Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Beaker people

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 27, 2015

Portasar – Gobekli Tepe

Ancient megalithic monuments seen in the Balearic Islands, Spain

This taula (T-shaped stone setting) is housed within a temple complex and a Late Bronze Age village on Menorca, the Balearic Islands, Spain. It dates to around 1300 BC.

The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture in Europe is associated with demographic changes that may have shifted the human gene pool of the region as a result of an influx of Neolithic farmers from the Near East. However, the genetic composition of populations after the earliest Neolithic, when a diverse mosaic of societies that had been fully engaged in agriculture for some time appeared in central Europe, is poorly known.

At this period during the Late Neolithic (ca. 2,800–2,000 BC), regionally distinctive burial patterns associated with two different cultural groups emerge, Bell Beaker and Corded Ware, and may reflect differences in how these societies were organized.

Ancient DNA analyses of human remains from the Late Neolithic Bell Beaker site of Kromsdorf, Germany showed distinct mitochondrial haplotypes for six individuals, which were classified under the haplogroups I1, K1, T1, U2, U5, and W5, and two males were identified as belonging to the Y haplogroup R1b.

In contrast to other Late Neolithic societies in Europe emphasizing maintenance of biological relatedness in mortuary contexts, the diversity of maternal haplotypes evident at Kromsdorf suggests that burial practices of Bell Beaker communities operated outside of social norms based on shared maternal lineages. Studies indicate that modern U5-lineages may have received little, if any, contribution from the Mesolithic or Neolithic mitochondrial gene pool.


The Balkan region was the first area in Europe to experience the arrival of farming cultures in the Neolithic era. The practices of growing grain and raising livestock arrived in the Balkans from the Fertile Crescent by way of Anatolia and spread west and north into Pannonia and Central Europe.

Archaeologists have identified several early culture-complexes in the region, including the Starčevo culture (6500 to 4000 BC) the Linear pottery culture (5500 to 4500 BC), the Lengyel culture (5000-3400 BC), the Butmir culture (5100–4500 BC), the Vinča culture (5000 to 3000 BC), the Varna culture (4600-4200 BC), the Stroke-ornamented ware culture or Stroked Pottery culture, known as Danubian Ib culture by V. Gordon Childe, or Middle Danubian culture (4600-4400 BC), the Rössen Culture (4,600–4,300 BC), the Cucuteni culture (4500 to 3500 BC), the Baden culture (ca 3600-2800 BC) and the Ezero culture (3300—2700 BC).

The Rössen culture is important as it marks the transition from a broad and widely distributed tradition going back to Central Europe’s earliest Neolithic LBK towards the more diversified Middle and Late Neolithic situation characterised by the appearance of complexes like Michelsberg and Funnel Beaker Culture.

Vinča culture developed a form of proto-writing before the Sumerians and Minoans, known as the Old European script, while the bulk of the symbols had been created in the period between 4500 and 4000 BC, with the ones on the Tărtăria clay tablets even dating back to around 5300 BC. The Varna culture produced the world’s earliest known gold treasure, communicated with the Mediterranean and had sophisticated beliefs about afterlife.

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 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).

Haplogroup R1b

Haplogroup R* originated in North Asia just before the Last Glacial Maximum (26,500-19,000 years ago). This haplogroup has been identified in the remains of a 24,000 year-old boy from the Altai region, in south-central Siberia. This individual belonged to a tribe of mammoth hunters that may have roamed across Siberia and parts of Europe during the Paleolithic.

Autosomally this Paleolithic population appears to have contributed mostly to the ancestry of modern Europeans and South Asians, the two regions where haplogroup R also happens to be the most common nowadays (R1b in Western Europe, R1a in Eastern Europe, Central and South Asia, and R2 in South Asia).

The oldest forms of R1b (M343, P25, L389) are found dispersed at very low frequencies from Western Europe to India, a vast region where could have roamed the nomadic R1b hunter-gatherers during the Ice Age. The three main branches of R1b1 (R1b1a, R1b1b, R1b1c) all seem to have stemmed from the Middle East.

The southern branch, R1b1c (V88), is found mostly in the Levant and Africa. The northern branch, R1b1a (P297), seems to have originated around the Caucasus, eastern Anatolia or northern Mesopotamia, then to have crossed over the Caucasus, from where they would have invaded Europe and Central Asia. R1b1b (M335) has only been found in Anatolia.

It has been hypothetised that R1b people (perhaps alongside neighbouring J2 tribes) were the first to domesticate cattle in northern Mesopotamia some 10,500 years ago. R1b tribes descended from mammoth hunters, and when mammoths went extinct, they started hunting other large game such as bisons and aurochs.

With the increase of the human population in the Fertile Crescent from the beginning of the Neolithic (starting 12,000 years ago), selective hunting and culling of herds started replacing indiscriminate killing of wild animals. The increased involvement of humans in the life of aurochs, wild boars and goats led to their progressive taming.

Cattle herders probably maintained a nomadic or semi-nomadic existence, while other people in the Fertile Crescent (presumably represented by haplogroups E1b1b, G and T) settled down to cultivate the land or keep smaller domesticates.

The analysis of bovine DNA has revealed that all the taurine cattle (Bos taurus) alive today descend from a population of only 80 aurochs. The earliest evidence of cattle domestication dates from circa 8,500 BCE in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures in the Taurus Mountains.

The two oldest archaeological sites showing signs of cattle domestication are the villages of Çayönü Tepesi in southeastern Turkey and Dja’de el-Mughara in northern Iraq, two sites only 250 km away from each others. This is presumably the area from which R1b lineages started expanding – or in other words the “original homeland” of R1b.

The early R1b cattle herders would have split in at least three groups. One branch (M335) remained in Anatolia, but judging from its extreme rarity today wasn’t very successful, perhaps due to the heavy competition with other Neolithic populations in Anatolia, or to the scarcity of pastures in this mountainous environment.

A second branch migrated south to the Levant, where it became the V88 branch. Some of them searched for new lands south in Africa, first in Egypt, then colonising most of northern Africa, from the Mediterranean coast to the Sahel.

The third branch (P297), crossed the Caucasus into the vast Pontic-Caspian Steppe, which provided ideal grazing grounds for cattle. They split into two factions: R1b1a1 (M73), which went east along the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, and R1b1a2 (M269), which at first remained in the North Caucasus and the Pontic Steppe between the Dnieper and the Volga.

It is not yet clear whether M73 actually migrated across the Caucasus and reached Central Asia via Kazakhstan, or if it went south through Iran and Turkmenistan. In the latter case, M73 might not be an Indo-European branch of R1b, just like V88 and M335.

R1b-M269 (the most common form in Europe) is closely associated with the diffusion of Indo-European languages, as attested by its presence in all regions of the world where Indo-European languages were spoken in ancient times from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian subcontinent. The history of R1b and R1a are intricately connected to each others.

The R1b conquest of Europe happened in two phases. For nearly two millennia, starting from circa 4200 BCE, steppe people limited their conquest to the rich Chalcolithic civilisations of the Carpathians and the Balkans. These societies possessed the world’s largest towns, notably the tell settlements of the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture.

Nothing incited the R1b conquerors to move further into Western Europe at such an early stage, because most of the land north and west of the Alps was still sparsely populated woodland. The Neolithic did not reach the British Isles and Scandinavia before circa 4000 BCE. Even northern France and most of the Alpine region had been farming or herding for less than a millennium and were still quite primitive compared to Southeast Europe and the Middle East.

North-west Europe remained a tribal society of hunter-gatherers practising only limited agriculture for centuries after the conquest of the Balkans by the Indo-Europeans. Why would our R1b “conquistadors” leave the comfort of the wealthy and populous Danubian civilisations for the harsh living conditions that lie beyond Bronze Age people coveted tin, copper, and gold, of which the Balkans had plenty, but that no one had yet discovered in Western Europe.

The first forays of steppe people into the Balkans happened between 4200 BCE and 3900 BCE, when cattle herders equipped with horse-drawn wagons crossed the Dniester and Danube and apparently destroyed the towns of the Gumelnita, Varna and Karanovo VI cultures in Eastern Romania and Bulgaria.

