chersonesos Taurica and the Cimmerian Bosporus. Their capital city, Scythian Neapolis, stood on the outskirts of modern Simferopol. The Goths destroyed it later, in the mid-3rd century AD.

Sakas of the Eastern Steppe

(File:ScythianC14AsiaEuropeFig6SketchEn 3dGraph.gif|thumb|left|upright=1.2|Timeline of Scythian kurgans in Asia and Europe)Modern scholars usually use the term Saka to refer to Iranian-speaking tribes who inhabited the Eastern Steppe and the Tarim Basin.BOOK,weblink ARCHAEOLOGY – Volume I, The Archaeology of Eurasian Nomads, Donald L. Hardesty, 383, L. T. Yablonsky, EOLSS, 978-1-84826-002-3, Ancient Persian inscriptions also used Saka to refer to western Scythians to the north of the Black Sea – the Sakā paradraya or "Saka beyond the sea".In the Achaemenid-era Old Persian inscriptions found at Persepolis, dated to the reign of Darius I (r. 522–486 BC), the Saka are said to have lived just beyond the borders of Sogdiana.Bailey, H.W. (1996) "Khotanese Saka Literature", in Ehsan Yarshater (ed), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol III: The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Periods, Part 2 (reprint edition), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 1230.BOOK,weblink The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume IV, 173, Cambridge University Press, 24 November 1988, 978-0-521-22804-6, The term Sakā para Sugdam or "Saka beyond Sugda (Sogdiana)" was used by Darius to describe the people who formed the limits of his empire at the opposite end to Kush (the Ethiopians) in the west, i.e. at the eastern edge of his empire.BOOK,weblink The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 2, Ilya Gershevitch, J. M. Cook, The Rise of the Achaemenids and Establishment of Their Empire, 253–255, Cambridge University Press; Reissue edition, 6 June 1985, 978-0-521-20091-2, BOOK,weblink From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, Pierre, Briant, 178, Eisenbrauns, 29 July 2006, 978-1-57506-120-7, This is Kingdom which I hold, from the Scythians [Saka] who are beyond Sogdiana, thence unto Ethiopia [Cush]; from Sind, thence unto Sardis., An inscription dated to the reign of Xerxes I (r. 486–465 BC) has them coupled with the Dahae people of Central Asia. Two Saka tribes named in the Behistun Inscription, Sakā tigraxaudā ("Saka with pointy hats/caps") and the Sakā haumavargā ("haoma-drinking saka"), may be located to the east of the Caspian Sea.BOOK,weblink The Culture and Social Institutions of Ancient Iran, Muhammad A. Dandamaev, Vladimir G. Lukonin, Cambridge University Press, 21 August 2008, 978-0-521-61191-6, 334, WEB,weblink Haumavargā, Encyclopedia Iranica, 2016-09-24,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-09-13, no, Some argued that the Sakā haumavargā may be the Sakā para Sugdam, therefore Sakā haumavargā would be located further east than the Sakā tigraxaudā. Some argued for the Pamirs or Xinjiang as their location, although Jaxartes is considered to be their more likely location given that the name says "beyond Sogdiana" rather than Bactria.{{multiple image| align = right| total_width=250| header=Skunkha, King of the Sakā tigraxaudā| image1 = Behistun relief Skunkha.jpg
weblink | image2 = Skunhka portrait.jpg| caption2 = Portrait of Skunhka. 520–519 BC.}}Cyrus the Great of the Persian Achaemenid Empire fought the Saka, whose women were said to fight alongside their men.BOOK,weblink ARCHAEOLOGY – Volume I, The Archaeology of Eurasian Nomads, Donald L. Hardesty, 383, L. T. Yablonsky, EOLSS, 978-1-84826-002-3, According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great also confronted the Massagetae, a people thought to be related to the Saka,BOOK,weblink Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, Barbara A. West, 516, 9781438119137, 2010-05-19, while campaigning to the east of the Caspian Sea and was killed in the battle in 530 BC.BOOK,weblink By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia, Barry, Cunliffe, 206, Oxford University Press, 24 September 2015, 978-0-19-968917-0, Darius the Great also waged wars against the eastern Sakas, who fought him with three armies led by three kings according to Polyaenus.WEB,weblink Amorges, A. Sh. Shahbazi, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2016-09-24,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-09-13, no, In 520–519 BC, Darius I defeated the Sakā tigraxaudā tribe and captured their king Skunkha (depicted as wearing a pointed hat in the Behistun inscription).BOOK,weblink Empires of the Silk Road, 68, Christopher, Beckwith, Princeton University Press, 8 May 2011, 978-0-691-15034-5, 2016-09-10,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-09-17, no, The territories of Saka were absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire as part of Chorasmia that included much of Amu Darya (Oxus) and Syr Darya (Jaxartes),BOOK,weblink By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia, Barry, Cunliffe, 235, Oxford University Press, 24 September 2015, 978-0-19-968917-0, and the Saka then supplied the Persian army with large number of mounted bowmen in the Achaemenid wars.BOOK,weblink History of Civilizations of Central Asia Volume II: The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 BC to AD 250, 44–46, M. A. Dandamayev, UNESCO, 978-8120815407, 1999, In the Chinese Book of Han, the valleys of the Ili River and Chu River were called the "land of the Sai", i.e. the Saka. The exact date of their arrival in this region of Central Asia is unclear, perhaps it was just before the reign of Darius I.JOURNAL, Yu Taishan, June 2010, The Earliest Tocharians in China, Sino-Platonic Papers, 13–14,weblink 2016-10-18,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-12-20, no, Around 30 Saka tombs in the form of kurgans (burial mounds) have also been found in the Tian Shan area dated to between 550–250 BC. Indications of Saka presence have also been found in the Tarim Basin region, possibly as early as the 7th century BC.WEB,weblink Bronze Age Languages of the Tarim Basin, J. P. mallory, Penn Museum, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-09-09, Some modern scholars thought that the sacking of the Western Zhou capital Haojing in 770 BC might have been connected to a Scythian raid from the Altai before their westward expansion.ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink The Steppe: Scythian successes, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 31 December 2014, File:Issyk Golden Cataphract Warrior.jpg|thumb|200px|A cataphract-style parade armour of a Saka royal, also known as "The Golden Warrior", from the Issyk kurgan, an historic burial near ex-capital city of Almaty, KazakhstanKazakhstanHowever, as a consequence of the fight for supremacy between the Xiongnu and other groups, the Saka were pushed towards Bactria, and later on southward to northwest India and eastward to the oasis city-states of western Tarim Basin region of Xinjiang in Northwest China.Loewe, Michael. (1986). "The Former Han Dynasty," in The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220, 103–222. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 197–198. {{ISBN|978-0-521-24327-8}}.Yü, Ying-shih. (1986). "Han Foreign Relations," in The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220, 377–462. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 410–411. {{ISBN|978-0-521-24327-8}}.Accounts of the migration of the Sakas are given in Chinese texts such as Sima Qian's Shiji. The Indo-European Yuezhi, who originally lived between Dunhuang and the Qilian Mountains of Gansu, China, were assaulted and forced to flee from the Hexi Corridor of Gansu by the Mongolic forces of the Xiongnu ruler Modu Chanyu, who conquered the area in 177–176 BC.Torday, Laszlo. (1997). Mounted Archers: The Beginnings of Central Asian History. Durham: The Durham Academic Press, pp 80–81, {{ISBN|978-1-900838-03-0}}.Yü, Ying-shih. (1986). "Han Foreign Relations," in The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220, 377–462. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 377–388, 391, {{ISBN|978-0-521-24327-8}}.Di Cosmo, Nicola. (2002). Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 174–189, 196–198, 241–242 {{ISBN|978-0-521-77064-4}}. In turn the Yuezhi were responsible for attacking and pushing the Sai (i.e. Saka) southwest into Sogdiana, where in the mid 2nd century BC the latter crossed the Syr Darya into Hellenistic Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, but also into the Fergana Valley where they settled in Dayuan.WEB,weblink The Yuezhi Migration and Sogdia, Craig, Benjamin, 2015-03-01,weblink" title="">weblink 2015-02-18, no, Bernard, P. (1994). "The Greek Kingdoms of Central Asia". In Harmatta, János. History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 B.C. to A.D. 250. Paris: UNESCO. pp. 96–126. {{ISBN|92-3-102846-4}}. The ancient Greco-Roman geographer Strabo claims that the four tribes of the Asii, who took down the Bactrians in the Greek and Roman account, came from land north of Syr Darya where the Ili and Chu valleys are located. The Saka then migrated down to the northwest area of the Indian subcontinent where they became known as Indo-Scythians, as well as eastward to the settlements of the Tarim Basin in present-day China such as Khotan and Tumshaq.

