7 Ekim 2012 Pazar

The Proto-Turkic Urheimat & The Early Migrations of Turkic Peoples

The Proto-Turkic Urheimat &
The Early Migrations of Turkic Peoples

Version 3.11
v.1 (04/2009) (first online) > v.4.3 (12/2009) (major update, maps with the early distribution of Turkic tribes near the Altai published) > v.6.0 (11-12/2011) (major corrections to the text; maps, illustrations, references added) > v. 7.0 (02-03/2012) (rearranged and made into a separate article, geographical determinism considerations, geolexical analysis added)

A multilateral linguistic, geographical, historical analysis of Bulgaro-Turkic was performed with the Urheimat area of Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic being tentatively positioned near the northern or northeastern border of present-day Kazakhstan, including the middle course of the Irtysh River. A similar analysis of the early Turkic dialects resulted in the quite reliable position of Proto-Turkic Proper near the Altai Mountains.


The Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat
The Proto-Turkic Urheimat
References and sources

The present publication is part of the series of articles on the classification and origins of the Bulgaro-Turkic languages, which include The Internal Classification and Migrations of Turkic Languages and The Lexicostatistics and Glottochronology of the Turkic Languages

Remarks on the geographical terminology
Before we begin, let us introduce a few additional geographical concepts that will help us to get familiarized with the linguistic geography of the region. English transcription remarks are based on Webster's New World Dictionary and /or the best approximation of local pronunciation.
The Great Eurasian Barrier (herein only) is a transcontinental array of mountain systems which divides Eurasia in the longitudinal direction from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It includes at least such large mountain ranges as the Carpathians, Caucasus, Kopet-Dag, Hindu-Kush, Pamirs, Tian Shan, Altai, Sayan, Stanovoy Range etc.
The Great Steppe (sometimes, though not universally accepted) is a vast area in central Eurasia covered by forested steppe, grassland steppe, semi-deserts or deserts, which extends from the Black Sea all the way to the upper Ob, Altai Mountains and even Yenisei basins, but does not include Dzungaria, Mongolian Gobi and other steppe regions located south of the Great Eurasian Barrier. It includes the Ishim /ee-SHEEM/ steppe, Baraba /bah-RAH-bah/ Steppe and Kulunda /koo-LOON-dah or koo-loon-DAH/ Steppe [probably from eastern Turkic kulun-du "plenty of kulans (onagers)"] in its northeasternmost areas. In the wider meaning, it encompasses such extreme semi-desert or desert regions as Ustyurt /oos-TOORT/ Plateau, Karakum /KA-ra-KOOM/ ("Black Sand") Desert (Turkmenistan), Betpak-Dala /bet-PAHK-da-LAH/ ("Limitless (wild) Steppe") (Kazakhstan), even though these can hardly be viewed as typical steppeland.
The Gobi Steppe (herein only) is a large system of interconnected deserts, semi-deserts and steppeland located to the south of the Great Eurasian Barrier, including (west to east) the Taklamakan Desert, the Beishang (Uplands), the Turfan area, Dzungaria, the Dzungarian Gobi, the Trans-Altai Gobi, the Alashang Desert, Ordos, the Gobi Desert
The Eurasian Steppe (sometimes, though not universally accepted) is the Great Steppe plus the Gobi Steppe areas
Zaysan Passage (herein only) is one of the few suitable and relatively wide passages in the Great Eurasian Barrier. It is located near Lake Zaysan /zy-SAHN/ and extends along the upper Irtysh /ir-TEESH/ and the Kara-Irtysh River. The passage connects the Great Steppe in the north with the Dzungarian Desert in the south, and is about 100 km (60 miles) across.
Dzungarian Gate (generally accepted) is a suitable passage from the Great Steppe into Dzungaria and China near Lake Alakol (from Ala-Kül "Lake Ala").
Dzungaria (generally accepted) /zoon-GA-ree-ah/ is a desert inland depression confined between Tian Shan, Mongolian Altai (Range) and a few smaller mountain ranges in the northwest (Dzungarian Alatau, Tarbagatai).
Altay-Sayan-Khangai Mountain System (herein only) is a large mountain system covering most territory of Mongolia, Tyva, Khakassia, Altai Republic and nearby areas.
The Great Lakes Depression (or Hollow) (generally accepted) is a geographically similar, nearby located depression, apparently the bed of the Tertiary era inland sea, enclosed by the mountain ranges of Mongolia: Mongolian Altai in the southwest, Western Sayan in the north, Khangai in the west. It is characterized by extremely low average January temperatures (-30— -35ºC). It comprises Lake Ubsu (Uvs-Nuur), Lake Kyrgyz (Khargyas-Nuur) and Lake "Black Water" (Khar-Us-Nuur) among the largest ones.
Taklamakan Desert, or Kashgaria, or (frequently but incorrectly overexpanded) Tarim Basin, is a geographically similar, nearby located large depression historically known as Kashgaria, occupied by the Taklamakan Desert with the Tarim basin /TAH-REEM/ itself mostly limited to the north of the Taklamakan. This depression is confined by the Tian Shan Mountains in the north and Kunlun /koon-LOON/ Mountains and Altyn Tag Mountains in the south. Historically, the life in the Taklamakan has been concentrated mostly along the Silk Road tracks that passed along the northern and southern mountain ranges.
Turfan Depression (generally accepted) is a small, deep hollow located between Dzungaria in the north and eastern Taklamakan in the south, though it is in fact connected to a system of lesser-known nearby-located depressions (Tangchuang, Khami), which may also be referred to as "Turfan (area)".
West Siberia (or Western Siberia) (generally accepted) is the area between the Ural Mountains and Yenisei River
Lake Chany /chah-NEH/ (herein in a wider meaning) is an endorheic basin, forming a drying interconnected system of middle-sized lakes between the Irtysh and the Ob, which probably constituted a single large lake during the recent historical past. Their shores were inhabited by the Baraba Tatars, approximately at least from the 8th to 20th century, and the region immediately to the south is known as the Baraba Steppe.

1. The Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat

1.1 Preliminary considerations

Dating Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic
The earlier dates for the period of Chuvash separation from the main stem of the Turkic languages in Dyachok's and Dybo's works were based on Starostin's non-logarithmic formulas and therefore are unlikely to be correct.
The new lexicostatistical and glottochronological study based on the semi-classical analysis with local glottochronological calibration provides 900-1000 BC for the separation of the Bulgaric stem, including Chuvash, and about 400-250 BC for the separation of the three or four main branches of Turkic Proper: Southern, Yakutic, Altay-Sayan, and Great-Steppe.
Generally speaking, values between 1000 BC and 500 BC for Late Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic have been very persistent throughout all the linguistic and mathematical modifications in the study (when the input data, calibration points, cognation errors, borrowings, etc, were corrected and adjusted) and seem to be unlikely to change in the future studies, unless any novel or unexpected facts about glottochronological aberrance of Chuvash can be demonstrated.
Therefore, when referring to the supposed existence period of Bulgaro-Turkic existence, we should add about 700 to 1000 glottochronological years to that number to calculate the period of time when Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic existed as a single linguistic unity. That makes 2000-1600 BC the likely period for the emergence of Early Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic.

The Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat in alternative hypotheses
Most older theories do not differentiate between Proto-Turkic and Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic, therefore most of them refer to the Proto-Turkic homeland as well.
The Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1906), the most authoritative encyclopedia in Russia before and, for some time, even after the Russian Revolution, suggests that the Altai hypothesis of the Turkic Urheimat is probably among the oldest:
"The history of the Turkish ethnicities can be described as follows: initially, they were situated in the Altai Mountains, whence, quite a long time ago, they must have infiltrated into western China and that part of Central Asia that later became known as Turkistan."
Another old classical hypothesis relates to the migration of Bulgaric tribes from some unidentified area in Mongolia or China. Apparently, it was based primarily on the proposal by Joseph de Guignes in Histoire generale des Huns, des Mongoles, des Turcs et des autres Tartares occidentaux (1756), who linked the Huns of the 4th century with the Xiongnu of the 1st century. This idea seems to be taken for granted in many turkological sources, but there is in fact no scholarly consensus on such a connection, neither there seems to be much supporting linguistic, historical or other evidence. It has been noted, for instance, that the Huns practiced artificial cranial deformation, while there was no such practice among the Xiongnu [see Maenchen-Helfen, Otto, The Legend of the Origin of the Huns (1944-1945)].
Among the recent notable attempts, we should mention a slightly different hypothesis by Normanskaya that places the Bulgaro-Turkic homeland into the Ordos, which is a desert / steppe plain located to the south of the Great Bend of the Huang-He and to the north of the Great Wall of China. It was based entirely on the analysis of flora vocabulary and was first expounded in detail in [Yu. V. Normanskaya, Rastitelnyy mir. Derevya i kustarniki. Geographicheskaya lokalizatsiya prarodiny tyurkov po dannym floristicheskoy leksiki  (The plant world. Trees and shrubs. The geographical localization of the Turkic homland based on the floristic lexis data, originally published as an article within the Sravnintelno-istoricheskaya grammatka tyurkskikh yazykov. Pratyurkskiy yazyk-osnova. Kartina mira pratyurkskogo etnosa po dannym yazyka. Moscow (2006)]. The work was subsequently republished as a separate online article.
However, in order to demonstrate an Urheimat location using flora/fauna arguments only, it is necessary to show in an unambiguous and definitive way the existence of names for the local endemic species in the most diversified branches, which requires the use of consistent classification. Moreover, in many cases, the language tends to lose the original fauna-flora concepts when moving out of the initial terrestrial ecozone. Not to mention that normally, we have little paleobotany and paleozoology evidence to reconstruct the ecozone composition 2-3000 years ago (and even if we do, linguists do not know much about it). As a result, a reconstruction based entirely on flora/fauna arguments may become exceedingly difficult.
The few notable coincidences in the flora names (which are reportedly absent in Siberia but present in northern China) may easily be explained as borrowings, cf. Chuvash yuman and Tatar imän "oak"; or Chuvash vêrene, Tatar öräNge "maple". These words, as the author acknowledges, are in fact Kypchakicisms apparently absent in other Turkic branches. The third and fourth conspicuous words (*üzüm "grape" and *ürüq "plumb/apricot") may easily be cultural loanwords from Central Asia, and were in fact borrowed in many languages, including Russian with the change in meaning as "raisins, dried grapes" and "dried apricots". By the same token, the Turkic cognates for "ash-tree", "elm" are not found outside of the western branches, and therefore do not necessarily go back to Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic. Nevertheless, these Woerter-und-Sachen-style arguments are always interesting.

Another attempt at finding Bulgaro-Turkic homeland in the east was elaborated by A. Dybo in [Anna Dybo, Lingvisticheskije kontakty rannikh tyurkov. Leksicheskij fond. (Linguistic Contacts of the Early Turks: the Lexical Fund), Moscow (2007)], who tried to demonstrate the existence of linguistic exchange between Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic language and a number of eastern languages, such as Old Chinese (12 loanwords from PBT, 11 to PBT), an undefined East Iranian (8-9 from), Proto-Tocharian (4 from, 5 from, controversial), Proto-Samoyedic (2 from, 15-21 to), Proto-Yeniseian (1 from, 8-9 to), Proto-Ugric (3 from, 6 to), Tabgach (Mongolic) (4 to). Altogether, this evidently positions the contact area somewhere near the Altai and Mongolia where such multiple and diverse contacts would be possible. However, the evidence provided for Bulgaric contacts is still quite indefinite: in many cases later borrowings are hard to delineate from the supposed Nostratic archaisms and their temporal periodization is difficult to define, therefore there is little direct confirmation for Bulgaric being located near the Altai in the 1st millennium BC. Though, there are still many interesting points, and presently, we shall leave the discussion of this book as unsettled.

1.2 The Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat based on the principle of maximum diversity

One of the most reasonable ways of calculating an Urheimat position involves, what we advise to be named, the Sapir-Vavilov-Dyen's law of maximum diversification, suggested in historical linguistics by Sapir (1916) and implemented by Nicolai Vavilov (1926) in tracing the origins of cultivated plants. The linguistic application has been revived by Isidore Dyen (1965) in his research of the Austronesian languages.
Using The Internal Classification and Migration of Turkic Languages and the historical evidence known for the Bulgaric expansion, we may track down the approximate geometrical focus of the maximum language diversity for the Bulgaro-Turkic languages, as exemplified by their most differentiated attested representatives:

(1a) Chuvash and Volga Bulgaria located near the affluence of the Volga and Kama Rivers, (1b) Old Great Bulgaria and Khazars initially located along the lower Volga–Don–Caucasus triangle; the Dunai Bulgars probably split off fom the same region;
(2a) the early Kimak confederation located near the upper Irtysh and the Great-Steppe Turkic languages — in the Minusinsk Depression; (2b) Early Sakha near Lake Baikal and the upper reaches of the Lena; (2c) Orkhon Turkic in central Mongolia to the west of Ulan-Bator.

As a result, according to these estimations, the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic split must have occurred somewhere near the present-day border of Russia and northern Kazakhstan, as can be seen on the map below:

Possible location of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Homeland

The Proto-Turkic Urheimat position based on the bipartite division Bulgaric vs. everything else
This idea seems to be quite attractive and straightforward. Instead of dragging the homeland position all the way to Mongolia or China and confronting difficulties with the unreasonably long Proto-Bulgaric migration from China, as well as a harsher climate in Mongolia (see detailed discussion below), the present approach offers a simple and intuitively obvious way to explain the geographic origins of Bulgaric and Turkic peoples.
Note that this Urheimat area is confined by vast marshland to the north of the Irtysh and arid desert steppes in the south, so it fits tightly into an area of relatively good climate and environmental conditions, extending to the marshland in the north, the Kazakh Uplands in the south, the Urals in the west, and the Irtysh river in the east.
From the historical perspective, both Bulgaric and Turkic groups developed large geographic empires of comparable size during the 7-9th centuries, to the extent that they resembled almost mirror images of each other. This observation seems to show that both groups possessed similar economy, technology, man power and population stock, probably evolving demographically approximately at the same rate. The latter conclusion about the demographic similarity is in contradiction with the alternative hypothesis stating that the Bulgars initially had been a small stray tribal confederation that split off from the major Turkic mass somewhere in Mongolia. Quite to the contrary, however, the comparable sizes of the occupied territories may show that both groups must have moved to their respective destinations only after their populations reached sufficiently high demographic and economic level, in other words, that they may have been demographically comparable right from the start.

The reason why the Bulgaric population inflow to the west soon subsided could reside in the greater cultural and technological strength of post-Roman European civilizations that could not be easily overcome, whereas the Turkic settlement in the east was occurring in relatively isolated Siberian areas where they were finally able to produce multiple cultural and linguistic offsprings.
Generally speaking, we should not forget that Bulgaric languages are poorly attested and there may be historiographic mistakes associated with their spread. There may also be errors in determining the period and area of the separation of Yakutic, and some inconsistencies in determining the early Oghuz distribution. However, an attempt to conduct a more accurate analysis, introduce variations or check for allowable errors does not seem to affect the Urheimat position to any significant extent. For instance even if we assume a tripartite initial partitioning of Bulgaro-Turkic: (1) Bulgaric; (2) Yakutic (3) everything-else, the Urheimat center only budges slightly to the east. Even attempts to position the Kurykan and Yakutic tribes near Yakutsk (which should be mistaken at least because we have to consider for approximately synchronized positioning of all the intermediate Urheimats, whereas Yakuts supposedly arrived in Yakustk only by the 13th century), displaces the supposed Bulgaro-Turkic homeland towards the upper Ob area, but not any further. It still seems to be stuck near the Kazakhstan frontier. Therefore, we may conclude that, based on the principle of maximum diversity, the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat position in Mongolia, Altai-Sayan, Tian-Shan, Anatolia or other distant areas seems to be entirely unreasonable.

Possible location of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic homeland
The Proto-Turkic Urheimat positioning based on the tripartite division Bulgaric-Yakutic-everything-else with an attempt to perform a strict analysis


According to the estimations based on the law of maximum diversity, the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic split must have occurred somewhere near the border of the the present-day northern (possibly northeastern) Kazakhstan and Russia.

1.3 The Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat based on "geographic determinism"

The following demonstration is formulated in the spirit of geographic determinism, such as expounded in books by Jared Diamond Guns, Germs, and Steel, and others, though it applies this approach from a little different perspective.

The population density in central Eurasia
It is logical to assume that the geographic and climatic conditions have not changed considerably for the past 3000 years, therefore areas suitable for living 3000 years ago are still suitable today and vice versa, and would procreate the present-day population density and their energy consumption roughly to the proportional amount. Therefore, a map of energy consumption would correlate with the population density and local environmental conditions. Consequently, by studying a population density and energy consumption maps we may easily predict which regions were favorable for living during the recent historical past and thus were likely to constitute original areas of ethnic crystallization, development and expansion.