A climatic change resulting in colder winters during this exact period probably pushed steppe herders to seek milder pastures for their stock, while failed crops would have led to famine and internal disturbance within the Danubian and Balkanic communities.

The ensuing Cernavoda culture (Copper Age, 4000-3200 BCE), Coțofeni culture (Copper to Bronze Age, 3500-2500 BCE) and Ezero culture (Bronze Age, 3300-2700 BCE), in modern Romania, seems to have had a mixed population of steppe immigrants and people from the old tell settlements. These steppe immigrants were likely a mixture of both R1a and R1b lineages, with a probably higher percentage of R1a than later Yamna-era invasions.

The steppe invaders would have forced many Danubian farmers to migrate to the Cucuteni-Trypillian towns in the eastern Carpathians, causing a population boom and a north-eastward expansion until the Dnieper valley, bringing Y-haplogroups G2a, I2a1 (probably the dominant lineage of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture), E1b1b, J and T in what is now central Ukraine.

This precocious Indo-European advance westward was fairly limited, due to the absence of Bronze weapons and organised army at the time, and was indeed only possible thanks to climatic catastrophes which reduced the defences of the towns of Old Europe. The Carphatian, Danubian, and Balkanic cultures were too densely populated and technologically advanced to allow for a massive migration.

In comparison the forest-steppe R1a people successfully penetrated into the heart of Europe with little hindrance, due to the absence of developed agrarian societies around Poland and the Baltic. The Corded Ware culture (3200-1800 BCE) was a natural western expansion of the Yamna culture, reaching as far west as Germany and as far north as Sweden and Norway.

DNA analysis from the Corded Ware culture site of Eulau confirms the presence of R1a (but not R1b) in central Germany around 2600 BCE. The Corded Ware tribes expanded from the northern fringe of the Yamna culture where R1a lineages were prevalent over R1b ones.

The expansion of R1b people into Old Europe was slower, but proved inevitable. In 2800 BCE, by the time the Corded Ware had already reached Scandinavia, the Bronze Age R1b cultures had barely moved into the Pannonian steppe. They established major settlements in the Great Hungarian Plain, the most similar habitat to their ancestral Pontic Steppes.

Around 2500 BCE, the western branch of Indo-European R1b were poised for their next major expansion into modern Germany and Western Europe. By that time, the R1b immigrants had blended to a great extent with the indigenous Mesolithic and Neolithic populations of the Danubian basin, where they had now lived for 1,700 years.

The strongly partriarchal Indo-European elite remained almost exclusively R1b on the paternal side, but absorbed a high proportion of non-Indo-European maternal lineages. Hybridised, the new Proto-Indo-European R1b people would have lost most of their remaining Proto-Europoid or Mongolid features inherited from their Caspian origins (which were still clearly visible in numerous individuals from the Yamna period).

Their light hair, eye and skin pigmentation, once interbred with the darker inhabitants of Old Europe, became more like that of modern Southern Europeans. The R1a people of the Corded Ware culture would come across far less populous societies in Northern Europe, mostly descended from the lighter Mesolithic population (haplogroup I1 and I2), and therefore retain more of their original pigmentation (although facial traits evolved considerably in Scandinavia, where the I1 inhabitants were strongly dolicocephalic and long-faced, as opposed to the brachycephalic and broad-faced steppe people).

R1b-L51 is thought to have arrived in Central Europe (Hungary, Austria, Bohemia) around 2500 BCE, approximately two millennia after the shift to the Neolithic in these regions. Agrarian towns had started to develop. Gold and copper had begun to be mined. The prospects of a conquest were now far more appealing.

The archeological and genetic evidence (distribution of R1b subclades) point at several consecutive waves towards eastern and central Germany between 2800 BCE and 2300 BCE. The Unetice culture was probably the first culture in which R1b-L11 lineages played a major role.

It is interesting to note that the Unetice period happen to correspond to the end of the Maykop (2500 BCE) and Kemi Oba (2200 BCE) cultures on the northern shores of the Black Sea, and their replacement by cultures descended from the northern steppes.

It can be envisaged that the (mostly) R1b population from the northern half of the Black Sea migrated westward due to pressure from other Indo-European people (R1a) from the north, for example that of the burgeoning Proto-Indo-Iranian branch, linked to the contemporary Poltavka and Abashevo cultures.

As communities acquired the secrets of alloying brass and arsenic, tin, zinc, or lead, achieving the first items in bronze, the long period during which stone constituted the main raw material for fashioning implements and weapons was coming to an end.

The emergence and development of bronze metallurgy is accompanied by numerous substantial changes in economic and social life, in the spiritual life, and in the arts. The ensemble of these modifications – archeologically identifiable especially midway in the Bronze Age, yet already prefigured early on in the transition period from the Eneolithic to the Bronze Age – indicates a civilization far more sophisticated than we had imagined.

For a long time the Bronze Age was formerly divided into four periods, but the archeological facts have imposed in the last decades the use of a three-part system: Early, Middle and Late Bronze. In absolute chronology this historical period covers most of the period between 3000-2000 BC.

The first stage of the Early Bronze Age is a genuine cultural mosaic, juxtaposing transitory civilizations with those typical of the Bronze Age. For the first, the most typical is the Baden – Coţofeni cultural bloc, which perpetuated in many aspects a transitory lifestyle, but evolved in parallel to the pre-Schneckenberg and Schneckenberg civilisations, which were more active in taking over the products of the Aegean-Anatolian Early Bronze.

One can no longer speak of Eneolithic or neo-Eneolithic cultures, as defined by this historical period, for the changes occurring in the social structure are radical. The rise in status of the chieftains, indicated by the erection of tumulus funeral monuments, the different type of metallurgy, the different type of economy based on greater mobility as evinced by the impressive number of settlements belonging to the Coţofeni culture.

During the second stage, in the center of Transylvania there develops a cultural group bearing the name of the locality of Copăceni (Cluj County), which favored the locations afforded by the elevated sites in the eastern, and probably western, arch of the Western Carpathians and the upper basin of the Someş rivers.

Their main pursuits were agriculture, animal breeding and ore extraction. They had surface dwellings, medium sized (3x4m) with a rectangular layout, and pottery displays mainly high-necked pots with a short bottom portion often decorated with barbotine.

Frequently the pots’ rims are thickened and decorated with rope impressions. The dead are buried in tumuli such as those at Cheile Aiudului, Cheile Turzii or Cheile Turului. The Copăceni group evolved in parallel to the Şoimuş and Jigodin groups, the former in the south-west, and the latter in south-east Transylvania.

Finally, the third stage is the least known, and is characterized by the use of ceramics with brush decorations and textile impressions. Non-ferrous metallurgy in Early Bronze Age, given the substantial fall in production as compared to the Eneolithic, should be regarded as undergoing some sort of realignment, or repositioning, rather than indicating an acute decline.

The causes of this phenomenon are many and diverse (exhaustion of the usual mineral sources, major technological changes, disturbing ethnic reshuffling, etc.). Significantly, the first bronze items (brass alloyed with arsenic and later tin) now emerged.

The archeological sites of this period have uncovered more varied jewelry (hair rings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants made in copper, bronze or gold), poniards, flat axes as well as ‘raised margin’ axes. Yet the most important achievement of the age is the single-edged axe. Apparently the majority of these products were manufactured in local workshops.

The proof is the numerous moulds for casting axes discovered at Leliceni (Harghita County) part of the Jigodin group. Hard to ignore is the often evoked ritual hole at Fântânele, part of the Copăceni group, where were found fragments of moulds for casting metal items (little chisels, poniards, massive axes), testifying that the level of the Baniabic/Vâlcele (Cluj County) type of axe had certainly been attained.

Colin Renfrew’s competing Anatolian hypothesis suggests that the Indo-European languages were spread across Europe by the first farmers from Anatolia. In the hypothesis’ original formulation, the languages of Old Europe belonged to the Indo-European family but played no special role in its transmission.

According to Renfrew’s most recent revision of the theory however Old Europe was a “secondary urheimat” where the Greek, Armenian, and Balto-Slavic language families diverged around 5000 BCE.

It is generally proposed that a proto-Thracian people developed from a mixture of indigenous peoples and Indo-Europeans from the time of Proto-Indo-European expansion in the Early Bronze Age when the latter, around 1500 BC, mixed with indigenous peoples. We speak of proto-Thracians from which during the Iron Age (about 1000 BC) Dacians and Thracians begin developing.

