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Corded Ware Culture (c. 3000-2350 BCE)

Quick Facts

  • Also known as the Battle Axe culture or Single Grave culture.
  • Associated with the diffusion of Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic speakers.
  • Blend of cultural elements of the earlier Funnelbeaker culture in the North European Plain with the PIE steppe culture (Yamna).
  • Mobile pastoral economy relying mostly on cattle and occasional cereal cultivation.
  • Regular use of horses and oxe-drawn wagons. Presence of copper and bronze artefacts as well as stone battle-axes.
  • Coarse pottery typically decorated with twisted cord impressions, and sometimes with other types of impressions or incisions. Use of beakers and cups for drinking.
  • The dead were inhumed in flat graves inside a small mound. Bodies were laid on their side with bent knees. Wagons/carts and sacrificed animals were present in graves.
Distribution of the Corded Ware Culture

Historical context of the Unetice culture

Map of early Bronze Age cultures in Europe - Eupedia

Genetic Analysis


MtDNA frequency in the Corded Ware culture
Hg N1a R0/HV H HV0/V J T1 T2 U2 U3 U4 U5 K I W X
N=71 0 0 15 1 8 4 7 3 0 5 9 10 2 3 3
% 0% 0% 21% 1.5% 11% 5.5% 10% 4% 0% 7% 13% 14.5% 3% 4% 4%

The following mtDNA and Y-DNA samples were tested by Allentoft et al. (2015).

Sample Y-DNA mtDNA Location Date
RISE00 - H5a1 Sope, Estonia ?
RISE1 R1b K1b1a1 Oblaczkovo, Poland 2700 BCE
RISE94 R1a1a1 (M417) K1a2a Viby, Sweden 2550 BCE
RISE431 R1a1a1 T2e Leki Male, Poland 2150 BCE
RISE434 R1a1a1 U4 Tiefbrunn, Germany 2750 BCE
RISE435 - J1b1a1 Tiefbrunn, Germany 2600 BCE
RISE436 R1a1a1 U5b1c2 Tiefbrunn, Germany 2750 BCE
RISE446 R1a1a1 (M417) U5b1c2 Bergrheinfeld, Germany 2650 BCE

The following mtDNA and Y-DNA samples were tested by Haak et al. (2015).

Sample Y-DNA mtDNA Location Date
I0049 - X2b4 Esperstedt, Germany 2350 BCE
I0103 - W6a Esperstedt, Germany 2500 BCE
I0104 R1a1a1 U4b1a1a1 Esperstedt, Germany 2400 BCE
I0106 - T2a1b1 Esperstedt, Germany 2350 BCE

The following mtDNA and Y-DNA samples were tested by Haak et al. (2008), Adler, C.J. (2012), Lee et al. (2012), Brandt et al. (2013) and Brotherton et al. (2013). Note that the samples tested by Lee et al. were reported as belonging to the Bell Beaker culture. However there are good reasons to believe that the Bell Beaker phenomenon was a multicultural trading network rather than an ethnic group. The samples matched in time and place the Corded Ware (until 2350 BCE) or Unetice (from 2300 BCE) cultures. Furthermore, the mtDNA and Y-DNA sequences retrieved were typical of PIE steppe people and are therefore better classified as belonging either to the Corded Ware culture or the Unetice culture.

Samples from Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

  • HV0e
  • H (x4)
  • H1ca1
  • H2a1
  • H4a1
  • H5
  • H6a1a
  • H10e
  • I
  • I1a1 (mtDNA) - R1b1b2 (Y-DNA)
  • J (x3)
  • J1c
  • K
  • K1
  • K1 (mtDNA) - R1a (Y-DNA) (x2)
  • K1 (mtDNA) - R1b (Y-DNA)
  • K1a24a
  • K2a5
  • T1a (x2)
  • T1a1'3 (x2)
  • T2
  • T2b2b
  • T2b4f (x2)
  • T2c
  • U2e
  • U2e2
  • U4 (x2)
  • U4a1
  • U5a (x2)
  • U5a1
  • U5a1a'g (mtDNA) - R1a (Y-DNA)
  • U5a1b1
  • U5b
  • U5b1a'b
  • W5a
  • W6a'b
  • X
  • X2b1'2'3'4'5'6

