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Koban culture genome-wide and archeological data open the bridge between Bronze and Iron Ages in the North Caucasus


The North Caucasus played a key role during the ancient colonization of Eurasia and the formation of its cultural and genetic ancestry. Previous archeogenetic studies described a relative genetic and cultural continuity of ancient Caucasus societies, since the Eneolithic period. The Koban culture, which formed in the Late Bronze Age on the North Caucasian highlands, is considered as a cultural “bridge” between the ancient and modern autochthonous peoples of the Caucasus. Here, we discuss the place of this archeological culture and its representatives in the genetic orbit of Caucasian cultures using genome-wide SNP data from five individuals of the Koban culture and one individual of the early Alanic culture as well as previously published genomic data of ancient and modern North Caucasus individuals. Ancient DNA analysis shows that an ancient individual from Klin-Yar III, who was previously described as male, was in fact a female. Additional studies on well-preserved ancient human specimens are necessary to determine the level of local mobility and kinship between individuals in ancient societies of North Caucasus. Further studies with a larger sample size will allow us gain a deeper understanding of this topic.

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Fig. 1: Geographical map of the Caucasus showing the archeological sites (red circles—Koban culture: Zayukovo-3 and Klin-Yar III burial sites; blue circle—early stage of Alanic culture: “Bratskiye 1-ye Kurgany” barrow cemetery) where human samples were collected for the ancient DNA analysis.
Fig. 2: Koban culture.
Fig. 3: Principal component analysis (PCA) of Koban culture individuals.
Fig. 4: ADMIXTURE profiles (k =  12) of ancient humans inhabiting the Caucasus and adjacent regions during the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, Bronze and Iron Ages (Kura-Araxes, Maykop, Koban, and Alanic culture bearers from foothills, Yamnaya culture bearers, Scythians, and Sarmatians).
Fig. 5: f-statistics for Koban and Alanic culture bearers.

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Data availability

The raw reads of the Koban and Alanic culture bearers generated in this study are available for download through the National Center for Biotechnology Information, BioProject ID PRJNA797283. The accession numbers of the previously published genomic data that were reprocessed in this study are available in the Supplementary Materials. All other data are included in the paper or are available upon request.


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Artem Nedoluzhko is grateful to Jorge Galindo-Villegas and Azumi Aki for their ongoing intellectual and emotional support.


This work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), grant nos. 18-00-00398 and 18-00-00399. F.S. was partly supported by the state task of the Federal Research Center of Biotechnology RAS and by the NRC “Kurchatov Institute”, according to the order #90 from 20.01.2023. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations



Conceptualization: F.S.S., S.M.R, D.S.K. and A.V.N.; data curation: F.S.S.; formal analysis: F.S.S. and S.M.R.; funding acquisition: D.S.K. and A.V.N.; investigation: E.S.B., S.V.T., N.V.S., A.B.B., H.H., A.A.K., S.V.D., V. Yu. M., T.Yu.S., M.V.D. and I.K.R.; methodology: E.S.B., S.V.T., N.V.S., A.B.B., H.H., A.A.K., S.V.D., T.Yu.S., M.V.D. and I.K.R.; project administration: D.S.K. and A.V.N.; resources: F.S.S. and S.M.R.; software: F.S.S. and S.M.R.; supervision: D.S.K. and A.V.N.; visualization: F.S.S., A.A.K. and A.V.N.; writing—original draft: F.S.S., D.S.K. and A.V.N.; writing—review and editing: all authors.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Dmitry S. Korobov or Artem V. Nedoluzhko.

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This research was carried out under the ethics guidelines for DNA research on human remains described previously: Alpaslan-Roodenberg S, Anthony D, Babiker H, Bánffy E, Booth T, Capone P et al. Ethics of DNA research on human remains: five globally applicable guidelines. Nature 2021; 599: 41–46.

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Sharko, F.S., Boulygina, E.S., Tsygankova, S.V. et al. Koban culture genome-wide and archeological data open the bridge between Bronze and Iron Ages in the North Caucasus. Eur J Hum Genet (2024).

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