Khotan and kingdoms of the Tarim Basin

The Saka migrated from Bactria where they eventually settled in some of the oasis city-states of the Tarim Basin that at times fell under the influence of the Chinese Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). These states in the Tarim Basin include Khotan, Kashgar, Shache (莎車, probably named after the Saka inhabitants), Yanqi (焉耆, Karasahr) and Qiuci (龜茲, Kucha).Yu Taishan (June 2010), "The Earliest Tocharians in China" in Victor H. Mair (ed), Sino-Platonic Papers, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, pp 21–22.WEB,weblink Yarkand, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2016-09-24,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-11-17, no, The official administrative language of Khotan and nearby Shanshan was Gandhari Prakrit in the Kharosthi script.Emmerick, R. E. (2003) "Iranian Settlement East of the Pamirs", in Ehsan Yarshater (ed), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol III: The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Periods, Part 1 (reprint edition) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 265. There are however indications that Sakas were linked to the ruling elite – 3rd-century documents from Shanshan record the title of the king of Khotan as hinajha (i.e. "generalissimo"), an Iranian-based word equivalent to the Sanskrit title senapati, yet nearly identical to the Khotanese Saka hīnāysa attested in later documents. The regnal periods were also given in Khotanese as kṣuṇa, "implies an established connection between the Iranian inhabitants and the royal power," according to the late Professor of Iranian Studies Ronald E. Emmerick (d. 2001). He contended that Khotanese-Saka-language royal rescripts of Khotan dated to the 10th century "makes it likely that the ruler of Khotan was a speaker of Iranian." Furthermore, he argued that the oldest form of the name of Khotan, hvatana, may be linked semantically with the name Saka.Emmerick, R. E. (2003) "Iranian Settlement East of the Pamirs", in Ehsan Yarshater (ed), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol III: The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Periods, Part 1 (reprint edition) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 265–266.During China's Tang dynasty (618–907 AD), the region once again came under Chinese suzerainty with the campaigns of conquest by Emperor Taizong of Tang (r. 626–649).Xue, Zongzheng (薛宗正). (1992). History of the Turks (突厥史). Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, p. 596-598. {{ISBN|978-7-5004-0432-3}}; {{OCLC|28622013}} From the late 8th to 9th centuries, the region changed hands between the Chinese Tang Empire and the rival Tibetan Empire.Beckwith, Christopher. (1987). The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp 36, 146. {{ISBN|0-691-05494-0}}.Wechsler, Howard J.; Twitchett, Dennis C. (1979). Denis C. Twitchett; John K. Fairbank, eds. The Cambridge History of China, Volume 3: Sui and T'ang China, 589–906, Part I. Cambridge University Press. pp. 225–227. {{ISBN|978-0-521-21446-9}}. The kingdom existed until it was conquered by the Muslim Turkic peoples of the Kara-Khanid Khanate, which led to both the Turkification and Islamisation of the region.Scott Cameron Levi; Ron Sela (2010). Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources. Indiana University Press. pp. 72–. {{ISBN|0-253-35385-8}}.Ahmad Hasan Dani; B. A. Litvinsky; Unesco (1 January 1996). History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The crossroads of civilizations, A.D. 250 to 750. UNESCO. pp. 283–. {{ISBN|978-92-3-103211-0}}.


File:AzesIITriratna.jpg|thumb|upright=1.2|Silver coin of Indo-Scythian King Azes II (ruled c. 35–12 BC). Buddhist triratnatriratnaAfter the Saka migrated into northwest area of the Indian subcontinent, the region became known as "land of the Saka" (i.e. Drangiana, of modern Afghanistan and Pakistan). This is attested in a contemporary Kharosthi inscription found on the Mathura lion capital belonging to the Saka kingdom of the Indo-Scythians (200 BC – 400 AD) in northern India,Bailey, H.W. (1996) "Khotanese Saka Literature", in Ehsan Yarshater (ed), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol III: The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Periods, Part 2 (reprint edition), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 1230–1231. roughly the same time the Chinese record that the Saka had invaded and settled the country of Jibin 罽賓 (i.e. Kashmir, of modern-day India and Pakistan).Ulrich Theobald. (26 November 2011). "Chinese History – Sai 塞 The Saka People or Soghdians {{Webarchive|url= |date=2015-01-19 }}." Accessed 2 September 2016. In the Persian language of contemporary Iran the territory of Drangiana was called Sakastāna, in Armenian as Sakastan, with similar equivalents in Pahlavi, Greek, Sogdian, Syriac, Arabic, and the Middle Persian tongue used in Turfan, Xinjiang, China.

Late Antiquity

{{See also|Sarmatians|Alans|Ossetians}}In Late Antiquity, the notion of a Scythian ethnicity grew more vague and outsiders might dub any people inhabiting the Pontic-Caspian steppe as "Scythians", regardless of their language. Thus, Priscus, a Byzantine emissary to Attila, repeatedly referred to the latter's followers as "Scythians". But Eunapius, Claudius Cladianus and Olympiodorus usually mean "Goths" when they write "Scythians".{{citation needed|date=April 2017}}The Goths had displaced the Sarmatians in the 2nd century from most areas near the Roman frontier, and by early medieval times, the Early Slavs (Proto-Slavs) marginalised Eastern Iranian dialects in Eastern Europe as they assimilated and absorbed the Iranian ethnic groups in the region. The Turkic migration assimilated the Saka linguistically in Central Asia.{{Citation needed|date=September 2015}}Although the classical Scythians may have largely disappeared by the 1st century BC, Eastern Romans continued to speak conventionally of "Scythians" to designate Germanic tribes and confederationssee Zosimus, Historia Nova, 1.23 & 1.28, also Zonaras, Epitome historiarum, book 12. Also the title "Scythika" of the lost work of the 3rd-century Greek historian Dexippus who narrated the Germanic invasions of his age or mounted Eurasian nomadic barbarians in general: in AD 448 two mounted "Scythians" led the emissary Priscus to Attila's encampment in Pannonia. The Byzantines in this case carefully distinguished the Scythians from the Goths and Huns who also followed Attila.The Sarmatians (including the Alans and finally the Ossetians) counted as Scythians in the broadest sense of the word – as speakers of Eastern Iranian languages,The Ossetes, the only Iranian people {{As of|2007|alt=presently}} resident in Europe, call their country Iriston or Iron, though North Ossetia {{As of|2006|alt=now}} officially has the designation Alania. They speak an Eastern Iranian language Ossetic, whose more widely spoken dialect, Iron or Ironig (i.e. Iranian), preserves some similarities with the Gathic Avestan language, another Iranian language of the Eastern branch and are considered mostly of Iranian descent.Bernard S. Bachrach, A History of the Alans in the West, from their first appearance in the sources of classical antiquity through the early Middle Ages, University of Minnesota Press, 1973 {{ISBN|0-8166-0678-1}}Byzantine sources also refer to the Rus raiders who attacked Constantinople circa 860 in contemporary accounts as "Tauroscythians", because of their geographical origin, and despite their lack of any ethnic relation to Scythians. Patriarch Photius may have first applied the term to them during the Siege of Constantinople (860).