Night time lights in Central Asia
NASA night lights image (2000's)
Population density in the USSR

Population density in West Siberia
Geographicheskiy atlas dlya uchiteley sredney shkoly (The Highschool Teacher's Atlas of Geography); Chied Editor: Kolosov, L.N., Moscow (1982) (slightly enhanced)

This approach should help us to differentiate between steppeland areas situated to the north and to the south of the Great Eurasian Barrier. A brief look at these maps shows that there is stark population contrast between Dzungaria / Mongolia / Gobi and the border of northern Kazakhstan / Russia. The night light map shows that most energy-consuming Mongolian population is concentrated around the Ulan-Bator area, whereas other areas seem to remain almost uninhabited. The second population density map is not particularly correct but it expresses the same idea. Quite to the contrary, the area to the east of Southern Ural from Yekatirenburg to Novosibirsk is densely populated, and it probably has been so for many centuries, even thousands of years (see archaeological notes below).

Demoregions in West Siberia
A map of highly populated areas with density more than 10 persons per 1 sq. km. [Darkstar (2012)]

As a result of this discussion, we may define the concept of major historical population areas (demoregions) in Central Eurasia, which are areas of high population density that have been demographically active for the past several thousand years, when climatic conditions were more or less the same as today. These are the main areas where people have normally lived, they just can hardly exist outside of them in a comfortable way, because environmental conditions tend to be unsuitable or hostile there decreasing survivability. On the contrary, within these "demoregions" history has always been marching onward: civilizations have formed and vanished, multiple town and cities have been built and demolished, political and economical processes have been thriving for ages, ethnic groups may have emerged and expanded to other neighboring areas or disappeared. Such well-known "demoregions" as China and India would be typical examples, because they seem to have been densely populated for thousands of years. Each region of this type tends to have its unique history and drama, some of them are in mutual contact, some are completely separated, but things rarely happen in other places, where we generally find nothing but deserts, dense forests, mosquito-infested wilderness, cold or arid areas, large water basins or other types of ecozones essentially unsuitable for human life.

Gnat, one of the untold reasons why most areas of
Siberia have never been inhabited


Consequently, we may conclude that people inhabiting the Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh area and Ob area would finally culturally and demographically overtake any ethnic groups located in Siberian taiga, Mongolia and the Gobi Steppe, which seem to be less suitable for living. Therefore, we may infer that any homeland areas with fast demographic growth and geographical expansion were more likely to be located in the Tian-Shan, Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh, Ob or Yenisei "demoregions" than in other nearby areas.

Notes on permafrost in Eurasia
The following discussion briefly addresses the geography of permafrost in Siberian Asia.
Essentially, permafrost is a deep-going layer of frozen ground water that never thaws in summer for prolonged periods of time, sometimes many thousands of years. This frozen layer is usually located at a certain depth below the surface. Plant growth and root proliferation can be supported only in that thawable upper soil level usually 0.5-4 meters deep. Even though growing some kind of crops is possible nearly anywhere in the world, permafrost areas do not allow extensive crop cultivation and hinder ground work beneath 1-2 m. Permafrost ecoregions are mostly covered by black spruce taiga that is adopted to the scarcity of soil water and prolonged winters.
Moreover, the concept has been brought herein because permafrost areas can be regarded as a sort of natural integral function of "cold accumulation" over time. Instead of studying average winter or summer isotherm or precipitation data that may vary from one season to another or one paleoclimatic period to another, the map of permafrost areas below immediately provides you with an idea of what temperature levels are or what they have been during the recent Holocene past. It is easy to understand that the map of permafrost is a good visual representation of areas where it may be just too cold to live, grow crops or raise stock.

 Permafrost in Eurasia

[Hydrogeology, Limnology of Lake Baikal, based on S.L. Smith, Geological Survey of Canada (2001)]
Most trans-Eurasian migrations of the past 2-5 millennia (when postglacial temperatures stabilized) supposedly proceeded along pathways which tried to avoid these areas, or at least the migrants must have moved through them at a much slower pace and greater cost. In fact, most of the pink area on the map above is still almost uninhabited. On the other hand, note that southeast Mongolia, most Kazakhstan and even much of the marshy, interfluvial area between the Ob and Irtysh as well as the Minusinsk Depression generally enjoy normal climate. Quite to the contrary, northern Mongolia outside the Gobi Desert is unexpectedly cold despite its southern location, which is apparently the consequence of its high elevation above the sea level. You can also see the Zaysan Passage and Dzungaria between the Mongolian Altai and Tian Shan that have relatively acceptable climate for living, too.
Laymen unfamiliar with local geography tend to misjudge the coolness of the Mongolian climate and overestimate the famous cold of Russia, yet, by taking a closer look at local conditions we may encounter a different climatic perspective. Despite the southern location of Mongolia, with its average January temperatures down to -15 to - 27ºC in Ulaanbator (and from - 26ºC to –37ºC in Ulaangom in the Great Lakes Depression (!)) and the discontinuous (to permanent) permafrost region covering most Mongolian territory outside the Gobi desert (!), Mongolia may seem just way too cold. The area of the Great Lakes Depression seems to be entirely excluded from thriving demoregions due to a type of climate typical only of Tibet or even North Siberian tundra. But even in Ulan-Bator the frost-free period extends on the average only from mid-June to late August. Curiously, even reindeers are bred in the north of Mongolia near the Russian border. The permafrost, cool short summer and winter blizzards must evidently inhibit the tree growth and crop cultivation, which may be the reason why much of the Mongolian steppe is deprived of vegetation.
In any case, Mongolia can be colder than northern Kazakhstan and the bordering regions of Russia with their average January temperatures between - 10 and -20ºC. It may also be noted that, while temperatures between 0º and -10ºC are easily bearable, the cold below -20ºC often results in frostbite and becomes deadly dangerous when accompanied by the blizzard.

These considerations suggest that both Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic and Proto-Turkic homeland area must have been positioned outside the colored areas, since any early migrants into these regions would have encountered too many difficulties in advancing, expanding and growing demographically at the acceptable rate to avoid being overtaken by migrant groups that took a different more effective routes. In certain areas of particularly severe climate, the survivability may even become questionable.

An Urheimat of an ethnic group must be located in a region of high population

Essentially, we came to the conclusion that normal human migration result from the healthy population growth in geographic areas with favorable climate and other environmental conditions. Peoples that end up in geographically unsuitable areas spend all their time and effort struggling for survival and cannot produce a sufficient number of offspring or develop sufficiently efficient technology, therefore they may be sooner or later culturally or demographically overtaken by their neighbors other regions where the environment is more appropriate. They may also be invaded by newcomers from these demoregion. The invasion of this type is not necessarily military, quite on the contrary, in many cases it can be a rather peaceful expansion of homesteads or occupation of open pastures with slow cultural intrusion and multiple intermarriages, however, the outcome is still that ethnic groups in unfavorable areas stand little chance against other groups with higher demographic and economic rates living in better climate.
This idea probably originates from Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and is merely restated and applied here to a slightly different phenomenon. Hence, we may conclude that only few geographic areas with satisfactory conditions can be regarded as potential areas of powerful ethnogenesis, and in many cases these must be the only areas where any kind of ethnic Urheimats were located in the past.

The analysis of the favourability of environmental conditions in central Eurasia, such as permafrost distribution and effective population density, results in a conclusion that most Mongolian territory, including the Sayan mountains to the north, was an unlikely area for the continuous growth and stable expansion of any large ethnic group during the late Holocene. Moreover, we can easily exclude northern Tibet, most parts of Dzungaria and central Taklamakan.
However, there are three main population areas under consideration, which seem to be much more ecologically and environmentally convenient as potential Urheimat areas:

(1) the Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh demoregion along the border of present-day Russia and Kazakhstan extending from the Southern Ural Mountains in the west to the Irtysh River in the east and the marshland on the West-Siberian Plain in the north to the Kazakh Uplands in the south;
(2) the Ob demoregion situated around the upper Ob area;
Note that the former two areas form part of the Ob Drainage Basin;

(3) the Yenisei demoregion in the Minusinsk depression;
(4) the Tian Shan demoregion in the southern part of Central Asia near the Northern Tian Shan Mountains;

1.4 Beavers, birch-trees and millet: the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat based on the geolexical analysis

Collecting the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic geolexemes
Another brief study has been conducted in the spirit of Woerter-und-Sachen approach. Many similar considerations have already been expounded in The Comparative Grammar of the Turkic Languages [abbreviated as SIGTY]. The Proto-Turkic Language. Lexis (1997, 2002) and SIGTY. The Worldview of the Proto-Turkic Ethnic Group Based on the Linguistic Data (2006). The latter volume of this publication has been dedicated to the discussions of Proto-Turkic worldview as reflected in the lexemes collected in the former volume. The discussion includes semantic and semiotic interpretation of the reconstructed lexemes describing typical natural phenomena, fauna/flora, cultural and technological traits as viewed by the ancient Turkic people. As the authors acknowledged, they are using an approach similar to that of Tamaz Gamkrelidze and Vyacheslav Ivanov provided in the Indo-european language and Indoeuropeans (1995), which in turn goes back to the Woerter-und-Sachen discussions of the late 19th century.
The abundant lexical material in SIGTY, Lexis (1997, 2002) had been collected from [Sevortyan, An Etymological Dictionary of the Turkic languages, Moscow (1974-2000's)], [Räsanen, Versuch eines etymologisches Wörterbuchs der Türksprachen, Helsinki (1969)] and other well-known Turkological sources.
The research below was built on the lexical material gathered in the volume Lexis (1997, 2002) with much independent corroborative work, including partial verification through dictionary browsing, examining for logical consistency, checking for wide representation within the major Turkic branches (Southern, Great Steppe, Yakutic, Altay-Sayan), excluding loanwords, and removing excerpts with dubious analysis by previous authors. As a result, most evidence has been shortened and reanalyzed in a different way, particularly, emphasizing the attestation in Chuvash and historical, geographical and geomigrational consistency.
Note: we propose herein that any lexical analysis of this type concerning the Urheimat position or other geographical connections henceforward be termed as geolexical analysis.

The geolexical analysis of Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic
suspected Tatar borrowings excluded. Note: in Chuvash the diacritics tend to mark the lack of stress and reduced vocalism, e.g. tâvar /teh-VAR/
only semantically stable lexemes with unambiguous attestation in most major Turkic subgroups are included
Nonlinguistic remarks (when not marked otherwise) were moistly based on facts provided in Wikipedia, whenever its evidence seemed reliable, taking into account cross-comparison studies, logical consistency, previous personal research and additional literature on particular subjects. Linguistic remarks were based on SIGTY, starling.rinet.ru, Sevortyan's etymological dictionary and other classical sources.

Most typical and well-reconstructable lexemes
salttâvar*tuzAn archaic Altaism, judging by Proto-Mongolic *dab(u)-sun, *dav(u)-sun. May be a cultural Wanderwort.
Salt is a typical feature of all continental endorheic basins, where water inflow results in accumulation of a salty solution confined to an inland lake, which can be seen as a small inland sea.
stonechul*tash A typical archaic Altaism, cf. Mongolian chulu:, Middle Mongolian chila'-un, Evenki d'ölo, Nanai zholo. Usually, a small stone, such as brought by glaciers.
fishpulâ *balïqFishery probably constituted a notable food source in Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic diet.
snakes'êlen*JilanTypical of marshy terrain near old lakes and ponds, or in steppeland.
snowyur*qarIndicative of cold winters with temperatures below 0ºC.
freeze (of water)shân-*ton-Indicative of cold winters with temperatures below 0ºC.
ice par*muz, puz, buzIndicative of cold winters with temperatures below 0ºC.
coldsivê*sowuq (absent in Yakutic)Indicative of cold winters.
winterxêl*qïshIndicative of cold winters.
winds'il*Jil Strong winds are typical of high altitudes and open spaces, such as steppeland. Even though U.S. Midland-type tornadoes are rare in continental Eurasia, strong thunderstorms are common in midsummer.
Eurasian beaver (Castor)xântâr*qunduz (absent in Yakutic)Before the 20th century, beavers were found in forest and meadow temperate ecozones across Eurasia, e.g. to the east of the Urals (the Konda, Sosva, Pelym Rivers), along the Ob, the Yenisei River, in Tyva, reaching Kamchatka, Lake Baikal and northwest Mongolia (at least the Urungu, Chingil, Bulgan Rivers near Kara-Irtysh in the Mongolian Altai). Beavers inhabit forested ponds, lakes or slow rivers up to 30 m wide with dense bush vegetation (sedge, reed) and trees with soft wood on the shores. They feed primarily on soft wood such as aspen, poplar, birch, willow, secondarily, on linden, elm, Bird Cherry; with alder, oak being used for building. They cannot live in bodies of water freezing to the bottom. This excludes southern steppes and deserts, deforested regions, and cold arid regions with small intermittent, deep-freezing rivers.
birchxurân*qaDïNCf. Mongolian xus. Widespread on the Northern Hemisphere in the temperate climate (including northern Mongolia). This excludes deserts and semidesert steppe.

rivershïv (water)No special or stable word, probably just *suw (water) Outside major rivers, such as the Tobol and Ishim, rivers are not particularly typical of northern and central Kazakhstan. Some smaller rivers near the Kazakh Uplands are intermittent and dry out in summer.
lakekülê (should be kêl, as in kül "ash", therefore a Tatar borrowing cannot be excluded. Lakes are not typical in Chuvashia and many bear Russian names.)*kül (very stable and typical of all the Turkic languages, with hardly any replacements)Cf. Mongolian gol "river". Definitely, a typical feature of Proto-Turkic, but not necessarily Bulgaro-Turkic landscape. An enormous amount of small inland freshwater and salty lakes are scattered along the border of northern Kazakhstan and Russia, from the Urals, across the Ishim steppe to the Irtysh and Omsk in the west and Astana in the south. Post-glacial formations fed by subterranean water.
to flow (as of river)yux*aq (absent in Yakutic)As of a small stream, typical of highland areas.
dampêveTurkmen bövet, Turkish bü(G)et, Tatar bua, Altay bu:q, Sakha bïhït "dam", Kyrgyz bögö: "to dam"
Apparently, as an old fishing method
mountaintu (a Tatar borrowing?), usually s'ârt*taw, taG (lost in Yakutic)Definitely, a typical feature of Proto-Turkic, but not necessarily Bulgaro-Turkic landscape.
It should be xâm, but there seems to be no such word, cf. xêm "spark", xum "wave"
*qum (typical in all the Turkic languages outside Chuvash)Definitely, a typical feature of Proto-Turkic, but seems to be absent in Bulgaro-Turkic. Apparently, Proto-Turkic tribes familiarized themselves with sand dunes only after moving out of the PBT area.
swampshur*saz (lost in Oghuz, Yakutic)Very typical in the Ob basin to the north of northern Kazakhstan. In fact, enormous territories above the 55th parallel are covered with marshland. In the south, marshland is typical along the middle Irtysh, in the Kulunda, Baraba Steppes; sporadically, in the Turgai Valley (along the Tobol). Patches of marshland are also found in Mongolia along the Orkhon.
flowers'es'ke (also found in Bashkir)*checheq (Persian borrowings in southern languages)Typical on meadows with plenty precipitation and watering.

