Did Europeans introduce metallurgy, wheeled vehicles and horses to China?

Aug 2018
The evidence indicates they did:

“the forging and casting of metal began in the fifth millennium BC in south-eastern Europe and the Caucasus, spreading on the one hand via the Circumpontic Metallurgical Province and on the other across the Near East and southern Turkmenistan to the East. In China, however, metallurgy began immediately in the form of alloying on the north-western edge of the region, in the late phase of the culture of Qijia in Gansu (c.2500-1900 BC). Here horses and wheat also appeared for the first time in China, just before the rise of the Bronze Age culture of Erlitou (2000/1900-1600 BC), widespread in northern central China. In 1927 the highly developed Bronze Age culture of Shang-Anyang (thirteenth-eleventh century BC) was discovered in Anyang, Henan. This culture saw the emergence of several fully developed technological innovations, but the question of its origin remained open.

In 1979-80 Chinese archaeologists around Wang Binghua made important discoveries in the Lop Nor Desert, Xinjiang, which were also political dynamite: they uncovered dozens of well-preserved mummies, about 4,000 years old, of obviously Europid people. Since these Europids must have come from the west or north-west, hypotheses emerged that the bronze discoveries of Anyang could be related to these mysterious people, their predecessors or their descendants.

The origins of Metallurgy in China

The excavation of the royal graves of Anyang brought to light single-axle light chariots with horses in harness and their charioteer, as well as sophisticated bronze objects, which show that northern central China suddenly mastered innovations in metallurgy, horse husbandry, the use of draught animals, wagons and carts in a highly developed form, which undoubtedly accelerated the cultural-technological development of China at that time. Since these technologies appeared in northern and north-western China without any preceding developmental steps, it may be assumed that they were provided by neighbouring steppe peoples, most likely from the sphere of the late Afanasievo and early Andronovo cultures. Interfaces for this cultural transfer may have been the Bronze Age cultures of Xinjiang and Gansu or the steppe peoples of Inner Mongolia. The simultaneous arrival in central China of wheat and barley, horses and sheep, which could not have been domesticated within China due to a lack of wild ancestors, supports the hypothesis of a mediating role for Afanasievo and Andronovo."

Baumer, C., The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Steppe Warriors, 2012, p.122.


“The first steps towards an understanding of what contacts across this vast [Eurasian] region meant to China have been made in recent decades by scholars examining the ways in which cereals, wheat and barley, and metals, especially bronze and iron, came into the Central Plains [of China] (Jones 2011; Mei et al 2009; Linduff 2015; Lin 2015; Li 2015). The transfer of the chariot and horse to China has been under discussion for a much longer period, culminating in recognition of the dependence on prototypes in the steppe for the construction and management of chariots (Wu 2013: 37-45). [...]

Two major phases of change in the second and first millennium BC, respectively, generated movement across the steppe and had direct impact on central China. The first was a long-term expansion of activity over the third to mid-second millennium BC, as increasing mobile pastoralism and metallurgy both spread across the steppe (Anthony 2007: 371-457; Frachetti 2012). Over this time period, copper and then bronze were used, primarily for weapons and a few ornaments, in South Siberia and the eastern steppe, carrying metal work into Xinjiang, as well as Mongolia and the Hexi corridor (Linduff 1998, 2015). The second phase, probably starting at the beginning of the first millennium, was energised by widespread horse riding.[…]

There was a debate, over more than half a century, on the origins of metallurgy in central China (Karlgren 1945; Loehr 1949). Today scholars generally accept that metal use entered China as metallurgy was adopted in the steppe and into the arc [i.e. Northwest China] (Chernykh 1992; Linduff 2015; Mei 2009). Some early metal finds in the arc (in the Hexi corridor and as far east as Chifeng) are only explicable as the result of several separate contacts with peoples from different parts of the steppe (Linduff 1998). Much of this early metalwork was of arsenical copper, smelted from an ore or achieved by adding arsenic to the copper. But although this alloy was introduced into China at the major site of Taosi in Shanxi province (Lin 2015, fig. 3), the central Chinese chose to work with tin bronze, to which they added lead, as some earlier casters of the Qijia culture in the Hexi corridor had done (Mei 2009:10). Tin bronze developed in the steppe, as seen in the Seima-Turbino phenomenon. Seima Turbino metalwork also impacted on the east: a spearhead-type with a projecting hook below the blade, originating in the Altai area, among other weaponry, was carried into China (Figure. 2). This connection ties some of the impetus for the choice of tin bronze in central China to such innovations (Mei 2009: fig. 3).

The chariot appeared at the Shang court in the thirteenth century BC. Both the vehicle’s form, with large spoked wheels, and the paired trained horses must have been introduced from the arc and the steppe, where they were first used east of the Urals in Sintashta, about 2000 BC (Kuzmina 2008: 49-59). Such a completely new machine almost certainly needed steppe drivers and trainers for the horses, and we know that these were present at the Shang centre at Anyang from copies of steppe weapons found in their tombs (Rawson 2015: fig. 13).”

