Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The story about the Nordic civilization

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 17, 2015

In the beginning

In the 7th millennium BC, when the reindeer and their hunters had moved for northern Scandinavia, forests had been established in the land. A culture called the Maglemosian culture lived in Denmark and southern Sweden, and north of them, in Norway and most of southern Sweden, the Fosna-Hensbacka culture, who lived mostly along the shores of the thriving forests.

Utilizing fire, boats and stone tools enabled these Stone Age inhabitants to survive life in northern Europe. The northern hunter/gatherers followed the herds and the salmon runs, moving south during the winters, moving north again during the summers.

These early peoples followed cultural traditions similar to those practised throughout other regions in the far north – areas including modern Finland, Russia, and across the Bering Strait into the northernmost strip of North America (containing portions of today’s Alaska and Canada).

During the 6th millennium BC, southern Scandinavia was clad in lush forests of temperate broadleaf and mixed forests. In these forests roamed animals such as aurochs, wisent, moose and red deer.

Now, the Kongemose culture lived off these animals. Like their predecessors, they also hunted seals and fished in the rich waters. North of the Kongemose people, lived other hunter-gatherers in most of southern Norway and Sweden, called the Nøstvet and Lihult cultures, descendants of the Fosna and Hensbacka cultures. These cultures still hunted, in the end of the 6th millennium BC when the Kongemose culture was replaced by the Ertebølle culture in the south.

During the 5th millennium BC, the Ertebølle culture took up pottery from the Linear Pottery culture in the south, whose members had long cultivated the land and kept animals.

About 4000 BC South Scandinavia up to River Dalälven in Sweden became part of the Funnelbeaker culture. It is not known what language these early Scandinavians spoke. It might have been similar to Basque, due to the distribution of the monuments by early megalith builders. The Pitted Ware culture then developed along Sweden’s east coast as a return to a hunting economy in the mid-4th millennium BC.

Towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC, they were overrun by new groups who many scholars think spoke Proto-Indo-European, the Battle-Axe culture. This new people advanced up to Uppland and the Oslofjord, and they probably provided the language that was the ancestor of the modern Scandinavian languages.

This new culture was individualistic and patriarchal with the battle axe as a status symbol, and were cattle herders. However, soon a new invention would arrive, that would usher in a time of cultural advance in Scandinavia, the Bronze Age.

During the Nordic Bronze Age, an advanced civilization manufacturing bronze weapons and bronze and gold jewellery appears in Denmark, parts of Sweden and parts of Norway. It has been assumed that this civilization was founded in amber trade, through contacts with Central European and Mediterranean cultures.

The period 2300-500 BC was the most intensive petroglyph carving period, consisting of carvings of an agricultural nature and depicting warfare, ships, domesticated animals, etc. There has also been found petroglyphs with themes of sexual nature in Bohuslän; these are dated from 800-500 BC.

Ertebølle culture

The Ertebølle culture (ca 5300 BC – 3950 BC), the name of a hunter-gatherer and fisher, pottery-making culture dating to the end of the Mesolithic period, was concentrated in Southern Scandinavia, but genetically linked to strongly related cultures in Northern Germany and the Northern Netherlands.

The Ertebølle culture replaced the earlier Kongemose culture of Denmark. It was limited to the north by the Scandinavian Nøstvet and Lihult cultures. It is divided into an early phase ca 5300 BC-ca 4500 BC, and a later phase ca 4500 BC-3950 BC.

Skeletal remains are relatively meager. They have been studied and described in great detail from an anthropometric, or “man-measuring”, point of view. Without resorting to this specialized language, the main conclusions are as follows.

The Ertebølle and preceding Kongemose populations were of mixed race. On the one hand they did not differ from the current inhabitants of Denmark in skeleton. Soft tissue features, being known through reconstruction only, leave some space for variation.

On the other hand many skulls evidence facial features or dimensions of Cro-magnon man. The latter type prevailed in Late Paleolithic times in Europe, supplanting Neanderthal man there. The Cro-magnon skull is dolichocephalic (long), the jaw prognathous (protruding), the nose flat and the supraorbital ridges (brow ridges) pronounced.

Genetic analysis by scientists from the University of Ferrara (Italy) indicates that the Cro-magnons were ancestral to the current population of Europe. There is no evidence of superficial features such as coloration or details of facial tissue, and nothing to suggest that the Cro-magnons of Europe were the only ancestors of Europeans or that features considered Europoid were not found elsewhere.

Two hypotheses concerning the origin of the Ertebølle population are therefore possible and have been proposed. One is that in the remains we are seeing an intermediate phase in the evolution of the Nordics. The second is that the Ertebølle population were an admixture of agrarian southerners with indigenous Cro-magnons over a permeable border. Both views are supported by the evidence.

Linear Pottery culture

The Ertebølle culture was roughly contemporaneous with the Linear Pottery culture (also known as Linearbandkeramik or LBK, c. 5500–4500 BC), a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic whose northernmost border was located just to the south.

The Linear Pottery Culture is credited with the first farming communities in Central Europe, marking the beginning of Neolithic Europe in the region some 7500 years ago. The Ertebølle did not practice agriculture but it did utilize domestic grain in some capacity, which it must have obtained from the south. During the 5th millennium BC the Ertebølle culture took up pottery from the Linear Pottery culture in the south, whose members had long cultivated the land and kept animals.

In the 1960s and 1970s another closely related culture was found in the (now dry) Noordoostpolder in the Netherlands, near the village Swifterbant and the former island of Urk. Named the Swifterbant culture (5300 – 3400 BC) they show a transition from hunter-gatherer to both animal husbandry, primarily cows and pigs, and cultivation of barley and emmer wheat. During the formative stages contact with nearby Linear Pottery culture settlements in Limburg has been detected.

In 2005 scientists successfully sequenced mtDNA coding region 15997–16409 derived from 24 7,500- to 7,000-year-old human remains associated with the LBK culture. Of those remains, 22 were from locations in Germany near the Harz Mountains and the upper Rhine Valley, while one was from Austria and one from Hungary.