Haplogroup J2

Haplogroup J2 is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. Its present geographic distribution argues in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent.

This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros Mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant (which appears to be linked rather to haplogroups G2 and E1b1b).

A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy, notably copper working (from the Lower Danube valley, central Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia), and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations.

Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.

There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük. Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete. Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia).

The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions). The sacred bull of Hinduism, Nandi, present in all temples dedicated to Shiva or Parvati, does not have an Indo-European origin, but can be traced back to Indus Valley civilisation.

Minoan Crete, Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley also shared a tradition of bull leaping, the ritual of dodging the charge of a bull. It survives today in the traditional bullfighting of Andalusia in Spain and Provence in France, two regions with a high percentage of J2 lineages.


The Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BCE) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley.

Ubaid culture originated in the south, but still has clear connections to earlier cultures in the region of middle Iraq. The appearance of the Ubaid folk has sometimes been linked to the so-called Sumerian problem, related to the origins of Sumerian civilisation.

Whatever the ethnic origins of this group this culture saw for the first time a clear tripartite social division between intensive subsistence peasant farmers, with crops and animals coming from the north, tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds, and hunter-fisher folk of the Arabian littoral, living in reed huts.

Ubaid 1, sometimes called Eridu (5300–4700 BCE), a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq, on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf. This phase, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture to the north, saw the establishment of the first permanent settlement south of the 5 inch rainfall isohyet. These people pioneered the growing of grains in the extreme conditions of aridity, thanks to the high water tables of Southern Iraq.

The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism. Bogucki describes this as a phase of “Trans-egalitarian” competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility.

Morton Fried and Elman Service have hypothesised that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftains, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order.

It would seem that various collective methods, perhaps instances of what Thorkild Jacobsen called primitive democracy, in which disputes were previously resolved through a council of one’s peers, were no longer sufficient for the needs of the local community.

Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oikumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period. “A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology, leading to the formation of numerous new indigenous identities that appropriated and transformed superficial elements of Ubaid material culture into locally distinct expressions”.

In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BCE when it is replaced by the Uruk period.

Ubaid 3/4, sometimes called Ubaid I and Ubaid II — In the period from 4500–4000 BCE saw a period of intense and rapid urbanisation with the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia and was adopted by the Halaf culture. Ubaid artifacts spread also all along the Arabian littoral, showing the growth of a trading system that stretched from the Mediterranean coast through to Oman.

The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BCE, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation.

At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron, the name for a period identified in 1961 as an episode of a global sea-level (i.e. eustatic) high-stand during the Holocene Epoch.

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BCE. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.


The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 B.C.

The Leyla-Tepe culture includes a settlement in the lower layer of the settlements Poilu I, Poilu II, Boyuk-Kesik I and Boyuk-Kesik II. They apparently buried their dead in ceramic vessels. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture.

The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslan-tepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (ca. 3700 BC—3000 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern Russia. An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.

Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, whose views are highly controversial, suggest that the Maykop culture (or its ancestor) may have been a way-station for Indo-Europeans migrating from the South Caucasus and/or eastern Anatolia to a secondary Urheimat on the steppe. This would essentially place the Anatolian stock in Anatolia from the beginning, and in this respect only, agrees with Colin Renfrew’s Anatolian hypothesis.

Shulaveri culture

Shulaveri culture, thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures, predates the Kura-Araxes culture and surrounding areas, which is assigned to the period of ca. 4000 – 2200 BC, and had close relation with the middle Bronze Age culture called Trialeti culture (ca. 3000 – 1500 BC). Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.

The Shulaveri-Shomu and other Neolithic/Chalcolithic cultures of the Southern Caucasus use local obsidian for tools, raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and grow crops, including grapes. Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).

Yamna culture

In 2015 researchers reported that, based on the DNA analysis of 98 ancient skeletons from Europe and Russia, there had been a massive migration of Yamna culture (“Pit [Grave] Culture”, dated to the 3600–2300 BC) from the North Pontic steppe into Europe about 4,500 years ago. The name also appears in English as Pit Grave Culture or Ochre Grave Culture.

The Yamna culture, a late copper age/early Bronze Age culture of the Southern Bug/Dniester/Ural region (the Pontic steppe), is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) in the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas.

It is a candidate for the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language, along with the preceding Sredny Stog culture, now that archaeological evidence of the culture and its migrations has been closely tied to the evidence from linguistics and genetics.

Pavel Dolukhanov argues that the emergence of the Pit-Grave culture represents a social development of various local Bronze Age cultures, representing “an expression of social stratification and the emergence of chiefdom-type nomadic social structures”, which in turn intensified inter-group contacts between essentially heterogeneous social groups.

It originated in the middle Volga based Khvalynsk culture, an Eneolithic (copper age) culture of the first half of the 5th millennium BC, discovered at Khvalynsk on the Volga in Saratov Oblast, Russia, and the middle Dnieper based Sredny Stog culture. In its western range, it is succeeded by the Catacomb culture; in the east, by the Poltavka culture and the Srubna culture.

The Khvalynsk culture, stretching from Saratov in the north to the North Caucasus in the south, from the Sea of Azov in the west to the Ural River in the east, was preceded by the Early Eneolithic or Samara culture, from which it came, and succeeded by the Late Eneolithic, or Early Yamna culture, to which it descended. Some regard Khvalynsk I as Early Eneolithic, contemporary with the Samara culture. Not enough Samara culture dates and sites exist to settle the question.

DNA from the remains of nine individuals associated with the Yamna culture from the border between Samara Oblast and Orenburg Oblast has been analyzed. The remains have been dated to 3339-2700 BCE.

Y-chromosome sequencing revealed that one of the individuals belonged to haplogroup R1b1-P25 (the subclade could not be determined), one individual belonged to haplogroup R1b1a2a-L23 (and to neither the Z2103 nor the L51 subclades), and five individuals belonged to R1b1a2a2-Z2103. The individuals belonged to mtDNA haplogroups U4a1, W6, H13a1a1a, T2c1a2, U5a1a1, H2b, W3a1a and H6a1b.

A 2015 genome wide study of 94 ancient skeletons from Europe and Russia concluded that Yamnaya autosomal characteristics are very close to the Corded Ware culture people with an estimated a 73% ancestral contribution from the Yamnaya DNA in the DNA of Corded Ware skeletons from Germany.

The same study estimated a 40–54% ancestral contribution of the Yamnaya in the DNA of modern Central & Northern Europeans, and a 20–32% contribution in modern Southern Europeans, excluding Sardinians (7.1% or less) and to a lesser extent Sicilians (11.6% or less).

The Catacomb culture, covering several related archaeological cultures, was first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and showed 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. It was preceded by the Yamna culture and succeeded by the western Corded Ware culture. The Catacomb culture in the Pontic steppe was succeeded by the Srubna culture from c. the 17th century BCE.

The Corded Ware Culture

The Bell Beaker period marks a period of unprecedented cultural contact in Atlantic and Western Europe on a scale not seen previously, nor again seen in succeeding periods.

It can be seen initially as the western equivalent of the contemporary Corded Ware Culture, alternatively characterized as the Battle Axe culture or Single Grave culture (2900–2450/2350 BC), though from c. 2400 BC Bell Beaker expanded eastwards over parts of Central and Eastern Europe where Corded Ware previously thrived.

The Lengyel culture (5000-3400 BC) is a wide interaction sphere or cultural horizon rather than an archaeological culture in the narrow sense. Its distribution overlaps with the Tisza culture and with Stroke-Ornamented Pottery (STK) as far north as Osłonki, central Poland.

It was associated with the cover-term Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas, though may have been undergone “kurganization” by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and become integrated into the successor Globular Amphora culture (ca. 3400–2800 BC).

The Lengyel culture was preceded by the Linear Pottery culture (5500–4500 BC), a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic. In its northern extent it overlapped the somewhat later but otherwise approximately contemporaneous Funnelbeaker culture (ca 4300 BC–ca 2800 BC), an archaeological culture in north-central Europe. Also closely related are the Stroke-ornamented ware (4600-4400 BC) and Rössen cultures (4,600–4,300 BC), adjacent to the north and west, respectively.