Rawson, J., China and the Steppe: Reception and Resistance, 2017.


“the Afanasievo tradition of pure copper metallurgy must have spread to the northern foothills of the Tienshan Mountains no later than the mid-third millennium BCE. The links with Afanasievo and local cultures adjacent to and south of the mountains into present-day China can now be assumed.”

Linduff et al., Ancient China and it’s Eurasian Neighbours, 2018, p.54.


“the current study of copper and bronze metallurgy in late prehistoric Xinjiang demonstrates that Xinjiang acted as a medium in the early cultural interaction between Northwest China and the west of Xinjiang. Typological analysis is based on the observation that a variety of bronze forms associated with the Qijia, Siba, and Tianshanbeilu (Linya) cultures, all have parallels in steppe cultures. Metallurgical data revealed the use of tin bronze and arsenical bronze analogous to the composition of objects produced in the Eurasian steppe.

The metal-using Afanasievo culture is probably the origin of bronze metallurgy in Northwest China. Contact with the Afanasievo culture may have been crucial for bronze metallurgy in Xinjiang. Ke’ermuqi cemetery in northern Xinjiang indicates Xinjiang–Afanasievo contact (Mei 2000: 15, 58). And Kuzmina (1998) discussed the possible relations between Qäwrighul cemetery and the Afanasievo culture. Afanasievo cultural influence in Xinjiang at the beginning of the second millennium BCE seems highly substantial. (cf. Jia and Betts 2010) Also, Xinjiang and the Gansu–Qinghai region during the first half of the second millennium BCE interacted with the bronze cultures of Qijia, Siba, and Tianshanbeilu. (Mei 2000: 66)

Tianshanbeilu (Linya) cemetery is the earliest Bronze Age site in eastern Xinjiang. The group A ceramics of the Linya cemetery possess strong characteristics of Siba culture; Group B ceramics are unique and seem to have been influenced by cultures from the Altai region or even by areas further north. (Li 2003: 13) Thus Group B can be identified with the Afanasievo people, or those influenced by the Afanasievo culture. (cf. Jia and Betts 2010) Copper and bronze objects excavated at the Tianshanbeilu cemetery show clear typological connections with Eurasian steppe cultures. As thoroughly demonstrated in Mei (2003: 36), many of the more than 270 copper and bronze objects discovered from Siba culture indicate strong typological/stylistic connections with the Steppe.”

Wan, X., Early development of Bronze Metallurgy in Eastern Eurasia, 2011.

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Aug 2018
continued 1:

“evidence has gradually appeared, showing the significant existence of Andronovo-type cultures in north-western Xinjiang [western China] during the second millenium BC. Metallurigical examinations of a number of Andronovo-type bronze objects fund in the regions of Tacheng and Yili have revealed the common use of tin bronze. […]

"the early metal-using cultures found so far in North-west China (the Hexi Corridor and East Xinjiang), such as Qihia, siba and Tianshanbeilu, were all in contact with the bronze cultures on the Eurasian steppe. In other words, the influence from the people further west played a part in the early development of copper-based metallurgy in Northwest China.

"there is other evidence pointing to the early cultural contacts between Northwest China and areas further west. for example, the earliest remains of carbonised wheat found at the Donghuishan site in Mile, western Gansu, have been dated by C-14 tests to 3000–2500 BC. … the first appearance of wheat in Gansu was most likely the result of early cultural contacts between Gansu and the regions to the west. This implies that some sort of western influence had already come into being in Gansu through Xinjiang as early as 3000 BC.

the eastward transmission of early cultural influence may have involved wheat, copper-based metallurgy, jade, and iron technology. Although many questions still remain regarding any specific processes of transmission, in general terms, it has become clear now that some western materials and technologies were indeed transmitted eastward and made valuable contributions to the growth of Chinese civilisation. […]

The earliest archaeological evidence for the use of chariots in China is that from Anyang, the capital of the late Shang dynasty (c.1200 BC). When the chariot appeared in Anyang, it was already in a fully developed form. On the western Eurasian steppe, however, there is ample evidence for the much earlier use of chariots. In particular, finds from the Sintashta site show that the chariot was already employed by about 2000 BC between the Volga and east of the Urals (Anthony and Vinogradov 1995). The view that the chariot was introduced into China from the west is now widely held among scholars, but there are differences of opinion regarding when and how this significant cultural borrowing took place (Shaughnessy 1988; Bagley 1999: 202–8; X. Wu 2001). [...]

Bronze Age rock engravings of the vehicle images (especially those with spoked wheels) in Altai, Tuva, Mongolia, and northern frontier of China (Fig. 1) provide indirect evidence that the Steppe Road would have been the major channel for the eastward transmission of chariots (Wu 1994: 328–9). Indeed, the use of chariots could have been an important impetus for the opening of the Steppe Road on the eastern Eurasian steppe during the latter half of the second millennium BC.”

Mei, J., Cultural Interaction between China and Central Asia during the Bronze Age, 2003.