The scientists did not reveal the detailed hypervariable segment I (HVSI) sequences for all the samples, but identified that seven of the samples belonged to H or V branch of the mtDNA phylogenetic tree, six belonged to the N1a branch, five belonged to the T branch, four belonged to the K(U8) branch, one belonged to the J branch, and one belonged to the U3 branch. All branches are extant in the current European population.

Comparison of the N1a HVSI sequences with sequences of living individuals found three of them to correspond with those of individuals currently living in Europe. Two of the sequences corresponded to ancestral nodes predicted to exist or to have existed on the European branch of the phylogenetic tree. One of the sequences is related to European populations, but with no apparent descendants amongst the modern population.

The N1a evidence supports the notion that the descendants of LBK culture have lived in Europe for more than 7,000 years and have become an integral part of the current European population. The lack of mtDNA haplogroup U5 supports the notion that U5 at this time is uniquely associated with mesolithic European cultures.

Haplogroup N1a (mtDNA)

Haplogroup N1a is widely distributed throughout Eurasia and Eastern Africa and is divided into the European/Central Asian and African/South Asian branches based on specific genetic markers.

N1a originated in the Near East 12,000 to 32,000 years ago. Specifically, the Arabian Peninsula is postulated as the geographic origin of N1a. This supposition is based on the relatively high frequency and genetic diversity of N1a in modern populations of the peninsula. Exact origins and migration patterns of this haplogroup are still subject of some debate.

N1a became particularly prominent in this debate when a team led by Wolfgang Haak analyzed skeletons from Linear Pottery Culture sites. As of 2010, mitochondrial DNA analysis has been conducted on 42 specimens from five locations. Seven of the 42 specimens were found to be members of haplogroup N1a.

A separate study analyzed 22 skeletons from European hunter-gatherer sites dated 13400-2300 BC. Most of these remains were members of Haplogroup U, which was not found in any of the Linear Pottery Culture sites. Conversely, N1a was not identified in any of the hunter-gatherer fossils, indicating a genetic distinction between early European farmers and late European hunter-gatherers.

While no modern population is a close match to the LBK findings, the authors claim that the Linear Pottery population is most closely affiliated with modern Near East populations. Given this affiliation and the group’s distinctiveness from hunter-gatherers, Haak’s team concludes that “the transition to farming in central Europe was accompanied by a substantial influx of people from outside the region.”

However, they note that haplogroup frequencies in modern Europeans are substantially different from early farming and late hunter-gatherer populations. This indicates that “the diversity observed today cannot be explained by admixture between hunter-gatherers and early farmers alone” and that “major demographic events continued to take place in Europe after the early Neolithic.”

Haplogroup G

A 2010 study of ancient DNA suggested the LBK population had affinities to modern-day populations from the Near East and Anatolia, such as an overall prevalence of G2, the main paternal lineage of Neolithic farmers. The study also found some unique features, such as the prevalence of the now-rare Y-haplogroup F* and mitochondrial haplogroup frequencies.

There has so far been ancient Y-DNA analysis from only four Neolithic cultures (LBK in Germany, Remedello in Italy and Cardium Pottery in south-west France and Spain), and all sites yielded G2a individuals, which is the strongest evidence at present that farming originated with and was disseminated by members of haplogroup G (although probably in collaboration with other haplogroups such as E1b1b, J, R1b and T).

The highest genetic diversity within haplogroup G is found between the Levant and the Caucasus, in the Fertile Crescent, which is a good indicator of its region of origin. It is thought that early Neolithic farmers expanded from the Levant and Mesopotamia westwards to Anatolia and Europe, eastwards to South Asia, and southwards to the Arabian Peninsula and North and East Africa.

The domestication of goats and cows first took place in the mountainous region of eastern Anatolia, including the Caucasus and Zagros. This is probably where the roots of haplogroup G2a (and perhaps of all haplogroup G) are to be found. So far, the only G2a people negative for subclades downstream of P15 or L149.1 were found exclusively in the South Caucasus region.

Members of haplogroup G2 appears to have been closely linked to the development of early agriculture in the Levant part of the Fertile Crescent, starting 11,500 years before present. The G2a branch expanded to Anatolia, the Caucasus and Europe, while G2b ended up secluded in the southern Levant and is now found mostly among Jewish people.

Nowadays haplogroup G is found all the way from Western Europe and Northwest Africa to Central Asia, India and East Africa, although everywhere at low frequencies (generally between 1 and 10% of the population). The only exceptions are the Caucasus region, central and southern Italy and Sardinia, where frequencies typically range from 15 % to 30 % of male lineages.

Funnelbeaker culture

Shortly after 4100 BC the Ertebølle began to expand along the Baltic coast at least as far as Rügen it was replaced by the Funnelbeaker culture (TRB or TBK, ca 4300 BC–ca 2800 BC). About 4000 BC South Scandinavia up to River Dalälven in Sweden became part of the Funnelbeaker culture.

Ancient DNA extracted from three individuals ascribed to a TRB horizon in Gökhem, Sweden, was found to possess mtDNA haplogroups H, that likely originated in Southwest Asia 20,000-25,000 years Before Present, J, a mutation took place in the DNA of a woman who lived in the Near East or Caucasus around 45,000 years before present, and T, also thought to have emanated from the Middle East.

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis the Funnelbeaker culture is seen as non-Indo-European, representing the culture of what Marija Gimbutas termed Old Europe, the peoples of which were later to be governed by the Indo-European-language-speaking peoples intruding from the east.

Old Europe is a term coined by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas to describe what she perceived as a relatively homogeneous pre-Indo-European Neolithic culture in southeastern Europe located in the Danube River valley.

Archaeologists and ethnographers working within her framework, also known as the Kurgan hypothesis, believe that the evidence points to later migrations and invasions of the peoples who spoke Indo-European languages at the beginning of the Bronze Age.