The Funnelbeaker culture developed as a technological merger of local neolithic and Mesolithic techno-complexes between the lower Elbe and middle Vistula rivers, introducing farming and husbandry as a major source of food to the pottery-using hunter-gatherers north of this line.

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 Funnelbeaker techno-complex is divided into a northern group including modern northern eastalbingian Germany and southern Scandinavia (TRB-N, roughly the area that previously belonged to the Ertebølle-Ellerbek complex), a western group between Zuiderzee and lower Elbe, an eastern group centered on the Vistula catchment, roughly ranging from Oder to Bug, and south-central groups (TRB-MES, Altmark) around the middle and upper Elbe and Saale. Especially in the southern and eastern groups, local sequences of variants emerged.

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, the 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 from the Yamna culture intruding in the east. The political relation between the aboriginal and intrusive cultures resulted in quick and smooth cultural morphosis into Corded Ware culture.

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).

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 paper published in 2007 by Burger et al. indicated that the genetic variant that causes lactose persistence in most Europeans (-13,910*T) was rare or absent in early farmers from central Europe. A study published by Yuval Itan and colleagues in 2010 clearly shows this.

A study published in 2009, also by Itan et al., suggests that the Linear Pottery culture (also known as Linearbandkeramik or LBK), 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.

The Globular Amphora Culture occupied much of the same area as the earlier Funnelbeaker culture. Somewhat to the south and west, it was bordered by the Baden culture. To the northeast was the Narva culture. It is thought to be of Indo-European origin and preceded the central area occupied by the Corded Ware culture, which succeeded it.

The inclusion of animals in the grave is seen as an intrusive cultural element by Marija Gimbutas. The supporters of the Kurgan hypothesis point to these distinctive burial practices and state this may represent one of the earliest migrations of Indo-Europeans into Central Europe. In this context and given its area of occupation, this culture has been claimed as the underlying culture of a Germanic-Baltic-Slavic continuum.

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 Single Grave culture (EGK) at about 2800 BC. The north-central European megaliths were built primarily during the TRB era.

The Corded Ware Culture was an enormous European archaeological horizon that begins in the late Neolithic (Stone Age), flourishes through the Copper Age and culminates in the early Bronze Age.

Other terms are corded pottery and corded ceramic, the latter being a calque in translations. It receives its name Corded Ware from the ornamentation of its characteristic pottery, Single Grave from its burial custom, and Battle Axe from its characteristic grave offering to males, a stone battle axe.

Thus in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, as far to the east as Poland, there is a sequence from Corded Ware to Bell Beaker, but this is not the case in Iberia, France or the British Isles, where Corded Ware is unknown.

The Corded Ware culture, reflected primarily by its burials, which consisted of inhumation under tumulus with various artifacts (notably battle-axes), is the major north and central European cultural grouping of the Copper Age, stretching from the Netherlands and Switzerland in the west, across southern Scandinavia and Central Europe as far east as the upper Volga (Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture) and middle Dnieper (Middle Dnieper culture).

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 places a continuity between Funnelbeaker and Corded Ware can be demonstrated, 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 degree to which cultural change generally represents immigration is a matter of debate, and such debate has figured strongly in discussions of Corded Ware.

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.

The contemporary Beaker culture overlapped with the western extremity of this 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.

Kurgan hypothesis

The “Kurgan hypothesis” of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) origins assumes gradual expansion of the “Kurgan culture”, around 5000 BC, until it encompassed the entire pontic steppe. Kurgan IV was identified with the Yamna culture of around 3000 BC.

The role of the invasion of the pastoral tribes coming from the north-Pontic (supposedly Indo-European kinship) in bringing to an end the Eneolithic culture of sedentary farmers represents one of the hotly debated issues among specialists in the prehistory of south-eastern Europe. The archeological data available present the Eneolithic as a period of stability, in which the sedentary populations created some of the most spectacular civilizations within the European area.

According to Gimbutas’ version of the Kurgan hypothesis, Old Europe was invaded and destroyed by horse-riding pastoral nomads from the Pontic-Caspian steppe (the “Kurgan culture”) who brought with them violence, patriarchy, and Indo-European languages.

More recent proponents of the Kurgan hypothesis agree that the cultures of Old Europe spoke pre-Indo-European languages but include a less dramatic transition, with a prolonged migration of Proto-Indo-European speakers after Old Europe’s collapse because of other factors.

What once might have seemed exclusively a migration of nomadic tribes, now may be understood as a socio-economic transformation of the local population—its adaptation to the new environment, to the evolution of society (the increasing role of the animal breeders and shepherds, the development of metallurgy, extended mobility, the increasingly military role of the elites, changes in the belief systems, etc.).

Cucuteni-Trypillian culture

The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (ca. 4800 to 3000 BC), known as Cucuteni in Romanian and Trypilska in Ukrainian, is a Neolithic–Eneolithic archaeological culture in Eastern Europe. It extends from the Carpathian Mountains to the Dniester and Dnieper regions, centered on modern-day Moldova and covering substantial parts of western Ukraine and northeastern Romania, encompassing an area of some 350,000 km2 (140,000 sq mi), with a diameter of some 500 km (300 mi; roughly from Kyiv in the northeast to Brasov in the southwest).

The majority of Cucuteni-Trypillian settlements consisted of high-density, small settlements (spaced 3 to 4 kilometers apart), concentrated mainly in the Siret, Prut, and Dniester river valleys. During the Middle Trypillia phase (ca. 4000 to 3500 BC) populations belonging to the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture built the largest settlements in Neolithic Europe, some of which contained as many as 1,600 structures.

The roots of Cucuteni-Trypillian culture can be found in the Starčevo-Körös-Criș (5500-4500 BC ) and Vinča cultures (5700–4500 BC), with additional influence from the Bug-Dniester culture (6500-5000 BC).

During the early period of its existence (in the 5th millennium BC), the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture was also influenced by the Linear Pottery culture (5500–4500 BC) from the north, and by the Boian-Giulesti culture (4300–3500 BC) from the south.

Through colonization and acculturation from these other cultures, the formative Pre-Cucuteni/Trypillia A culture was established. Over the course of the fifth millennium, the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture expanded from its ‘homeland’ in the Prut-Siret region along the eastern foothills of the Carpathian Mountains into the basins and plains of the Dnieper and Southern Bug rivers of central Ukraine. Settlements also developed in the southeastern stretches of the Carpathian Mountains, with the materials known locally as the Ariuşd culture.

Characteristics of the Cucuteni-Trypillian pottery included a monochromic spiral design, painted with black paint on a yellow and red base. Large pear-shaped pottery for the storage of grain, dining plates, and other goods, was also prevalent. Additionally, ceramic statues of female “Goddess” figures, as well as figurines of animals and models of houses dating to this period have also been discovered.

Earlier societies of hunter gatherer tribes had no social stratification, and later societies of the Bronze Age had noticeable social stratification, which saw the creation of occupational specialization, the state, and social classes of individuals who were of the elite ruling or religious classes, full-time warriors, and wealthy merchants, contrasted with those individuals on the other end of the economic spectrum who were poor, enslaved, and hungry.

In between these two economic models (the hunter gatherer tribes and Bronze Age civilizations) we find the later Neolithic and Eneolithic societies such as the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, where the first indications of social stratification began to be found.

However, it would be a mistake to overemphasize the impact of social stratification in the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture since it was still very much an egalitarian society. And of course, social stratification was just one of the many aspects of what is regarded as a fully established civilized society, which began to appear in the Bronze Age.

During the late period the Cucuteni-Trypillian territory expanded to include the Volyn region in northwest Ukraine, the Sluch and Horyn Rivers in northern Ukraine, and along both banks of the Dnieper river near Kiev.

Members of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture who lived along the coastal regions near the Black Sea came into contact with other cultures. Animal husbandry increased in importance, as hunting diminished; horses also became more important.

The community transformed into a patriarchal structure. Outlying communities were established on the Don and Volga rivers in present-day Russia. Dwellings were constructed differently from previous periods, and a new rope-like design replaced the older spiral-patterned designs on the pottery.