“the appearance of metal items with affinities to cultural debris of Bronze Age southern Siberia, suggests that there was movement into the Gansu Corridor of newcomers who were possibly horse-herding (Anthony 2007), but certainly bronze producing peoples of Andronovo background (Peng 1998; Mei and Shell 1998; 1999).

As Kuz’mina suggests (2003) the appearance of wheeled transport, metallurgy and use and/or breeding of horses signal not only movement of ideas, technology and perhaps peoples, but also significant societal change, and often lead to a more complex social order.

"even the multi-piece mould casting method developed in the early second millennium BCE at Erlitou, thought of as a hallmark invention of early dynastic China, may be seen as a local technological variation within the easternmost Eurasian territory made for specialized ritual use (Linduff 2004).”

Linduff, K., Mei, J., Metallurgy in Ancient Eastern Asia: How is it Studied? Where is the Field Headed?, 2008.


“Since the two-horse chariot appears so suddenly in the archaeological record of China around 1200 B.C. at Anyang, this has raised the inevitable question of its ultimate origins. Given the absence of compelling data detailing a previous indigenous evolutionary sequence of more primitive equid-drawn chariots leading up to the sophisticated Anyang type, the lack of evidence for horse domestication prior to Anyang, and the near seven-hundred-year head-start of Near Eastern prototypes, one must conclude that the horse-drawn chariot was diffused to China from outside in its fully-developed state. […]

Chinese chariots match closely with several chariots recently unearthed in Russia/Kazakhstan and Armenia which date from 2000 B.C. and 1500 B.C., respectively, centuries older than the earliest Chinese examples […] The chariots, possibly the earliest in the world, were buried in sacrificial pits belonging to the Sintashta-Petrovka culture, a proto-Aryan culture situated just east of the Ural Mountains in northern Kazakhstan/southern Russia. At the type-sites of Sintashta and Petrovka over twenty burials showing evidence of chariots have been found. The rotted traces of their wheels show that they had eight to twelve spokes per wheel and that the distance between the wheels was approximately one meter. Much further to the southwest in the Caucasus, on the shores of Lake Sevan in Armenia, the site of Lchashen has yielded the remains of two complete chariots of very similar construction to those of Anyang. ... Most important, the Lchashen chariots' wheels have twenty-eight spokes, a number unheard of anywhere else outside China. The chariot boxes of the Lchashen vehicles are also similar to the Anyang chariots. The Lchashen's rider-box is both wide (1.10 m) and shallow (0.51 m). ... The Lchashen axles were also centrally placed below the box, unlike Near Eastern chariots, but identical to all Chinese examples. Beyond these important structural similarities, it should not be overlooked that the ritual burial context of the southern Russian and Chinese chariots is very similar, involving the burial of horses and chariot together. What this structural evidence suggests is that after the invention of the spoke-wheeled chariot around 2000 B.C. in southern Russia, it diffused in two directions, geographically and structurally. As it entered the Near East with the Aryan incursions into India and Anatolia, and with the Hyksos into Egypt, the chariot evolved along lines which kept it small like its predecessor. This variant evolved to have only four spokes, formed in pairs by 90° bent-wood pieces passed through the nave. The southern Russian and Central Asian tradition, seen at Lchashen and in China, shows an evolution towards a larger, three person vehicle. This tradition favors wheels with twenty to thirty spokes, formed by mortising straight segments directly into the nave. These different evolutions probably represent different woodworking traditions or simply different needs for the use of the vehicle. […]

All throughout Central Asia, from the Caucasus to Mongolia, rock carvings have been found which depict humans riding in chariots. In all of these carvings, the chariot is depicted schematically from above, with the wheels laid flat rather than seen edge-on. This is exactly how wheels are depicted in the Shang oracle-bone pictograph for chariot."

Barbieri-Low, A., Wheeled vehicles in the Chinese Bronze Age, 2000.


“The Chinese words used to describe the chariot, parts of the wheel, and the axle were borrowed from Indo-European sources. Even the word for “horse”, a cognate in Mongolic, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese, suggests a single origin, possibly during one wave of contact across the steppes. Archaeologically, the evidence for Western sources is overwhelming, for it is now possible to compare dated chariots from China with those excavated in Western sites. Foremost among the latter is the site of Lchashen in Armenia, between the Caspian and Black Seas. Dated to about 1500 BCE, a burial at Lchashen hold the remains of two chariots. Their distinctive design features include wooden wheels one metre across, lined with two bent wooden felloes. Each wheel had 28 wooden spokes and turned on a fixed axle that supported the chariot box in the center.[…] Numerous rock engravings of chariots found across central Asia depict a similar vehicle; while not precisely dated, they nevertheless illustrate the widespread presence of horse-drawn chariots. The similarity between the Chinese chariot and those seen in Armenia is so precise as to rule out any likelihood of an independent invention. […] Both the linguistic and the archaeological evidence concur that the chariot was of Western origin."

Higham, C., Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations, 2004, p.71.

