Monday, April 26, 2021

the original barbarians

It may just have been their bad luck, but the Scythians were there on the Pontic Steppe (north of the Black Sea) in the middle of the first millennium BCE, when the ancient Greeks unilaterally decided that their own folks represented civilisation, and everybody else, especially the Scythians, were barbarians. The Greeks wrote this down in the documents which became the bedrock of European civilisation, while the Scythians, although successful in many ways, left no written documents to be used in their defence. Now molecular studies including genomics are promising to give a fair hearing to those original barbarians.

I've rounded up recent molecular research into the life and fates of the Scythians and mixed it up with some cultural history for my latest feature which is out now in Current Biology:

Saving Scythians from oblivion

Current Biology Volume 31, Issue 8, 26 April 2021, Pages R359-R361

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
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Many Scythian burial sites contain elaborate art sculpted in gold, often displaying animals or warriors. This battle scene is part of a comb. (Photo: Levan Ramishvili/Flickr.)

PS (30.4.2021): I've now posted a review of the book Black Sea, which I read in preparation for this feature.

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