| Bronze Age|
Near East (3300-1200 BC)
South Asia (3000-1200 BC)
Europe (2300-600 BC)
China (2000-700 BC)
Korea (800-400 BC)
The Maykop culture (also spelled Maikop), ca. 3500 BC—2500 BC, was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture situated in Southern Russia running from the Taman peninsula at the Kerch Strait nearly to the modern border of Dagestan, centered approximately on the modern Republic of Adygea (whose capital is Maykop) in the Kuban River valley. The culture takes its name from a royal burial found there. The Maikop Barrow, which was extremely rich in gold and silver artifacts, was first discovered in 1897.
It is approximately contemporaneous with and is apparently influenced by the Kuro-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC) which straddles the Caucasus and extends into eastern Anatolia. To the north and west is the similarly contemporaneous Yamna culture and immediately north is the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent.
The culture is noteworthy for the abundance of well-decorated bronze artefacts associated with it, unparalleled for the time. There were also gold and silver items.
Because of its burial practices, and in terms of the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, it is listed as an intrusion from the Pontic steppe into the Caucasus. According to Mallory this is hard to evaluate and he emphasizes that: where the evidence for barrows is found, it is precisely in regions which later demonstrate the presence of non-Indo-European populations. In other occasions the culture has been cited, at the very least, as a kurganized culture with a strong ethnic and linguistic links to the descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It has been linked to the Lower Mikhaylovka group and Kemi Oba culture, and more distantly, to the Globular Amphora and Corded Ware cultures, if only in an economic sense. Mallory states:
- Such a theory, it must be emphasized, is highly speculative and controversial although there is a recognition that this culture may be a product of at least two traditions: the local steppe tradition embraced in the Novosvobodna culture and foreign elements from south of the Caucasus which can be charted through imports in both regions.—EIEC,"Maykop Culture".
The Kuban River is navigable for much of its length, and an easy water-passage via the Sea of Azov into the territory of the Yamna culture, by way of the Don and Donets River systems was available. The Maykop culture was well-situated to exploit the trading possibilities of the central Ukraine area.
Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, whose views are somewhat controversial, suggest that the Maykop culture (or its ancestor) may have been a way-station for Indo-Europeans migrating from the South Caucusus and/or eastern Anatolia to a secondary Urheimat on the steppe. This would essentially place the Anatolian stock in Anatolia from the beginning, and at least in this instance, agrees with Lord Renfrew's Anatolian hypothesis. Considering that some attempt has been made to unite Indo-European with the Northwest Caucasian languages, an earlier Caucasian pre-Urheimat is not out of the question (see Proto-Pontic).