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Aug 2018
continued 2:

“In China the chariot appears in the archaeological record fully formed … The management of a two horse chariot in parade, not to mention whatever maneuvering and tactics were required for hunting and war, was the business of a skilled charioteer. The driver on whom a high-ranking warrior depended is likely to have been of higher status than an ordinary soldier, and at the beginning he might have been a foreigner (in some near eastern societies charioteers were an elite class of foreigners)… Although the association of knives and chariots is not very consistent, bronze knives of northern type found in Anyang chariot burials have been taken to indicate that the charioteers included in the burials were northerners.

Anyang chariot burials thus seem to indicate a substantial interaction with northern neighbours beginning about 1200 BC …. the mere capture of enemy chariots and horses would not have brought the skills required to use, maintain, and reproduce them. Northern bronzes, including knives and bow-shaped objects, appear in the Anyang archaeological record at the same time as chariots and might have arrived with them”

Loewe, M., The Cambridge history of Ancient China, 1999, p.208.


“The chariot, the first wheeled vehicle designed entirely for speed, first appeared in the graves of the Sintashta culture, in the southern Ural steppes, about 2100 BCE.”

Anthony, D., The Horse, The Wheel, and Language, 2007, Chapter 17.


“Considering the connections between the steppes south of the Urals and West Asia, it is possible to conclude that the first developments towards the light chariot took place in the Sintashta region, c. 2000 BC. However, in West Asia, that particular technology was adapted to native chariot designs, in order to produce a vehicle better suited to specific regional needs. Despite minor local adaptations, the similarities between all chariots' designs discard the possibility of independent development in different regions. In fact, a single and continuous chariot tradition can be seen throughout the continent, from West Asia to China, from the Eurasian steppes to India.”

Pinheiro, E., The origin and spread of the war chariot, 2010.



As mentioned in the first quote above, metallurgy began in Europe c.5000 BC (actually from the end of the 6th to beginning of the 5th millennium BC). At present the Vinca culture in Europe is the earliest known metallurgical culture in the world.

"Here, we present results from recent excavations from Belovode, a Vinca culture site in Eastern Serbia,which has provided the earliest direct evidence for copper smelting to date. ... These results extend the known record of copper smelting by more than half a millennium"

Radivojevic et al, On the origins of extractive metallurgy: new evidence from Europe, 2010.


The quantity of early metallurgical artefacts in Europe is also significantly larger than in the Middle East, supporting the view that metallurgy developed in Europe first:

“the surviving amount of copper circulating the Balkans throughout this period (the early 5th millennium BC) was estimated to be about 4.7 tons altogether, which is equal to about 4300 copper implements. Noteworthy, the total number of contemporaneous cast copper artefacts in the entire Near East does not exceed three hundred (Rydina, 2009).”

Radivojevic et al, On the origins of extractive metallurgy: new evidence from Europe, 2010.


“The weight and the number of gold finds in the Varna cemetery [Bulgaria] exceeds by several times the combined weight and number of all of the gold artifacts found in all excavated sites of the same millennium, 5000-4000 BC, from all over the world, including Mesopotamia and Egypt.”

Anthony, D. and Chi, J., The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 BC, 2010.


“Varna is the richest cemetery anywhere before 3500 BC. There’s more gold in the cemetery of Varna than has been recovered from all of the rest of the old world put together, before 3500 BC. And the gold at Varna is found in only a few graves. There are 310 graves in the cemetery of Varna; only 60 of them contain gold, and the great majority of the gold was contained in four extraordinarily rich graves”

The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000 to 3500 BC, NY University, 2010.

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continued 3:

The evidence also indicates that wheeled vehicles were invented in Europe:

“the present evidence for early wheeled transport does not support the traditional belief in the oriental invention of wheel and wagon. Full-size wheels and axles from central and eastern Europe clearly pre-date the earliest wheels from the Near East, and the indirect evidence )models, depictions) does not allow for a temporal gradient indicating diffusion ex oriente. Two alternative hypotheses remain. Innovation could have happened roughly simultaneously, but independently, in several regions (the polycentric model). … Alternatively, there was only one innovation centre. Following Maran (2004b), the late Tripolye culture (around 3700-3500 BC) in the steppe area north-west of the Pontic Sea is the most likely candidate for inventing wheeled transport, and the steppe cultures north of the Black Sea show well-documented relations to south-eastern Europe. Further eastward, future research is needed o clarify the contacts between the late Tripolye and Maikop cultures, but the latter may have played a crucial role in transferring the wagon techno-complex to Mesopotamia )Maran 2004b, 438).

The deposition of wooden wagons in graves continued with the Yamnaya (Pit Grave) culture (c.3200-2500 BC), which, according to Russian archaeological tradition, is clearly Bronze Age. A considerable number of remarkably well preserved wagon burials in huge mounds (kurgans) have been excavated between Kuban, the lower Don, and the southern Ural mountains (Gej 2004; Tureckij 2004), dating between 3200 and 2500 BC (Tureckij 2004, 197).”

Fowler, C. ed., The Oxford Handbook of Neolithic Europe, 2015, p.113.


“the answer to the important question - who did the PIE [Proto-Indo-European] speakers get their wheeled vehicles from? - can be answered with fair certainty: from themselves. In my view, it was PIE-speakers who invented the wheeled vehicle.

