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The Kurgan Invasions

by T.R.Holme

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The Mask was found by Louis Alexandre Jullien between 1892 and 1895 in the palaeloithic Balzi Rossi Grimaldi caves east of Marseilles, France, just across the border in Italy, along with many other figurines and art objects made of ivory and stone. The caves are located on a narrow strip of land between the Alps and the Mediterrenian. During the ice age a glacier covered the Alps. Humans passing in either direction, Spain/France to Italy or Italy to Spain/France, might choose to take this narrow coastal route. For them the Grimaldi caves were natural camping places.

The Mask was carved from a thin pebble. No one knows the purpose of the cupmark on the forehead, other than the belief of archaeomythologist Marija Gimbutas that cupmarks signify vulvas: i.e. the eternal womb of the universe, which could make the Mask an emblem of a priestess. Perhaps the Mask's cupmark once held a carnelian agate or a piece of Baltic amber. Amber was especially treasured by early man in the worship of Eternal Light, the sun being thought of as the Giver of Warmth and Life, blessing the earth and all living things. 

The Mask is certainly very old. Upper Paleolithic. Probably from around 15,000 BC, thought it could be much older. Certainly it predates the Kurgans who made their entrance into human history at the dawn of the sixth millenium BC. But the reason I have put the mask in the center of the Kurgan page is so that we may reflect upon a certain spirit that existed in their legends and folkstories, the role models that molded their nature, their concept of themselves. The mammoth hunters are the forefathers of the Kurgans. The people of this Mask lived the histories that were passed down to the Kurgans in their oral traditions. These were people who worshipped animals and animal spirits. The lion was more than a beast. The lion was a part of the mind of God, of Goddess. Figurines found in Catal Huyuk depict the goddess with cats. Their tales wrap sinuously around her. She clasps them to her breast. Clearly the people of Catal Huyuk loved cats. Cats probably became dear to the human race in the time of the mammoth hunters. All that meat would attract cats of all shapes and sizes. Adult cats might regularly be slain for they threatened man. The killing of mother cats would leave large numbers of hungry kittens in the vicinity of the human camps. Inevitably some kittens would hang around and be adopted as companions by the humans. Great bonding would occur. The Mask has cat eyes. So too would the men who had the spirit of the cat within their minds. Only men with spirits such as these could stand the charge of a rhinocerus, or hold his place with sharpened spear until the mammoth was almost upon him, to hurl accurately, and move quick as a cat to dodge destruction. Look at the mask. Let the Mask tell you about the nature of these people.


In 5600 BC the Mediterrenian overwhelmed the Bosporus creating the end-of-the-world waterfall, causing the great lake to rise and rise flooding homes and farms and cities beneath it's dark waters. And still the waters rose and rose and rose. This caused the Black Sea's coastal residents to flee for their lives, to get as far away from the rising waters as possible --and to frantically push their way into tthe hitherto unventured lands of their neighbors. So the people of the northeast area of the Black Sea rushed pell-mell northeastward, to the Volga and the Caspian, and further, into the land of the Kurgans -- and all the cosmological crashing together of cultures that entailed.

The archeologists of Russia devide the Kurgan era into three parts: Early Yamma, Maikop culture, and Late Yamma -- or Kurgan I, Kurgan II and Kurgan III. Kurgan I people originated in the land between the Volga and the Ob. Kurgan II developed in the area between the Lower Dneister and the Caucasus mountains. Kurgan III were once again from the Volga. The three divisions also refer to three great waves in which the Kurgan people pushed into and through the ancient cultures west of the Black Sea.

In writing about the Kurgans I have ventured out into murky waters. Marija Gimbutas's work does not consider the Kurgans of the area of Kazakhstan to necessarily to be the descendants of the Siberian mammoth hunters. She says "The material of the Volga-Ural interfluve and beyond the Caspian Sea prior to the 7th millenium BC are, so far, not sufficient for ethnographic interpretation."  But I do not see how it could be otherwise. Surely the Mammoth hunters of the Ob River lived on after the extinction of the mammoths, and these hunters of the western plains became the tribes of Kazakhstan, now called Kurgans, that crossed the previously uncrossable glacial river and confronted the cultures of the Black Sea.