Different forms of ritual burial were developed where the deceased were interred in the ground with elaborate burial rituals. An increasingly larger number of Bronze Age artifacts originating from other lands were found as the end of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture drew near.

There is a debate among scholars regarding how the end of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture took place. Some scholars have used the abundance of the clay female fetish statues to base the theory that this culture was matriarchal in nature. Indeed, it was partially the archeological evidence from Cucuteni-Trypillian culture that inspired Marija Gimbutas, Joseph Campbell, and some latter 20th century feminists to set forth the popular theory of an Old European culture of peaceful, matriarchal, Goddess-centered Neolithic European societies that were wiped out by patriarchal, Sky Father-worshipping, warlike, Bronze-Age Proto-Indo-European tribes that swept out of The Steppes east of the Black Sea. This theory has been mostly discredited in recent years, but there are still some people who adhere to it, at least to some degree.

According to some proponents of the Kurgan Hypothesis of the origin of Proto-Indo-European, for example the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas in her book “Notes on the chronology and expansion of the Pit-Grave Culture” (1961, later expanded by her and others), the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture came to a violent end in connection with the territorial expansion of the Kurgan Culture.

Arguing from archaeological and linguistic evidence, Gimbutas concluded that the people of the Kurgan culture (a term grouping the Pit Grave culture and its predecessors) of the Pontic steppe, being most likely speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, effectively destroyed the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in a series of invasions undertaken during their expansion to the west.

Based on this archaeological evidence Gimbutas saw distinct cultural differences between the patriarchal, warlike Kurgan culture and the more peaceful matriarchal Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, which she argued was a significant component of the “Old European cultures” which finally met extinction in a process visible in the progressing appearance of fortified settlements, hillforts, and the graves of warrior-chieftains, as well as in the religious transformation from the matriarchy to patriarchy, in a correlated east-west movement.

In this, “the process of Indo-Europeanization was a cultural, not a physical, transformation and must be understood as a military victory in terms of successfully imposing a new administrative system, language, and religion upon the indigenous groups.

Accordingly these proponents of the Kurgan Hypothesis hold that this violent clash took place during the Third Wave of Kurgan expansion between 3000-2800 BC, permanently ending the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture.

In 1989 Irish-American archaeologist J.P. Mallory in his book “In Search of the Indo-Europeans” summarizing the three existing theories concerning the end of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, mentions that archaeological findings in the region indicate Kurgan (i.e. Yamna culture) settlements in the eastern part of the Cucuteni-Trypillian area, co-existing for some time with those of the Cucuteni-Trypillian.

Artifacts from both cultures found within each of their respective archaeological settlement sites attest to an open trade in goods for a period, though he points out that the archaeological evidence clearly points to what he termed “a dark age,” its population seeking refuge in every direction except east. He cites evidence of the refugees having used caves, islands and hilltops (abandoning in the process 600-700 settlements) to argue for the possibility of a gradual transformation rather than a violent onslaught bringing about cultural extinction.

The obvious issue with that theory is the limited common historical life-time between the Cucuteni-Trypillian (4800-3000 BC) and the Yamna culture (3600-2300BC); given that the earliest archaeological findings of the Yamna culture (3600-3200 BC) are located in the Volga-Don basin, not in the Dniester and Dnieper area where the cultures came in touch, while the Yamna culture came to its full extension in the Pontic steppe at the earliest around 3000 BC, the time the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture ended thus indicating an extremely short survival after coming in contact with the Yamna culture.

Another contradicting indication is that the kurgans that replaced the traditional horizontal graves in the area now contain human remains of a fairly diversified skeletal type approximately ten centimeters taller on average than the previous population.

In the 1990s and 2000s, another theory regarding the end of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture emerged based on climatic change that took place at the end of their culture’s existence that is known as the Blytt-Sernander Sub-Boreal phase.

Beginning around 3200 BC the earth’s climate became colder and drier than it had ever been since the end of the last Ice age, resulting in the worst drought in the history of Europe since the beginning of agriculture.

The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture relied primarily on farming, which would have collapsed under these climatic conditions in a scenario similar to the Dust Bowl of the American Midwest in the 1930s.

According to The American Geographical Union, “The transition to today’s arid climate was not gradual, but occurred in two specific episodes. The first, which was less severe, occurred between 6,700 and 5,500 years ago. The second, which was brutal, lasted from 4,000 to 3,600 years ago. Summer temperatures increased sharply, and precipitation decreased, according to carbon-14 dating.

According to that theory, the neighboring Yamna culture people were pastoralists, and were able to maintain their survival much more effectively in drought conditions. This has led some scholars to come to the conclusion that the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture ended not violently, but as a matter of survival, converting their economy from agriculture to pastoralism, and becoming integrated into the Yamna culture.

However, the Blytt–Sernander approach as a way to identify stages of technology in Europe with specific climate periods is an oversimplification not generally accepted. A conflict with that theoretical possibility is that during the warm Atlantic period, Denmark was occupied by Mesolithic cultures, rather than Neolithic, notwithstanding the climatic evidence.

Moreover, the technology stages varied widely globally. To this must be added that the first period of the climate transformation ended some 500 years before the end of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture and the second approximately 1,400 years after.

A 2010 study analyzed mtDNA recovered from Cucuteni-Trypillian human osteological remains found in the Verteba Cave (on the bank of the Seret River, Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine). It revealed that seven of the individuals whose remains where analysed belonged to the pre-HV branch of the R haplogroup, two to haplogroup HV, two to haplogroup H, one to haplogroup J, and one to T4 haplogroup, the latter also being the oldest sample of the set.

The authors conclude that the population living around Verteba Cave was fairly heterogenous, but that the wide chronological age of the specimens might indicate that the heterogeneity might have been due to natural population flow during this timeframe. The authors also link the pre-HV and HV/V haplogroups with European Paleolithic populations, and consider the T and J haplogroups as hallmarks of Neolithic demic intrusions from the South-East (the North-Pontic region) rather than from the West (i.e. the Linear Pottery culture).

Sredny Stog

The Sredny Stog culture is a pre-kurgan archaeological culture, named after the Russian term for the Dnieper river islet of Seredny Stih, Ukraine, where it was first located, dating from the 5th millennium BC. It was situated across the Dnieper river on both its shores, with sporadic settlements to the west and east.

One of the best known sites associated with this culture is Dereivka, located on the right bank of the Omelnik, a tributary of the Dnieper, and is the most impressive site within the Sredny Stog culture complex, being about 2,000 square meters in area.

The Sredny Stog culture seems to have had contact with the agricultural Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (ca. 4800 to 3000 BC) in the west and was a contemporary of the Khvalynsk culture.

In its three largest cemeteries, Alexandria (39 individuals), Igren (17) and Dereivka (14), evidence of inhumation in flat graves (ground level pits) has been found. This parallels the practise of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, and is in contrast with the later Yamna culture, which practiced tumuli burials, according to the Kurgan hypothesis.

In Sredny Stog culture, the deceased were laid to rest on their backs with the legs flexed. The use of ochre in the burial was practiced, as with the kurgan cultures. For this and other reasons, Yuri Rassamakin suggests that the Sredny Stog culture should be considered as an areal term, with at least four distinct cultural elements co-existing inside the same geographical area.

The expert Dmytro Telegin has divided the chronology of Sredny Stog into two distinct phases. Phase II (ca. 4000–3500 BC) used corded ware pottery which may have originated there, and stone battle-axes of the type later associated with expanding Indo-European cultures to the West. Most notably, it has perhaps the earliest evidence of horse domestication (in phase II), with finds suggestive of cheek-pieces (psalia).

In the context of the modified Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, this pre-kurgan archaeological culture could represent the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language. The culture ended at around 3500 BC, when Yamna culture expanded westward replacing Sredny Stog, and coming into direct contact with the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the western Ukraine.

Cernavoda culture

The Cernavodă culture (ca. 4000-3200 BC), named after the Romanian town of Cernavodă, was a late Copper Age archaeological culture. It was along the lower Eastern Bug River and Danube and along the coast of the Black Sea and somewhat inland, generally in present-day Romania and Bulgaria. It is characterized by defensive hilltop settlements. The pottery shares traits with that found further east on the southern Russian steppes; burials similarly bear a resemblance to those further east.