Until recently, it has been assumed that the wheeled vehicle was invented in the Late Uruk culture of Mesopotamia c.3500-3300 BCE. However, wheeled vehicle finds of comparable date have been made not only in West Asia but also in many places in Europe. Furthermore, Johannes Renger (2004) and Josef Maran (2004b) observe that the marshlands of Sumer were not favorable terrain for wheeled vehicles; sledges would have worked in ordinary life much better than wheeled vehicles in marshy Mesopotamia, and indeed stayed in use there long after the Late Uruk period. It is true that the Uruk pictograms show sledges with four wheels; however, these “wheels” may depict rolling logs over which the sledges ran. Logs rolling beneath sledges were probably the initial stage in the invention of the wheel for carts and wagons (Littauer and Crouwel 1979).

Maran (2004) suggests the Late Tripolye culture [Ukraine] as the most likely place of origin for wheeled vehicles. Late Tripolye is the only culture to show evidence of wagons predating 3500 BCE (Burmeister 2004), in the form of drinking cups provided with rotating model wheels and with ox foreparts protruding from the front of the cup. In addition to these wagon-shaped drinking cups, there are numerous Late Tripolye drinking cups in the shape of an ox-pulled sledge, which is thought to be the immediate predecessor of the ox-pulled wagon.

Between 4000 and 3400 BCE, the Late Tripolye culture was the most thriving and populous agricultural community in the the entire Copper Age world, cultivating extremely fertile black soil, in villages covering hundreds of hectares and housing up to 15,000 people. These agriculturalist people needed transport, whether by sledge of wheeled wagon. The local forest-steppe provided enough trees for the construction of primitive solid wheels but also sufficient open and level fields for the movement of wheeled traffic, unlike the forested and hilly landscape that covered most of Europe.

I am connecting Maran’s hypothesis that wheeled were invented in the Late Tripolye culture with the hypothesis that the Tripolye culture was taken over by PIE speakers by c.4000 BCE. The PIE speakers would have largely assimilated the earlier Tripolye population linguistically by the time wheeled vehicles were invented, probably c.3600 BC. The location of the Late Tripolye culture makes sense as the geographical center for the spread of the wheeled vehicles; it is also very near the middle of the IE-speaking area and is a good candidate for being the Late PIE homeland from this point of view.

Vehicle technology was probably transmitted to West Asia from the Tripolye culture via the Caucasus, where the Pontic-Caspian and West Asian cultural spheres interacted with each other during the fourth millennium BCE. From both the south and the north there was great interest in possessing the copper resources of the Caucasus. this led to the formation of the south Caucasian Kura-Araxes culture and the north Caucasian Maikop culture (c.3950-3300 BCE). While the Kura-Araxes culture continued the local traditions with heavy influence of the Uruk expansion from Mesopotamia, the Maikop culture has long been considered a splendid mixture of the steppe and West Asian traditions. The pastoralists of the east European steppes had received their copper mainly from the Balkans during the Copper Age, but after the collapse of the Balkano-Carpathian “metallurgical domain”, around, 4000 BCE, the Caucasus became their main source of metal during the Early and Middle Bronze Age (Chernykh 1992; 2007). Out of the approximately 300 graves belonging to the last phase (c.3500-3300 BCE) of the Maikop culture, two elite burials under a barrow contain a wagon, one at Starokorsuskaya in the Kuban steppe [southern Russia], the other at Koldyri on the Lower River Don. From the immediately succeeding Novotitarovskaya culture (c.3300-2800 BCE) of the Kuban steppe, 116 wagon graves are known. the wagons apparently reached the Caucasus from the west, from the forest-steppe region between the Prut and the Bug rivers. Several clay models of wheels are known from the associated post-Tripolye phase C2 sites.

Mallory leaves the origin of wheeled vehicles open but comments:

‘Tomas Gamkrelidze and Vyacheslav Ivanov [1995] … have noted that … Proto-Indo-European *kʷékʷlo-bears striking similarity to the words for vehicles in Sumerian gigir, semitic *galgal-, and Kartvelian *grgar. With the putative origin of wheeled vehicles set variously to the Pontic-Caspian, Transcaucasia or to Sumer, we may be witnessing the original word for a wheeled vehicle in four different language families. Furthermore, as the Proto-Indo-European form is built on an Indo-European verbal root *kʷel-, “to turn, to twist”, it is unlikely that the Indo-Europeans borrowed their word from one of the other languages. This need not, of course, indicate that the Indo-Europeans invented wheeled vehicles, but it might suggest that they were in some form of contact relation with these Near Eastern languages in the fourth millennium BC. (Mallory, 1989)’

Sumerian gigir, inscribed in the cuneiform tablets of the third millennium BCE, may indeed provide the earliest written testimony for an originally PIE word.”

Parpola, A., The Roots of Hinduism, the Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization, 2015, p.43.


“The earliest discoveries of actual wheels in Mesopotamia come from the first half of the third millennium BC - more than half a millennium later than the finds from the Kuban region [in southern Russia].”