Marija Gimbutas's theory about the Kurgan horsemen is not without its detractors. There is even considerable debate as to whether the Kurgans ever actually existed as an entity. Some archeologists contend that the 100,000 horse bones found in Petropavlosk were wild horses, not domesticated horses, hunted in large numbers and killed for meat. These same studies say that the Kurgans did not have domesticated horses before 3000 BC... Personally, I believe that the research of Marija Gimbutas is holding its own against the tide of disbelief. If the horse was not domesticated until 3000 BC how do we account for the Spanish ivory figurines of horses with bridals dating back beyond 10,000 BC? The ivories have been carbon dated and are certainly authentic. The truth must be that as far back as the Magdalenian age there were some humans who domesticated and rode horses, though most humans perhaps did not, and the Kurgans must have been among those who did.

Marija Gimbutas writes: "The Kurgan tradition became manifest in Old European territories during tree waves of infiltration: I at c. 4400-4300 B.C., II at c. 3500 B.C., and III at shortly after 3000 B.C. This chronology does not represent the evolution of a single group but of a number of various steppe peoples who shared a common tradition, extending over broad temporal and spacial parameters. Kurgan I people were from the Volga steppe: Kurgan II, who were culturally more advanced, developed in the North Pontic area between the Lower Dniester and the Caucasus mountains; Kurgan III people were again from the Volga steppe."

What stands out to me is that when Marija Gimbutas wrote the Civilization of the Goddess she could not have been aware of Ryan and Pitman's discovery of the Great Flood of the Black Sea in 5600 BC. This great flood would certainly have caused the people who lived on the shore of the Black Sea to run for their lives, and those people who lived on the Black Sea's northeast shore would have headed towards the Caspian Sea and probably crossed the mighty river Volga into the country of  the Kurgans. Whether the Kurgans liked it or not, they suddenly had guests. The next logical step would be intermarriage and warfare both, and in the immediate centuries that followed the Black Sea people would return and reoccupy their old Pontic lands -- probably bringing some elements of the Kurgans with them. Other Kurgans would accumulate in the Volga Basin. The archeological record does give evidence to the fact.

What we have here is two very different peoples coming together: a peaceful matristic sedentary agricultural people and a fierce nomadic hunting people. For during those thousands of years when the great glacial river separated the east from the west the Black Sea people lived in a land where all the mammoths had become extinct by about 10,000 BC, and they had become farmers in the fertile lands surrounding the Black Sea. But the archeological evidence indicates that the people who lived in the plains and river valleys east of the great uncrossable glacial rivers Volga had mammoths until perhaps as recently as 8000 BC, and continued their hunting traditions after the mammoths were gone by turning their attentions to horse and cattle, and they did not become farmers. These two peoples came together at the time of the Great Flood of 5600 BC, and afterwards, for over a thousand years they lived relatively near each other while retaining their individuality. Then around 4400 BC long festering anger broke loose and the clash that resulted affected all of Old Europe, from the shores of the Black Sea all the way to Ireland.

It seems odd, but apparently archeologists previously have not realized that the collosal glacial rivers were not crossable, or at least they haven't considered it worth mentioning or figuring into the pattern of history. The uncrossable Volga caused the Kurgans and the Black Sea peoples to develop totally separately -- for at least two thosand years and perhaps twice that long. When human cultures are separated for such long ages they evolve into distinctly different creations. More likely it is the fact mainstream archealogists have disregarded the Kurgan wave ideas of Marija Gimbutas, and as a result have not considered how different the Kurgans would be from the Black Sea peoples when they were finally able to cross the Volga.

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Around 4400 BC the Kurgan horsemen began to move west forcing their way through the ancient matristic cultures which stood in their way.


This chapter is in the process of being written...

One of the best pieces I have found about the controversy over the work of Marija Gimbutas is written by Max Dashu in her review and refutation of Cynthia Eller's book THE MYTH OF MATRIARCHAL PREHISTORY:

The Furor Over Gimbutas by Max Dashu

Some other Good Links:

Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads

More fascinating up-to-date research

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