Old Europe, or Neolithic Europe, refers to the time between the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods in Europe, roughly from 7000 BCE (the approximate time of the first farming societies in Greece) to ca. 1700 BCE (the beginning of the Bronze Age in northwest Europe).

The duration of the Neolithic varies from place to place: in southeast Europe it is approximately 4000 years (i. e., 7000–3000 BCE); in North-West Europe it is just under 3000 years (ca. 4500–1700 BCE).

It has been suggested that the Funnelbeaker culture was the origin of the gene allowing adults of Northern European descent to digest lactose. It was claimed that in the area formerly inhabited by this culture, prevalence of the gene is virtually universal.

A study published in 2009, also by Itan et al., suggests that the Linear Pottery culture, which preceded the TRB culture by some 1,500 years, was the culture in which this trait started to co-evolve with the culture of dairying.

Preceded by Lengyel-influenced Stroke-ornamented ware culture (STK) groups/Late Lengyel and Baden-Boleráz in the southeast, Rössen groups in the southwest and the Ertebølle-Ellerbek groups in the north, the TRB techno-complex is divided into a northern group, a western group, an eastern group, and south-central groups. The north-central European megaliths were built primarily during the TRB era.

Especially in the southern and eastern groups, local sequences of variants emerged. In the late 4th millennium BC, the Globular Amphora culture (KAK) replaced most of the eastern and subsequently also the southern TRB groups, reducing the TRB area to modern northern Germany and southern Scandinavia. The younger TRB in these areas was superseded by the Corded Ware culture at about 2800 BC.

It is not known what language these early Scandinavians spoke. It might have been similar to Basque, due to the distribution of the monuments by early megalith builders. Towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC, they were overrun by new groups who many scholars think spoke Proto-Indo-European, the Battle-Axe culture.

Pitted Ware culture

The Pitted Ware culture (ca 3200 BC– ca 2300 BC), a hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia, mainly along the coasts of Svealand, Götaland, Åland, north-eastern Denmark and southern Norway, developed along Sweden’s east coast as a return to a hunting economy in the mid-4th millennium BC.

The economy was based on fishing, hunting and gathering of plants. Pitted Ware sites contain bones from elk, deer, beaver, seal, porpoise, and pig. Pig bones found in large quantities on some Pitted Ware sites emanate from wild boar rather than domestic pigs.

Seasonal migration was a feature of life, as with many other hunter-gatherer communities. Pitted Ware communities in Eastern Sweden probably spent most of the year at their main village on the coast, making seasonal forays inland to hunt for pigs and fur-bearing animals and to engage in exchange with farming communities in the interior.

This type of seasonal interaction may explain the unique Alvastra Pile Dwelling in south-western Östergötland, which belongs to the Pitted Ware culture as far as the pottery is concerned, but to the Funnelbeaker culture in tools and weapons.

One notable feature of the Pitted Ware Culture is the sheer quantity of shards of pottery on its sites. The culture has been named after the typical ornamentation of its pottery: horizontal rows of pits pressed into the body of the pot before firing.

Though some vessels are flat-bottomed, others are round-based or pointed-based, which would facilitate stable positioning in the soil or on the hearth. In shape and decoration, this ceramic reflects influences from the Comb Ceramic culture, also known as Pit-Comb Ware, a northeast European culture of pottery-making hunter-gatherers of Finland and other parts of north-eastern Europe, established in the sixth and fifth millennia BC.

Small animal figurines were modelled out of clay, as well as bone. These are also similar to the art of the Comb Ware culture. A large number of clay figurines have been found at Jettböle on the island of Åland, including some which combine seal and human features.

A theory among archaeologists was that the Pitted Ware culture evolved from the Funnelbeaker culture by a process of abandonment of farming for hunting and fishing. However the two populations are genetically distinct. Samples of skeletal remains from Pitted Ware and Funnelbeaker sites in Sweden yielded mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).

The nineteen Pitted Ware samples from Gotland were dominated by mtDNA haplogroups U4, U5 and U5a, though it should be noted that, because of the low resolution of the tests performed, some haplotypes reported as U4 may actually belong to haplogroup H.

By contrast the three Funnelbeaker samples from Gökhem contained no haplogroup U. This is consistent with findings elsewhere in northern Europe of a distinct difference in mtDNA between hunter-gatherers and farmers.

A very low level (5%) of an allele (-13910*T) strongly associated with the ability to consume unprocessed milk at adulthood was found among Pitted Ware Culture individuals in Gotland, Sweden. This frequency is dramatically different from the extant Swedish population (74%).

As the language left no records, its linguistic affiliations are uncertain. It has been suggested that its people spoke a language related to the Uralic languages and provided the unique linguistic features discussed in the Germanic substrate hypothesis.

Despite its Mesolithic economy, it is by convention classed as Neolithic, since it falls within the period in which farming reached Scandinavia. It was first contemporary and overlapping with the agricultural Funnelbeaker culture, and later with the agricultural Corded Ware culture.

Pit-Comb Ware

The Pit–Comb Ware culture AKA Comb Ceramic culture (4200 – 2000 BC) was a northeast European culture of pottery-making hunter-gatherers. The distribution of the artifacts found includes Finnmark (Norway) in the north, the Kalix River (Sweden) and the Gulf of Bothnia (Finland) in the west and the Vistula River (Poland) in the south.

In the east the Comb Ceramic pottery of northern Eurasia extends beyond the Ural mountains to the Baraba steppe adjacent to the Altai-Sayan mountain range, merging with a continuum of similar ceramic styles.

It would include the Narva culture of Estonia and the Sperrings culture in Finland, among others. They are thought to have been essentially hunter-gatherers, though e.g. the Narva culture in Estonia shows some evidence of agriculture. Some of this region was absorbed by the later Corded Ware horizon.

The culture was characterised by small figurines of burnt clay and animal heads made of stone. The animal heads usually depict moose and bears and were derived from the art of the Mesolithic. There were also many rock paintings.