Archaeological remains of the Scythians include kurgan tombs (ranging from simple exemplars to elaborate "Royal kurgans" containing the "Scythian triad" of weapons, horse-harness, and Scythian-style wild-animal art), gold, silk, and animal sacrifices, in places also with suspected human sacrifices.Hughes, Dennis. (1991) Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece. Routledge pp. 10, 64–65, 118.Baldick, Julian. (2000) Animals and Shaman: Ancient Religions of Central Asia. I.B. Tauris. pp.35–36. Mummification techniques and permafrost have aided in the relative preservation of some remains. Scythian archaeology also examines the remains of North Pontic Scythian cities and fortifications.Tsetskhladze, Gocha R. (2001) North Pontic Archaeology: Recent Discoveries and Studies. BRIL. pp. 5–474.The spectacular Scythian grave-goods from Arzhan, and others in Tuva have been dated from about 900 BC onward. One grave find on the lower Volga gave a similar date, and one of the Steblev graves from the East European end of the Scythian area was dated to the late 8th century BC.Some problems in the study of the chronology of the Ancient Nomadic Cultures in Eurasia (9th to 3rd centuries BC). A. Yu. Alekseev, N. A. Bokovenko, Yu. Boltrik, et alia. Geochronometria {{Webarchive|url= |date=2007-08-03 }} Vol. 21, pp 143–150, 2002. Journal on Methods and Applications of Absolute Chronology.Archaeologists can distinguish three periods of ancient Scythian archaeological remains:
  • 1st period – pre-Scythian and initial Scythian epoch: from the 9th to the middle of the 7th century BC
  • 2nd period – early Scythian epoch: from the 7th to the 6th centuries BC
  • 3rd period – classical Scythian epoch: from the 5th to the 4th centuries BC
From the 8th to the 2nd centuries BC, archaeology records a split into two distinct settlement areas: the older in the Sayan-Altai area in Central Asia, and the younger in the North Pontic area in Eastern Europe.A. Yu. Alekseev et al., "Chronology of Eurasian Scythian Antiquities ..."An alternative scheme, relating to the "narrow" definition at the Western end of the steppe and into Europe, has:
  • Early Scythian – from the mid-8th or the late 7th century BC to about 500 BC
  • Classical Scythian or Mid-Scythian – from about 500 BC to about 300 BC
  • Late Scythian – from about 200 BC to the early 2nd century CE, in the Crimea and the Lower Dnieper, by which time the population was settled.


File:throne arm.jpg|thumb|An arm from the throne of a Scythian king, 7th century BC. Found at the Kerkemess kurgan, Krasnodar Krai in 1905. On exhibit at the Hermitage MuseumHermitage MuseumThese large burial mounds (some over 20 metres high) provide the most valuable archaeological remains associated with the Scythians. They dot the Eurasian steppe belt, from Mongolia to Balkans, through Ukrainian and south Russian steppes, extending in great chains for many kilometers along ridges and watersheds. From them archaeologists have learned much about Scythian life and art.{{harvnb|Boardman|Edwards|1991|pp=547–591}} Some Scythian tombs reveal traces of Greek, Chinese, and Indian craftsmanship, suggesting a process of Hellenisation, Sinification, and other local influences among the Scythians.JOURNAL, Tsetskhladze Gocha R, 1998, Who Built the Scythian and Thracian Elite Tombs?, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 17, 55–92, 10.1111/1468-0092.00051, The Ukrainian term for such a burial mound, kurhán (Ukrainian: Курган) as well as the Russian term kurgán, derives from a Turkic word for "castle"."kurgan." Merriam-Webster, 2002. Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged {{Webarchive|url= |date=2013-02-10 }} (10 October 2006).Some Scythian-Sarmatian cultures may have given rise to Greek stories of Amazons. Graves of armed females have been found in southern Ukraine and Russia. David Anthony notes, "About 20% of Scythian-Sarmatian 'warrior graves' on the lower Don and lower Volga contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a style that may have inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons."BOOK, Anthony, David W., The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, Princeton University Press, 2007, 978-0-691-05887-0,weblink Excavation at kurgan Sengileevskoe-2 found gold bowls with coatings indicating a strong opium beverage was used while cannabis was burning nearby. The gold bowls depicted scenes showing clothing and weapons.WEB, Gold Artifacts Tell Tale of Drug-Fueled Rituals and 'Bastard Wars',weblink National Geographic News, August 31, 2016, Andrew, Curry, May 22, 2015,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-08-25, no,

Pazyryk culture

File:PazyrikHorseman.JPG|thumb|left|A (Pazyryk culture|Pazyryk]] horseman in a felt painting from a burial around 300 BC. The Pazyryks appear to be closely related to the Scythians.BOOK, Dr. Aaron Ralby, Atlas of Military History, 2013, Parragon, 978-1-4723-0963-1, 224–225, Scythians, c. 700 BCE—600 CE: Punching a Cloud, )Eastern Scythian burials documented by modern archaeologists include the kurgans at Pazyryk in the Ulagan (Red) district of the Altai Republic, south of Novosibirsk in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia (near Mongolia). Archaeologists have extrapolated the Pazyryk culture from these finds: five large burial mounds and several smaller ones between 1925 and 1949, one opened in 1947 by Russian archaeologist Sergei Rudenko. The burial mounds concealed chambers of larch-logs covered over with large cairns of boulders and stones.BOOK,weblink Frozen Tombs of Siberia: The Pazyryk Burials of Iron Age Horsemen, Сергей Иванович Руденко (Sergei I. Rudenko), 978-0-520-01395-7, 1970, University of California Press, The Pazyryk culture flourished between the 7th and 3rd century BC in the area associated with the Sacae.Ordinary Pazyryk graves contain only common utensils, but in one, among other treasures, archaeologists found the famous (:File:Scythiancarpet.jpg|Pazyryk Carpet), the oldest surviving wool-pile oriental rug. Another striking find, a 3-metre-high four-wheel funerary chariot, survived well-preserved from the 5th to 4th century BC.WEB,weblink Chariot,weblink" title="">weblink July 6, 2001, Hermitage Museum,

Bilsk excavations

Recent digs{{Citation needed|date=February 2007}} (see:Gelonus) in a village Bilsk near Poltava (Ukraine) have uncovered a "vast city", with the largest area of any city in the world at that time ((:uk:Більське городище|Bilsk settlement)). It has been tentatively identified by a team of archaeologists led by Boris Shramko as the site of Gelonus, the purported capital of Scythia. The city's commanding ramparts and vast area of 40 square kilometers exceed even the outlandish size reported by Herodotus. Its location at the northern edge of the Ukrainian steppe would have allowed strategic control of the north-south trade-route. Judging by the finds dated to the 5th and 4th centuries BC, craft workshops and Greek pottery abounded.

Tillia Tepe treasure

File:MenWithDragons.jpg|thumb|"Kings with dragons", Tillia TepeTillia TepeFile:TilliaTepeCrown2.jpg|thumb|Royal crown, Tillia TepeTillia TepeA site found in 1968 in Tillia Tepe (literally "the golden hill") in northern Afghanistan (former Bactria) near Shebergan consisted of the graves of five women and one man with extremely rich jewelry, dated to around the 1st century BC, and probably related to that of Scythian tribes normally living slightly to the north. Altogether the graves yielded several thousands of pieces of fine jewelry, usually made from combinations of gold, turquoise and lapis-lazuli.A high degree of cultural syncretism pervades the findings, however. Hellenistic cultural and artistic influences appear in many of the forms and human depictions (from amorini to rings with the depiction of Athena and her name inscribed in Greek), attributable to the existence of the Seleucid empire and Greco-Bactrian kingdom in the same area until around 140 BC, and the continued existence of the Indo-Greek kingdom in the northwestern Indian sub-continent until the beginning of our era. This testifies to the richness of cultural influences in the area of Bactria at that time.