Wild fauna / flora
(Asian) badger (Meles leucurus)purâsh*borsuqEuropean and Asian mammal, found in Russia (from the Volga River and the Urals through Siberia), Middle Asia, parts of Mongolia, China. Frequent in the Southern Ural. Badger prefers deciduous woods with clearings, or open pastureland with small patches of woodland, where it can hunt small rodents, birds' eggs, invertebrates, etc.
mouse (Apodemus)shashi*chïch-qan (absent in Yakutic)Eurasian field mice. Prefer forests and open landscape.
stoat (Mustela erminea)yus*asStoats live on meadows, marshes, riparian woodlands, riverbanks all over Eurasia. In Mongolia, they inhabit taiga, forest-steppe and rocky parts of the semi-desert. Listed among the world's worst invasive species.
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)tilê (a Tatar borrowing?)*tülkeDistributed across the entire northern hemisphere, except deserts and other extreme habitats. Listed among the world's worst invasive species. Feed on small, mouse-like rodents and plants.
(wild) goose (Anser)xur*qaz
(unlikely to be a direct PIE borrowing; Nostratic or coincidental or a cultural Wanderwort.)
Akin to Mongolian galu:, Middle Mongolian galawun. Found throughout the Old World, with the habitat extending across Asia to China. Inhabit meadows, marshland near bodies of water; typical waterfowl.
crane (Grus)târna (too close to the Tatar torna, but still included due to the curious representation in Altaic and Nostratic languages, indicative of an archaism )*turuna, turna, turunyaCf. Korean turumi, Japanese tsuru, Udmurt, Komi turi, Khanty tareG, Mansi tarêw, te:rêG. The Common Crane is widespread in northern Eurasia, reaching northern Mongolia; breeds in wetlands and marshlands; absent in semi-deserts.
lark (Alaudidae)târi*turGayVarious small ground-feeding birds of family Alaudidae, typical in steppes, fields, bushes, forests. Curiously, the Turgay river and Turgay Valley to the southeast of the Urals in northern Kazakhstan are candidates for the western part of the early PBT area, albeit that's probably coincidental.
sparrow (Passeridae)s'ers'i*serche (only in Oghuz)Various small birds of the family Passeridae
hawk, eaglexurchka*qartïGa
The words "eagle" and "hawk" may essentially mean any bird of prey, so delineation becomes very difficult. Birds of prey normally prefer elevations to be able to dive at the prey in the open, but can also found in the Kazakh steppes. Hawks prefer forests and bushes. Falconry is the traditional Turkic and Khazar method of hunting. Chinese records apparently describe falconry since 700 BC.
treeyïvas'*aGach (absent in Yakutic)
raftsulâ*sal (absent in Yakutic)The raft is a typical tool for fishing away from a permanent dwelling where a boat cannot be made. Probably, indicative of wood logs or wood being readily available, which excludes semi-deserts, deserts or barren steppe, such as in South Mongolia.
aspen (Populus)âvâs *avsaq (absent in Yakutic, Seljuk-Oghuz)
Aspen is common in cool temperate regions across Eurasia. It tolerates long, cold winters and short summers; a typical "common" tree.
linden (Tilia)s'âka (a Tatar borrowing?)*Jüke (absent in Yakutic)
Linden prefers temperate ecozone with sufficient precipitation, such as the Urals, northern Kazakhstan, Southeast Asia.
willow (Salix)s'üs'e (Should it be *shul(e)?)*tal Willow is found on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is typical near rivers and lakes. Willow branches are used in weaving.
(red)currant (Ribes)xurlâxan (unlikely to be a Tatar borrowing, because of the retention of xêrlê "red" attested in Altay-Sayan as qïzïl)Altay, Tuvan, Tofa, Shor qazïlGan;
Tatar, Nogai, Bashkir qarlïGan (the latter, arguably, sounds like a borrowing from Chuvash into Tatar and then spread into other Kypchak languages). Absent in Yakutic, Oghuz-Seljuk.
A cultivar that comes from Ribes vulgare, which is probably the original meaning. Redcurrant is a deciduous shrub common across forested parts of Eurasia, including northern Kazakhstan, and possibly northern Mongolia, but native to Europe. Prefers areas near marshes, rivers and brooks.
mugwort (Aretemisia) armutiKyrgyz, Uyg. Uzb. ermen, Sakha (sïrtGan) erbehin Common mugwort is an invasive weed, a very common plant in Eurasia (including Mongolia) growing on nitrogenous soils, like weedy and uncultivated areas, waste places, near water. Various kinds are common in steppes and deserts of Kazakhstan forming dense brushwood.

Cultural terms and domesticated fauna/flora lexemes (susceptible to borrowing)
(for riding)
ut*at Moreover, cf. Buryat agta, Khalkha agt(an), Kalmyk akt. Adapted to open terrain, such as plains, meadows, steppes. The extensive use of horses is probably one of the most typical ethnographic features of Bulgaro-Turks. Horse riding was probably originally used to shepherd the cattle.
saddleyêner (should be *yêrer) *eDer The earliest iconographic evidence for the use of saddle comes from the 7-9th cent. Assyria. An artistically-made saddle is found in the Pazyryk culture (c. 5th cent. BC) in the Altai, which justifies its possible invention somewhere in the Great Steppe.
stirrupyârana*üzönge, ezenge The earliest iconographic evidence comes from China, c. 300 BC, from India c. 500-100 BC. A horse rider supported by stirrups was able to fight with a variety of weapons.
s'una "sledge"*chana "sledge", cf. *chaNga in Great Steppe "ski"A similar word is found in IE, FU, so a Wanderwot cannot be excluded. Presumably, a wintertime horse-drawn sledge or just skis (judging from Great-Steppe including Baraba Tatar evidence). Note that the sledge can also be used on marshy or grassy areas even in summer time.
(hardly a borrowing because it is sïyer in Tatar)
*inekAn Altaism, cf. Written Mongolian ünig-en, Buryat, Khalkha ünee(n).
Clearly indicative of cattle domestication.
bull, oxvâkâr "bull"; cf. Hungarian ökör*üküz "ox", Sakha "bull, ox" An Altaism, cf. Middle Mongolian hüker, Buryat, Khalkha xer "cattle". Clearly indicative of cattle domestication.
udders'ilê*JelinIndicative of cattle or horses domestication.
Mares or cows were milked, and a variety of dairy products were made, such as kumis.
milksêt (probably akin to sêr "to filter; to sip") *sütAn Altaism, cf. Mongolian sü:(n)
Horse and cow milk were probably one of the most important and easily available types of food.
sour cream
xâyma "sour cream"*qaymaq
Possibly, akin or related to *qanaq, qayaq "cream" and even *qumïz "fermented milk", but the latter is attested in Chuvash only as a Tatar loanword.
A higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk.
It may still be a borrowing from Middle Kypchak teve, deve, though it is unlikely. Cf. Tatar döya; Hungarian teve (where it is either a Bulgaric or Turkish borrowing);
*deve Cf. Written Mongolian temegen, Buryat, Khalkha teme:(n), Kalmyk temün, etc. Adapted only to arid, dry climate, though until recently, has been used as far as Middle Volga. The wild habitat is presently confined to southwestern Mongolia, Lobnor, and Tibet.
goattaka "ram" teke
seedvârâ*üren, *ürüq (absent in Yakutic)May be indicative of crops cultivation. Mongols traditionally disdained the raising of crops, leaving it to Chinese farmers.
grainpêrchê*bürdük, *bürü May be indicative of crops cultivation.
to sowak*ek (absent in Yakutic, Altay-Sayan), incl. Late Old Uyghur and KarakhanidIndicative of crops cultivation.
(1) tulâ "wheat" (The -l- : -r- correspondence is probably irregular, but viable)
Also cf. Tatar tarï "millet";
(2) vir "milet"
(1) *taryG
(or "cereal field" in Old Uyghur, Tuvan);
(2) Old Uyghyr üyür, Karakhanid, Oghuz ügür "millet, seeds".
Millet is a major crop in the semiarid, less fertile agriculture regions. Adapted to poor, and infertile soils, such as in western Kazakhstan or eastern Gobi, but responding to fertile soil and moisture (as in China, India, Africa). The original meanings "millet" and "seeds, cereal field" seem to have been conflated in PBT, which marks millet as the main available cereal.
Spelt, wheat pâri "Spelt"*buGday "Spelt, wheat"Cf. Written Mong. buGuday, Khalkha bu:day "wheat", Kalmyk bu:dya "grain". Spelt is the early tolerant species of wheat cultivated from the Bronze Age to Middle Ages, esp. in the Near East and around the Black Sea.
barleyurpa, cf. Hungarian arpa (where it is either a Bulgaric or Turkish borrowing); Tatar borrowing cannot be excluded, being too close phonologically.*arpaCf. Written Mong. arbay, Khalkha arvay, Kalmyk arwa. One of the first domesticated grains, a widely adaptable crop, popular in temperate areas under cool conditions, more tolerant of soil salinity than wheat. Leading producers are Europe, Ukraine and Russia. Tibetan barley has been a staple food in Tibet since the 5th c. AD.
oatsêlê (borrowing cannot be excluded)*sulï, sule Suitable as livestock feed. Cold-tolerant and unaffected by late frosts or snow. Requires low summer heat and has greater tolerance of rain than other cereals, so it may be grown in areas with cool, wet summers, e.g. near the Irtysh and in northern Kazakhstan or the Trans-Baikal region.
flax (Linum)yêtên (could be an early cultural borrowing)*keten (absent in Yakutic)
Grows in temperate, moist climate, on alluvial soil, deep loams, and light soils with a large proportion of organic matter. Heavy clays or soils of a gravelly or dry sandy nature are unsuitable. Grown by Slavs at least since the 3rd century, reportedly being brought from Asia by "Scythians" [www.agroatlas.ru].
house (yurt)s'urt "house"*Jurt "yurt, house; homeland" Probably, a type of light dwelling, but not necessarily the classical yurt as still in use today in Kyrgyzstan, Tyva and Mongolia.
goldïltân, pronounced /ïldn/*altïnThe abundance of metal terminology may set the homeland in the proximity of mountain or highland areas, such as the Urals, Altai or Kazakh Uplands.
copperpâxâr*baqïr (absent in Yakutic)Kazakh Uplands contain large deposits of coal in the north and copper in the south.
coalkâmrâk*kümer (absent in Yakutic)
irontimêr (borrowing cannot be excluded; should be *chimêr or *shâmar)*temer, temir
(should be *temiz acc. to phonological laws)
Iron may have been known during the late Bronze Age, so this word does not necessarily sets temporal limits after the 8th-3rd centuries when the Iron Age in West Siberia began. It can also be a later borrowing, but, in any case, is still included here for consideration. Iron ore deposits are probably found in many places, but particularly typical to the southeast of Southern Ural and in the northern Altai.
axpurtâ*baltaAn Ataism, cf. Middle Mong. mina'a, Written Mong. milaGa, Khalkha mala:
swordxês' (not necessarily a cogante)*kïlïchLarge daggers and knives are typical of the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age.

Note that there seems to be a notable lack of coincidence in "bear" (Chuvash upa as opposed to *aDyG most Turkic languages, though still Khakas aba in Khakas).
The following possibly relevant words were all excluded as suspected or evident loanwords:
"oak" (Chuvash yuman, cf. Tatar iman);
"spruce" (Chuvash chârâsh instead of *s'aral, cf. Tatar chïrshï);
"poplar (Populus alba?)" (Chuvash tirek, cf. Tatar tirek, moreover cf. Persian daraxt "tree");
"Bird Cherry" (Chuvash s'êmêrt, cf. Tatar shomïrt, Sib. Tatar yomïrt, yumrut);
"feather grass" (Stipa)" (Chuavsh kâlkan, cf. Tatar kïlgan);
"wolf" (Chuvash kashkâr, cf. Tatar kashkïr, büre, Nogai kaskyr, Uzbek qashkir, etc);
"lion" (Chuvash arâslan, cf. Tatar arïslan);
"kumis" (Chuvash kâmâs, cf. Tatar qêmêz);
"cart" (Chuvash urapa, PT *arba, araba, not found in Old Turkic, possibly akin to Arabic arba'a "four" originally meaning "a four-wheeled cart", though this is controversial, esp. because in many cases it means specifically "a two-wheeled cart");
"wheel" (Chuvash kustârma, cf. Persian gildirak, a suspected IE pattern; though Fedotov's Etymological Dictionary insists that this is a Chuvash innovation from the verb kustar "to roll";);
"bridle" (Chuvash yêven, cf. Nogai yüven);
"apple" (Chuvash ulma, PT *alma, a suspected Wanderwort, though it could be originally PBT, for instance, judging by its usage in the famous Almaty toponym in the Tian Shan Mountains, where wild apples are indeed found).

Analyzing the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic geolexemes

Keeping in mind Chuvash geolexical limitations
We should also keep in mind that the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic geolexical analysis is only as good as Chuvash allows. Geographical features that are absent in the landscape of Chuvashia impede the reconstruction of Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic characteristics that could have been long lost after the Bulgaric migration to the Middle Volga. For instance, the arid sand and mountainous areas are extremely atypical for Chuvashia; large lakes are rare, as well. However, some sandy shores, lime mountains, precipices and cliffs can still be found along the Volga right bank.
The Chuvashian scenery is typically formed by pine, spruce and deciduous forests, small rolling hills with birch-trees, old river ravines, steppes with patches of woodland, villages and cultivated fields which may distort the reconstruction towards a more temperate ecozone. In fact, the dense forest covers a significant territory of Chuvashia and may even have served as an ethnic refugium during the Middle Ages. Winters, of course, are cold and snowy as in most eastern Eurasian territory, with average January temperatures down to -10-15ºC.
Below we will conduct the geolexical analysis of Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic as far as it is related to the Urheimat position, specifically addressing the discussion of Mongolia versus northern Kazakhstan / Russia, that is, either to the north or to the south of the Great Eurasian Barrier.

Wintertime lexemes in Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic
The existencte of the wintertime lexemes suggests that the PBT homeland must have been located in a cold climate area, hence the reconstructability of "winter", "snow", "ice", "cold", "freeze", "wind". Cold winters are typical in central Eurasia, except for southern Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, so this particular point is not very helpful, except that it excludes southernmost regions.

The lack of desert and forest ecozone vocabulary

Sand and desert landscape features could not be reconstructed. The proto-form for "sand" *qum seems to exist only in PT, not PBT. The word for "feather grass (Stipa)" so typical of Kazakh steppes could not be matched. The word for "mugwort (Artemisia)" is reconstructable, however, it does not necessarily belong to the steppe ecoregion. The word "camel" is the only reconstructable word directly related to desert climate, but it is possibly a Chuvash borrowing from Middle Kypchak. This cannot, however, completely exclude the possibility of the PBT contact with the arid ecozone, taken that the retention of that vocabulary is just hardly possible in Chuvash. In any case, considering that the arid steppe, semi-desert, let alone the open sand desert, have unfavorable conditions and create too much ecological stress for living, the present considerations tend to exclude the area to the south of the Southern Ural and Kokshetau Highlands and all the way down to the Tian Shan.
Nevertheless, we may conclude that the PBT population were familiar with the edge of steppeland, judging by the names for several small animals, such as "mouse", "badger", "beaver, "stoat", "fox", "snake" including "eagle (or other bird of prey)"; the latter can hunt them in the open; names of bushes, such as "(red)currant"; the word for "lark", which normally prefers open, dry areas. On the other hand, we can observe the total lack of names for large forest animals and large trees, reflecting the forest ecozones, such as "bear", "wolf", "elk", "deer", "pine", "spruce", etc. Such words are supposed to have been retained in Chuvash, if they existed originally. (It should be noted, however, the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic word *upa "bear" may indeed have existed and the word for "elk" *pulan is doubtful, which leads to the conclusion that even though these animals were known they were probably not very typical and the correspondent lexemes dissapeared in many language branches.)
Therefore, we may conclude that the Proto-Bulgaro-Turks lived on the border area between patched deciduous woodland and open steppe with occasional marshland nearby. This habitat is very typical of the northern Kazakhstan, but rare in Mongolia.
[For instance, according to Messeschmidt (1721), the Baraba (Tatars) had to pay three red fox skins to the Russian Czar and another 2 to the Kalmyk Khan-Taysha (= to Dzungarians), which apparently shows that foxes were relatively abundant in the Baraba Steppe but were a valuable trading item in Dzungaria), though this paticular conclusion is arguable. The Baraba Tatars are also said to have hunted stoats, bears, foxes, hares, elks, roe deer, both in winter and summer, using a varitey of methods [D. A. Myagkov, Traditsionnoje khozyajstvo barabinskikh tatar vo vtoroj polovine XIX veka – pervoj polovine XX (The traditional economy of the Baraba Tatars from the second half of the 19th to the 1st half of the 20th century), avtoreferat dissertatsiji (a thesis summary), Omsk (2009)], which confirms that this kind of prey was typical in the forest/steppe transition area]
On the other hand, pine and spruce forests — such as taiga near the Altai, Kuznetsk Alatau, and the Sayans — are very common in the Ob and especially in the Yenisei demoregion, which should make one wonder why it is not reflected in the reconstructed vocabulary if the PBT people were present there. These considerations tends to exclude the Yenisei demoregion and make the Ob demoregion less likely than the Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh.

The deciduous woodland vocabulary
Despite being distanced from the dense taiga, the PBT population must have inhabited areas close to deciduous woodland, and must have had access to wood, logs and branches, otherwise it is hard to explain the reconstuctability of such proto-forms as "(standalone) tree", "birch", "aspen", "linden", "willow", "beaver", "raft", "sledge". That must exclude most Mongolian territory, taken that trees are scarce there, and patches of forest can be found only in the mountains near the Altai-Sayan Mountains. The areas of the Orkhon and Tuul, where the West Gokturk and Genghis capitals were located, have quite barren deforested landscape with rivers flowing almost in the middle of nothing.
Moreover, s
ome of the deciduous trees, such as linden, require relatively warm climate, and seem to be rather unusual for easternmost areas of West Siberia. Even though some species of linden did adapt to the cold Siberian climate, so they cannot be completely excluded, the genus Tilia on the whole is apparenly being atypical in the Yenisei basin.
A question that may arise from the discussion of woodland is that how such different ecozones as the deciduous woodland forest and the horse / steppe ecozone could even overlap. To explain this, one should keep in mind that the woodland could indeed be purely riparian, that is growing along a meandering river, such as the middle course of Irtysh. One should also take into consideration the ability of horse-breeding nomads travel for dozens, even a hundred of miles during just one seasonal cycle, so they may have led the cattle to the meadows or steppeland in spring and summer and then move closer to the forested ecozone in autumn / winter for hunting, harvesting and winter camping. On seasonal migrations, see for instance [K probleme rekonstruktsii sistemy sezonnykh perekochovok...(On the problem of reconstructing the system of seasonal migrations of nomads in the Volga-Ural basin in the 6th-1st century BCE), Myshkin, V.N. (2007)].