Baumer, C., The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Steppe Warriors, 2012, p.90.


Potter's wheels apparently already existed in Europe before the development of wheeled vehicles:

“The earliest evidence for a device whose function corresponds to that of a potter’s wheel form part of the archaeological record of a workshop in Moldova, Varvarovka, dated to around 4000 BC (Gimbutas 1991). Evidence for the use of the potter’s wheel in Mesopotamia is slightly younger (Nissen 1988).

‘Roots of Ancient Greek Civilization: The Influence of Old Europe’, Harald Haarmann, 2014
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Aug 2018
continued 4:

As for the domestication of horses:

“The female bloodline of modern domesticated horses shows extreme diversity … Wild mares must have been taken into domesticated horse herds in many different places at different times. Meanwhile, the male aspect of modern horse DNA, which is passed unchanged on the Y chromosome from sire to colt, shows remarkable homogeneity. It is possible that just a single wild stallion was domesticated ... Modern horses are descended from very few original wild males, and many, varied wild females. […]

The earliest phase of horse keeping … may have begun as early as 4800 BCE in the Pontic-Caspian steppes.[...]

Riding began in the Pontic-Caspian steppes before 3700 BCE … It may well have started before 4200 BCE. It spread outside the Pontic-Caspian steppes between 3700 and 3000 BCE, as shown by increases in horse bones in southeastern Europe, central Europe, the Caucasus, and northern Kazakhstan.

Riding began in the region identified as the Proto-Indo-European homeland.”

Anthony, D., The Horse, The Wheel, and Language, 2007, Chapter 10.


Wagon burials developed into elite chariot and horse burials with the Sintashta culture. Hundreds of years later the same practice suddenly appeared in royal burials in China:

“About two millennia after the first wagon grave of Starokorsunskaya (southern Russia), the Chinese royal dynasties of the Shang (ca. sixteenth-eleventh century BC) and the Western Zhou (ca. eleventh century-7771 BC) adopted this custom from the Steppe peoples … Thirty-seven of these graves appeared in the thirteenth to the eleventh centuries BC in the then capital Anyang (today’s Henan Province); in them single-axle chariots with spoked wheels, along with harnessed horses and charioteers, accompanied chiefs into the afterlife. Three of the innovations of central China discovered in Anyang - wheeled transport, horse husbandry, and metallurgy - appeared all of a sudden in a highly developed form.”

Baumer, C., The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Steppe Warriors, 2012, p.90.


“It is reasonable to presume that Andronovo influence extended as far as China. In the Anyang culture we find the momentous achievements of a world civilization - metallurgy, wheeled transport and horse-breeding-already in their developed form; the Yellow river displays no preceding development […] the formation of Chinese civilization was stimulated by a western impulse. In the Eurasian steppes metallurgy, wheeled transport and horse-breeding go back to the 4th millennium BC, while the types of celts, spears and single-edged knives of Anyang find their prototypes and analogies in the Andronovo and Seima-Turbino complexes." (p.251)

“Northern Chinese populations may have received metal, wheat and barley, wheeled vehicles, the sheep and the horse from the Afanasevo tribes, who came from the west. The words for all these were borrowed into Chinese from Indo-European, presumably Tocharian. It is likely that the rites of domestic animal sacrifice, familiar in the European steppes from the 4th millennium BC, were also adopted." (p.252)

“metallurgy in China emerged as early as the turn of the 3rd-2nd millennia BC under the influence of the Eurasian steppes. It was mediated not by the ethnically Chinese tribes of China’s northern periphery, but, initially, by the tribes of the Afanasevo culture and then the Seima-Turbino and Andronovo. Borrowed were the technology of making a bronze alloy, the use of gold and the casting of spears and celts with a concealed socket in two-part molds. Particularly active were the relations between Semirech’e, Fergana and eastern Kazakhstan and Xinjiang, where an Andronovo population settled and all the specific types of the implements of the Semirech’e metallurgical center were in general use." (p.255)

“it is interesting that the graph denoting the chariot in the oracle-bone inscription resembles the pattern in petroglyphs of Central Asia. Chariots proper were discovered in the 1930s at the imperial cemetery of the Shang dynasty and near the palace in the capital of the Yin kingdom in Anyang and later in its neighborhood near Beijing […]. Beside the graves of the the kings and elite there were discovered the chemaken pits (literally - ‘a pit with a chariot and horse’). Their date is 1250-1100 BC. They contained weapons, a chariot whose wheels were placed into segmented grooves analogous to those of Sintashta, and two horses, laid, as in Sintashta, on their side parallel to one another. […]

Apparently, together with the horse and the chariot Yin China also adopted the art of horse training, their name, and religious and mythological concepts associated with them. The word ‘horse’ ma is an old Eurasian migrational term, and the name of the chariot stems from the Proto-Indo-European ‘wheel’ and came to Shang China via either Tocharian or early Iranian. The cult of the chariot and the horse and the rite of its sacrifice, particularly at the funeral of a king or military elite, is characteristic of the Indo-Iranians, and archaeologically it is attested in the Andronovo culture.