It is a successor to and occupies much the same area as the earlier neolithic Karanovo culture, for which a destruction horizon seems to be evident. It is part of the “Balkan-Danubian complex” that stretches up the entire length of the river and into northern Germany via the Elbe and the Baden culture; its northeastern portion is thought to be ancestral to the Usatovo culture.

Baden culture

The Baden culture (ca 3600-2800 BC) was an eneolithic culture found in central Europe and known from Moravia, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Western Romania and Eastern Austria named after Baden near Vienna by the Austrian prehistorian Oswald Menghin. It is also known as the Ossarn group or Pecel culture.

It has been interpreted as part of a much larger archaeological complex encompassing cultures at the mouth of the Danube (Ezero-Cernavoda III) and the Troad. It developed out of the late Lengyel culture, an archaeological culture of the European Neolithic, centered on the Middle Danube in the western Carpathian Basin.

Němejcová-Pavuková proposes a polygenetic origin, including southeastern elements transmitted by the Ezero culture (3300-2700 BC), a Bronze Age archaeological culture occupying most of present-day Bulgaria, and Cernavoda III/Coțofeni, also known as Usatove culture, a Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age archaeological culture that existed for over 700 years in south-eastern Central Europe facing the Black Sea between the mouths of the Bug River and the Danube in present-day Romania, Moldova, and southern Ukraine. Ecsedy parallelises Baden with Early Helladic II in Thessaly, Parzinger with Sitagroi IV.

Baden was approximately contemporaneous with the late Funnelbeaker culture, the Globular Amphora culture and the early Corded Ware culture. The settlements were often located on hilltops and were normally undefended.

In the Kurgan hypothesis espoused by Marija Gimbutas, the Baden culture is seen as being Indo-Europeanized. For proponents of the older theory that seeks the Indo-European homeland in central Europe in the area occupied by the preceding Funnelbeaker culture, it is similarly considered Indo-European.

The linguistic identity and ethnic self-identification of the people associated with this culture is impossible to ascertain. It may be tempting to put the Italic and Celtic stocks together here at some point, at least in that great European mixing bowl, the plains of Hungary, but this is a speculation lacking any archaeological foundation.


The Ezero culture (3300—2700 BC), was a Bronze Age archaeological culture occupying most of present-day Bulgaria. It follows the copper age cultures of the area (Karanovo VI culture, Gumelniţa culture, Kodzadjemen culture and Varna culture), after a settlement hiatus in Northern Bulgaria. It bears some relationship to the earlier Cernavodă III culture to the north. Some settlements were fortified.

The Ezero culture is interpreted as part of a larger Balkan-Danubian early Bronze Age complex, a horizon reaching from Troy Id-IIc into Central Europe, encompassing the Baden of the Carpathian Basin and the Coţofeni culture of Romania. According to Parzinger, there are also typological connections to Poliochne IIa-b and Sitagroi IV.

Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis the Ezero culture would represent a fusion of native “Old European culture” and intrusive “Kurgan culture” elements. It could also represent an Anatolian-influenced culture, either coming from Anatolia (in Renfrew’s hypothesis), or heading to Asia Minor.


The Coţofeni culture (3500 and 2500 BC), also known as Usatove culture, is a Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age archaeological culture that existed in south-eastern Central Europe facing the Black Sea between the mouths of the Bug River and the Danube in present-day Romania, Moldova, and southern Ukraine.

Unfortunately most of the Coţofeni culture chronology is based on just three samples collected at three different Coţofeni sites. Based on these radiocarbon dates, this culture can be placed between roughly 3500 and 2500 BCE.

Cultural synchronisms have been established based on mutual trade relations (visible as imported items) as well as stratigraphic observations. There is an evident synchronicity between: Coţofeni I – Cernavoda III – Baden A – Spherical Amphorae; Coţofeni II – Baden B-C Kostolac; Coţofeni III – Kostolac-Vučedol A-B.

During the evolution of the Coţofeni culture, there were clearly relationships with other neighbouring cultures. The influence between the Coţofeni and their neighbours the Baden, Kostolac, Vučedol, Globular Amphora culture as well as the Ochre Burial populations was reciprocal.

The areas bordering these cultures show cultural traits that have mixed aspects, for example Coţofeni-Baden and Coţofeni-Kostolac finds. These finds of mixed aspects suggest a cohabitation between related populations. It also supports the idea of well established trade between cultures.


Following the Baden culture, another wave of possible Indo-European speakers came to the banks of the Danube. One of the major places they occupied is present-day Vučedol (“Wolf’s Valley”), located six kilometers downstream from the town of Vukovar, Croatia.

The Vučedol culture (3000 and 2200 BC) was contemporary with the Sumer period in Mesopotamia, the Early Dynastic period in Egypt and the earliest settlements of Troy (Troy I and II). Some authors regard it as an Indo-European culture.

It is estimated that the site had once been home to about 3,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest and most important European centers of its time. According to Bogdan Brukner, proto-Illyrians descended from this wave of Indo-European settlers.

The early stages of the culture occupied locations not far from mountain ranges, where copper deposits were located, because of their main invention: making tools from arsenical copper in series reusing double, two-part moulds.

The Vučedol culture developed from two older eneolithic cultures: the Baden culture, mainly in the Pannonian plain, and the Kostolac culture in northern Serbia and western Romania, so the primary region of Vučedol development is eastern Croatia and the Syrmia region.

The Vučedol culture is the final eneolithic culture of the region, displaying characteristically common use of the war axe in its “Banniabik” form. Cult objects suggest the practice of new cults very different from the Neolithic Magna Mater conception: cult of the Deer, womb-shaped solar motives, figures of women in clothes without sexual or fertility decoration, symbols of double axe. In pottery, new forms and a new and rich decoration are characterized by the spectacular find, the Vučedol dove.

The Vučedol culture exploited native copper ores on a massive scale. The settlement sites destroyed earlier eneolithic settlements, and new Vučedol settlements also developed in regions where none previously existed. The rise of a dominant hunter-warrior class is a preview of the changes that will be characteristic for the east and middle European early Bronze Age.

Compared to earlier and contemporary cultures the Vučedol culture exploited a diversity in food sources: the Vučedol people were hunters, fishermen and agrarians, with some strong indications that they cultivated certain domesticated animals. Thus the culture was more resilient to times of want.

The community chief was the shaman-smith, possessing the arcane knowledge of avoiding poisonous arsenic gas which is connected to the technology of coppersmithing as well as understanding the year cycle.

Still, the whole life of shaman-smith could not pass without biological consequences: slow loss of body movement coordination, and at the same time, stronger sexual potency. “That is why”, according to Aleksandar Durman, “all eneolithic, or later gods of metallurgy are identified with fertility, and also why all gods in almost all early cultures – limp”.

It was a society of deep social changes and stratification that led to the birth of tribal and military aristocracy. Also, Vučedol people had enough time to express their spiritual view of the world.

In modern times, Vučedol ceramics have become famous worldwide. A very characteristic bi-conical shape and typical ornaments evolved, in many cases with typical “handles” which were almost non-functional, but were key to understanding ornaments that had symbolic meanings, representing ideas such as “horizon”, “mountains”, “sky”, “underworld”, “sun”, “constellation of Orion”, “Venus”, et cetera.

One of the most famous pieces of Vučedol is the ritual vessel made between 2800 and 2500 BC, called by the speculative attribution of M. Seper, who found it in 1938, the “Vučedol Dove” (vučedolska golubica).

The latest interpretation, however, is that the vessel is in the shape of the male partridge, a symbol of fertility, whose limping defensive behavior against attack by predators on a partridge nest on the ground linked it to the limping shaman-smith, according to the recent interpretation by Aleksandar Durman of Zagreb. The figure is a remarkable example of artistic creation and religious symbolism associated with a cult of the Great Mother.

The “Vučedol Dove” is a 19,5 cm high ritual vessel made from baked clay. Three symbols of double axes and a necklace were incised on its neck with lines covering its wings and chest, and an unusual crest on the back of the head. If the shape of the crest and carefully delineated wings and chest, prove the figure to be the domesticated dove, then it was being raised in Europe 4500 years ago, much earlier than we commonly think. The “Vučedol Dove” is the oldest dove figure found in Europe so far.