On the distribution of salt
The high stability of the word "salt" implies the location of PBT habitat within or near an endorheic (=inland) basin, excluding northern, marshland areas, where any soluble salt is being washed away to the ocean, without being accumulated in inland depressions.
Even on a large-scale map in Wikimedia, one can easily spot rather uniquely separate endorheic drainage basins in northern Kazakhstan. And indeed, small saline lakes are in fact very common in the Ishim, Baraba and Kulunda Steppe, often located in the vicinity of freshwater basins.
It should be noted, on the other hand, that the inland semidry saline basins are very typical throughout the Central Eurasia, and the salt can be found in all the major depressions of Eurasian Steppe, including the easternmost areas, such as Dzungaria, the Great Lakes Depression and Mongolian Gobi. Additionally, saline deposits and lakes can sporadically be found on the borders of the Ob and Yenisei demoregions, though they are much less prevalent there. For example, saline Lake Chany /chah-NUH, chah-NEE/ is an originally very large saline lake within an endorehic inland basin between the basins of Irtysh and Ob rivers, which although has been slowly shrinking for the last several hundred years due to evaporation.

The Proto-Bulgaric hydrological vocabulary
The PBT population must have lived in a hydronomy-rich environment, away from desert areas, otherwise it is difficult to explain the reconstuctability of such proto-forms as "fish", "beaver", "to flow", (possibly) "lake", "swamp / marshland", "willow", "wild goose" (a waterfowl), "crane" (a migratory bird stopping at lakes), "raft", as well multiple names of plants, trees and cultivars which require sufficient watering. Additionally, note the word "fog", which is rendered as *tuman in nearly all the Turkic languages, except têtre in Chuvash.
Note that Mongolia is characterized by the dry climate, with wild geese and cranes possibly being found only along the northern border or in the Great Lakes Depression.
Judging by the several names for waterfowl, such as "wild goose" and the consistent retention of the word "lake" in all the Turkic languages (though less certainly in Chuvash) we may conclude that after the separation (or shortly before it) Proto-Turkic inhabited a geographic area where lakes and ponds were abundant.
Curiously, rivers were rare and no specific word for them could to be reconstructed, apparently coinciding with just *suw "water".
Surprisingly, this type of landscape is extremely typical of northern Kazakhstan that has an absolutely enormous number of small post-glacial lakes stretching from the Southern Ural all the way to the Altai. On the contrary, rivers are relatively scarce and some exist as dry beds for most part of the year
Fishery was practiced all year long by the Baraba Tatars, who utilized nets (made of nettle, flax and hemp threads) as well dams (fences made of wood pikets), blocking the small rivers in this way. During the spawning period the fish was also hunted with harpoons, in wintertime — with fishing lines. [D. A. Myagkov, Traditsionnoje khozyajstvo barabinskikh tatar vo vtoroj polovine XIX veka – pervoj polovine XX (The traditional economy of the Baraba Tatars from the second half of the 19th to the 1st half of the 20th century), avtoreferat dissertatsiji (a thesis summary), Omsk (2009)]. The word for "dam" (Proto-Turkic beG, Chuvash pêve) is surprisingly reconstructable for Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic, whereas "net" (aG, aw) only for Proto-Turkic (cf. Chuvash tetel). The idea of dam building evidently has some connection to the presence of beavers and was probably borrowed from their behavior.
On the other hand, the lakes in Mongolia are usually large, e.g. in the Great Lakes Depression, and generally speaking, much less common than in northern Kazakhstan, being found mostly in the mountains or poorly accessable areas.

The beaver ecozone

The word *qunduz / xântâr "beaver" is particularly interesting. Generally speaking, beavers can inhabit temperate riparian habitat in natural or self-made ponds with birch, willow, aspen and poplar growing on the banks, for the simple reason that they feed on these trees. The so called oxbow lakes formed by a meandering course of a river flowing through a plain among riparian forest on its banks are typical places where beavers can be found. In the absence of existing ponds, beavers must make dams before building their lodges. Unsurprisingly, the lexemes "beaver", "lake", "birch", "aspen", "willow" and possibly "white poplar" (discarded due to apparent borrowing in Chuvash) go together in this geolexical study confirming that beavers were indeed part of the PBT fauna. [Additionally, note that aspen (Populus tremula) and the common "white poplar" (Populus alba) are closely related species].
The distribution  of Eurasian Beaver

An adaptation from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1970-80's),
the article is based on Ognev S., Zveri SSR i prilezhaschikh stran, vol. 5, Moscow (1947); Kolosov, A. M., Lavrov, N. P. Obogascheniye promyslovoy fauny SSSR (1968)

As a result, the Eurasian beaver is confined to the northern forested areas where these deciduous trees are abundant, and seems to be unknown in the Great Steppe and to the south of it. For instance, the imagery of beavers in the archaeological finds from the Kimak period (the Ust-Ishim culture, c. 8-10th centuries CE) [Troitskaya, Novikov (2004)] confirms that beavers were known in the Middle Irtysh with its riparian woods and ponds along the meandering river course.
Consequently, we can exclude any areas adjacent to the Tian-Shan, with their fast mountain rivers, arid climate, vast deserts and sand formations.
As to Mongolia, the beaver seems to be "officially" found only in the basin of a small river named Urungu (Bulgan-Gol) on the border with China in the Mongolian Altay, which has the source in close vicinity of the source of the Kara-Irtysh (which evidently explains how the beavers got there at all — from the Irtysh basin).
However, in other respects, beavers seem to be unknown in Mongolia in the early 21th century, judging by the anecdotal fact that the local government attempted an artificial introduction of beavers in the Tuul river in 2010-12 and had to import them from European Russia for that purpose. That, however, cannot exclude the possibility of beavers existing in the historical past somewhere in the north on the Russian border, for instance, along the upper Yenisei in the Darkhat Depression, along the lower Selenga, having arrived there from the Yenisei or Lena basin. Nevertheless, the main problem is still that wide rivers are unsuitable for damn building, whereas small one would tend to freeze to the bottom during the usual 30ºC cold in January (or even lower), whereas fast mountain rivers common in Mongolian Altai, Sayan, Khangai may impede the dam construction. Apparently, the extreme scarcity of Mongolian deciduous woods that beavers feed on, and pretty much barren, deforested, sometimes even Martian-looking landscape with smaller streams flowing through open semi-desert areas and commonly freezing to the bottom, makes most Mongolian territory an unlikely option, so generally Mongolian beavers, if any, must have been living there in extreme environment at the very edge of their natural habitat.
Tuul River, Mongolia

Looking for beavers in Mongolia?
The meandering Tuul river, near Ulaan-Bator, the tributary of the famous Orkhon [panoramio.com (c.2010)]

The Proto-Bulgaric crop cultivation vocabulary
The multiple PBT proto-forms for agricultural plants, such as "millet", "barley", "oat", "Spelt", "flax", "seed", "grain", "to sow" suggest, quite unexpectedly for horse-breeding nomads, that the Proto-Bulgaro-Turks may have practiced crops cultivation. However, the terms for tools and methods has not been reconstructed.
Radloff (1861) described the growing of barley on small patches of land near yurts (which were rather long-standing in the Altai, where the landscape did not require or allow long or frequent nomadic migrations), though in the daily lives the Altayans still mostly relied on dairy products, such as ayran, sour horse milk (chögan), cheese, butter, cream, quark, etc. The Kumandy people were mostly agriculturalists that cultivated barley, rye, flax and hemp [idem]. According to Radloff, "the Kyrgyz people used agriculture even more extensively than the Kazakhs [...] They sow wheat, barley and several kinds of millet. They use barley and a special kind of millet as horse food." [idem]
In 1889, Baraba Tatars were known to grow rye, wheat, barley (these three consituting about 80% of all the farming territory), millet, flax, hemp [Myagkov (2009)], though according to Myagkov, the growing of flax matched the territory of Mishar Tatar immgrants and may be connected to their presence. The Baraba Tatars did not grow any garden cultures, except potatoes, which was evidently an 18th century's innovation

The acquaintance with crop cultivation before the contact with Russians is mentioned for Chulym people (millet, barley) [Tomilov]. The agriculture among the Tuvans was rare, and the millet was the only cultivated crop [Radloff (1861)].
In Mongolia, the crops cultivation seems to be rare and often viewed as a disdainful practice; it mostly began to develop there only after the WWII. The crops agriculture is probably limited to small areas; official statistics list less than 0.5-1 % of the country as arable. Despite the fact that crops (and even cherry-trees and watermelons) can be grown in the Minusinsk Valley, located to the north of Mongolia, and around Lake Baikal, the cold, mountainous areas of northern Mongolia with the rocky permafrost soil are obviously unsuitable for crops, whereas areas adjacent to the Gobi with their dry climate are only barely suitable. Quite to the contrary, the crops cultivation is widespread to the north of the Kazakhstan border, as you can see on the maps below.
Millet production
Millet production [en.wikipedia.org (2010)]
Oats production
Oats production [en.wikipedia.org (2010)]

Wheat production
Wheat production [en.wikipedia.org (2010)]
Arable land in the USSR
The map of arable land in the USSR [see agroatlas.ru from Karta vozdelovayemykh zemel, Chief Editor: Yanvareva, L.F. et al, Moscow (1989)]
Moreover, the possible reconstructability of the word "flax" raises too many questions concerning its availability in Mongolia, since this culture requires temperate climate, soft nitrogenous soils and good watering. On the other side, flax is sporadically grown near the Southern Urals, the Ishim steppe, and especially along the Ob.

Flax production
Flax cultivation areas in Russia [agroatlas.ru, Rukhovich, D.I., Koroleva, I.E., et al. (2003-2009)]

The Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic horse vocabulary

The horse breeding must have long become a widely-accepted practice in West Siberia even before the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic era. It was probably based on the natural ability of Siberian (Bashkir, Kirgiz, Kalmyk, Mongolian) horses to withstand harsh winters in the steppland by digging grass from under the snow, a practice attested as early the [Frier Iohn de Plano Carpini, The long and wonderful voyage of Frier Iohn de Plano Carpini, (1245-46)], who was advised to use special horses when travelling to Mongolia.
Consequently, the early Turkic, Mongolic and other Asian nomads did not have to keep the cattle and horses in stables (which often was their own house) for 6 or 8 long winter months and prepare large quantities of forage as in European areas. All they had to do was let the horses walk into the open snow-covered steppe and let them look for hidden grass, and then let the cattle and sheep follow them.
Moreover, the horse breeding must have become even more important after the mass introduction of equestrianism. It is difficult to estblish when the earliest instances were attested — unsaddled riding had probably existed for centuries prior to the earliest attestation — however the earliest horse harness in West Siberia seems to come from the early Iron Age c. 8th-7th BCE, and the PBT glottochronolgical dates of such geo-lexemes as "saddle" and "stirrups" point at least towards 1300-1000 BCE or earlier
Radloff described his personal impression of the Altay Turks' horse riding in the following way (1861) [Aus Sibirien. Lose Blätter aus meinem Tagebuche (From Siberia: Torn pages from my diaries), Wilhelm Radloff, Leipzig, 1893]:
"The Altayans don't know how to walk: they move slowly, dragging their feet and staggering [...] But as soon as an Altayan gets on the horse, his whole bearing changes, that is really his cup of tea; his look becomes unrestrained, and his body upright, as if new blood were running down his veins. The horse and the rider become one, so by looking at them, one can understand how the imagination of ancient Greeks could have painted centaurs from northern peoples that never got off their horses."
These and other similar observations may help to date the emergence of horse riding to the Bronze Age (that is, before 1000 BCE):
"The tentative identification of two fragmentary Mycenaean terracotta figures as centaurs, among the extensive Mycenaean pottery found at Ugarit, suggests a Bronze Age origin for these creatures of myth" [Ione Mylonas Shear, "Mycenaean Centaurs at Ugarit" // The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 122 (2002)] [... ] By the Geometric period (900-700 BCE), centaurs figure among the first representational figures painted on Greek pottery".[wiki]
If this is correct, the horse riding could have been brought to Europe by Proto-Bulgars via a relay of several intermediaries. To confirm the existence of the Bronze Age horse riding, we should ask experimental archaeologists about the possibility of making horse harness with the Bronze Age technology without iron and its practical usability.
Another interesting possibility suggested herein is that the first domestic animal used for riding was not the horse but the ox. According to Radloff (1861), the oxen were widely used for riding by the western Tuvans.
"One old Soyon [=Tuvan] was astonished when he was told that the Russians don't use oxen for riding, and assured me that the ox is much better for that purpose. An ox, as he said, can carry twice as much as a horse. It is much better for climbing up a hill, and its hooves cannot be harmed neither by stones nor by water, which often happens to horses; neither is it inferior to a horse in velocity and endurance." [idem]
In any case, horse riding with saddle and stirrup must have soon displaced chariots as an older, more expensive and less effective type of weaponry and means of transportation.
Generally speaking, these lexemes imply the steppeland ecozone, which tend to exclude easternmost, more forested areas, such as the Yenisei demoregion.

The Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic metal working vocabulary
The Proto-Bulgaro-Turks must have been familiar with bronze technology, which was superseded by iron working at the Proto-Turkic stage [see below]. As Radloff noted [idem, 1861], metal working in the Altai was done by the of blacksmiths, highly valued men, who were able to do such complicated tasks as easily welding two pieces of needle together or even (in rare cases of a particularly talented craftsman) making a whole shotgun barrel, all this in the primitive working conditions of a yurt.
The multiple proto-forms for metals and tools, such as "gold", "silver", "copper", "iron", "blackcoal", "sword", "ax" imply the proximity to mountain areas where variuos ores and mineral strikes can be found. The good retention of the word for "stone", which is typical of rocky waistlands near mountains, the possible (albeit unstable) reconstructability of the word for "mountain", and the reconstructability of the "bird of prey", which usually prefer hilly terrain, too, point in the direction of an area situated near the uplands. That seems to position the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat closer either to the South Urals, or Kazakh Uplands, or Altai, or Mongolian Altai, at a certain distance from the open semi-desert steppe. The Kokshetau and Kazakh Uplands seem to be patricualarly intersting in this respect, considering the large area they occupy, and the absence of "true" mountains there that would have a different, stronger representation in the geolexical and geomigrational analysis.
Generally speaking, the Kazakh Uplands is a mountainous Paleozoic foundation worn down into an undulating plain and low hills covered with patches of pine forests with important mineral deposits at many sites. The climate there is dry and continental. The river network is therefore scant, with many streams flowing only in spring. Saline Lake Tengiz (in the Sary-Arka "Yellow Range", a world heritage site) and other lakes serve as important stop-over points for migrating birds, including pink flamingos [see Encyclopædia Britannica].

A note on the retention of the word "to write"
One may wonder how it can be possible that the word "to write" (cf. Chuvash s'ïr and Proto-Turkic *jaz), could have existed as early as the Bronze Age. Did the Proto-Bulgaro-Turks develop a writing system as early as Phoenicians? The answer is that this word is also usually compared with the Mongolic *zhiru- "to draw" and Tungusic *niru "to draw, to write" [see Sevortyan's Dictionary], therefore it could originally refer to drawing lines, e.g. on a pot. Another explanation, however, can be found in Turkic tamgas. As Radloff explains [idem], the custom of cattle branding was found among the rich Altayans who, unlike the poor, could no longer just remember their cattle. Indeed, there is some phonological similarity between Chuvash s'ïr and Proto-Turkic *jaz "to write" and Chuvash s'un and Proto-Turkic *jan. This conclusion may imply that the Orkhon-Yenisei writing system may in fact, at least to some extent, have had origin in Proto-Turkic tamgas.
tamgas from Radloff (1893)
Examples of Altay cattle brands [from Radloff (1893)]
During the historical peiriod, the tamgas were used at least by Baraba Tatars, Nogays, Kazakh and many other Turkic peoples.
Therefore, there is no contradiction with the early dating of Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic and the retention of this lexeme can be explained.
The geolexical analysis of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic lexemes leads to the reconstruction of a water-rich ecozone, located away from arid, sand deserts in the temperate climate. This excludes area around the Aral Sea and lower parts of Turan Depression, most parts of southern Kazakhstan, and most arid areas located to the south of the Eurasian Barrier, such as Dzungaria, the Taklamakan Desert (West China), the Dzungarian Gobi, the Gobi Desert (Inner Mongolia, China), the Great Lakes Depression (West Mongolia), the Alashan Desert (China), the Ordos Desert (China).
The reconstructability of the beaver ecozone seems to exclude mountainous areas along the northern Tian-Shan.
Mongolia may be excluded with some 80% probability based on its cold, dry environment with deforested steppeland and mountainous areas, which contradicts the requirement for multiple species of deciduous trees, beavers, ponds and rivers that do not freeze to the bottom. Moreover, unlike the Ural Mountains, northern Kazakhstan and the Irtysh basin — which has high outputs of wheat, millet, barley, oat — southern Mongolia is only barely suitable for crop cultivation.
The Ob and Yenisei demoregions cannot be completely excluded as they share environment comparable with the Tobol-Ishim-Irtush demoregion. Nevertheless, the Yenisei demo can be regarded as a much less likely candidate based on the relative scarcity of salt deposits, and the prevalence of taiga forests and the taiga fauna, which is hardly reflected in the reconstructed vocabulary, which suggests that the Proto-Bulgaro-Turks might have been unfamiliar with dense woodland, or at least such environment was very uncommon.