The Pit–Comb Ware culture is one of the few exceptions to the rule that pottery and farming coexist in Europe. In the Near East farming appeared before pottery, then when farming spread into Europe from the Near East, pottery-making came with it. However in Asia, where the oldest pottery has been found, pottery was made long before farming. It appears that the Comb Ceramic Culture reflects influences from Siberia and distant China.

Previously, the dominant view was that the spread of the Comb Ware people was correlated with the diffusion of the Uralic languages, and thus an early Uralic language must have been spoken throughout this culture.

However, another more recent view is that the Comb Ware people may have spoken a Paleo-European (pre-Uralic) language, as some toponyms and hydronyms also indicate a non-Uralic, non-Indo-European language at work in some areas.

Even then, linguists and archaeologists both have also been skeptical of assigning languages based on the borders of cultural complexes, and it’s possible that the Pit-Comb Ware Culture was made up of several languages, one of them being Proto-Uralic.


Proto-Uralic is the reconstructed language ancestral to the Uralic language family. The language was originally spoken in a small area in about 7000-2000 BC (estimates vary), and expanded to give differentiated protolanguages. The exact location of the area or Urheimat is not known, and various strongly differing proposals have been advocated, but the vicinity of the Ural Mountains is usually assumed.

According to the traditional binary tree model, Proto-Uralic diverged into Proto-Samoyedic and Proto-Finno-Ugric. However, reconstructed Proto-Finno-Ugric differs little from Proto-Uralic, and many apparent differences follow from the methods used. Thus Proto-Finno-Ugric may not be separate from Proto-Uralic. Another reconstruction of the split of Proto-Uralic has three branches (Finno-Permic, Ugric and Samoyedic) from the start.

Recently these tree-like models have been challenged by the hypothesis of larger number of protolanguages giving a “comb” rather than a tree. The protolanguages would be Sami, (Baltic-)Finnic, Mordva, Mari, Permic, Magyar, Khanti, Mansi, and Samoyedic. This order is both the order of geographical positions as well as linguistic similarity, with neighboring languages being more similar than distant ones.

Proto-Uralic did not have tones, which contrasts with Yeniseian and some Siberian languages. Neither was there contrastive stress as in Indo-European; in Proto-Uralic the first syllable was invariably stressed.

Various Proto-Uralic homeland hypotheses, concerning the origin of the Uralic languages and the location (Urheimat or homeland) and period in which the Proto-Uralic language was spoken, have been advocated over the years.

In recent times, linguists often place the Urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Uralic language in the vicinity of the Volga River, west of the Urals, close to the Urheimat of the Indo-European languages, or to the east and southeast of the Urals. Gyula László places its origin in the forest zone between the Oka River and central Poland. E.N. Setälä and M. Zsirai place it between the Volga and Kama Rivers. According to E. Itkonen, the ancestral area extended to the Baltic Sea. P. Hajdu has suggested a homeland in western and northwestern Siberia.

After the rejection of the continuity theories, the recent linguistic arguments have placed the Proto-Uralic homeland around the Kama River, or more generally close to the Great Volga Bend and the Ural Mountains. The expansion of Proto-Uralic has been dated to about 2000 BC (4000 years ago), whereas its earlier stages go back at least one or two millennia further.

Corded Ware culture

The political relation between the aboriginal and intrusive cultures resulted in quick and smooth cultural morphosis into the Corded Ware culture (in Central Europe c. 2900–2450/2350 BC), alternatively characterized as the Battle Axe culture or Single Grave culture, an enormous European archaeological horizon that begins in the late Neolithic, flourishes through the Copper Age and culminates in the early Bronze Age.

Corded Ware coincides considerably with the earlier north-central European Funnelbeaker culture (TRB), with which it shares a similar physical type and several cultural characteristics, suggesting that the Corded Ware originated with the TRB at least in some regions. In other regions the Corded Ware appears to herald a new culture and physical type.

Concerning the origin of the Corded Ware culture, there is broadly a division between archaeologists who see an influence from pastoral societies of the steppes north of the Black Sea and those who think that Corded Ware springs from central Europe.

In some places there can be demonstrated a continuity between Funnelbeaker and Corded Ware, whereas in other areas Corded Ware heralds a new culture and physical type. On most of the immense, continental expanse that it covered, the culture was clearly intrusive, and therefore represents one of the most impressive and revolutionary cultural changes attested by archeology.

The earliest radiocarbon dates for Corded Ware come from Kujavia and Małopolska in central and southern Poland and point to the period around 3000 BC. (It must be noted that this study is limited to Middle Europe.) Carbon-14 dating of the remaining central European regions shows that Corded Ware appeared after 2880 BC.

It spread to the Lüneburger Heide and then further to the North European Plain, Rhineland, Switzerland, Scandinavia, the Baltic region and Russia to Moscow, where the culture met with the pastoralists considered indigenous to the steppes.

In the western regions this revolution has been proposed to be a quick, smooth and internal change that occurred at the preceding Funnelbeaker culture, having its origin in the direction of eastern Germany. Whereas in the area of the present Baltic states and Kaliningrad Oblast (former East Prussia), it is seen as an intrusive successor to the southwestern portion of the Narva culture.

In summary, Corded Ware does not represent a single monolithic entity, but rather a diffusion of technological and cultural innovations of different, contemporaneous peoples, living in close proximity to each other and leaving different archaeological remains.

Because of their possession of both the horse and wheeled vehicles, apparent warlike propensities, wide area of distribution and rapid intrusive expansion at the assumed time of the dispersal of Indo-European languages, the Corded Ware culture was originally suggested as the Urheimat of the Proto-Indo-Europeans.

Today, a Corded Ware origin of these characteristics has lost currency in favour of an origin in the Black Sea-Caspian region, although this has been criticized. Corded Ware is however still generally considered ancestral to the Celts, Germanic peoples, Balts and Slavs. According to J. P. Mallory the origins and dispersal of Corded Ware culture is one of the pivotal unresolved issues of the Indo-European Urheimat problem.