Culture and society

Tribal divisions

Scythians lived in confederated tribes, a political form of voluntary association which regulated pastures and organised a common defence against encroaching neighbours for the pastoral tribes of mostly equestrian herdsmen. While the productivity of domesticated animal-breeding greatly exceeded that of the settled agricultural societies, the pastoral economy also needed supplemental agricultural produce, and stable nomadic confederations developed either symbiotic or forced alliances with sedentary peoples – in exchange for animal produce and military protection.Herodotus relates that three main tribes of the Scythians descended from three brothers, Lipoxais, Arpoxais, and Colaxais:Traces of the Iranian root xšaya – "ruler" – may persist in all three names.}}Herodotus also mentions a royal tribe or clan, an elite which dominated the other Scythians:
}}File:ScytianBowl.JPG|thumb|right|Scythian bowl, 5th century BC found at Castelu, Romania. In display at Constanţa Museum of National HistoryConstanţa Museum of National HistoryThe rich burials of Scythian kings in tumuli (often known by the Turkic name kurgan) is evidence for the existence of a powerful elite. While an elite clan is named in some classical sources {{which|date=June 2015}} as the "Royal Dahae", the Dahae proper are generally regarded as an extinct Indo-European people, who occupied what is now Turkmenistan, and were distinct from the Scythians.Although scholars have traditionally treated the three tribes as geographically distinct, Georges Dumézil interpreted the divine gifts as the symbols of social occupations, illustrating his trifunctional vision of early Indo-European societies: the plough and yoke symbolised the farmers, the axe – the warriors, the bowl – the priests.The first scholar to compare the three strata of Scythian society to the Indian castes, Arthur Christensen, published Les types du premiere homme et du premier roi dans l'histoire legendaire des Iraniens, I (Stockholm, Leiden, 1917).According to Dumézil, "the fruitless attempts of Arpoxais and Lipoxais, in contrast to the success of Colaxais, may explain why the highest strata was not that of farmers or magicians, but rather that of warriors."Quoted in Wouter Wiggert Belier. Decayed Gods: Origin and Development of Georges Dumezil's "Ideologie Tripartie". Brill Academic Publishers, 1991. {{ISBN|90-04-06195-9}}. Page 69.


(File:TillyaTepeSheath2.jpg|thumb|upright=1.2|Sheath for knives)A warlike people, the Scythians were particularly known for their equestrian skills, and their early use of composite bows shot from horseback. With great mobility, the Scythians could absorb the attacks of more cumbersome footsoldiers and cavalry, just retreating into the steppes. Such tactics wore down their enemies, making them easier to defeat. The Scythians were notoriously aggressive warriors. They "fought to live and lived to fight" and "drank the blood of their enemies and used the scalps as napkins."Durant, Will. Our Oriental Heritage. Simon & Schuster, 1935. p. 287.Ruled by small numbers of closely allied elites, Scythians had a reputation for their archers, and many gained employment as mercenaries. Scythian elites had kurgan tombs: high barrows heaped over chamber-tombs of larch wood, a deciduous conifer that may have had special significance as a tree of life-renewal, for it stands bare in winter. Burials at Pazyryk in the Altay Mountains have included some spectacularly preserved Scythians of the "Pazyryk culture" – including the Ice Maiden of the 5th century BC.The Ziwiye hoard, a treasure of gold and silver metalwork and ivory found near the town of Sakiz south of Lake Urmia and dated to between 680 and 625 BC, includes objects with Scythian "animal style" features. One silver dish from this find bears some inscriptions, as yet undeciphered and so possibly representing a form of Scythian writing.Scythians also had a reputation for the use of barbed and poisoned arrows of several types, for a nomadic life centred on horses – "fed from horse-blood" according to Herodotus – and for skill in guerrilla warfare.


{{refimprove section|date=December 2015}}File:Skythian archer plate BM E135 by Epiktetos.jpg|thumb|An Attic vase-painting of a Scythian archer (a police force in Athens) by EpiktetosEpiktetosFile:IranPersepolisApadana4.jpg|thumb|The Scythian delegation, relief on Apadana stairs of PersepolisPersepolisAccording to Herodotus, Scythian costume consisted of padded and quilted leather trousers tucked into boots, and open tunics. They rode without stirrups or saddles, using only saddle-cloths. Herodotus reports that Scythians used cannabis, both to weave their clothing and to cleanse themselves in its smoke (Hist. 4.73–75); archaeology has confirmed the use of cannabis in funerary rituals.Scythian women dressed in much the same fashion as men. A Pazyryk burial, discovered in the 1990s, contained the skeletons of a man and a woman, each with weapons, arrowheads, and an axe. Herodotus mentioned that Sakas had "high caps and â€¦ wore trousers." Clothing was sewn from plain-weave wool, hemp cloth, silk fabrics, felt, leather and hides.Pazyryk findings give the most number of almost fully preserved garments and clothing worn by the Scythian/Saka peoples. Ancient Persian bas-reliefs, inscriptions from Apadana and Behistun, ancient Greek pottery, archaeological findings from Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, China, etc. give visual representations of these garments.Herodotus says Sakas had "high caps tapering to a point and stiffly upright." Asian Saka headgear is clearly visible on the Persepolis Apadana staircase bas-relief – high pointed hat with flaps over ears and the nape of the neck.The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Photographic Archives. Persepolis – Apadana, E Stairway, Tribute Procession, the Saka Tigraxauda Delegation.weblink {{Webarchive|url= |date=2012-10-12 }} Retrieved 2012-6-27 From China to the Danube delta, men seemed to have worn a variety of soft headgear – either conical like the one described by Herodotus, or rounder, more like a Phrygian cap.File:6. Pectorale burial mound Arzhan (VIII. - VII. B. C.) Tuva.JPG|thumb|Pectoral from burial mound in ArzhanArzhanWomen wore a variety of different headdresses, some conical in shape others more like flattened cylinders, also adorned with metal (golden) plaques.Based on the Pazyryk findings (can be seen also in the south Siberian, Uralic and Kazakhstan rock drawings) some caps were topped with zoomorphic wooden sculptures firmly attached to a cap and forming an integral part of the headgear, similar to the surviving nomad helmets from northern China.Men and warrior women wore tunics, often embroidered, adorned with felt applique work, or metal (golden) plaques.Persepolis Apadana again serves a good starting point to observe tunics of the Sakas. They appear to be a sewn, long sleeve garment that extended to the knees and belted with a belt while owner's weapons were fastened to the belt (sword or dagger, gorytos, battle-axe, whetstone etc.). Based on numerous archeological findings in Ukraine, southern Russian and Kazakhstan men and warrior women wore long sleeve tunics that were always belted, often with richly ornamented belts. The Kazakhstan Saka (e.g. Issyk Golden Man/Maiden) wore shorter tunics and more close fitting tunics than the Pontic steppe Scythians. Some Pazyryk culture Saka wore short belted tunic with a lapel on a right side, upright collar, 'puffed' sleeves narrowing at a wrist and bound in narrow cuffs of a color different from the rest of the tunic.Scythian women wore long, loose robes, ornamented with metal plaques (gold). Women wore shawls, often richly decorated with metal (golden) plaques.Men and women wore coats, e.g. Pazyryk Saka had many varieties, from fur to felt. They could have worn a riding coat that later was known as a Median robe or Kantus. Long sleeved, and open, it seems that on the Persepolis Apadana Skudrian delegation is perhaps shown wearing such coat. The Pazyryk felt tapestry shows a rider wearing a billowing cloak.Men and women wore long trousers, often adorned with metal plaques and often embroidered or adorned with felt appliqués; trousers could have been wider or tight fitting depending on the area. Materials used depended on the wealth, climate and necessity.Men and women warriors wore variations of long and shorter boots, wool-leather-felt gaiter-boots and moccasin-like shoes. They were either of a laced or simple slip on type.Women wore also soft shoes with metal (gold) plaques.Men and women wore belts. Warrior belts were made of leather, often with gold or other metal adornments and had many attached leather thongs for fastening of the owner's gorytos, sword, whet stone, whip etc. Belts were fastened with metal or horn belt-hooks, leather thongs and metal (often golden) or horn belt-plates.