1.5 The position of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat
By exclusion, we should conclude that the area consistent with the outcome of the maximum diversity, demographic and geolexical analysis of Proto-Bulagro-Turkic may have been located within the three closely interconnected geographic areas:
(1) THE TOBOL-ISHIM-IRTYSH AREA: located along the northern and northeastern border of Kazakhstan and Russia, extending from the eastern part of Southern Ural (the Transuralian Plateau), including Chelyabinsk Oblast, northern parts of the Turgai Plateau including the course of the Tobol River, Kurgan Oblast, across the Ishim Steppe towards Omsk Oblask and continuing down into present-day Kazakhstan along the middle course of the Irtysh River, including parts of the Baraba Steppe and Kulunda Steppe all the way towards Lake Zaysan. This area, coinciding for the most part with the above-introduced Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh demoregion, forms a sort of a fertile crescent meeting nearly all the criteria stipulated by the reconstructed geographical lexemes.
(2) THE UPPER OB AREA: from the foothills near the northern part of the Altai Mountains in the Altai Krai region including the Aley, the Katun and the Biya Rivers (all of which are tributaries of Ob) and continuing to the north along the Ob River, including its other tributaries in the Kulunda Steppe and parts of the present-day Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Kemerovo Oblasts, all the way to the Chulym River.
The third area is much less likely due to the possible partial exclusion of certain reconstructed lexemes and much too eastern location, which is in contradiction with the principle of maximum diversity, however it could not be entirely dismissed at the present stage and should be kept in mind for additional consideration.
(3) THE UPPER YENISEI AREA: extending from the northern part of the Kuznetsk Alatau (which is the drainage divide between the upper Ob and Yenisei basin) to the south along the Yenisei River into the Minusinsk Depression (with present-day Khakassia situated on the left bank of the Yenisei), and possibly further through the West Sayan into Tyva.
This analysis does not mean, however, that the PBT area covered all of the Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh or Ob basins, it is just that their location within these areas does not seem to contradict any known facts or logical conclusions. The PBT Urhiemat location along the middle course of the Irtysh seems to be particularly likely.

The reconstructed description of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic environment
Additionally, on the basis of geolexical analysis, we can make the following conclusions concerning the ethnological description of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic people:
They lived on the border of the open steppe and deciduous woodland, not too far from the uplands. Various light deciduous trees abounded, though the birch-tree was among the most notable ones. The winters must have been cold, severe and windy. The PBT environment was mostly inhabited with small steppeland or grassland fauna such as mice, snakes, stoats, badgers, foxes; sparrows, larks. Birds of prey were common near the uplands and the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic people were probably familiar with falconry. Rivers and streams were usually rather small and had no specific name, whereas lakes and ponds were probably more common; some of them could be saline. They must have practiced fishery, buliding dams and using nets. The lakes were frequently visited by cranes and wild geese. In the riparian woods near lakes, beavers were very typical. It is logical to assume that the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic people hunted beavers, stoats, and foxes for fur to make winter clothing, which confirmed by the Baraba Tatars' various hunting activities. Marshland was situated somewhere nearby. On the contrary, sand dunes were probably atypical, and the taiga forest was most likely unknown, either. Generally speaking, beavers and birch-trees must have been among the most distinguished features of their biological environment.
They bred cattle and horses, and probably goats, though there is no direct evidence for sheep. Cf. the domesticated animals ratio for the Baraba Tatars from 1889: horses: 40% , cattle: 30%, sheep: 30%, see [Myagkov (2009)]. They probably used horse-drawn sledges in winter; and apparently were well-familiar with horse riding, saddle and stirrup making, probably availing themselves to cowboy-style nomadism in summer, but living in houses during the wintertime, either keeping the animals in stalls (as Baraba Tatars) or letting them out to dig the grass from under the snow (as Kazakhs do). They fed on a variety of diary products, such as sour cream, quark, ayran. They practiced crop cultivation, including barley, Spelt, millet, oat, flax. They used copper metallurgy (evidently, bronze) and were probably familiar with iron, as well as with silver and gold jewelry.


The imagery of the Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh area
The following images are provided as visual evidence to corroborate the possibility of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat being located near the Southern Ural, Ishim Steppe, or Middle Irtysh area. The imagery helps to identify the territory under consideration as inhabitable land suitable for seminomadic lifestyle of early horse and cattle breeders.

Lake Almenkul, waterfowl, northern Kazakhstan
Cranes at the Irikla river, between Orsk and Magnitogorsk, to east of Southern Ural
Waterfowl on Lake Almenkul in the Ishim Steppe, northern Kazakhstan
Wild geese on the Tobol river, near Kostanay, to east of Southern Ural
A winter lake near Tobolsk
Birch-trees in the Ishim Steppe near Omsk, to the north of Kazakhstan
A winter lake near Tobolsk, the confluence of the Tobol and Irtysh, Russia
The Ishim Steppe north of the Kokshetau Uplands
Half-wild horses to the east of Astana, North Kazakh Plain, eastern Kazakhstan
A salt lake near the Ubagan river, Turgay Valley, northern Kazakhstan
A saline lake on the North Kazakh Plain, eastern Kazakhstan
Lake Big Churtan A lake near the Ishim river
Lake Big Churtan in the Ishim Steppe,
The Ishim river near Petropavlovsk, northern Kazakhstan
A lake near the Ishim river, near the border of Kazakhstan and Russia
Flowers in the Ishim Steppe Trees along the middle Irtysh
Fishing in the Ishim Steppe near Omsk, Russia
A flower meadow between Tobolsk and Omsk, northern part of the Ishim steppe, Russia
Trees along the middle Irtysh
Meadows near the Iset Cereal along the Irtysh Horses in the Kulunda (Kulundin) steppe
Summer meadows near the Iset river, between the Urals and the Ishim Steppe, Russia
Growing rye near the middle course of the Irtysh, near Omsk
Fields in the Kokshetau Uplands, northern Kazakhstan
A coal mine near Pavlodar
An old gold mine in the southeastern Urals, near Magnitogorsk
An iron mine near Kostanay, to the east of the Southern Ural, Kazakhstan
A coal mine near Pavlodar, middle course of the Irtysh
An eagle in the steppe Kokchetau
An eagle in the steppe, to the southeast of the Southern Ural, near the Irgiz river, Kazakhstan
Kokshetau Uolands, northern Kazakhstan
Lake Borovoye in the Kokshetau Uplands, northestern Kazakhstan
Marshland near Omsk Beaver, Russia
Marshland near Omsk. Marshes extend to the north of the Ishim Steppe, almost until the Arctic Ocean
A lake to the west of Chelyabinsk near the Southern Ural, a typical beaver habitat in the 19th century..
A beaver can do this job in no time (a photo from western Russia).
Images from panoramio.com
[copyrights belong to their respective owners]

The imagery of the western Altai, Upper Ob and Yenisei areas

By the same token, here are some typical images of the Ob and Yenisei demoregions. This imagery may also represent the Urheimat of Proto-Turkic (Proper) and the areas of the early Turkic dialects (see discussion below).

Near Lake Zaisan
A typical feather-grass (Stipa) steppe
A Great Steppe landscape with the Altai Mountains
in the distance
A landscape near Lake Zaysan
The Kalybin Range which is separated from the Altai by the Irtysh river
The Taldybulak near the Kalybin Range
A river between Lake Zaysan and the Altai Mountains
The Kara Irtysh (which is essentially the upper Irtysh to the south of Lake Zaysan)
A herd near the Kara Irtysh and Altai mountains (China)
The Mongolian Altai separating Dzungaria from Mongolia
Kazakh or Mongolain nomads in a yurt near the Kara-Irtysh (China)
A sanctuary at the Irtysh to the north of Lake Zaysan
A mausoleum near Lake Zaysan
(looks like a remnant from the Silk Road era)
Horses in the Kulunda (Kulundin) steppe
Rolling hills in the Altai Krai near the Altai Mountains
The Charysh river basin between the Irtysh and the Ob in the Kulunda Steppe
Horses in the Kulunda (Kulundinskaya) Steppe
Trees in the Baraba Steppe in winter
Deep snow (said to be sometimes "one javelin deep") behind the sledge in the Baraba Steppe near the Ob river
A horseman hunter in winter (to the west of Lake Baikal, near
the Lena source, where the Sakha spread began). It also shows
that horses can survive in harsh wintertime in Siberia.
Morning meadows in the Ob Basin near the Altai
Khakassian landscape to the west of the Yenissei
Typical taiga (near the Yenisei), defended by swarms of gnat
in summer and deep snow in winter
Images from panoramio.com
(copyrights belong to their respective owners)

1.6 Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic from the archaeological perspective

The unexpected association with the Andronovo horizon and adjacent cultures
As explained above, the present theory predicts that the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic was a language of cattle and horse-breeding, metalworking, crop cultivating semi-nomadic population, that had inhabited the Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh demoregion approximately between 1800 and 1000 BC, and that later split up into two branches, one of which — the Bulgaric branch — proceeded westward beyond the Southern Ural Mountains and reached the Yaik, the Volga, and the Pontic steppes, whereas another one — the Turkic branch — traveled eastwards along the Irtysh, settled near the Altai and Sayan Mountains, and then moved further into Dzungaria, Mongolian Altai, Gobi, and Tarim oases.
But the next question should be: what can archaeology say about any of this?
From the archaeological perspective, the Ural-Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh-Altai area between 2200 and 900 BC are the typical limits of the classical Andronovo archaeological horizon /ahn-DRAW-naw-voh/. Almost as predicted above for Bulgaro-Turkic, the Andronovians belonged to the Bronze Age pastoralists that mined mineral deposits, such as copper and tin ore, and made a variety of bronze-cast tools, including knives and axes, and gold and copper jewelry; they bred cattle, horses for milking, and some sheep for wool clothing; they used horses for food and transportation with signs of horse-riding emerging by the end of the period; they fished; they hunted the geese, cranes, fox, beaver, hare, wild pig, etc; they practiced crop cultivation near rivers with some irrigated fields and manual hoeing; they sometimes lived in dugout shelters (which could be quite large), though some dwellings (especially in the east in the second half of the period under consideration) are said to be never found, whereas some later dwelling were light, round in shape, implying possible nomadism; they practiced inhumations in burial mounds surrounded by fencing made of stone; the Bactrian camels were used in central Kazakhstan and later (definitely, during the period of the Sargat culture in 700-400 BC) along the Tobol River.

Tools from the Andronovo culture
Typical tools from the Andronovo culture [The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1969-78)]

Even though the archaeological work in West Siberia has a long-standing tradition going back into the 19th century, the Andronovo culture was first formally identified only in 1923 by Teploukhov, based on the archaeological discoveries of 1914 located as far east as the Minusinsk Depression.

A word of warning should be given against the indiscriminate usage of the term Andronovo culture. Presently, after the intricate analysis performed between the 1950's and 1990's by many archaeologists, particularly Salnikov (1967), Zdanovich, Matveyev, Kuzmina (1977), Potemkina (1985), etc, "Andronovo" cannot be regarded as a single unity, but rather a conglomeration of several West Siberian cultures of the 2nd millennium BCE, therefore its temporal and geographical limits are difficult to define, therefore the archaeological horizon would be a more correct term. In many cases, Andronovo is nothing but a generic name for the Bronze Age archaeology of West Siberia and adjacent northeastern areas of Kazakhstan.
In its most essential part, the Andronovo horizon consists of two main archaeological cultures: the Alakul culture (extending from the Southern Ural to the Ishim and Irtysh basins, 1700-1200 BCE) and the Fedorovo culture (extending from the Tobol River to the Irtysh and the upper Ob basins, 1200-1100 BCE).
[Note that Alakul has nothing to do with the name of Lake Alakol near the Tian Shan, it is named after a small lake in Kurgan Oblast, Russia; there are actually many toponyms with similar names].
Additionally, several temporally and geographically adjacent archaeological complexes are often regarded as part of Andronovo — the so called "Andronovoid cultures" — these include:
(1) (Arkaim)-Sintashta /ar-kah-EEM sin-TUSH-tah/ (southwest of the Southern Ural, 2100-1900 BCE, famous for the earliest discovery of spoked-wheel chariot (though, actually, just imprints) and the multiple round fortress settlements);
(2) Petrovka (from the Southern Ural to the Ishim and Irtysh basins and northern Kazakhstan, 1650-1550 BCE, sometimes confused with the former culture);
(3) Pakhomovo (northernmost forested steppes in the Tobol-Irtysh basin, 1200-1000 BCE);
(4) Barkhatovo (east of the Southern Ural, 1000-800 BCE);
(5) Suzgun (in the forested steppes in the Tobol-Irtysh basin, 1000-800 BCE);
(6) Begazy-Dandybai (the area around Lake Tengiz in Central Kazakhstan, 1000-700 BCE, it is famous for mausoleums in the Kazakh Highlands)
There are probably several other cultures. Sources: [Uralskaya istoricheskaya entsiklopediya (The Historical Encyclopedia of the Urals), Chief Editor: Alekeyev, V.V.; Yekaterinburg (2000)], [Arkheologiya Zapadno-Sibirskoy ravniny (The Archaeology of the West Siberian Plain), Troitskaya, T.N., Novikov, A.V., Novosibirsk (2004)], [Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1970's)], [Encyclopedia Britannica (2002)], [ProTown.ru (2008-2011), official articles on the history of Russia, including one the Andronovo culture], [Kuzmina (1994) (see below)]

Andronovo culture, Kuzmina (1994)
Note: As of 2008-2012, the articles in Wikipedia.org seem to identify Andronovo with the territory of Kazakhstan. It should be noted, however, that the central to southern areas of Kazakhstan have been poorly populated for millennia due to arid climate and the evident scarcity of water (the Ustyurt Plateau, Aral Karakum, Moyenkum Desert, Betpak-Dala, southern part of the Kazakh Highlands, etc), so the amount of human settlements there should not be exaggerated. Therefore, the Andronovo horizon is mostly confined to the northeastern Kazakhstan / Russia border, being located between the Ural and Altai Mountains. Consequently, even though certain similar cultures may have existed even as far away as the Tian-Shan Mountiants or Volga River, they can hardly be seen as an intrinsic and typical part of the Andronovo horizon.
Moreover, archaeological evidence seems to support the idea that the Andronovians spread from the Urals towards the Altai Mountains, judging by the fact that the Fedorovo culture is younger and scattered over a larger territory than the earlier Alakul [Arkheologiya Zapadno-Sibirskoy ravniny (The Archaeology of the West Siberian Plain), Troitskaya, T.N., Novikov, A.V., Novosibirsk (2004)].
Studying a different possibility of a more eastern location of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat in the Upper Ob area, we run into the Krotovo culture. The Krotovo archaeological culture (discovered and identified in the 1950's) was located in Baraba and Kulunda Steppe between the Ob and Irtysh around 1800 to 1300 BCE. It was characterized by dugout flat-roof dwellings supported by central columns, cattle and sheep, milk-based diet, fishing, bronze smelting, bronze knives, sacrifices of bears and some signs of a bear cult (typical of Samoyedic and other taiga-located cultures), the usage of red ochre dyeing in burials (typical of older Neolithic or taiga-located cultures), figurines of raven, snakes, horse, ram and bears in art; in athropology, the intermixed Mongoloid-Europeoid anthropological features; occasional burials of the dog with the owner, etc. [Arkheologiya Zapadno-Sibirskoy ravniny (The Archaeology of the West Siberian Plain), Troitskaya, T.N., Novikov, A.V., Novosibirsk (2004)]. The Krotovo culture is basically similar to the essential core of Andronovo with some differences characteristic of a more forested ecozone and fewer technological innovations.
The Samus culture located in taiga and forested regions of the Baraba Steppe along the Upper Ob (near present-day Tomsk and Novosibirsk) c. 1700-1200 BCE was adjacent to Krotovo. It included net fishing, hunting, with the relatively poorly developed animal husbandry and no or few signs of crop cultivation; it was characterized by bronze smelting mixed with stone tools, dugout dwellings, signs of a bear cult, European anthropological features in images. The identification of Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic with the Samus culture is even less likely due to its location in the southern taiga ecozone. Moreover, the Middle and Upper Ob is typically identifiable with Southern Samoyedic, and is located too far to the northeast. It also seems to lack some of the essential features found by the geolexical analysis, such as crop cultivation.
The common view in the archaeology of West Siberia is that Krotonovo-Samus were not connected to Andronovo. It wasn't until the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE that Andronovo descendants (such as the Fedorovo people) reached the Kulunda Steppe and the Upper area. As Troitskaya & Novikov state,
Starting from the period the late Bronze Age (c. 9th century BCE), there was a strong movement of migrants into the West-Siberian Depression from Central Kazakhstan. Most of them moved to the south, across the Kulunda Steppe.
This is reflected, for instance, in the Andronovo-type ornamentation of pottery typical of the Irmen culture. The Irmen culture of the Upper Ob is dated to 1000-750 BCE. It is characterized by cattle and horse breeding, dugout dwelling supported by the posts (where cattle could stay along with humans in the wintertime), crop cultivation, low mound burials, some late Bronze Age technology, ash dumps, Europeoid anthropological features in skulls. However, this culture is dated too late for Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic, and by the time of its existence, PBT is supposed to have already split up. However, it would be much more tempting to associate it with the eastern movement of the early Turkic Proper tribes that were migrating towards the Altai Mountains.
Finally, another archaeological culture that should be mentioned is Karasuk culture, dated to 1200-700 BC. It was typical of the Upper Yenisei basin and Minusinsk Depression and was characterized by bronze smelting, dugout log houses building, horse, cattle, sheep breeding, deer hunting.