Among the most famous pieces is a vessel bearing inscribed images corresponding to what has been alleged to be the oldest Indo-European calendar, based on an Orion cycle, shown by precise sequence of constellations on a vessel found in an Eneolithic mound in the very center of the modern town of Vinkovci.

The climatic conditions in that latitude bring about four yearly seasons. The simple explanation of the Vučedol Calendar is that each of the four lateral bands on the vessel represent the four seasons, starting with spring on the top. Each band is divided into twelve boxes, making up 12 “weeks” for each season.

Each of the little boxes contains an ideogram of celestial objects that lie at a certain point on the horizon right after twilight. The place of reference on the horizon is the point at which (in those days) the Orion’s Belt disappeared from view at the end of winter, which meant the beginning of a new year.

The pictographs in the boxes represent: Orion, the Sun, Cassiopeia, Cygnus, Gemini, Pegasus, and the Pleiades. If the box is empty, it means there was nothing visible at the reference point during the corresponding time.

Some researchers of the Vučedol culture have claimed that there was establisheed trade connection between territorial position of the Vučedol culture and Mycenean civilisation on the south so that some cultural elements found in B2 phase in the Vučedol culture owes their existence to first period for the middle Bronze Age of Helladic culture of mainland Greece.

The excavated settlement of Vučedol provides a base for the cultural stratigraphy of the whole culture. No final conclusions about the Vučedol culture population can be made that they were linguistic Indo-Europeans, or to what extent they mixed with native European population, especially in regions of the eastern Adriatic coast, Dalmatia and Herzegovina with some parts of Bosnia as well.

Beaker culture

The Bell-Beaker culture, sometimes shortened to Beaker culture, Beaker people, or Beaker folk (ca. 2800 – 1800 BC), 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 Bell Beaker culture is understood not only as a particular pottery type, but as a complete and complex cultural phenomenon involving metalwork in copper, gold and later bronze, archery, specific types of ornamentation and shared ideological, cultural and religious ideas.

It is important to note that underlying the Bell beaker superstratum existed a wide diversity in local burial styles (including incidences of cremation rather than inhumation), housing styles, economic profile and local coarse ceramic wares which continued to persist.

There are two main international Bell Beaker styles: the “All Over Ornamented” (AOO), patterned all over with impressions, of which a sub-set is the “All Over Corded” (AOC), patterned with cord-impressions, and the “Maritime” type, decorated with bands filled with impressions made with a comb or cord. Later, characteristic regional styles developed.

It has been suggested that the beakers were designed for the consumption of alcohol, and that the introduction of the substance to Europe may have fuelled the beakers’ spread. Beer and mead content have been identified from certain examples.

However, not all Beakers were drinking cups. Some were used as reduction pots to smelt copper ores, others have some organic residues associated with food, and still others were employed as funerary urns. They were used as status display amongst disparate elites.

There have been numerous proposals by archaeologists as to the origins of the Bell Beaker culture, and debates continued on for decades. 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, the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, 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. The burial ritual which typified Bell Beaker sites was intrusive into Western Europe.

Individual burials, often under tumuli burials, with the inclusion of weapons contrast markedly to the preceding Neolithic traditions of often collective, weaponless burials in Atlantic/Western Europe. Such an arrangement is rather derivative of Corded Ware traditions, although instead of battle-axes, Bell Beaker individuals used copper daggers.

Overall, all these elements (Iberian-derived maritime ceramic styles, AOC and AOO ceramic styles, and ‘eastern’ burial ritual symbolism) appear to have first fused in the Lower Rhine region.

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.

The initial moves from the Tagus estuary were maritim. A southern move led to the Mediterranean where enclaves were established in south-western Spain and southern France around the Golfe du Lion and into the Po valley in Italy probably via ancient western Alpine trade routes used to distribute Jadeite axes.

A northern move incorporated the southern coast of Armorica, the name given in ancient times to the part of Gaul between the Seine and Loire rivers that includes the Brittany peninsula, extending inland to an indeterminate point and down the Atlantic coast.

The enclave established in southern Brittany was linked closely to the riverine and landward route via the Loire and across the Gatinais valley to the Seine valley and thence to the lower Rhine. This was a long-established route reflected in early stone axe distributions and it was via this network that Maritime Bell Beakers first reached the Lower Rhine in about 2600 BC.

Another pulse had brought Bell Beaker to Csepel Island in Hungary by about 2500 BC. In the Carpathian Basin the Bell Beaker culture came in contact with communities such as the Vučedol culture (3000-2200 BC), centered in Syrmia and eastern Slavonia on the right bank of the Danube river, but possibly spreading throughout the Pannonian plain and western Balkans and southward.

The Vučedol culture was contemporary with the Sumer period in Mesopotamia, the Early Dynastic period in Egypt and the earliest settlements of Troy (Troy I and II). Some authors regard it as an Indo-European culture. It had evolved partly from the Yamna culture, and therefore shared the same type of metallurgy practised by Bell Beaker metal-workers.

Marija Gimbutas characterized the Bell Beaker culture complex as an amalgam of Vučedol and Yamna culture traditions formed after the incursion of the Yamna people into the milieu of the Vučedol culture, which evolved in the course of the three or four hundred years after the 30th century BC.

But in contrast to the early Bell Beaker preference for the dagger and bow, the favourite weapon in the Carpathian Basin during the first half of the 3rd millennium was the shaft-hole axe. Here Bell Beaker people assimilated local pottery forms such as the polypod cup. These “common ware” types of pottery then spread in association with the classic bell beaker.

From the Carpathian Basin Bell Beaker spread down the Rhine and eastwards into what is now Germany and Poland. By this time the Rhine was on the western edge of the vast Corded Ware zone.

The Corded Ware Culture shared a number of features with the Bell Beaker Culture, derived from their common ancestor the Yamna culture. These features include pottery decorated with cord impressions, single burial and the shaft-hole axe.

A review in 2014 revealed that single burial, communal burial and reuse of Neolithic burial sites are found throughout the Bell Beaker zone. This overturns a previous conviction that single burial was unknown in the early or southern Bell Beaker zone, and so must have been adopted from Corded Ware in the contact zone of the Lower Rhine, and transmitted westwards along the exchange networks from the Rhine to the Loire, and northwards across the Channel to Britain.

The earliest copper production in Ireland, identified at Ross Island in the period 2400-2200 BC, was associated with early Beaker pottery. Here the local sulpharsenide ores were smelted to produce the first copper axes used in Britain and Ireland. The same technologies were used in the Tagus region and in the west and south of France.

The evidence is sufficient to support the suggestion that the initial spread of Maritime Bell Beakers along the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean, using sea routes that had long been in operation, was directly associated with the quest for copper and other rare raw materials.

The origin of the Beaker people

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. However, it is doubtful that the Bell Beaker culture (2800-1900 BCE) in Western Europe was already Indo-European because its attributes are in perfect continuity with the native Megalithic cultures.

The Beaker phenomenon started during the Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic in Portugal and propagated to the north-east towards Germany. During the same period Bronze Age steppe cultures spread from Germany in the opposite direction towards Iberia, France and Britain, progressively bringing R1b lineages into the Bell Beaker territory.

It is more likely that the beakers and horses found across Western Europe during that period were the result of trade with neighbouring Indo-European cultures, including the first wave of R1b into Central Europe. It is equally possible that the Beaker people were R1b merchants or explorers who travelled across Western Europe and brought back tales of riches poorly defended by Stone Age people waiting to be to be conquered. This would have prompted a full-scale Indo-European (R1b) invasion from about 2500 BCE in Germany, reaching the Atlantic (north of the Pyrenees at least) around 2200 BCE.

Ancient DNA tests conducted by Lee et al. (2012), Haak et al. (2015) and Allentoft et al. (2015) have all confirmed the presence of R1b-L51 (and deeper subclades such as P312 and U152) in Germany from the Bell Beaker period onwards, but none in earlier cultures.

German Bell Beaker R1b samples only had about 50% of Yamna autosomal DNA and often possessed Neolithic non-Steppe mtDNA, which confirms that R1b invaders took local wives as they advanced westward.