File:HorseAttackedByTigerOrdos4th-1stBCE.JPG|thumb|Bronze Ordos cultureOrdos cultureScythian contacts with craftsmen in Greek colonies along the northern shores of the Black Sea resulted in the famous Scythian gold adornments that feature among the most glamorous artifacts of world museums. Ethnographically extremely useful as well, the gold depicts Scythian men as bearded, long-haired Caucasoids. "Greco-Scythian" works depicting Scythians within a much more Hellenic style date from a later period, when Scythians had already adopted elements of Greek culture, and the most elaborate royal pieces are assumed to have been made by Greek goldsmiths for this lucrative market. Other metalwork pieces from across the whole Eurasian steppe use an animal style, showing animals, often in combat and often with their legs folded beneath them. The origins of this style remain debated, but it probably both received and gave influences in the art of the neighbouring settled peoples, and acted as a fast route for transmission of motifs across the width of Eurasia.(File:Placca pantera, da regione di krasnodar, kurgan chertomlyk, oro a sbalzo e cesellato, fine VII sec ac..JPG|thumb|280px|left|Gold plaque with panther, probably for a shield or breast-plate, 13 in/33 cm long, end of 7th century BC)Surviving Scythian objects are mostly small portable pieces of metalwork: elaborate personal jewelry, weapon-ornaments and horse-trappings. But finds from sites with permafrost show rich and brightly coloured textiles, leatherwork and woodwork, not to mention tattooing. The western royal pieces executed Central-Asian animal motifs with Greek realism: winged gryphons attacking horses, battling stags, deer, and eagles, combined with everyday motifs like milking ewes.File:ChineseJadePlaques.JPG|thumb|Chinese jade and steatite plaques, in the Scythian-style animal art of the steppes. 4th to 3rd centuries BC. British MuseumBritish MuseumIn 2000, the touring exhibition 'Scythian Gold' introduced the North American public to the objects made for Scythian nomads by Greek craftsmen north of the Black Sea, and buried with their Scythian owners under burial mounds on the flat plains of present-day Ukraine. In 2001, the discovery of an undisturbed royal Scythian burial-barrow illustrated Scythian animal-style gold that lacks the direct influence of Greek styles. Forty-four pounds of gold weighed down the royal couple in this burial, discovered near Kyzyl, capital of the Siberian republic of Tuva.Ancient influences from Central Asia became identifiable in China following contacts of metropolitan China with nomadic western and northwestern border territories from the 8th century BC. The Chinese adopted the Scythian-style animal art of the steppes (descriptions of animals locked in combat), particularly the rectangular belt-plaques made of gold or bronze, and created their own versions in jade and steatite.Mallory and Mair, The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West, 2000)Following their expulsion by the Yuezhi, some Scythians may also have migrated to the area of Yunnan in southern China. Scythian warriors could also have served as mercenaries for the various kingdoms of ancient China. Excavations of the prehistoric art of the Dian civilisation of Yunnan have revealed hunting scenes of Caucasoid horsemen in Central Asian clothing."Les Saces", Iaroslav Lebedynsky, p.73 {{ISBN|2-87772-337-2}}Scythian influences have been identified as far as Korea and Japan. Various Korean artifacts, such as the royal crowns of the kingdom of Silla, are said to be of Scythian design.Crowns similar to the Scythian ones discovered in Tillia Tepe "appear later, during the 5th and 6th century at the eastern edge of the Asia continent, in the tumulus tombs of the Kingdom of Silla, in South-East Korea. "Afganistan, les trésors retrouvés", 2006, p282, {{ISBN|978-2-7118-5218-5}} Similar crowns, brought through contacts with the continent, can also be found in Kofun era Japan.WEB,weblink 金冠塚古墳 –, 2010-12-14,weblink" title="">weblink 2011-07-22, no,


File:Alba Iulia National Museum of the Union 2011 - Offering pot from a Scythian Grave.JPG|thumb|upright|Offering pot from a Scythian grave from Alba Iulia, Romania, 6th century BC. In display at National Museum of the UnionNational Museum of the UnionThe religious beliefs of the Scythians was a type of Pre-Zoroastrian Iranian religion and differed from the post-Zoroastrian Iranian thoughts.J.Harmatta: "Scythians" in UNESCO Collection of History of Humanity – Volume III: From the Seventh Century BC to the Seventh Century AD. Routledge/UNESCO. 1996. pg 182 Foremost in the Scythian pantheon stood Tabiti, who was later replaced by Atar, the fire-pantheon of Iranian tribes, and Agni, the fire deity of Indo-Aryans. The Scythian belief was a more archaic stage than the Zoroastrian and Hindu systems. The use of cannabis to induce trance and divination by soothsayers was a characteristic of the Scythian belief system. A class of priests, the Enarei, worshipped the goddess Argimpasa and assumed feminine identities.


File:Khotanese animal zodiac BLI6 OR11252 1R2 1.jpg|thumb|left|upright=0.85|A document from Khotan written in Khotanese Saka, part of the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages, listing the animals of the Chinese zodiacChinese zodiacThe Scythian group of languages in the early period are essentially unattested, and their internal divergence is difficult to judge. They belonged to the Eastern Iranian family of languages. Whether all the peoples included in the "Scytho-Siberian" archaeological culture spoke languages from this family is uncertain.The Scythian languages may have formed a dialect continuum: "Scytho-Sarmatian" in the west and "Scytho-Khotanese" or Saka in the east.Encyclopædia Britannica 15th edition – Micropaedia on "Scythian". Schmitt, Rüdiger (ed.), Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, Reichert, 1989. Modern scholarly consensus is that the Saka language, ancestor to the Pamir languages in northern India and Khotanese in Xinjiang, China, belongs to the Scythian languages.Kuz'mina, Elena E. (2007). The Origin of the Indo Iranians. Edited by J.P. Mallory. Leiden, Boston: Brill, pp. 381–382. {{ISBN|978-90-04-16054-5}}. The Scythian languages were mostly marginalised and assimilated as a consequence of the late antiquity and early Middle Ages Slavic and Turkic expansion. Some remnants of the eastern groups have survived as modern Pashto and Pamiri languages in Central Asia. The western (Sarmatian) group of ancient Scythian survived as the medieval language of the Alans and eventually gave rise to the modern Ossetian language.BOOK,weblink Phonologies of Asia and Africa: Including the Caucasus, Alan S. Kaye, David, Testen, Chapter 35: Ossetic Phonology, 978-1-57506-019-4, 707, 2016-09-25,weblink 2017-03-27, no, 1997-06-30, Evidence of the Middle Iranian "Scytho-Khotanese" language survives in Northwest China, where Khotanese-Saka-language documents, ranging from medical texts to Buddhist literature, have been found primarily in Khotan and Tumshuq (northeast of Kashgar). They largely predate the arrival of Islam to the region under the Turkic Kara-Khanids.Bailey, H.W. (1996) "Khotanese Saka Literature", in Ehsan Yarshater (ed), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol III: The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Periods, Part 2 (reprint edition), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 1231–1235. Similar documents in the Khotanese-Saka language were found in Dunhuang and date mostly from the 10th century.JOURNAL,weblink The Tribute Trade with Khotan in Light of Materials Found at the Dunhuang Library Cave, Valerie, Hansen, Bulletin of the Asia Institute, 19, 2005, 37–46, 2016-09-23,weblink" title="">weblink 2016-03-04, no,

Physical appearance

Early physical analyses have unanimously concluded that the Scythians, even those in the east (e.g. the Pazyryk region), possessed predominantly "Europid" features, although mixed 'Euro-mongoloid" phenotypes also occur, depending on site and period.BOOK,weblink Frozen Tombs of Siberia: The Pazyryk Burials of Iron Age Horsemen, Сергей Иванович Руденко (Sergei I. Rudenko), 45–46, 978-0-520-01395-7, 1970, University of California Press, 2016-09-25,weblink 2017-03-27, no, In artworks, the Scythians are portrayed exhibiting European traits.{{harvnb|Day|2001|pp=55–57}} In Histories, the 5th-century Greek historian Herodotus describes the Budini of Scythia as red-haired and grey-eyed. In the 5th century BC, Greek physician Hippocrates argued that the Scythians have purron (ruddy) skin.Deaera, aquis, locis 20.17 In the 3rd century BC, the Greek poet Callimachus described the Arismapes (Arimaspi) of Scythia as fair-haired.Callimachus. Hymn to Delos. 291 The 2nd century BC Han Chinese envoy Zhang Qian described the Sai (Saka) as having yellow (probably meaning hazel or green), and blue eyes. In Natural History, the 1st century AD Roman author Pliny the Elder characterises the Seres, sometimes identified as Iranians or Tocharians, as red-haired and blue-eyed.Pliny. Naturalis Historia. 6. 88 In the late 2nd century AD, the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria says that the Scythians were fair-haired.Clemen. Paedagogus 3. 3. 24 The 2nd century Greek philosopher Polemon includes the Scythians among the northern peoples characterised by red hair and blue-grey eyes. In the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD, the Greek physician Galen declares that Sarmatians, Scythians and other northern peoples have reddish hair.Galen. De temperamentis 2. 5 The fourth-century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that the Alans, a people closely related to the Scythians, were tall, blond and light-eyed.Ammianus Marcellinus. Roman History. s:Roman History/Book XXXI#II|Book XXXI. II. 21]]. "Proceri autem Halani paene sunt omnes et pulchri, crinibus mediocriter flavis, oculorum temperata torvitate terribiles et armorum levitate veloces." The 4th century bishop of Nyssa Gregory of Nyssa wrote that the Scythians were fair skinned and blond haired.Gregory of Nyssa. Against Eunomius. 2. 12 The 5th-century physician Adamantius, who often follow Polemon, describes the Scythians are fair-haired.Adamantius. Physiognomica. 2. 37 It is possible that the later physical descriptions by Adamantius and Gregory of Scythians refer to East Germanic tribes, as the latter were frequently referred to as "Scythians" in Roman sources at that time.