The reconstructed temporal and spatial location of Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic almost perfectly matches the Alakul and Fedorovo cultures within the Andronovo archaeological horizon. Furthermore, the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic world reconstructed using geolexical analysis seems to be well within the limits set by the archaeological reconstruction of Andronovo, and there seems to be evidence of eastern movement, which may reflect the migration of the early Proto-Turkic tribes towards the Altai Krai. On the other hand, certain other Bronze Age cultures adjacent to Andronovo, such as Krotovo in the Kulunda Steppe and the Upper Ob basin, cannot be completely excluded from consideration as potential archaeological representations of the PBT area.

But were they not Indo-Iranians?
It has, of course, become commonplace in modern Russia's historiography to associate Andronovians with some sort of "Aryans", usually meaning an extinct branch of Indo-Iranians, see for instance [Otkuda prishli indoarii? Materialnaja kultura andronovskoj obschnosti i proiskhozhdenije indoirantsev.(Where do Indo-Aryans come from? The material culture of the Andronovo horizon and the origins of the Indo-Iranians.), Kuzmina, E.E.; Moscow (1994)], [Yuznyje sosedi finno-ugrov: irantsy ili ischeznuvshaya vetv' arijev ("arii-andronovtsy") (Who were the southern neighbors of Finno-Ugrians: Iranians or an extinct branch or Aryans ("Aryan Andronovians")?), Helimskiy, E.A. // Polytropon, Moscow (1998)].
The word "Aryan" is full of romantic nationalism and mysticism and helps to attract tourists to Arkaim, the famous archaeological site, which was turned into a historical park in the open field. But is such an opinion well-grounded?
En.wikipedia.org provides a few objections:
The identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian has been challenged by scholars who point to the absence of the characteristic timber graves of the steppe south of the Oxus River [Hiebert (1998) and Sarianidi (1993), as cited in Bryant, Edwin (2001), The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195137779. (2001)]. Sarianidi (as cited in Bryant 2001:207) states that "direct archaeological data from Bactria and Margiana show without any shade of doubt that Andronovo tribes penetrated to a minimum extent into Bactria and Margianian oases"
Below we will try to analyze where the idea of the identification of Andronovo with Indo-Iranians comes from. The theory was in fact expounded in much detail by Kuzmina in 1994 and in some of her later works.
Essentially, the Andronovo-Aryan hypothesis has been based on the following arguments.
(1) The Arkaim-Sintashta culture used horses and spoked-wheel chariots, typically identified with late Indo-Europeans in general (even though they could easily be a cultural borrowing). On the other hand, the wheel carts seem to be poorly attested in Alakul and Fedorovo [Kuzmina (1994) and probably earlier authors];
(2) The Arkaim-Sintashta and Alakul cultures had some swastikas on the bottom of some vessels usually associated with a number of ancient Eurasian peoples particularly Indo-Iranians [not noted by Kuzmina; Darkstar, herein] ;
(3) The Arkaim-Sintashta culture is located some 1000 miles north of the supposed Indo-Iranian (or rather, Iranian) Urheimat in the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, which is relatively close, at least by Eurasian standards [Darkstar, herein];
(4) There is certain similarity between the Andronovo and the later archaeological cultures of Sauromates and Sakas, who were supposedly Iranian [Kuzmina (1994)].
(5) There is a nonspecific association based on archaeological evidence and the superficial geolexical analysis of the Avesta and Rigveda, such as, they used metalworking; they supposedly lived in the steppe; they practiced agriculture; they used pottery with no potter's wheel; they used ash dumps (considering that, according to the Avesta [Kuzmina citing Dhalla (1922)], ash should be collected in ash dumps and not thrown to the wind.) etc. Interestingly, a proto-yurt as a type of light dwelling is also mentioned as possible part of the archaeological evidence: that is, the dwelling the Andronovians used could supposedly be structurally similar to the tents used by nomads in Iran and Afghanistan, however an apparent similarity to Turkic yurts can also be claimed [idem]. It can, however, be objected that architectural traits of simple dwellings are probably reinvented each time depending on the local environment and materials available. Additionally, Kuzmina attempts to show the basic similarity between a Scythian, Iranian and Turkic yurt, making the discrepancy between them even less distinct, which allows us to state that, if there were any light tents at all, they could just as well be of Proto-Turkic type.
(6) There is a nonspecific association with Iranians based on some ethnographic analysis, e.g. there were similar types of white houses in Ossetia (the Hindukush, and the Hindustan), they used similar types of light dwellings as the nomads in Iran; the pottery methods in the Pamir and Hidukush are similar; they wore similar clothing, etc) [idem]
(7) There are some supposedly specific archaeological and geolexical arguments, e.g. the absence of pigs but the presence of horses, cattle and sheep; the cult of the horse and the special role of horse breeding; the presence of the Bactrian camel; the cult of fire; inhumations in kurgans with fencing; pottery made in three levels stacked upon each other; unique square vessels [idem]
(8) The supposed Indo-Iranian toponymy without any examples, except the few easily discardable [idem]. Being an archaeologist, Kuzmina could not even be held responsible for failing to provide any analysis of the subject, especially taken that establishing correct local toponymic etymologies can be exceedingly difficult, if even possible.
(9) Some example cited [idem] for the supposed Andronovo culture in fact belong to areas far away from the typical Alakul-Fedorovo, that are of interest in the present publication, such as areas in Europe or in the Tian Shan.
(10) As a particularly inconclusive argument, we should mention the article by Helimsky (1998), apparently written in response to Kuzmina's work. As a result of the completely ungrounded, wholesale rejection of all the vast material gathered throughout the 20th century by the Nostratic theory, the Finno-Ugric languages suddenly end up with loads of totally unexplained "Indo-Iranian borrowings" in the basic vocabulary, which therefore must come from a completely unknown and geographically unreasonable source, so an Indo-Iranian culture promptly located near the Southern Urals would come in very handy, which is what basically Helimskiy claimed (1998). Nevertheless, some of the Helimskiy's arguments should be held as methodologically valuable: he, for instance, suggested that instead of attempting to ascribe Andronovians to Proto-Indo-Iranians or Proto-Iranians, which is not possible due to temporal and spatial discrepancy, they should be related to a third or forth — that is, with the Nuristani languages counted — separate, previously unknown, branch of Indo-Iranians. This suggestion sounds much better than attributing the Andronovo horizon directly to Proto-Iranians or Proto-Indo-Iranians, which are normally dated to another period.

Furthermore, the following incorrect overstatement was made in several studies: that the whole Andronovo horizon is reducible to Arkaim-Sintashta, and that therefore all of the Andronovo cultures were probably Indo-Iranian, possibly including even some distant archaeological cultures as far as Tyva. We should remind herein that Arkaim-Sintashta and Andronovo may possibly be entirely different ethnological and archaeological entities. Curiously, no other round city-fortresses seem to have ever been found in the rest of the Andronovo horizon (?), which makes Arkaim-Sintashta exceptional in many ways.

Essentially, aside from the Helimskiy's easily debunkable argument, and the noticeable overexpansion of Arkaim-Sintashta to all of the Central Eurasia, not much is left of the corroborating evidence. Actually, exposing the falsehood of the latter overstatement is currently sufficient: even though the Arkaim-Sintashta or some other western or southwestern cultures could (based on some generally unknown and poorly understood arguments) be Indo-Iranian, it does not necessarily follow that Alakul and Fedorovo cultures were Indo-Iranian, as well.
Another counterargument would be as follows: if the Andronovians were part of the Iranian culture that practiced progressive forms of agriculture and husbandry and used bronze weapons, and then developed into technologically and demographically strong cultures of Sarmatians or Siberian Scythians, why did they suddenly become completely extinct? Why don't we find absolutely no linguistic traces of these cultures in West Siberian (except the purported Helimskiy's "borrowings" into Finno-Ugric)? Where are those Siberian Scythians gone? Why couldn't they be preserved, say, in small refugium areas into the historical period when their language could be attested directly? Apparently, there is no easy answer to this question.

The theory of Indo-Iranian Andronovians is mostly unfounded, and the arguments provided for it raise too many questions.

However, that theory still has a couple of appealing points, and cannot be completely rejected, with some doubts still remaining. The active use of wheels and the unique round settlements in the Andronovo-Sintashta are particularly notable and are in fact in contradiction with the results of geolexical analysis, where the lexemes "wheel" and "round" could not be reconstructed for the PBT level (these lexemes seem to appear only at the PT level, though there are some reasonable doubts about "round", which may be older). It is not clear, however, whether the absence of proto-form for "wheel" in PBT is due to an occasional root loss in Chuvash or the outcome of the major cultural phenomenon.
In any case, there is no reason to believe that that this older Indo-Iranian theory is in any way better than the current proposal of Bulgaro-Turkic identification.
We should also acknowledge that Helimsky's suggestion to associate Andronovo with a third, previously unknown branch of Indo-Iranian (with all the possible stress here on the unknown) is far better than associating it with the pure Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Iranian, which had been rather popular before his publication (1998).
Finally, we can also suggest a reconciling view where the most western and most ancient parts of early Andronovo, such as Sintashta-Petrovka could still belong to Indo-European stock, whereas the more eastern areas, such as Fedorovo, Petrovka, Pakhomovo, and other possible settlements near the Irtysh could most likely be Bulgaro-Turkic in origin.

2. The Proto-Turkic Urheimat

2.1 A possible location of the early Proto-Turkic Homeland

Dating Proto-Turkic (Proper)
The above-mentioned lexicostatistical and glottochronological study based on the semi-classical analysis with local glottochronological calibration provides 400-250 BC for the separation of the four main branches of Turkic Proper: Southern, Yakutic, Altay-Sayan and Great-Steppe.

Placing Proto-Turkic (Proper)
The Proto-Turkic (Proper) Urheimat based on the principle of maximum diversity
We know well from historical records that the area of maximum diversity of the Turkic languages was concentrated around the Altai-Sayan mountain system, particularly near the Altai. This conclusion has been long known in turkology, and is essentially based on the following considerations: (1) the formative period of the Gökturk Empire, which was spreading westward from Mongolia during the 6th century AD; (2) the position of Yenisei Kyrgyz along the Yenisei River between the 3rd-9th centuries; (3) the position of the Kimak Kaganate along the Irtysh River during the 8th-11th centuries; (4) the position of the early Sakha originally located along the upper Lena near Lake Baikal
These positions are explicitly marked on the map above in chapter dedicated to the discussion of the PBT Urheimat, with the center-of-gravity point of the PT Urheimat being positioned in the Great Lakes Depression, which is basically a hollow within the western part of the Altai-Sayan system, surrounded by mountains on all sides.
This pristine and sparsely-populated area includes protected biosphere reserves, such as Lake Uvs-Nuur (Ubsunur) Basin, which is characterized by the sharp contrast between the mountain taiga and lowland desert, and very cold winters, -32º-35ºC in January on average with the recorded maximum as low as -55ºC. The pristinity and the poor accessability of this region rises questions about its population density in the past.

The Proto-Turkic (Proper) Urheimat based on the analysis of local geography
The Altai mountains are a strategic geographical location with a rather unique breakage in the Central Asian mountain ranges (the Great Eurasian Barrier) near Lake Zaysan. It only allows for a few passageways to Mongolia and West China, such as the "Zaysan Passage" and Dzungarian Gate, which can lead to a typical northwest-to-southeast split of any ethnic groups originally migrating in the longitudinal direction (east-to-west). The geographic complexity of the Altai-Sayan mountain system would promote the linguistic diversification of the Turkic subgroups by physically separating them from each other as they travel along the mountain ranges. As a result, the Altai-Sayan mountains may represent a natural physical cusp obstacle that causes the spitting and dispersal of various linguistic groups.
Moreover, the consideration of the population density suggest that both the Ob and Yenisei demoregions (see the similar considerations for Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic above) are quite convenient areas for sustaining large demographic masses that would be required for the expansion of the early Turkic tribes. The Upper Ob area conveniently located to the the north of the Altai Mountains in the Altai Krai seems to be particularly suitable.
Therefore, the geographic considerations suggest that the wave of PT migrants moving in the eastern direction from the PBT Urheimat area ran into the Altai-Sayan mountains and split into two major branches: Yakutic that moved along the northern Altai-Sayan ridges and Southern that moved through the Zaysan passage along the Mongolian Altai.

We come to the conclusion that the principle of maximum diversity is in contradiction with the principle of geographic viablility, therefore the CoG point must not be located in the middle of the Altai-Sayan mountain system where the environmental conditions are unsuitable (extremely low average January temperatures, with the daily mean down to -32ºC in Ulaangom [en.wikipedia.org]), and where the region is generally rather pristine, poorly accessible and entirely enclosed by mountain ranges.

Rather, we should suppose that the initial migration current was flowing to the north or to the northwest — around the Altay-Sayan mountains. Therefore, we can infer that the initial point of diversification of Proto-Turkic was located along the upper Irtysh where it approaches the Altai Mountains. The area of Proto-Turkic peoples was soon extended to Lake Zaysan and the Kara-Irtysh River, the upper course of the Ob River, and the northwestern edge of the Altai.

This region can be studied in more detail using the following topographic map below.
The map of the Altai Sayan Mountain System
The Altay-Sayan Mountain system; [based on the maps from topmapper.com; place names added by Darkstar (2012)]

2.2 Proto-Turkic from the archaeological perspective

The association of Proto-Turkic with the introduction of iron weapons
The Bronze Age in West Siberia, including the Tobol-Irtysh, Ob and Yenisei demographic regions, had a long historical tradition, extending approximately from 3000 BC to the beginning of the common era. All the Bronze Age cultures of Siberia seem to be archaeologically uniform, exposing similar technology, economic traits and agricultural practices. They hardly demonstrate any drastic distinctive features, except maybe in geographic location and artistic expression.
Nevertheless, the introduction of iron that occurred in West Siberia somewhere between the 6th and 3rd centuries BCE, especially the frequent use of iron knives and daggers, must have had a profound cultural and demographic impact in the region. It is quite evident that cultures that first acquired iron weapons, had important technological and military advantage over their neighbors. We may assume that the Proto-Turkic people were into iron metallurgy earlier than their Yeniseian, Samoyedic and other neighbors and therefore had more chances for demographic and geographic expansion.
This hypothesis seems to be supported by the evidence from the Bolshaya Rechka (Bolsherechinskaya) archaeological culture, located along the Ob (from the confluence of the Biya and Katun to the Tom river) and dated between 500-0 BCE, that, by about 300-150 BC, actively used knives and swords made of low quality iron. The use of iron seems to be absent, however, in the neighboring Kulay culture, possibly of Samoyedic stock [Arkheologija Zapadno-Sibirskoj ravniny (The Archaeology of the West Siberian Plain), Troitskaja, T.N., Novikov, A.V., Novosibirsk (2004)].
On the other hand, the importance of this hypothesis should not be exaggerated. The exact period of the introduction of iron in a particular area is difficult to establish archaeologically. The iron may seem to appear almost simultaneously in different regions or within just one or two-hundred-year interval.