Chinese myths about the connection of the emperor with the winged heavenly horses, which rendered him immortal, the horse coming out of water, the thunder chariot and the sun chariot used by the solar god for travelling over the earth, arise from the Indo-European and, particularly, Indo-Iranian mythology." (p.256-257)

Kuz'mina, E. The origin of the Indo-Iranians, 2007.

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Jan 2016
United States, MO
Did all of these things come into the plains around the yellow river from outside? probably. Was it europeans? No because europe doesn’t really exist. It is an arbitrary construct. Besides, these people live in what we today call central asia. Not europe. Also, the horse came from the steppe and the wheel came from mesopotania. Not what we would call europe.
Aug 2018
continued 5:

“The war chariot and some other elements of the Central Eurasian Culture Complex appeared in China somewhat before the twelfth century BC . Burials in the royal necropolis found in the ruins of the late Shang capital at Anyang on the north bank of the Yellow River include numerous chariots and their horses, often along with the chariot warriors and their weapons. (60) The chariots have many spokes rather than only four or six, the typical numbers used in the ancient Near East; they thus have extremely close analogues to contemporaneous chariots found in the Caucasus. (61) They are also often found together with “northern” type knives typical of the steppe zone. (62) It is now accepted that the chariot is an intrusive cultural artifact that entered Shang China from the north or northwest without any wheeled-vehicle precursors. (63) The practice of burying chariots along with their horses and young men with weapons who seem to be their drivers and archers (64) is a distinctive mark of the Central Eurasian Culture Complex, which at that time was undoubtedly still exclusively Indo-European. Such burials are frequently found at Shang sites, usually in association with the burial of high-ranking noblemen. (65) As noted, historical sources on Central Eurasia from Antiquity through the Early Middle Ages attest that the men who belonged to a lord’s comitatus were buried together with him and their horses, weapons, and valuables. It is also significant that the first written Chinese texts, the Oracle Bone Inscriptions, began to be composed at about the same time. Although there seems to be no direct connection between this writing system and any other known system, (66) the as-yet-unidentified Indo-European people who brought the chariots to China may well have brought the idea of writing (67) as well.

The introduction of the chariot and comitatus burial in China can only be due to the appearance of a Central Eurasian people there. “Anyang chariot burials thus seem to indicate a substantial interaction with northern neighbors beginning about 1200 B.C.: not an invasion, but not a border incident either. The mere capture of enemy chariots and horses would not have brought the skills required to use, maintain, and reproduce them…. The clearly marked advent of the chariot is a clue to an episode of cultural contact that deserves more attention than it has received.” (68) Because all other known examples of chariot warriors at that time were Indo-Europeans, the newcomers must have been Indo-Europeans. Considering the intruders’ significant impact on the culture of the Yellow River valley, they must have had a powerful linguistic impact also, one not limited to the words for the newly imported artifacts and practices. So far, their language has not yet been identified more specifically, but it is quite possible that it represents an otherwise unknown branch of Indo-European. (69)

The Chou Conquest of Shang China

The story of Hou Chi ‘Lord Millet’, the divine founder of the Chou Dynasty, is a typical Central Eurasian foundation myth, closely paralleled by the Roman myth, the Wu-sun (*Aśvin) myth, and the Puyo-Koguryo myth. How could the origin of the most revered Chinese dynasty be represented by such an alien foundation myth?

It might seem surprising that the Chou, the ideal model of a dynasty throughout Chinese history, is traditionally considered by Chinese scholars to have been non-Chinese in origin. This view is not so surprising upon examination of the data on which it is based. The Chou came from what was at the time the western frontier of the Chinese culture area. The mother of Hou Chi, Chiang Yüan, was by name a member of the Chiang clan. The Chiang are generally accepted to have been a non-Chinese people related to or more likely identical to the Ch’iang, who were the main foreign enemies of the Shang Dynasty. (70) The Ch’iang were evidently skilled chariot warriors in the Shang period, and were therefore necessarily well acquainted with horses and wheels. But it has been shown that the Tibeto-Burman words for ‘horse’, though ultimately Indo-European in origin, were borrowed from Old Chinese, not from Indo-European directly, (71) and the same appears to be true for the Tibetan word for ‘wheel’. (72) For this and other reasons it is probable that the early Ch’iang were not Tibeto-Burman speakers (as widely believed), but Indo-Europeans, and Chiang Yüan belonged to a clan that was Indo-European in origin. The Central Eurasian myth about her and her son, the ancestor of the Chou line, is thus not surprising after all.