File:Aiud History Museum 2011 - Scythian Items.JPG|thumb|Scythian artefacts originating from sites in Transylvania, in display at Aiud History Museum, Aiud, RomaniaRomaniaHerodotus wrote about an enormous city, Gelonus, in the northern part of Scythia,Herodotus 4.108 trans. Rawlinson. perhaps a site near modern Bilsk, Kotelva Raion, Ukraine:The Budini are a large and powerful nation: they have all deep blue eyes, and bright red hair. There is a city in their territory, called Gelonus, which is surrounded with a lofty wall, thirty furlongs ( = c. 5.5 km) each way, built entirely of wood. All the houses in the place and all the temples are of the same material. Here are temples built in honour of the Grecian gods, and adorned after the Greek fashion with images, altars, and shrines, all in wood. There is even a festival, held every third year in honour of Bacchus, at which the natives fall into the Bacchic fury. For the fact is that the Geloni were anciently Greeks, who, being driven out of the factories along the coast, fled to the Budini and took up their abode with them. They still speak a language half Greek, half Scythian.Herodotus and other classical historians listed quite a number of tribes who lived near the Scythians, and presumably shared the same general milieu and nomadic steppe culture, often called "Scythian culture", even though scholars may have difficulties in determining their exact relationship to the "linguistic Scythians". A partial list of these tribes includes the Agathyrsi, Geloni, Budini, and Neuri.Herodotus presented four different versions of Scythian origins:
  1. Firstly (4.7), the Scythians' legend about themselves, which portrays the first Scythian king, Targitaus, as the child of the sky-god and of a daughter of the Dnieper. Targitaus allegedly lived a thousand years before the failed Persian invasion of Scythia, or around 1500 BC. He had three sons, before whom fell from the sky a set of four golden implements – a plough, a yoke, a cup and a battle-axe. Only the youngest son succeeded in touching the golden implements without them bursting with fire, and this son's descendants, called by Herodotus the "Royal Scythians", continued to guard them.
  2. Secondly (4.8), a legend told by the Pontic Greeks featuring Scythes, the first king of the Scythians, as a child of Hercules and Echidna.
  3. Thirdly (4.11), in the version which Herodotus said he believed most, the Scythians came from a more southern part of Central Asia, until a war with the Massagetae (a powerful tribe of steppe nomads who lived just northeast of Persia) forced them westward.
  4. Finally (4.13), a legend which Herodotus attributed to the Greek bard Aristeas, who claimed to have got himself into such a Bachanalian fury that he ran all the way northeast across Scythia and further. According to this, the Scythians originally lived south of the Rhipaean mountains, until they got into a conflict with a tribe called the Issedones, pressed in their turn by the Cyclopes; and so the Scythians decided to migrate westwards.
Persians and other peoples in Asia referred to the Scythians living in Asia as Sakas. Herodotus (IV.64) describes them as Scythians, although they figure under a different name:


In the 1st century BC, the Greek-Roman geographer Strabo gave an extensive description of the eastern Scythians, whom he located in Central Asia beyond Bactria and Sogdiana.WEB,weblink Strabo, ''Geography'', 11.8.1,, 2012-09-13, Strabo went on to list the names of the various tribes he believed to be "Scythian", and in so doing almost certainly conflated them with unrelated tribes of eastern Central Asia.
(Strabo, Geography, 11.8.1; transl. 1903 by H. C. Hamilton & W. Falconer.)

Indian sources

File:Coin of Azes II.jpg|thumb|Silver coin of the Indo-Scythian King Azes IIAzes IISakas receive numerous mentions in Indian texts, including the Puranas, the Manusmriti, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Mahabhashya of Patanjali.