The association of Proto-Turkic with widespread equestrianism
We may also assume that during the early Iron Age horse riding was probably becoming widespread, possibly due to some inventions in harnessing connected with the introduction of iron, such as the iron stirrups, which could provide better support. A horse-mounted warrior with an iron sword or a bow constituted a new type of threat in battle, whereas horse riding itself allowed much faster transportation over longer distances, which might have been the key factor leading to the vast Turkic dispersal after the 5th century BCE.
With the onset of Iron Age, there were cultural and technological changes in many regions of West Siberia which are reflected in archaeological finds. For instance, the Sargat culture (c. 700 BCE -300 CE) in the Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh region may be characterized by mixed horse-cattle husbandry with seasonal migrations (as well as the early use of camels), which seems to reflect the emergence of nomadism.
Furthermore, from the cultural viewpoint, a new type of artistic fashion begins to appear among many Eurasian peoples during this period, known as "Scythio-Siberian" style (skifo-sibirskiy stil). [See for instance Skifo-Sibirskij zverinyj stil v iskusstve narodov Evrazii (The Sythio-Siberain animal style in the art of Eurasian peoples), a collection of articles, editors-in-chief: Melyukova, A.I., Moshkova, M.G.; Moscow (1976)]. For the explanation of the word "Scythian" in this context see below.

Piket Mount (c. 7th century BCE)
Altai Mountains near the Katun River, Piket Mount (c. 7th century BCE)
The new style was characterized by brisk, accelerated, menacing bronze and gold imagery of panthers, tigers, dragons with tight muscles symbolizing strength and aggression; eagles and other birds of prey representing velocity and precision; running deer and other fast-moving animal images associated with the rapid, active way of life. The style apparently showed the dynamism of nomadic living, expressing motion, vigor and vivacity. From this time on, the Proto-Turkic and Proto-Sarmatian tribes began to shape into what we know them to be from historical records: horse-breeding yurt-dwellers, far-expanding swift riders, fast-moving horse-mounted warriors.

The association of Proto-Turkic with the emergence of early Silk Road trade
The usage of camels, and the jewelry trade, attested in the Sargat culture (700 BCE- 300 CE) in the Tobol-Ishim-Irtysh region [Troitskaya, Novikov (2004)] is indicative of the existing long-distance Eurasian trade routes, such as the Silk Road with its many branches leading to different parts of West Siberia. This is how technological and cultural innovations (glass, bronze mirrors, silk, carpets, horse riding harness, etc) first began to spread from east to west and vice versa. Peoples that inhabited areas closely adjacent to the Silk Road, such as the early Turks, inevitably acquired technological advantage over more distantly located ethnic groups, such as Yeniseian and Samoyedic, which would unavoidably start losing ground in the cultural and military interaction. That inequality must have resulted in southern Turkic groups flourishing, expanding and acquiring new territories, while others being slowly transformed into cultural and demographic outcasts.

The association of Proto-Turkic with the Pazyryk, Tagar, and Uyuk cultures
The spatial and temporal position of Proto-Turkic Proper seems to match the Pazyryk archaeological culture located in the Altai Mountains and attested between the 6th and 3rd centuries BCE with many striking artifacts of excellent preservation in permafrost, such as wheeled carts, horse burials, tattooed mummies, gold objects, and the oldest carpets in the world. No dwellings were found, implying possible nomadism.

Pazyryk artifacts Pazyryk and Martifacts
Typical artifacts from the Pazyryk and Mayemir cultures including the reconstructions of mummies in permafrost [Arkheologija (The Archaeology Handbook), Chief Editor: Yanina (2006)]

The Tagar culture (900-200 BCE) in the Minusinsk Depression and to the north of it, along the Yenisei basin, was characterized by burials in kurgans with stoneslab fencing, Europeoid anthropological features, mostly the R1a haplotype; horses, cattle and sheep-and-goat husbandry; log dwellings, yurts; millet and barley cultivation with some irrigation, bronze smelting with few iron tools; the "chekans" (a battle variety of ice axe).
The Uyuk culture in Tyva along the upper Yenisei basin (as well as some finds in the Uvs Depression in Mongolia) is famous for luxurious burials in Arzhan-1 (c. 800-750 BCE) and, especially, Arzhan-2 (650 BCE) kurgans (discovered in 2000-02 in Tyva), which included gold and silver objects, the one-of-a-kind gold bead clothing, iron knives, "chekans", 160 horse burials, horse harness with some gold decorations, coins, fabrics, carpets, sable furs, bronze mirrors. Nevertheless, the dates for Arzhan burials are a few centuries too early for the Proto-Yakutic branch to appear in Tyva, which raises questions concerning the present analysis.

Arzhan-1 burial mound, Uyuk culture Arifacts from Arzhan-1, Uyuk culture

Typical artifacts and reconstructions from the Uyuk culture (The Arzhan-1 Kurgan) in Tyva [Arkheologija (The Archaeology Handbook), Chief Editor: Yanina (2006)]
It has been noted by several researches that the round shape of the Arzhan burials is similar in construction to the well-known round fortificated towns of Arkaim-Sintashta (the Southern Ural, 2100-1700 BCE), but the interpretation of this is controversial.

A note on the burials with the horse:
In the archaeology of West Siberia, the burials with the horse are thought to be a typical feature of Turkic tribes. These are said to appear first in the Altai Mountains during the early Iron Age and then spread in many directions, particularly along the Irtysh with the Kimak migrations during the 8-9th centuries. In some cases only stuffed dummies of horse were buried. The significance of this custom should not be exaggerated, however, for instance the Yenisei Kyrgyz tribes used incinerations with concealing of the material artifacts, which is corroborated by reports from the Tang Chinese Chronicles (Tang Shu Hezhao) that Kyrgyz tribes burn up their dead and then rebury them under kurgans [Grach, A.D. (1980)(in Russian)]. On the other hand, the Khanty (Ugric) are known to buy horses unavailable in their area to sacrifice and bury them in the grave as late as the 19th-20th centuries [Troitskaya, Novikov (2004)]. Therefore, the burials with the horse may only be associated with a limited segment of Turkic tribes, but not necessarily all of them.
In any case, the spatial and temporal coincidence in the location of a widely distributed language group with a culturally advanced early civilizations and their archaeological cultures, corroborates the possibility of Proto-Turkic-Proper being located along the northern fringe of the Altai Mountains.

The historiographic legend of Siberian Scythians
The history of the Iron and Bronze Age peoples that lived in the Eurasian Steppe between 1000 BC and 1000 AD, including the famous "Scythians", "Sa(u)rmatians", "Sakas", "Huns", etc., is full of historiographic legends hardly grounded in any factual historical, ethnographic, geographical, archaeological, genetic or other evidence. These legends have been frequently popularized by various history authors and journalists through many centuries, starting probably from Herodotus himself. Passages on these ethnic groups in popular writing tend to cite widespread opinions taken as "generally accepted" or accompanied by such comment as "researches believe", "no doubt", "scholars say". Sometimes such publications attempt to cite some ethnonymic reconstructions from Iranian, Turkic and particularly Middle Chinese, that is becoming notorious in its ambiguity, which is the reason why any Middle Chinese ethnonymic etymologies were excluded from this series of articles. However, a scrupulous research often reveals that, in many cases, it is not possible to trace any solid evidence pertaining to their origins.
In archaeology of West Siberia, the use of the "archaeological triad" that includes (1) the horse harness, (2) the presence of dynamic animal imagery or figurines and (3) certain types of weaponry, as well as burials in kurgans (typical of Indo-Europeans), is known as "Siberian Scythian" style (skifo-sibirskij stil'), because it was originally attested among supposed Scythian burials in Urkraine. Consequently, all the regional archaeological cultures that exhibit similar traits are often unquestionably attributed to the Iranian stock without much further analysis, which is evidently logically invalid at least due to the lack of direct correlation between language and archaeological culture.
A typical description of the Scythian-Siberian style or "world" can be found in many formal archaeological articles, e.g. here (in Russian) [Martynov, A.A., Arkheologija. Skifo-Sibirskij mir (Archaeology (Handbook). The Scythian-Siberian world), Moscow (2000)] or here [Kantorovich, A.R., Arkheologija. Rannij Zheleznyj vek. (Archaeology (Handbook). The Early Iron Age.), Chief Editor: Yanin, V.L., Moscow (2006)]. These handbook chapters describes all the cultures of the Iron Age from the Black Sea all the way to Ordos in China as belonging to one single cultural unity or a major archaeological horizon. The identification is performed based on the "Scythian triad" (skifskaja triada): certain types of weaponry, horse riding harness, "Scythian" animal style in art. The handbook notes, however, that the actual ethnonyms of the makers of the Pazyryk, Uyuk and Tagar cultures are unknown.
Moreover, note that, what in some cases has been displayed as "Scythian" are in fact unidentified artifacts from the 18th century collections, such as the famous collection donated to Peter the Great composed of various artifacts from robbed burial mounds of unknown locations, since digging for treasure in kurgans was a commonly accepted practice at the time.
Another example could be this popular article Scythian Gold From Siberia Said to Predate the Greeks (2002), where the author first cites this historiographic legend but then begins to doubt it.
The fierce nomadic Scythian tribes roamed the Eurasian steppe, from the northern borders of China to the Black Sea region, in the 7th to 3rd centuries B.C. In the 5h and 4h centuries B.C. they interacted with the ancient Greeks who had colonized the Black Sea region, which is now in Ukraine and southern Russia. Not surprisingly ancient Greek influence was evident in Scythian gold previously discovered, but the recent find [in Tyva] dates from before contact with the Greeks and from the heart of Siberia where, scholars say, contact with outsiders can almost be excluded.
Indeed, there seems to be no solid reasons to believe that "Siberian Scythians" of the Altai and Tyva were in any way ethnically similar or equivalent to the Black Sea Scythians of Herodotus. And of course, the superficial archaeological similarity is hardly sufficient to proclaim ethnic identity.
We should understand that when archaeologist speak of the "Scythian" or "Scythio-Siberian" style, they merely use a figure of speech with a specific cultural meaning pertaining to a group of archaeological traits, but there should be no direct reference to the Scythians of Herodotus, let alone Iranian or Indo-Iranian languages in general. Such overexpansion should be thought of as purely journalistic and introducing excessive laxness into the originally rather strict terminology.

A possible conclusion:
Some of the famous archaeological cultures of the Altai Krai, upper Ob and upper Yenisei basins, particularly Pazyryk (Altai, 6th-3rd century BCE), may very well belong to late Proto-Turkic (Proper) or early Turkic dialects during the period of the initial Turkic split and dispersal in the 5th-2nd centuries BCE. These considerations make us wonder about the grounds for attributing these cultures to the so called Siberian Scythians, apparently on purely superficial similarity of certain archaeological artifacts.


2.3 The Reconstruction of the Early Spread of Turkic Languages Proper

The Primary Stage of Turkic Proper Expansion

A detailed geomigrational analysis suggests that the Proto-Turkic tribes must have split up according the terrain features and the distribution of the local ethnic adstrata near the Altai-Sayan mountain system.

An Early Distribution of Proto-Turkic, Sourh Samoyedic and 
Yeniseian Languages c 500 BCE
A map of the early distribution of Turkic, Samoyedic and Yeniseian ethnicities

On the map above, you can see the area of Proto-Turkic, which is depicted as matching the deforested regions of the Kulunda and Baraba steppe, suitable for livestock breeding and horse-mounted migrations. These regions mostly extend along rivers within the Irtysh-Ob and Yenisei drainage basins and their subbasins.
The South Samoyedic ethnicities are displayed approximately, as they were known at the earliest attestation period c. 16th century, with some allowable errors and interpolations, see for instance articles by Helimskiy and Kyunapp in [Jazyki mira: Uralskije jazyki (The Languages of the World: The Uralic Languages); editorial board: V. Yartseva, Yu. Yelisejev et al; The Russian Academy of Sciences (1993)]. We also suppose herein — based on the early attestation and distribution of Samoyedic near the West Sayan Mountains — that the entire area of teh Minusinsk Depression had originally been inhabited by Samoyedic peoples, but during the 9th and 2nd centuries BC they must have been slowly displaced by the arriving Proto-Turkic tribes.
Generally, speaking the Samoyedic ethnicities must have arrived in the Sayan Mountains by moving along the Ob river basin. We know very well that the remains of the Selkup ethnic groups still reside today in the middle course of the Ob basin (along such rivers as the Ob, Tym, Ket, Chaya, Chulym, etc). Moreover, we infer that their arrival to the Sayan Mountains may most likely be connected with their migrations from the west, as they are well known to be connected to Finno-Ugric languages.
The linguistic exchange between Samoyedic and Turkic is evident from Samoyedic borrowings into the Altai-Sayan Turkic languages [Anna Dybo, Lingvisticheskije kontakty rannikh tyurkov. Leksicheskij fond. (Linguistic Contacts of the Early Turks: the Lexical Fund), Moscow (2007)].
On the other hand, certain military hostility between the late Proto-Turkic and South Samoyedic cultures seems to be observed in archaeological finds. The Bolshaya Rechka (Bolsherechenskaya) archaeological culture (from the name of the Ob's tributary, literally, Russian "Big River") was dated between 500-0 BCE and located along the upper Ob, from the confluence of the Biya and Katun to the Tom river — that is, within the area of marked as "Central Proto-Turkic dialect" on the map above. It is said to include Kamen (Kamenskaya) (sub)culture in the north and Staryj Alej (Staroalejskaja), Kizhir (Kizhirskaja) (sub)cultures in the south [Arkheologija Zapadno-Sibirskoj ravniny (The Archaeology of the West Siberian Plain), Troitskaja, T.N., Novikov, A.V., Novosibirsk (2004)].
Altogether, the people of the Bolshaya Rechka culture were characterized by bronze smelting; bronze and gold jewelry; bronze mirrors; burial mounds (kurgans); the lack or scarcity of any town fortifications with the settlements in pit dwellings without town walls; horse and cattle husbandry, horse riding;crop cultivation; knives and some swords made of low quality iron (widespread by 300-0 BCE). In other words, the location of Bolshaya Rechka near the initial area of the Proto-Turkic dispersal and the presence of all the typical Proto-Turkic traits marks this culture as possibly Proto-Turkic or as that of the early Turkic dialect speakers.
To the north of it, there existed the neighboring Kulay culture, located along the Middle Ob near the Vasyugan /vah-soo-GAHN/ Marshland. It is usually attributed to the Samoyedic settlers [idem]. It was initially based entirely on the bronze smelting technology, and used extensive fortifications, such as moats and town walls, with multiple weaponry finds in graves. It looks like the people of the Kulay culture were defending against unknown intruders. However, they began to use the iron weapons only by 200-0 BCE, and apparently borrowed some agricultural traits in the southern fringe from the Bolshaya Rechka culture. On the contrary, their potential enemies of Bolshaya Rechka seemed to enjoy relatively peaceful life with a good percentage of male burials lacking any weapons at all.

The possible explanation provided herein is that the Bolshaya Rechka culture belonged to the speakers of an early Turkic dialect who benefited from the early use of iron technology in warfare, as well as extensive use of agriculture that led to demographic supremacy. They felt defended from any potential attackers by superior iron weaponry and numerical advantage, and thus had no need to build complex fortifications, availing themselves to the semi-nomadic lifestyle that allowed stable nutrition and ultimately resulted in faster population growth and outward expansion.
Furthermore, there existed a third ethnic component in the area, which was formed by the hunter/gathering Yeniseian tribes, who seem to have inhabited river banks in the taiga forests. Originally, they most likely lived throughout the region, but the culture of hunters/gatherers apparently could not withstand to the advancing Samoyedic and Turkic tribes; consequently their historically attested distribution is mostly confined to the Yenisei basin.
Thus, during the 4th and 3rd century BCE, the delicate strategic balance of the Bronze Age that had lasted for one or two thousand of years in West Siberia, was apparently upset, and the early Turkic tribes began to expand in the direction of the Yenisei basin, ebbing away at the Samoyedic settlements along the Ob. The final stages of this process were partly attested in historical records — where Yenisei Kyrgyzes and Samoyeds are known to inhabit nearly the same area — and are clearly reflected on the map of ethnic distribution of the Altay Krai, and even in the archaeological finds.
As a result, we may conclude that, during the differentiation of the Proto-Turkic (Proper), the Proto-Turkic tribes must have spread at least in the two main directions, flowing around the Altay-Sayan Mountains:

(1) the first northern branch spread into the deforested areas of the Yenisei basin, thus forming the early Proto-Yakutic dialect. Proto-Yakutic must have become what it is, as soon as it crossed into Tuva and northern Mongolia with either permafrost soil and reindeer breeding, which seem to have happened by the middle of the 1st millennum BCE.
The Proto-Altay-Sayan dialect was a different thing and must have formed in that area at a much later stage. Apparently, it was a secondary migration wave that superseded the hypothetical Proto-Yakutic settlement along the upper Yenisei, thus acquiring certain grammatical and a few lexical features shared by Yakutic and Altay-Sayan groupings (see the analysis in the Internal Classification);

(2) the second southern branch spread to the southeast through the "Zaysan Passage" into Dzungaria, the Tarim Basin and West Mongolia, thus forming an early Orkhon-Karakhanid-type of dialect;
As a result of this migration, as shown above, by the beginning of the common era or roughly between 400-200 BCE, the early Proto-Turkic (Proper) language must have split up into three or four major subtaxa (or dialectal areas, or the early Turkic languages) that presently demonstrate maximum grammatical, phonological, and lexicostatistical differentiation within the main Turkic group.