Heterodoxically, Dutch publications mention mixed burials and propose a quick and smooth internal change to Corded Ware within two generations occurring about 2900 BC in Dutch and Danish TRB territory, probably precluded by economic, cultural and religious changes in East Germany, and call the migrationist view of steppe intrusions introducing Indo-European languages obsolete (at least in this part of the world).

This new people advanced up to Uppland and the Oslofjord, and they probably provided the language that was the ancestor of the modern Scandinavian languages. This new culture was individualistic and patriarchal with the battle axe as a status symbol. They were cattle herders. However, soon a new invention would arrive, that would usher in a time of cultural advance in Scandinavia, the Bronze Age.

Middle Dnieper culture and Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture

The eastern outposts of the Corded Ware culture are the Middle Dnieper culture (ca. 3200—2300 BC) of northern Ukraine and Belarus and on the upper Volga, the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture (3200 -2300 BC).

The Middle Dnieper culture is contemporaneous with the latter phase and then a successor to the Indo-European Yamna culture, as well as to the latter phase of the Tripolye culture. Geographically it is directly behind the area occupied by the Globular Amphora culture (south and east), and while commencing a little later and lasting a little longer, it is otherwise contemporaneous with it.

Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, this culture is a major center for migrations (or invasions, if you prefer) from the Yamna culture and its immediate successors into Northern and Central Europe.

It has been argued that the area where the Middle Dnieper culture is situated would have provided a better migration route for steppe tribes along the Pripyat tributary of the Dnieper and perhaps provided the cultural bridge between Yamna and Corded Ware cultures.

On the other hand the Middle-Dnieper culture has been viewed as a contact zone between Yamnaya steppe tribes and occupants of the forest steppe zone possibly signaling communications between pre-Indo-Iranian speakers and pre-Balto-Slavs as interpreted by an exchange of material goods evident in the archaeological record sans migration.

The Middle Dnieper culture has very scant remains, but occupies the easiest route into Central and Northern Europe from the steppe. If the association of Battle Axe cultures with Indo-European languages is correct, then Fatyanovo would be a culture with an Indo-European superstratum over a Uralic substratum, and may account for some of the linguistic borrowings identified in the Indo-Uralic thesis.

However, according to Häkkinen, the Uralic–Indo-European contacts only start in the Corded Ware period and the Uralic expansion into the Upper Volga region postdates it. Häkkinen accepts Fatyanovo-Balanovo as an early Indo-European culture, but maintains that their substratum (identified with the Volosovo culture) was neither Uralic nor Indo-European. Genetics seems to support Häkkinen.

The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture is really two cultures, the Fatyanovo in the west, the Balanovo in the east. The Fatyanovo culture emerged at the northeastern edge of the Middle Dnieper culture, and probably was derived from an early variant of the Middle Dnieper culture. Balanovo burials, like the Middle Dnieper culture, were both of the flat and kurgan type, containing individual and also mass graves. There are similarities between Fatyanovo and Catacomb culture stone battle-axes.

Fatyanovo migrations correspond to regions with hydronyms of a Baltic language dialect mapped by linguists as far as the Oka river and the upper Volga. Spreading eastward down the Volga they discovered the copper ores of the western Ural foothills, and started long term settlements in lower Kama river region. The Balanovo culture occupied the region of the Kama–Vyatka–Vetluga interfluves where metal resources (local copper sandstone deposits) of the region were exploited.

The theory for an intrusive culture is based upon the physical type of the population, flexed burial under barrows, the presence of battle-axes and ceramics.

Volosovo culture

The Volosovo culture of indigenous forest foragers was different in its ceramics, economy, and mortuary practices. It dispersed when the Fatyanovo people pushed into the Upper and Middle Volga basin. Ceramic finds indicate Balanovo coexisted with the Finno-Permic Volosovo people (mixed Balanovo-Volosovo sites), and also displace them.

The ethnic and linguistic attribution of the Volosovo culture is uncertain; Häkkinen maintains that their language was neither Uralic nor Indo-European, but a substratum to Finno-Permic.

The cultures of the Prikamsky subarea in the Late Bronze Age continued preceding traditions in pottery, house designs, and stable animal husbandry with the breeding of horse, cattle, and to a lesser extent, pigs and sheep. Scholars interpret some of these cultures with stages in the development of the proto-Permian language.

Some have argued that this culture represents the acculturation of Pit-Comb Ware culture people of this area from contacts with Corded Ware agriculturists in the West. It does not seem to represent a northern extension of the Yamna culture horizon further south.

Beaker culture

The Bell-Beaker culture (ca. 2800 – 1800 BC), sometimes shortened to Beaker culture, Beaker people, or Beaker folk; German: Glockenbecherkultur), is the term for a widely scattered ‘archaeological culture’ of prehistoric Western Europe starting in the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic and running into the early Bronze Age. The term was coined by John Abercromby, based on the culture’s distinctive pottery drinking vessels.

The Beaker culture overlapped with the western extremity of the Corded Ware culture, west of the Elbe, and may have contributed to the pan-European spread of that culture. Although a similar social organization and settlement pattern to the Beaker were adopted, the Corded Ware group lacked the new refinements made possible through trade and communication by sea and rivers.

The Beaker culture and the Corded Ware culture had similar burial traditions, and together they covered most of Western and Central Europe. While broadly related to the Corded Ware culture, the origins of the Bell-Beaker folk are considerably more obscure, and represent one of the mysteries of European pre-history.

There have been numerous proposals by archaeologists as to the origins of the Bell Beaker culture, and debates continued on for decades. Several regions of origin have been postulated, notably the Iberian peninsula, the Netherlands and Central Europe.

Similarly, scholars have postulated various mechanisms of spread, including migrations of populations (“folk migrations”), smaller warrior groups, individuals (craftsmen), or a diffusion of ideas and object exchange.

Recent analyses have made significant inroads to understanding the Beaker phenomenon, mostly by analysing each of its components separately. They have concluded that the Bell Beaker phenomenon was a synthesis of elements, representing “an idea and style uniting different regions with different cultural traditions and background.”