Yet the literary language of the Chou, preserved mainly in the Bronze Inscriptions (texts inscribed on ritual bronze vessels), is clearly the continuation of the Shang language of the Oracle Bone Inscriptions, and both are certainly ancestral to modern Chinese. In the traditional view, which still dominates the view of Sinological linguists, there is no room for any significant foreign influence on the development of Chinese. (73) Yet this cannot be correct. The mounting evidence against the isolationist position, especially from archaeology, indicates that the intrusive Indo-European people who brought the chariot had a powerful influence on Shang culture and may even have been responsible for the foundation of the Shang Dynasty (ca.1570–1045 BC ) itself. The Shang realm occupied only a rather small area in the Yellow River valley in what is now northern and eastern Honan (Henan), southeastern Shansi (Shanxi), and western Shantung (Shandong); (74) such a state could easily have been dominated by an aggressive Indo-European people armed with war chariots. Although there is no direct evidence for or against any such political event, the existence of the intrusive chariot warriors, and their influence on Chinese material culture, cannot be denied.

The appearance of chariot warriors in East Asia coincides approximately with their appearance in Greece (Europe), Mesopotamia (the Near East, Southwest Asia), and northwestern India (South Asia). (75) In all of the non-East Asian cases, the chariot warrior people spoke an Indo-European language. In the East Asian case the chariot warriors appear to have had the same Central Eurasian culture as the Indo-Europeans in the other regions of Eurasia. They should therefore have spoken an Indo-European language.

Linguistically, there are only two possible outcomes of this Indo-European intrusion. The Early Old Chinese language of the Oracle Bone Inscriptions is either a non-Indo-European language with an intrusive Indo-European element or an Indo-European language with an intrusive non-Indo-European element. (76) In both scenarios, the language of the Bronze Inscriptions, Classical Chinese, and the modern Chinese languages and dialects are clear continuations of Early Old Chinese, the language of the Oracle Bone Inscriptions, which was therefore already “Chinese.” Recent linguistic research on Early Old Chinese supports the presence of numerous Indo-European elements that are clearly related to Proto-Indo-European already in the Shang period Oracle Bone Inscriptions. Their identification with a particular branch of Indo-European remains uncertain. However, it is possible that the language was close to Proto-Indo-European itself.

Aug 2018
continued 6:

According to one current theory, (77) the most likely scenario is that a small group of Indo-European chariot warriors entered the pre-Chinese culture zone in the central Yellow River valley as mercenaries. They stayed and intermarried with the local people, with the result that either their language became creolized by the local language, exactly as happened to the other Indo-European daughter languages, or the local language was creolized or otherwise significantly influenced by Indo-European (as happened to the Indo-European maryannu of Mitanni). In either case, the Indo-European language material in the resulting language, Early Old Chinese, derives from generic late Proto-Indo-European, from a known Indo-European daughter language, or from an already independent Indo-European daughter language that is otherwise unknown.

It has recently been argued that the widely believed theory of a genetic relationship between Chinese and Tibeto-Burman—the so-called Sino-Tibetan theory—seems to be based on a shared Indo-European lexical inheritance. (78) Some of this material demonstrably entered Tibeto-Burman as loanwords via Chinese. For example, the words for ‘horse’, ‘wheel’, ‘iron’, and other things known to have been introduced into East Asia after the early second millennium BC, have been treated as Sino-Tibetan words, yet the things themselves, and thus the words for them, could not have been known many thousands of years earlier, at the time of the hypothetical Proto-Sino-Tibetan language, and their phonological shape reflects Old Chinese influence. Nevertheless, although some of the Indo-European element in Tibeto-Burman seems clearly to have entered via Chinese, in many other instances chronological considerations make such a pathway difficult, if not impossible. The most likely solution is that the Indo-European intrusion produced a creole not only with the pre-Chinese of the Yellow River valley but also with at least some of the pre-Tibeto-Burmans further to the southwest in the presumed home of Proto-Tibeto-Burman. (79)

Only further linguistic research will establish whether Early Old Chinese is a minimally maintained Indo-European language or a minimally maintained local East Asian language. Whichever way it turns out, it is certain that Indo-European speakers and their language had a strong influence on what became China and also, directly or indirectly, on the Tibeto-Burman peoples. (80)"

Beckwith, C., Empires of the Silk Road, 2009, p.68-80

Aug 2018
Was it europeans? No because europe doesn’t really exist. It is an arbitrary construct.
What a ridiculous argument.

these people live in what we today call central asia. Not europe.
They came from Europe, were genetically European and were Indo-European linguistically/culturally. They migrated eastward and brought things like metallurgy and the wheel to China. The people in Central Asia today are partly descended from them but are not the same as them.

Also, the horse came from the steppe and the wheel came from mesopotania. Not what we would call europe.
Funny how Mesopotamia somehow exists and isn't an 'arbitrary construct' Lol. Everywhere exists except Europe am I right?

The horse was domesticated by Europeans in Russia. As I said, the evidence indicates that wheeled vehicles were invented in Europe, not in Mesopotamia.
Last edited:
Jan 2016
United States, MO
What a ridiculous and frankly idiotic argument.
Who defines who is european? Can you provide a definition or europe and european that is accurate 100% of the time? No, that is impossible. All forms of categorizations are abstraction and never purely exist in nature.

These are prehistoric people. They have are only worried about their own group, and may have a genetic link to the people who inhabit modern europe, but that doesn’t mean they are european. Calling them european is like calling the goths khazaks.

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