The homeland and  the early expansion of the Turkic languages 
(Primary Stage)
The primary stage of the Turkic expansion

(1) Proto-Yakutic, which had probably separated at a very early period from the Sayan-Altay-Great-Steppe proto-stem by moving along the upper Yenisei, to the source of the Lesser Yenisei, located to the west of Lake Khövsgöl, but there are some doubts.
(2) Proto-Great-Steppe and Proto-Sayan-Altay, which must have stayed somewhere near their original habitat (Lake Zaysan and the Irtysh river). At a later period, Proto-Altay-Sayan must have moved from the Ob to the Yenisei basin, and then into the Minusinsk Depression, which is known for warm and hot summers and suitable agricultural conditions, thus forming Proto-Altay-Sayan. Afterward, they must have penetrated into the West Sayan mountain system by moving along the upper Yenisei, replacing older Proto-Yakutic settlements in Tyva.
(3) Proto-Southern (in other words, Proto-Orkhon-Oghuz-Karakhanid tribes), which was also an early sprout. It had separated from the main stem by following the upper reaches of the Irtysh river (the Kara-Irtysh) into northern Dzungaria. At that point, it must have diversified into two branches.

One of these branches must have moved further along the Mongolian Altai, finally reaching the Orkhon River, that flows near the Khangai Mountains, approximately within a 200 mile span from the present-day Ulaan-Bator. This area is more or less suitable for living since it is located between several mountain ranges and the permafrost is less common there.

The other branch must have turned to the west in the direction of the Tarim Basin.
How do we know that Proto-Orkhon reached Mongolia traveling all the way around the Mongolian Altai? We can be fairly certain of the above-mentioned route — via the Zaysan Passage to Dzungaria, that is around Lake Zaysan and then following the Kara-Irtysh (the continuation of the upper Irtysh to the southeast of Zaysan) along the Mongolian Altai — because this is, essentially, one of the very few suitable passages [see orange dotted lines on the map] from the Kazakhstan steppe into present-day China and Mongolia, whereas the rest of the virtual pathways are mostly blocked by an interconnected system of mountain ranges or other obstacles herein named as the Great Eurasian Barrier.

As to other passages, such as the Dzungarian Gate, a valley at the southern end of Lake Alakol, the passage to the west of the Tarbagatai Range, and probably a couple of others historically viable passages, they are more distantly located and lead directly to the Dzungarian desert or around it, resulting in a greater digression, so they are harder to follow when traveling to Mongolia. In theory, they could be used to get into the Tarim basin, but we must also take into the consideration the presence of other ethnic groups there, such as Proto-Khotanese-Tumshuqese (an Iranian subgrouping) and Proto-Tocharian, all of which could have impeded an early spread through these passages.

A different possible interpretation would be that Proto-Orkhon arrived in Mongolia from the Yenisei basin across the Great Lakes Depression following the network of North Mongolian rivers. In this case, the Proto-Orkhon speakers must have passed near Lake Uvs(-Nuur) (where some archaeological artifacts were indeed found), and then moved through the mountains along the Tes River to the Selenga basin to ultimately reach its confluence with the Orkhon river, and then travel for hundreds of miles to the upper reaches of the Orkhon. Otherwise, they would have to climb across mountain ranges, which is even less likely.
However, this route sounds much less plausible because of the complexities of mount travel for horse breeding nomads as well as for linguistic reasons. Indeed, if this were true, we would observe possible innovative similarities between Proto-Orkhon and Proto-Khakas-Tuvan which seem to be entirely absent. We would also find the Southern-type Turkic groups concentrated in the Great Lakes Depression.
It is not that this route is entirely impossible, it is just that it seems to be much less probable, though it can be left for consideration in other cases for different types of migrations, for instance, the ones that occurred during the early warfare between Gökturks and Yenisei Kyrgyzes.

A third, and an even less likely option is that Proto-Orkhon arrived in the Orkhon Valley traveling up the Selenga river that flows into Lake Baikal. If this were true, we would probably find much more linguistic and ethnographic similarities between Proto-Yakutic and Proto-Orkhon, which seem to be absent either. It should be noted, however, that Shirokobokova [Shirokobokova, N.N., Otnoshenije jakutskogo jazyka k tyurkskim jazykam Juznoj Sibiri (The relatedness of the Yakut language to the Turkic languages of South Siberia), Novosibirsk (2005)] does mention certain grammatical features that may relate Proto-Sakha to Proto-Orkhon, but these are probably just archaisms left over from the Proto-Turkic period; in any case, she did not show them to be specific shared innovations.

It would also be likely that in the latter two cases more Turkic languages would exist in Mongolia, especially within the the Great Lake Depression, presently inhabited by Oirots, and the Transbaikal region, presently inhabited by Buryats. But this is not corroborated by the historical distribution of the Turkic languages, with most Southern Turkic languages being in fact located closer to the Tarim Basin.
It all boils down to that the conclusion that the complex mountain system of northern Mongolia precludes any direct migration from the Irtysh, Ob and Yenisei Rivers to the Orkhon River or vice versa, therefore a long digressive migration around the Mongolian Altai presently seems more likely, even though the direct migration via Tuva and Great Lakes Depression cannot be entirely excluded.

The Secondary Stage of Turkic Expansion
By about 300 CE the initial dialectal split had been finished resulting in the emergence of the earliest Turkic languages. However, the migrations continued, and new Turkic subtaxa and languages began to form.

The homeland and  the early expansion of the Turkic languages 
(Secondary Stage)

The secondary stage of the Turkic expansion

Somewhere about 400 CE, Proto-Sakha must have arrived to the Irkut River basin and Lake Baikal, where they apparently became known as Kurykans. But the northward migration following the course of the upper Lena must have begun only many centuries afterward.
By about 300-500 CE, the Proto-Altay-Sayan tribes must have occupied the agriculturally suitable Minusinsk Depression and the upper reaches of the Yenisei River. At this stage, they finally split into the Proto-Khakas-Altai located north of the West Sayan and Proto-Tuvan located in the Tuva Depression south of the West Sayan. This splitting occurred when the early Proto-Tuvan tribes began moving further and deeper into the Western Sayan mountains, following the upper reaches of the Yenisei river and displacing any possible Samoyedic and Proto-Yakutic substratum that could be there hypothetically.

The Proto-Altai taxon has less evident origins. Its formation is probably connected with back-migrations or smaller migrations from Khakassia along the Abakan river across the Kuznetsk Alatau, which is the drainage divide between the upper Ob and Yenisei basins. These migrations resulted in settlements along the mountain rivers of the Ob basin in the Altai Mountains. Protected by these mountains, Proto-Altay remained largely unaffected by the Gökturk or most other external influence, retaining many archaic characteristics and similarities with Khakas languages.
We know from historical records, that after c. 500 CE, during the Migration Period that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire in Europe, the early Orkhon Old Turkic began expanding westward from Mongolia and Dzungaria, probably trying to seize control over the Silk Road as well as find new suitable pasture areas in southern Kazakhstan to the north of the Great Eurasian Barrier. This period became known in history as the formation of the Western and Eastern Göktürk Kaganates.
Note that it has been conjectured that the European Migration Period could have been caused by the extreme weather events in 535-536, therefore the start of the Gökturk migrations can possibly be explained by climatic events alone, though this is controversial.

By 576 AD, Göktürks are reported to have traveled as far as the Crimean Peninsula and the Black Sea. By 627, Tung Yabgu, assisted by the Khazars and Emperor Heraclius, launched a massive invasion of Transcaucasia which culminated in the taking of Derbent and Tbilisi.

Finally, the spread of the Orkhon-Karakhanid branch towards the Taklamakan Desert displaced Iranian (by c. 900 CE) and Tocharian tribes there (by c. 800 CE) and led to the formation of Kara-Khoja (Old Uyghur) in the Tarim Basin and early Karakhanid in the Tian Shan mountains.

The Third Stage of Turkic Expansion
The final stage of the Turkic expansion is mostly well attested in historical records. It led to the formation of the many Turkic subgroups scattered all over the central part of the Eurasian continent.

The Expansion of the Turkic Langauges in Eurasia
The third stage of the Turkic expansion [Darkstar (2011-2012)]

The dispersal of Great-Steppe led to the formation of Proto-Kyrgyz-Chagatai and Proto-Kimak tribes.

The Kyrgyz tribes seem to have traveled towards the Tian-Shan Mountains by about 600-700 CE.

The Kimaks expanded northwestwards along the Irtysh into the vast sea of the Great Steppe, towards the Ural mountains and ultimately, the Black Sea. They were attested as the "al-Bashkird" caravan robbers near the Urals and the confluence of Volga and Kama by Ibn-Fadlan in 921 AD. They finally reached the Kievan Rus by c. 1050, creating various Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar languages on their way, including the languages of the Golden Horde, which disintegrated after the 15th century. The Tatars were the ruling clan in the 10th-11th centuries, this is probably why we often know and remember most Kimak ethnic groups Kimak as "Tatars".

Similarly, the Oghuz tribes moved from Lake Zaysan towards the Syr-Darya (Yaxartes) and the Aral Sea by about 780 AD. After 985 AD, their complex (and poorly attested?) interaction with the local Persian and Karakhanid substratum or adstratum resulted in the emergence of the medieval Seljuk languages, which, after the battle of Manzikert in 1071, led to the formation of the early Turkish language in Anatolia, as well as Azeri, Qashqai, Khorosani in Persia.
The convoluted and heterogeneous migration processes that followed the Mongolian turmoil of the 13th century resulted in the significant replacement of the Karakhanid substratum in the Tian Shan mountains and Tarim basin by an unknown Great-Steppe language, spoken by tribes to the north of Tian Shan, and apparently closely related to the present-day Kyrgyz or Kazakh. The language that emerged as a result of the interaction between this unknown languages and and the local Karakhanid substratum became known as Chagatai; it finally led to the rise of the modern Uzbek and Uyghur languages.

3. References and sources

1. Yazyki mira: Tyurkskije jazyki (The Languages of the World: The Turkic Languages); editorial board: E. Tenishev, E. Potselujevskij, I. Kormushin, A. Kibrik, et al, consists of articles by specific authors; The Russian Academy of Sciences (1996) (a very detailed, authoritative edition)
2. Starling Database, The Turkic etymology, starling.rinet.ru, composed by Anna Dybo
3. Sravnintelno-istoricheskaja grammatka tyurkskikh jazykov. Pratyurkskij jazyk-osnova. Kartina mira pratyurkskogo etnosa po dannym jazyka. (The Comparative Grammar of the Turkic Languages. The Proto-Turkic Language. The Worldview of the Proto-Turkic Ethnic Group Based on the Linguistic Data.), editorial board: E. Tenishev et al., Moscow (2006)
4. Anna Dybo, Khronologija tyurkskikh jazykov i lingvisticheskije kontakty rannikh tyurkov (The Chronology of the Turkic Languages and the Linguistic Contacts of the Early Turks) (2006?) (includes lexicostatistical data)
5. Anna Dybo, Lingvisticheskije kontakty rannikh tyurkov. Leksicheskij fond. (Linguistic Contacts of the Early Turks: the Lexical Fund), Moscow (2007)

6. 200-word Swadesh lists for Turkic languages (composed by many people incl. the author of this publication)
7. Yu. V. Normanskaja, Rastitelnyj mir. Derevja i kustarniki. Geograficheskaja lokalizatsija prarodiny tyurkov po dannym floristicheskoj leksiki (The plant world. Trees and shrubs. The geographical localization of the Turkic homland based on the floristic lexis data.) // Sravnintelno-istoricheskaja grammatika tyurkskikh jazykov. Pratyurkskij jazyk-osnova. Kartina mira pratyurkskogo etnosa po dannym jazyka. Moscow (2006)
8. Atlas narodov mira (The Atlas of the Peoples of the World), Moscow (1964) (the ethnographic maps generally get better when they are older, because of the language loss)
9. Etimologicheskij slovar tyurkskikh jazykov (The etymological Dictionary of the Turkic Languages), E. V. Sevortyan, Vol. 1-7, Moscow (1974-2003) (Mostly known as Sevortyan's dictionary, though he died in 1978; in fact, a multivolume publication prepared by a group of authors, with the earliest volume still photocopied from a typewriter, apparently due to difficulties in reprinting diacritics; the last volumes are still being prepared for publication; proto-forms are arranged in alphabetical order; despite certain drawbacks and unclear points, still the most comprehensive work on Turkic lexis)
10. Stepnyje imperii drevnej Evrazii (The Steppe Empires of Old Eurasia), S. G. Klyashtornyj, D.G. Savinov, Saint-Petersburgh (2005)
11. K probleme rekonstruktsii sistemy sezonnykh perekochovok kochevnikov Volga-Uralskogo mezhdurech'ja v VI-I vv. do n. e. (On the problem of reconstructing the system of seasonal migrations of nomads in the Volga-Ural basin in the 6th-1st century BCE), Myshkin, V.N., (2007?)
12. Arkheologija Zapadno-Sibirskoj ravniny (The Archaeology of the West Siberian Plain), Troitskaja, T.N., Novikov, A.V., Novosibirsk (2004)
13. Uralskaja istoricheskaja entsiklopedija (The Historical Encyclopedia of the Urals), Chief Editor: Alekejev, V.V., Yekaterinburg (2000)
14. Yuznyje sosedi finno-ugrov: irantsy ili ischeznuvshaja vetv' arijev ("arii-andronovtsy") (Who were the southern neighbours of Finno-Ugrians: Iranians or an extinct branch or Aryans ("Arians-Andronovians")?), Helimskij, E.A. // Polytropon, Moscow (1998)
15. Otkuda prishli indoarii? Materialnaja kultura andronovskoj obschnosti i proiskhozhdenije indoirantsev.(Where do Indo-Aryans come from? The material culture of the Andronovo horizon and the origins of the Indo-Iranians.), Kuzmina, E.E.; Moscow (1994)
16. Shirokobokova, N.N. Otnoshenije jakutskogo jazyka k tyurkskim jazykam Yuznoj Sibiri (The relatedness of the Yakut language to the Turkic languages of South Siberia), Novosibirsk (2005) (essentially, a small monograph on the linguistic origins of Sakha)

17. Russko-chuvashskij slovar (Russian-Chuvash Dictionary), by M. Skvortsov, A. Skvortsova; Cheboksary (2002) (doc)

18. Etimologicheskij slovar chuvashskego jazyka (The etymological Dictionary of Chuvash), by M. Fedotov; volume 1-2, Cheboksary (1996) (quite helpful and enlightening)

19.Chuvashskij jazyk i jego otnoshenije k mongolskomu i tyurkskim jazykam (Chuvash and its relatedness to Mongolian and the Turkic languages), Nicholas Poppe (1924) (downloadable)

20. A Russian-Yakut, Yakut-Russian online dictionary (22.000, 35.000 words), www.sakhatyla.ru

21. Russko-bashkirskij slovar, composed by Z.G. Uraksin, Ufa (2005)

22. Russko-uzbekskij slovar, Editor-in-Chief M. Ch. Koshchanov; Vol 1-2; Tashkent (1983)

23. Kratkij russko-turkmenskij slovar, Editors-in-Chief: M. Khazmayev, S. Altajev; Ashgabad (1968)

24. Drevnetyurkskij slovar (The Old Turkic dictionary), editors: V.M Nadelyajev, D. M. Nasilov, et al., Leningrad (1969)

25. Skifo-Sibirskij zverinyj stil v iskusstve narodov Evrazii (The Scythian Siberian animal style in the art of Eurasian peoples), a collection of articles, Editors-in-Chief: Melyukova, A.I., Moshkova, M.G.; Moscow (1976)
26. Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, Saint Petersburg (1906)
27. Sevda Sulejmanova, Istorija tyurkskikh narodov (The history of the Turkic peoples), Baku (2009)
28. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language. Second College Edition, Editor-in-Chief: David Guralnik, Prentice Hall Press (1986)
29. Jazyki mira: Uralskije jazyki (The Languages of the World: The Uralic Languages); editorial board: V. Yartseva, Yu. Yelisejev et al, consists of articles by specific authors; The Russian Academy of Sciences (1993)
30. Aus Sibirien. Lose Blätter aus meinem Tagebuche (From Siberia: Torn pages from my diary), Wilhelm Radloff, Leipzig, 1893
31. D. A. Myagkov, Traditsionnoje khozyajstvo barabinskikh tatar vo vtoroj polovine XIX veka – pervoj polovine XX (The traditional economy of the Baraba Tatars from the second half of the 19th to the 1st half of the 20th century), avtoreferat dissertatsiji (a thesis summary), Omsk (2009)


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