Radiocarbon dating seems to support that the earliest “Maritime” Bell Beaker design style is encountered in Iberia, specifically in the vibrant copper-using communities of the Tagus estuary in Portugal around 2800-2700 BC and spread from there to many parts of western Europe. An overview of all available sources from southern Germany concluded that Bell Beaker was a new and independent culture in that area, contemporary with the Corded Ware culture.

It is now common to see the Beaker culture as a package of knowledge (including religious beliefs and copper, bronze and gold working) and artefacts (including copper daggers, v-perforated buttons and stone wrist-guards) adopted and adapted by the indigenous peoples of Europe to varying degrees.

Bell Beaker people took advantage of transport by sea and rivers, creating a cultural spread extending from Ireland to the Carpathian Basin and south along the Atlantic coast and along the Rhone valley to Portugal, North Africa and Sicily, even penetrating northern and central Italy.

Its remains have been found in what is now Portugal, Spain, France (excluding the central massif), Great Britain and Ireland, the Low Countries, and Germany between the Elbe and Rhine, with an extension along the upper Danube into the Vienna basin (Austria), Hungary and the Czech Republic, with Mediterranean outposts on Sardinia and Sicily; there is less certain evidence for direct penetration in the east.

Beaker-type vessels remained in use longest in the British Isles; late beakers in other areas are classified as early Bronze Age (Barbed Wire Beakers in the Netherlands, Giant Beakers (Riesenbecher)).

The new international trade routes opened by the Beaker people became firmly established and the culture was succeeded by a number of Bronze Age cultures, among them the Únětice culture in Central Europe, the Elp culture and Hilversum culture in the Netherlands, the Atlantic Bronze Age in the British Isles and the Atlantic coast of Europe, and by the Nordic Bronze Age, a culture of Scandinavia and northernmost Germany-Poland.

Bell Beaker has been suggested as a candidate for an early Indo-European culture; more specifically, an ancestral proto-Celtic. However, it has most recently been suggested that the Beaker culture was associated with a European branch of Indo-European dialects, termed “North-west Indo-European”, ancestral to not only Celtic but equally Italic, Germanic and Balto-Slavic.

The Bronze Age Beaker period is noteworthy, since archeological finds seem to indicate a strong continuity with native Bronze Age traditions in Ireland as much as Britain. No evidence of other large-scale immigrations took place, and many scholars deny Celtic speech originated solely from La Tene culture, whose migrations started at about 400 BC. Instead, those scholars propose Celtic languages evolved gradually and simultaneously over a large area by way of a common heritage and close social, political and religious links.

Although controversial, the theory fits (according to its proponents) the archeological evidence that provides little support for westward migrations of Celtic people matching the historically known movements south and west.

More recently, data and calculations from Myres et al. (2011), Cruciani et al. (2011) Arredi et al. (2007), and Balaresque et al. (2010) suggest a Late Neolithic entry of M269 into Europe.

These hypotheses appear to be corroborated by more direct evidence from ancient DNA. For example, Early Neolithic Y-DNA from Spain did not reveal any R1b, but rather E-V13 and G2a, whilst a similar study from a French pre-Beaker Neolithic site revealed haplgroup G2a and I-P37.

It is only later, from a German Bell Beaker site dated to the third millennium BCE (Kromsdorf), that the first evidence for R1b is detected. Ancient Y-DNA results for the remains of Beaker people from Iberia have yet to be obtained.

From a mitochondrial DNA perspective, haplogroup H, which has high (≈40%) throughout Europe, has received similar attention. Early studies by Richards et al (2000) purported that it arose 28–23,000 years ago (kya), spreading into Europe ≈20 kya, before then re-expanding from an Iberian glacial refuge ≈15 kya, calculations subsequently corroborated by Pereira et al. (2005).

However, a larger study by Roostalu et al. (2007), incorporating more data from the Near East, suggested that whilst Hg H did begin to expand c. 20 kya, this was limited to the Near East, Caucasus and Southeastern Europe. Rather its subsequent spread further west occurred later, in the post-glacial period from a postulated South Caucasian refugium.

This hypothesis has been supported by a recent ancient DNA analysis study, which links the expansion of mtDNA Hg H in Western Europe with the Bell Beaker phenomenon.

Historical craniometric studies found that the Beaker people appeared to be of a different physical type than those earlier populations in the same geographic areas. They were described as tall, heavy boned and brachycephalic.

The early studies on the Beakers which were based on the analysis of their skeletal remains, were craniometric. This apparent evidence of migration was in line with archaeological discoveries linking Beaker culture to new farming techniques, mortuary practices, copper-working skills, and other cultural innovations.

Subsequent studies, such as one concerning the Carpathian Basin, and a non-metrical analysis of skeletons in central-southern Germany, have also identified marked typological differences with the pre-Beaker inhabitants.

Cardium Pottery

Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the cockle, an edible marine mollusk, formerly Cardium edulis, now Cerastoderma edule. These forms of pottery are in turn used to define the Neolithic culture which produced and spread them, mostly commonly called the “Cardial Culture”.

This pottery style gives its name to the main culture of the Mediterranean Neolithic: Cardium Pottery Culture or Cardial Culture, or Impressed Ware Culture, which eventually extended from the Adriatic sea to the Atlantic coasts of Portugal and south to Morocco.

The alternative name Impressed Ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than cockle shell, such as a nail or comb. Impressed pottery is much more widespread than the Cardial. Impressed Ware is found in the zone “covering Italy to the Ligurian coast” as distinct from the more western Cardial extending from Provence to western Portugal.

The sequence in Western Europe has traditionally been supposed to start with widespread Cardial Ware, and then to develop other methods of impression locally, termed “epi-Cardial”. However the widespread Cardial and Impressed pattern types overlap and are now considered more likely to be contemporary.

Early Neolithic impressed pottery is found in the Levant, and certain parts of Anatolia, including Mezraa-Teleilat, and in North Africa at Tunus-Redeyef, Tunisia. So the first Cardial settlers in the Adriatic may have come directly from the Levant. Impressed-pottery also appears in Egypt. Along the East Mediterranean coast Impressed Ware has been found in North Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.