Numerous ancient mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) samples have now been recovered from remains in Bronze and Iron Age burials in the Eurasian steppe and Siberian forest zone, the putative "ancestors" of the historical Scythians. Compared to Y-DNA, mtDNA is easier to extract and amplify from ancient specimens due to numerous copies of mtDNA per cell.The earliest studies could only analyze segments of mtDNA, thus providing only broad correlations of affinity to modern West Eurasian or East Eurasian populations. For example, in a 2002 study the mitochondrial DNA of Saka period male and female skeletal remains from a double inhumation kurgan at the Beral site in Kazakhstan was analysed. The two individuals were found to be not closely related. The HV1 mitochondrial sequence of the male was similar to the Anderson sequence which is most frequent in European populations. The HV1 sequence of the female suggested a greater likelihood of Asian origins.JOURNAL, Clisson, I., etal, 2002, Genetic analysis of human remains from a double inhumation in a frozen kurgan in Kazakhstan (Berel site, early 3rd century BC)., International Journal of Legal Medicine, 116, 5, 304–308, 12376844, 10.1007/s00414-002-0295-x, More recent studies have been able to type for specific mtDNA lineages. For example, a 2004 study examined the HV1 sequence obtained from a male "Scytho-Siberian" at the Kizil site in the Altai Republic. It belonged to the N1a maternal lineage, a geographically West Eurasian lineage.JOURNAL, Ricaut F., etal, 2004, Genetic Analysis of a Scytho-Siberian Skeleton and Its Implications for Ancient Central Asian Migrations, Human Biology, 76, 1, 109–125, 10.1353/hub.2004.0025, 15222683, Another study by the same team, again of mtDNA from two Scytho-Siberian skeletons found in the Altai Republic, showed that they had been typical males "of mixed Euro-Mongoloid origin". One of the individuals was found to carry the F2a maternal lineage, and the other the D lineage, both of which are characteristic of East Eurasian populations.JOURNAL, Ricaut, F., etal, 2004, Genetic Analysis and Ethnic Affinities From Two Scytho-Siberian Skeletons, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 123, 4, 351–360, 15022363, 10.1002/ajpa.10323, These early studies have been elaborated by an increasing number of studies by Russian scholars. Conclusions are (i) an early, Bronze Age mixing of both west and east Eurasian lineages, with western lineages being found far to the east, but not vice versa; (ii) an apparent reversal by Iron Age times, with an increasing presence of East Eurasian lineages in the western steppe; (iii) the possible role of migrations from the south, the Balkano-Danubian and Iranian regions, toward the steppe.WEB,weblink Human migrations in the southern region of the West Siberian Plain during the Bronze Age: Archaeological, palaeogenetic and anthropological data : Population Dynamics in Prehistory and Early History New Approaches Using Stable Isotopes and Genetics,, 2013-09-08,weblink" title="">weblink 2013-10-20, no, WEB,weblink Adelaide Research and Scholarship: Mitochondrial DNA in ancient human populations of Europe,, 2012-11-01, 2013-09-08,weblink" title="">weblink 2013-05-12, no, JOURNAL, Tracing the Origin of the East-West Population Admixture in the Altai Region (Central Asia), PLoS ONE, 7, 11, e48904, 10.1371/journal.pone.0048904, 23152818, 3494716, 2012, González-Ruiz, Mercedes, Santos, Cristina, Jordana, Xavier, Simón, Marc, Lalueza-Fox, Carles, Gigli, Elena, Aluja, Maria Pilar, Malgosa, Assumpció, 2012PLoSO...748904G, Ancient Y-DNA data was finally provided by Keyser et al in 2009. They studied the haplotypes and haplogroups of 26 ancient human specimens from the Krasnoyarsk area in Siberia dated from between the middle of the 2nd millennium BC and the 4th century AD (Scythian and Sarmatian timeframe). Nearly all subjects belonged to haplogroup R-M17. The authors suggest that their data shows that between the Bronze and the Iron Ages the constellation of populations known variously as Scythians, Andronovians, etc. were blue- (or green-) eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people who might have played a role in the early development of the Tarim Basin civilisation. Moreover, this study found that they were genetically more closely related to modern populations in eastern Europe than those of central and southern Asia.JOURNAL, Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people, Human Genetics, 126, 3, September 2009, 10.1007/s00439-009-0683-0, 395–410, 19449030, Keyser, C, Bouakaze, C, Crubézy, E, etal, The ubiquity and dominance of the R1a Y-DNA lineage contrasted markedly with the diversity seen in the mtDNA profiles.However, this comparison was made on the basis of what is now seen as an unsophisticated technique, short tandem repeats (STRs). Since the 2009 study by Keyser et al, population and geographic specific SNPs have been discovered which can accurately distinguish between "European" R1a (M458, Z280) and "South Asian" R1a (Z93)JOURNAL, Horolma Pamjav, Tibor Fehér, Endre Németh, Zsolt Pádár,weblink Brief communication: new Y-chromosome binary markers improve phylogenetic resolution within haplogroup R1a1, Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., December 31, 2012, 149, 4, 611–5, 23115110, 10.1002/ajpa.22167, 2013-07-12,weblink" title="">weblink 2013-12-21, no, Re-analyzing ancient Scytho-Siberian samples for these more specific subclades will clarify whether the Eurasian steppe populations had an ultimately Eastern European or EurAsian origin, or, perhaps, both. This, in turn, might also depend on which population is studied, i.e. Herodotus' European "classical" Scythians, the Central Asian Sakae, or un-named nomadic groups in the far east (Altai region) who also belong to the Scythian cultural tradition.{{citation needed|date=July 2017}}According to a 2017 study of mitochondrial lineages in Iron Age Black Sea Scythians, a comparison of North Pontic Region (NPR) Scythian mtDNA lineages with other ancient groups suggests close genetic affinities with representatives of the Bronze Age Srubnaya population, which is in agreement with the archaeological hypothesis suggesting the Srubnaya people as the ancestors of the NPR Scythians.JOURNAL, 5339713, 28266657, 10.1038/srep43950, 7, Diverse origin of mitochondrial lineages in Iron Age Black Sea Scythians, 2017, Sci Rep, 43950, Juras, A, Krzewińska, M, Nikitin, AG, Ehler, E, Chyleński, M, Łukasik, S, Krenz-Niedbała, M, Sinika, V, Piontek, J, Ivanova, S, Dabert, M, Götherström, A, 2017NatSR...743950J, Recently, new aDNA tests were made on various ancient samples across Eurasia, among them two from Scythian burials. This time the modern techniques of SNPs (in comparison to STRs in earlier tests) were used. The Iron Age Scythian samples from the Volga region and the European Steppes appear closely related to neither Eastern Europeans nor South and Central Asians. Based on the results both samples appear to be a link between the Iranic speaking people of South-Central Asia and both the people of the northern regions of West Asia and of Eastern Europeans. This fits with their geographic origin.BIORXIV, 2015-10-10, 016477, Eight thousand years of natural selection in Europe, Iain Mathieson, etal, JOURNAL, Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe, Wolfgang Haak, etal, Nature, 522, 7555, 207–211, 11 June 2015, 10.1038/nature14317, 25731166, 5048219, 2015Natur.522..207H, 1502.02783, JOURNAL, Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia, Morten E. Allentoft, etal, Nature, 522, 7555, 167–172, 11 June 2015, 10.1038/nature14507, 26062507, 2015Natur.522..167A,weblink Ancient genome-wide analysis on samples from the southern Ural region, East Kazakhstan and Tuva, shows that western and eastern Scythians arose independently in their respective geographic regions and during the 1st millennium BCE experienced significant population expansions with gene flow being asymmetrical from the western groups in the study to the eastern ones, rather than the reverse. Iron Age Scythians include a mixture of Yamnaya people, from the Russian Steppe, and East Asian populations, similar to the Han and the Nganasan (a Samoyedic people from northern Siberia). The East Asian admixture is pervasive across diverse present-day people from Siberia and Central Asia. Contemporary populations linked to western Iron Age Scythians can be found among diverse ethnic groups in the Caucasus, Russia and Central Asia, spread across many Iranian and other Indo-European speaking groups. Populations with genetic similarities to eastern Scythian groups are found almost exclusively among Turkic language speakers, particularly from the Kipchak branch of Turkic languages. These results are consistent with gene flow across the steppe territory between Europe and East Asia.JOURNAL, Direct evidence for positive selection of skin, hair, and eye pigmentation in Europeans during the last 5,000 y, Wilde S. Timpson, etal, 1 February 2014, 10.1073/pnas.1316513111, 24616518, 111, 13, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 4832–4837, 3977302, 2014PNAS..111.4832W, JOURNAL, Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia, Unterländer M. Palstra, etal, 3 March 2017, 10.1038/ncomms14615, 28256537, 8, Nature Communications, 14615, 5337992,


Early Modern usage

File:Scythians at the Tomb of Ovid c. 1640.jpg|thumb|Scythians at the Tomb of Ovid (c. 1640), by Johann Heinrich SchönfeldJohann Heinrich SchönfeldOwing to their reputation as established by Greek historians, the Scythians long served as the epitome of savagery and barbarism.In the New Testament, in a letter ascribed to Paul "Scythian" is used as an example of people whom some label pejoratively, but who are, in Christ, acceptable to God:Shakespeare, for instance, alluded to the legend that Scythians ate their children in his play King Lear:Characteristically, early modern English discourse on Ireland frequently resorted to comparisons with Scythians in order to confirm that the indigenous population of Ireland descended from these ancient "bogeymen", and showed themselves as barbaric as their alleged ancestors. Edmund Spenser wrote thatAs proofs for this origin Spenser cites the alleged Irish customs of blood-drinking, nomadic lifestyle, the wearing of mantles and certain haircuts andWilliam Camden, one of Spenser's main sources, comments on this legend of origin thatFile:Бой скифов со славянами.jpg|thumb|upright=1.2|Romantic nationalism: Battle between the Scythians and the Slavs (Viktor VasnetsovViktor VasnetsovThe 15th-century Polish chronicler Jan Długosz was the first to connect the prehistory of Poland with Sarmatians, and the connection was taken up by other historians and chroniclers, such as Marcin Bielski, Marcin Kromer and Maciej Miechowita. Other Europeans depended for their view of Polish Sarmatism on Miechowita's Tractatus de Duabus Sarmatiis, a work which provided a substantial source of information about the territories and peoples of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in a language of international currency.Andrzej Wasko. Sarmatism or the Enlightenment {{Webarchive|url= |date=2009-06-20 }}: The Dilemma of Polish Culture. Sarmatian Review XVII.2.Tradition specified that the Sarmatians themselves were descended from Japheth, son of Noah.Colin Kidd, British Identities before Nationalism; Ethnicity and Nationhood in the Atlantic World, 1600–1800, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 29In the 17th and 18th centuries, foreigners regarded the Russians as descendants of Scythians. It became conventional to refer to Russians as Scythians in 18th-century poetry, and Alexander Blok drew on this tradition sarcastically in his last major poem, The Scythians (1920). In the 19th century, romantic revisionists in the West transformed the "barbarian" Scyths of literature into the wild and free, hardy and democratic ancestors of all blond Indo-Europeans.