Samples from Switzerland

  • H
  • H11a (x3)
  • J1c (x2)
  • J2b1a
  • K
  • T2b
  • U2e1

Autosomal admixture analysis

Some of the genomes mentioned above were analysed using the Dodecad and Eurogenes calculators to compare them to other ancient samples as well as to modern populations and individuals. The name of the Eurogenes K36 components can be confusing as they do not match the geographic region of origin, nor the modern distribution. You can find out what they correspond to here.

Corded Ware genome (I0103 - W6a, c. 2400 BCE Germany)

Eurogenes K36

20.04% North_Sea
18.07% Fennoscandian
15.28% North_Atlantic
14.18% North_Caucasian
12.58% Eastern_Euro
8.89% Central_Euro
3.03% East_Balkan
2.82% East_Central_Euro
2.67% South_Central_Asian
1.89% French
0.29% Basque
0.24% Amerindian

A typical Steppe genome, very similar to Yamna except for the 8.9% of Central_Euro.

Dodecad Dv3 (aka K12)

54.70% West_European
18.17% East_European
13.76% West_Asian
9.69% Mediterranean
3.08% South_Asian
0.08% Northeast_Asian
0.09% Neo_African
0.00% East_African
0.00% Northwest_African
0.00% Palaeo_African
0.00% Southeast_Asian
0.00% Southwest_Asian

This admixture falls somewhere between modern Germans and Finns, but with considerably higher percentages of West_Asian and South_Asian.

Dodecad K12b

55.29% North_European
20.66% Atlantic_Med
20.15% Gedrosia
3.51% Caucasus
0.36% Sub_Saharan

No modern equivalent. The North_European falls in between modern Germans and Scandinavians, but both have about 13% more Atlantic_Med and 13% less of Gedrosia.

Corded Ware genome (RISE00, H5a1, c. 2600 BCE Estonia)

Eurogenes K36

26.58% North_Atlantic
24.76% North_Sea
16.87% East_Central_Euro
9.30% Fennoscandian
7.65% French
6.52% Eastern_Euro
3.82% Iberian
3.11% Central_Euro
1.36% East_Balkan

This admixture is relatively similar to the German Corded Ware above as well as to Yamna genomes, but without the North_Caucasian and South_Central_Asian components. It is in fact closest to the Sintashta genomes.

Dodecad dv3 (aka K12)

47.19% West_European
21.95% West_Asian
20.54% East_European
8.54% South_Asian
0.89% Northeast_Asian
0.52% Neo_African
0.29% Palaeo_African
0.08% Northwest_African
0.00% East_African
0.00% Mediterranean
0.00% Southeast_Asian
0.00% Southwest_Asian

This admixture has no modern equivalent, but is very similar to Yamna genomes. Like Yamna, no modern population combines high percentages of West_European and East_European with substantial levels of West_Asian and South_Asian. The latter two have been replaced by higher levels of Mediterranean admixture in all North European populations.

Dodecad K12b

60.13% North_European
32.19% Gedrosia
3.61% Caucasus
1.48% Atlantic_Med
1.43% Siberian
0.86% Sub_Saharan
0.22% South_Asian
0.08% Southeast_Asian
0.00% East_African
0.00% East_Asian
0.00% Northwest_African
0.00% Southwest_Asian

With this calculator too, the Sintashta genome is the most similar. Among modern populations, Scandinavians, Poles and Ukrainians are the closest match in terms of North_European percentages, but with higher levels of Atlantic_Med and Caucasian and less Gedrosia.


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