The Nordwestblock (English: “Northwest Block”), is a hypothetical cultural region, that several 20th century scholars propose as a prehistoric culture, thought to be roughly bounded by the rivers Meuse, Elbe, Somme and Oise (the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, northern France and western Germany) and possibly the eastern part of England during the Bronze and Iron Ages (3rd to 1st millennia BC, up to the gradual onset of historical sources from the 1st century).

The theory was first proposed by two authors working independently, Hans Kuhn, and Maurits Gysseling, who was partly influenced by Belgian archeologist Siegfried De Laet. Gysseling’s proposal included research indicating that another language may have existed somewhere in between Germanic and Celtic in the Belgian (sic) region.

The term itself Nordwestblock was coined by Hans Kuhn, who considered the inhabitants of this area neither Germanic nor Celtic, thus attributing to the people a distinct ethnicity or culture. According to Kuhn and his followers, the region was Germanised from the beginning of the Common Era, at the latest.

Concerning the language spoken by the Iron Age Nordwestblock population, Kuhn speculated on linguistic affinity to the Venetic language, other hypotheses connect the Northwestblock with the Raetic (“Tyrsenian”) or generic Centum Indo-European (Illyrian, “Old European”).

Gysseling suspected an intermediate Belgian language, a hypothetical extinct Indo-European language, spoken in Belgica (northern Gaul) in late prehistory, between Germanic and Celtic, that might have been affiliated to Italic. According to Luc van Durme, a Belgian linguist, toponymic evidence to a former Celtic presence in the Low Countries is near to utterly absent.

The borders of the Belgian Sprachraum are made up by the Canche and the Authie in the south-west, the Weser and the Aller in the east, and the Ardennes and the German Mittelgebirge in the south-east. It has been hypothetically associated with the Nordwestblock, more specifically with the Hilversum culture.

The Hilversum culture is a prehistoric material culture found in middle Bronze Age in the region of the southern Netherlands and northern Belgium. It has been associated with the Wessex culture from the same period in southern England, and is one of the material cultures of this part of northwestern continental Europe which has been proposed to have had a “Nordwestblock” language which was Indo-European, but neither Germanic nor Celtic.

The Elp culture (c. 1800—800 BCE) is a Bronze Age archaeological culture of the Netherlands having earthenware pottery of low quality known as “Kümmerkeramik” (also “Grobkeramik”) as a marker.

The initial phase is characterized by tumuli (1800–1200 BCE), strongly tied to contemporary tumuli in Northern Germany and Scandinavia, and apparently related to the Tumulus culture (1600–1200 BCE) in Central Europe. This phase was followed by a subsequent change featuring Urnfield (cremation) burial customs (1200–800 BCE).

Part of the “Nordwestblock”, it is situated to the north and east of the Rhine and the IJssel, bordering the Hilversum culture to the south and the Hoogkarspel culture in West Friesland that, together with Elp, all derive from the Barbed Wire Beakers culture (2100–1800 BCE) and, forming a culture complex at the boundary between the Atlantic and the Nordic horizons.

Kuhn noted that since Proto-Indo-European (PIE) /b/ was very rare, and since this PIE /b/, via Grimm’s law, is the only source of regularly inherited /p/’s in words in Germanic languages, the many words with /p/’s which do occur must have some other language as source. Similarly, in Celtic, PIE /p/ disappeared and in regularly inherited words only reappeared in p-Celtic languages as a result of the rule that PIE *kʷ became proto-Celtic *p.

All this taken together means that any word in p- in a Germanic language which is not evidently borrowed from either Latin or a p-Celtic language must be a loan from another language, and these words Kuhn ascribes to the Nordwestblock language.

Linguist Peter Schrijver speculates on the reminiscent lexical and typological features of the region, from an unknown substrate whose linguistic influences may have influenced the historical development of the (Romance and Germanic) languages of the region.

He assumes the pre-existence of pre-Indo-European languages linked to the archeological Linear Pottery culture and to a family of languages featuring complex verbs, of which the Northwest Caucasian languages might have been the sole survivors.

Although assumed to have left traces within all other Indo-European languages as well, its influence would have been especially strong on Celtic languages originating north of the Alps and on the region including Belgium and the Rhineland.

It is uncertain when Germanic began to gain a foothold in the area. The Nordwestblock region north of the Rhine is traditionally conceived as belonging to the realms of the Northern Bronze Age, with the Harpstedt Iron Age generally assumed to represent the Germanic precedents west of the Jastorf culture.

The general development converged with the emergence of Germanic within other previously Northern Bronze Age regions to the east, maybe also involving a certain degree of Germanic cultural diffusion.

The local continuity of the Dutch areas was not substantially affected by pre-Roman or Celtic immigration. From about the 1st century CE, this region saw the development of the “Weser-Rhine” group of West Germanic dialects which gave rise to Old Frankish from the 4th century.

The issue still remains unresolved and so far no conclusive evidence has been forwarded to support any alternative. Mallory considers the issue a salutary reminder that some anonymous linguistic groups that do not fully obey the current classification may have survived to the dawn of historical records.

The archeological case for the Nordwestgroup hypothesis makes reference to a time depth of up to 3000 BCE. The following prehistoric cultures have been attributed to the region, compatible with but not necessarily proving the Nordwestblock hypothesis:

The Bell Beaker culture (2700–2100 BCE) is thought to originate from the same geographic area, as early stages of this culture apparently derived from early Corded Ware culture elements, with the Netherlands/Rhineland region as probably the most widely accepted site of origin.

The Bell Beaker culture locally developed into the Bronze Age Barbed Wire Beaker culture (2100–1800 BCE). In the second millennium BCE, the region was at the boundary between the Atlantic and Nordic horizons, split up in a northern and a southern region, roughly divided by the course of the Rhine.