Descent claims

File:Eugène Delacroix - Ovide chez les Scythes (1862).jpg|thumb|upright=1.2|Eugène DelacroixEugène Delacroix{{Further|Sarmatism|Generations of Noah}}A number of groups have claimed possible descent from the Scythians, including the Ossetians, Pashtuns (in particular, the Sakzai tribe), Jat peopleBOOK, Religion, Caste & Politics in India, Christophe, Jaffrelot, Christophe Jaffrelot, Primus Books, 2010, 9789380607047, 431,weblink Some legends of the Poles, the Picts, the Gaels, the Hungarians (in particular, the Jassics), among others, also include mention of Scythian origins. Some writers claim that Scythians figured in the formation of the empire of the Medes and likewise of Caucasian Albania.The Scythians also feature in some national origin-legends of the Celts. In the second paragraph of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, the élite of Scotland claim Scythia as a former homeland of the Scots. According to the 11th-century Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), the 14th-century Auraicept na n-Éces and other Irish folklore, the Irish originated in Scythia and were descendants of Fénius Farsaid, a Scythian prince who created the Ogham alphabet.The Carolingian kings of the Franks traced Merovingian ancestry to the Germanic tribe of the Sicambri. Gregory of Tours documents in his History of the Franks that when Clovis was baptised, he was referred to as a Sicamber with the words "Mitis depone colla, Sicamber, adora quod incendisti, incendi quod adorasti." The Chronicle of Fredegar in turn reveals that the Franks believed the Sicambri to be a tribe of Scythian or Cimmerian descent, who had changed their name to Franks in honour of their chieftain Franco in 11 BC.Based on such accounts of Scythian founders of certain Germanic as well as Celtic tribes, British historiography in the British Empire period such as Sharon Turner in his History of the Anglo-Saxons, made them the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons.The idea was taken up in the British Israelism of John Wilson, who adopted and promoted the idea that the "European Race, in particular the Anglo-Saxons, were descended from certain Scythian tribes, and these Scythian tribes (as many had previously stated from the Middle Ages onward) were in turn descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel."Parfitt, Tudor (2003). The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth. Phoenix. p. 54. Tudor Parfitt, author of The Lost Tribes of Israel and Professor of Modern Jewish Studies, points out that the proof cited by adherents of British Israelism is "of a feeble composition even by the low standards of the genre."Parfitt, Tudor (2003). The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth. Phoenix. p. 61.

Related ancient peoples

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See also




  • BOOK, Anthony, David W., David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World,weblink July 26, 2010, Princeton University Press, 978-1-4008-3110-4, January 18, 2015, harv,
  • BOOK, Baumer, Christoph, The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Steppe Warriors,weblink December 12, 2012, I.B.Tauris, 978-1-78076-060-5, January 18, 2015, harv,
  • BOOK, Beckwith, Christopher I., Christopher I. Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present,weblink March 16, 2009, Princeton University Press, 978-1-4008-2994-1, December 30, 2014, harv,
  • BOOK, Boardman, John, Edwards, I. E. S., John Boardman (art historian), I. E. S. Edwards, 1991, The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume 3. Part 2,weblink Cambridge University Press, 0-521-22717-8, March 2, 2015, harv,
  • BOOK, harv, Bonfante, Larissa, The Barbarians of Ancient Europe: Realities and Interactions, The Scythians: Between Mobility, Tomb Architecture, and Early Urban Structures, 2011, Cambridge University Press,weblink 978-0-521-19404-4,
  • BOOK, harv, Davis-Kimball, Jeannine, Jeannine Davis-Kimball, The Scythians in southeastern Europe, Nomads of the Eurasian Steppes in the early Iron Age, 1995, Zinat press,weblink 1-885979-00-2,
  • BOOK, Day, John V., Indo-European origins: the anthropological evidence,weblink 2001, Institute for the Study of Man, 0-941694-75-5, March 2, 2015, harv,
  • BOOK, harv, Drews, Robert, Early Riders: The Beginnings of Mounted Warfare in Asia and Europe, 2004, Routledge,weblink 978-0-203-07107-6,
  • ENCYCLOPEDIA, SCYTHIANS, Ivantchik, Askold,weblink Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2018, harv,
  • BOOK, harv, Sinor, Denis, The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, 1990, Cambridge,weblink 978-0-521-24304-9,
  • BOOK, harv, Sulimirski, T, Ilya, Gershevitch, Chapter 4: The Scyths, The Cambridge History of Iran, 2, 1985, 149–99,,weblink
  • BOOK, harv, Szemerényi, Oswald, Oswald Szemerényi, 1980, Four old Iranian ethnic names: Scythian – Skudra – Sogdian – Saka, Wien, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften;, Veröffentlichungen der iranischen Kommission Band 9,weblink
  • BOOK, Waldman, Carl, Mason, Catherine, Encyclopedia of European Peoples,weblink January 16, 2015, 2006, Infobase Publishing, 1-4381-2918-1, harv,
  • BOOK, West, Barbara A., Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania,weblink January 1, 2009, Infobase Publishing, 978-1-4381-1913-7, January 18, 2015, harv,

Further reading

  • Alekseev, A. Yu. et al., "Chronology of Eurasian Scythian Antiquities Born by New Archaeological and 14C Data". Radiocarbon, Vol .43, No 2B, 2001, p 1085–1107.
  • Davis-Kimball, Jeannine. 2002. Warrior Women: An Archaeologist's Search for History's Hidden Heroines. Warner Books, New York. 1st Trade printing, 2003. {{ISBN|0-446-67983-6}} (pbk).
  • Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1984). Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Typological Analysis of a Proto-Language and Proto-Culture (Parts I and II). Tbilisi State University.
  • Harmatta, J., "Studies in the History and Language of the Sarmatians", Acta Universitatis de Attila József Nominatae. Acta antique et archaeologica Tomus XIII. Szeged 1970,
  • Humbach, Helmut & Klaus Faiss. Herodotus’s Scythians and Ptolemy’s Central Asia: Semasiological and Onomasiological Studies. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2012.
  • {{de icon}} Jaedtke, Wolfgang. Steppenkind, Piper Verlag, Munich 2008. {{ISBN|978-3-492-25146-4}}. This novel contains detailed descriptions of the life of nomadic Scythians around 700 BC.
  • Johnson, James William, "The Scythian: His Rise and Fall", Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Apr., 1959), pp. 250–257, University of Pennsylvania Press, JSTOR
  • {{fr icon}} Lebedynsky, Iaroslav (2001). Les Scythes: la civilisation nomade des steppes VIIe–IIIe siècle av. J.-C. Paris: Errance.
  • {{fr icon}} Lebedynsky, Iaroslav (2006). Les Saces: les « Scythes » d'Asie, VIIIe siècle av. J.-C. – IVe siècle apr. J.-C.. Paris: Errance, {{ISBN|2-87772-337-2}}
  • Mallory, J.P. (1989). In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language Archeology and Myth. Thames and Hudson. Chapter 2; and pages 51–53 for a quick reference.
  • Newark, T. (1985). The Barbarians: Warriors and wars of the Dark Ages. Blandford: New York. See pages 65, 85, 87, 119–139.
  • Renfrew, C. (1988). Archeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European origins. Cambridge University Press.
  • Rolle, Renate, The world of the Scythians, London and New York (1989).
  • {{ru icon}} Rybakov, Boris. Paganism of Ancient Rus. Nauka, Moscow, 1987
  • Torday, Laszlo (1998). Mounted Archers: The Beginnings of Central Asian History. Durham Academic Press. {{ISBN|1-900838-03-6}}.

Further reading

  • JOURNAL, 1691686, 2004, Lalueza-Fox, C., Unravelling migrations in the steppe: Mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient central Asians, Proceedings. Biological Sciences, 271, 1542, 941–947, Sampietro, M. L., Gilbert, M. T., Castri, L., Facchini, F., Pettener, D., Bertranpetit, J., 15255049, 10.1098/rspb.2004.2698,
  • JOURNAL, 10.1007/s00439-009-0683-0, 19449030, Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people, Human Genetics, 126, 3, 395–410, 2009, Keyser, Christine, Bouakaze, Caroline, Crubézy, Eric, Nikolaev, Valery G., Montagnon, Daniel, Reis, Tatiana, Ludes, Bertrand,

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