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Cimmerians are a nomadic, Iranian-speaking peoples who occupied the North Pontic steppe zone from the Don to the Danube, with their center in the Crimea. Their culture and civilization flourished between about 1000 and 800 b.c.e. Pastoralists had inhabited the North Pontic region since approximately 4000 b.c.e., or some three thousand years prior to the advent of the Cimmerians, but the latter were the first to be mentioned by name in the written sources, and so they were sometimes (inaccurately) seen by historians as the earliest nomadic peoples of southern Russia.

It is not clear whether the term "Cimmerian" represented an ethnic group or simply designated any Iranian-speaking equestrian nomads inhabiting the North Pontic area. There is also no consensus on the origins of these peoples. However, it is most likely that the Cimmerians evolved out of the sedentary Srubnaia ("Timber-Grave") archaeological culture of the second millennium b.c.e. after they took up a pastoral way of life in the steppe. There are reasons to believe that the Cimmerians can be connected to the Belozersk culture, which some scholars believe is derived from the late Srubnaia culture. By about 800 b.c.e., the Cimmerians were supplanted by the Scythians, a closely akin Iranian-speaking nomadic group that arrived in the area and absorbed some of the former into their tribal confederation while expelling the rest. Some Cimmerian tribes who were ejected from the North Pontic steppe zone moved southeast through Transcaucasia into Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia, which they raided for about twenty years.

See also: crimea


Christian, David. (1998). A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, vol. 1: Inner Asia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Roman K. Kovalev