To the north emerged the Elp culture (1800-800 BCE), featuring an initial tumulus phase showing a close relationship to other Northern European tumulus groups (sharing pottery of low quality: Kümmerkeramik), and a subsequent smooth local transformation to the Urnfield culture (1200–800) BCE.

The southern region became dominated by the Hilversum culture (1800–800 BCE), which apparently inherited the previous Barbed Wire Beaker cultural ties with Britain.

From 800 BCE onwards, the area was influenced by the Celtic Hallstatt culture. The current view in the Netherlands holds that subsequent Iron Age innovations did not involve substantial Celtic intrusions, but featured a local development from Bronze Age culture.

In the final centuries BCE, areas formerly occupied by the Elp culture emerge as the probably Germanic Harpstedt culture west of the Germanic Jastorf culture while the southern parts become assimilated to the Celtic La Tène culture, consistent with Julius Caesar’s account of the Rhine forming the boundary between Celtic and Germanic tribes.

Later, the Roman retreat resulted in the disappearance of imported products like ceramics and coins, and a return to virtually unchanged local Iron Age production methods. To the north people continued to live in the same three-aisled farmhouse, while to the east completely new types of buildings arose. More to the south, in Belgium, archeological results of this period point to immigration from the north.

With the onset of historical records (Tacitus, 1st century), the area was generally called the border region between Celtic (Gaulish) and Germanic influence.

Tribes located in the area include the Batavians, Belgae, Chatti, Hermunduri, Cheruscii, Sicambri, Usipi, Tencteri and Usipetes. Caesar took the course of the Rhine to be the boundary between Gauls and Germans, but also mentioned that a large part of the Belgae had ancestry from east of the Rhine, and one part were even known collectively as “Germani”, the so-called “Germani cisrhenani”, a Latin term which refers to that portion of the tribal people known as Germani who lived during classical times to the west of the Rhine river.

Tribes who were certainly considered to be among the original Germani cisrhenani include the Eburones, the Condrusi, the Caeraesi, the Segni and the Paemani, who collectively form a group who apparently later came to be referred to as Tungri, in order to avoid confusion with other “Germani”.

The Belgae were therefore considered Gaulish (and the Usipetes Germanic, etc.) because of their position with respect to the Rhine, and not in the modern linguistic sense of the terms.

Catacomb culture

The Catacomb culture (ca. 2800–2200 BC) refers to a group of related cultures in the early Bronze Age occupying essentially what is present-day Ukraine. The culture was the first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East.

The linguistic composition of the Catacomb culture is unclear. Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis expounded by Marija Gimbutas, an Indo-European component is hard to deny, particularly in the later stages. Placing the ancestors of the Greek, Armenian and Paleo-Balkan dialects here is tempting, as it would neatly explain certain shared features.

More recently, the Ukrainian archaeologist V. Kulbaka has argued that the Late Yamna cultures of ca. 3200–2800 BC, esp. the Budzhak, Starosilsk, and Novotitarovka groups, might represent the Greek-Armenian-“Aryan”(=Indo-Iranian) ancestors (Graeco-Aryan, Graeco-Armenian), and the Catacomb culture that of the “unified” (to ca. 2500 BC) and then “differentiated” Indo-Iranians.

Grigoryev’s (1998) version of the Armenian hypothesis connects Catacomb culture with Indo-Aryans, because catacomb burial ritual had roots in South-Western Turkmenistan from the early 4th millennium (Parkhai cemetery). The same opinion is supported by Leo Klejn in his various publications.


Armenian is an Indo-European language, so many of its Proto-Indo-European-descended words are cognates of words in other Indo-European languages such as English, Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit.

Proto-Indo-European voiceless stops are aspirated in Proto-Armenian, a circumstance that gave rise to an extended version of the Glottalic theory, which postulates that this aspiration may have been sub-phonematic already in PIE. In certain contexts, these aspirated stops are further reduced to w, h or zero in Armenian (PIE *pots, Armenian otn, Greek pous “foot”; PIE treis, Armenian erekʿ, Greek treis “three”).

The phonological peculiarities proposed in the Glottalic theory would be best preserved in the Armenian language and the Germanic languages, the former assuming the role of the dialect which remained in situ, implied to be particularly archaic in spite of its late attestation.

The earliest testimony of Armenian dates to the 5th century AD (the Bible translation of Mesrob Mashtots). The earlier history of the language is unclear and the subject of much speculation. It is clear that Armenian is an Indo-European language, but its development is opaque. In any case, Armenian has many layers of loanwords and shows traces of long language contact with Hurro-Urartian, Greek and Indo-Iranian.

Because Proto-Armenian is not the common ancestor of several related languages, but of just a single language, there is no clear definition of the term. It is generally held to include a variety of ancestral stages of Armenian between the times of Proto-Indo-European up to the earliest attestations of Old Armenian. Thus, it is not a Proto-language in the strict sense, although the term “Proto-Armenian” has become common in the field regardless.

The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat, based on the Glottalic theory suggests that the Proto-Indo-European language was spoken during the 4th millennium BC in the Armenian Highland. It is an Indo-Hittite model and does not include the Anatolian languages in its scenario.

The Proto-Greek language would be practically equivalent to Mycenaean Greek and date to the 17th century BC, closely associating Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (viz., Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).

I. M. Austin (1942) concluded that there was an early contact between Armenian and Anatolian languages, based on what he considered common archaisms, such as the lack of a feminine and the absence of inherited long vowels.

Soviet linguist Igor Diakonov (1985) noted the presence in Old Armenian of what he calls a Caucasian substratum, identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages.

He identifies in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and animal and plant terms. Some of the terms he gives admittedly have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance, but he suggests they were borrowed through Hurrian or Urartian.

Kura–Araxes culture

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain.

The culture then spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), and during the next millennium it proceeded westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van, and finally down to the borders of present day Syria.

Their pottery was distinctive; in fact, the spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs for ornamentation. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya.

The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes, and most certainly, had extensive trade contacts. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.

The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni is difficult to ascertain. A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.

Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. It had been held that nothing more can be deduced from current evidence. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.

In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.

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