DNA samples from the Unetice culture (2300-1600 BCE) in Germany, which emerged less than two centuries after the apperance of the first R1b individuals in the late Bell Beaker Germany, had a slightly higher percentage of Yamna ancestry (60~65%) and of Yamna-related mtDNA lineages, which indicates a migration of both steppe men and women.

That would explain why archeological artefacts from the Unetice culture are clearly Yamna-related (i.e. Indo-European), as they abruptly introduced new technologies and a radically different lifestyle, while the Bell Beaker culture was in direct continuity with previous Neolithic or Chalcolithic cultures.

R1b men may simply have conquered the Bell Beaker people and overthrown the local rulers without obliterating the old culture due to their limited numbers.

Taking the analogy of the Germanic migrations in the Late Antiquity, the R1b invasion of the Bell Beaker period was more alike to that of the Goths, Burgunds and Vandals, who all migrated in small numbers, created new kingdoms within the Roman empire, but adopted Latin language and Roman culture.

In contrast, the Corded Ware and Unetice culture involved large-scale migrations of steppe people, who imposed their Indo-European language and culture and conquered people, just like the Anglo-Saxons or the Bavarians did in the 5th century.

The cultures that succeeded to Unetice in Central Europe, chronologically the Tumulus culture (1600-1200 BCE), Urnfield culture (1300-1200 BCE) and Hallstatt culture (1200-750 BCE) cultures remained typically Indo-European.

The Hallstatt culture, centered around the Alps, is considered the first classical Celtic culture in Europe. It quickly expanded to France, Britain, Iberia, northern Italy and the Danube valley, probably spreading for the first time Celtic languages, although not bronze technology nor R1b lineages, which had both already spread over much of western Europe during the Bell Beaker period.

The Bronze Age did not appear in Iberia until 1800 BCE, and was mostly confined to the cultures of El Argar and Los Millares in south-east Spain, with sporadic sites showing up in Castile by 1700 BCE and in Extremadura and southern Portugal by 1500 BCE.

These Early Bronze Age sites typically did not have more than some bronze daggers or axes and cannot be considered proper Bronze Age societies, but rather Copper Age societies with occasional bronze artefacts (perhaps imported).

These cultures might have been founded by small groups of R1b adventurers looking for easy conquests in parts of Europe that did not yet have bronze weapons. They would have become a small ruling elite, would have had children with local women, and within a few generations their Indo-European language would have been lost, absorbed by the indigenous languages.

Iberia did not become a fully-fledged Bronze Age society until the 13th century BCE, when the Urnfield culture (1300-1200 BCE) expanded from Germany to Catalonia via southern France, then the ensuing Hallstatt culture (1200-750 BCE) spread throughout most of the peninsula (especially the western half). This period belongs to the wider Atlantic Bronze Age (1300-700 BCE), when Iberia was connected to the rest of Western Europe through a complex trade network.

It is hard to say when exactly DF27 entered Iberia. Considering its overwhelming presence in the peninsula and in south-west France, it is likely that DF27 arrived early, during the 1800 to 1300 BCE period, and perhaps even earlier, if R1b adventurers penetrated the Bell Beaker culture as they appear to have done all over Western Europe from 2300 BCE to 1800 BCE.

The Atlantic Bronze Age could correspond to the period when DF27 radiated more evenly around Iberia and ended up, following Atlantic trade routes, all the way to the British Isles, the Netherlands and western Norway (where M153 and SRY2728 make up about 1% of the population).

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.

However, such evidence from skeletal remains was brushed aside as a new movement developed in archaeology from the 1960s, which stressed cultural continuity. Anti-migrationist authors either paid little attention to skeletal evidence or argued that differences could be explained by environmental and cultural influences.

Margaret Cox and Simon Mays sum up the position: “Although it can hardly be said that craniometric data provide an unequivocal answer to the problem of the Beaker folk, the balance of the evidence would at present seem to favour a migration hypothesis.”

Non-metrical research concerning the Beaker people in Britain also cautiously pointed in the direction of immigration. 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.

Jocelyne Desideri examined the teeth in skeletons from Bell Beaker sites in Northern Spain, Southern France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Examining dental characteristics that have been independently shown to correlate with genetic relatedness, she found that only in Northern Spain and the Czech Republic were there demonstrable links between immediately previous populations and Bell Beaker populations. Elsewhere there was a discontinuity.

Early papers publishing results on European-wide Y-DNA marker frequencies, such as those of Semino (2000) and Rosser (2000), correlated haplogroup R1b-M269 with the earliest episodes of European colonization by Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH).

The peak frequencies of M269 in Iberia (especially the Basque region) and the Atlantic façade were postulated to represent signatures of re-colonization of the European West following the Last Glacial Maximum.

However, even prior to recent criticisms and refinements, the idea that Iberian R1b carrying males repopulated most of western Europe was not consistent with findings which revealed that Italian M269 lineages are not derivative of Iberian ones.

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. R1b was detected in two male skeletons from a German Bell Beaker site dated to 2600-2500 BC at Kromsdorf, one of which tested positive for M269 but negative for its U106 subclade (note that the P312 subclade was not tested for), while for the other skeleton the M269 test was unclear.

A later Bell Beaker male skeleton from Quedlinburg, Germany dated to 2296-2206 BC tested positive for R1b M269 P312 subclade. 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.

While such studies are insightful, even if the dates postulated by authors are correct, they do not necessarily imply that the spread of a particular genetic marker represents a distinct population, ‘tribe’ or language group. As such, genetic studies have often drawn criticisms not only from archaeologists and cultural anthropologists, but also from fellow population geneticists.

The Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The four largest islands are Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. There are many minor islands and islets in close proximity to the larger islands, including Cabrera, Dragonera and S’Espalmador.

The official name of the Balearic Islands in Catalan is Illes Balears, while in Spanish they are known as the Islas Baleares. The term “Balearic” derives from Greek Gymnesiae and Balliareis (in Latin Baleares). Of the various theories on the origins of the two ancient Greek and Latin names for the islands—Gymnasiae and Baleares—classical sources provide two.

According to the Lycophron’s Alexandra verses, the islands were called Gymnesiae (gymnos, meaning naked in Greek) because its inhabitants were often nude, probably because of the year-round benevolent climate.

The Greek and Roman writers generally derive the name of the people from their skill as slingers (baleareis, from ballo: ancient Greek meaning “to launch”), although Strabo regards the name as of Phoenician origin. He observed it was the Phoenician equivalent for lightly armoured soldiers the Greeks would have called gymnetas.

The root bal does point to a Phoenician origin; perhaps the islands were sacred to the god Baal and the resemblance to the Greek root ballo is accidental. Indeed, it was usual Greek practice to assimilate local names into their own language. But the common Greek name of the islands is not Baleareis, but Gymnesiai. The former was the name used by the natives, as well as by the Carthaginians and Romans, while the latter probably derives from the light equipment of the Balearic troops gymnetae.

Beaker people

Little is recorded on the earliest inhabitants of the islands, though many legends exist. Radiocarbon dating currently indicates that the use of the Beaker pottery on the Balearic Islands, between circa 2475 BC and 1300 BC.

There has been some evidence of all-corded pottery in Mallorca, generally considered the most ancient Bell Beaker pottery, possibly indicating an even earlier Beaker settlement about 2700 BC. However, in several regions this type of pottery persisted long enough to permit other possibilities.

Suárez Otero (1997) postulated this corded Beakers entered the Mediterranean by routes both through the Atlantic coast and through eastern France. Bell Beaker pottery has been found in Mallorca and Formentera but has not been observed in Menorca or Ibiza.

Collective burials in dolmen structures in Ibiza could be contrasted against the individual burials in Mallorca. In its latest phase (circa 1750-1300 cal BC) the local Beaker context became associated with the distinctive ornamented Boquique pottery demonstrating clear maritime links with the (megalithic) coastal regions of Catalonia, also assessed to be directly related to the late Cogotas complex.

In most of the areas of the mainland Boquique pottery falls into the latter stages of the Bell Beaker Complex as well. Along with other evidence during the earlier Beaker period in the Balearics, circa 2400-2000 BC, as shown by the local presence of elephant ivory objects together with significant Beaker pottery and other finds, this maritime interaction can be shown to have a long tradition. The abundance of different cultural elements that persisted towards the end of the Bronze Age, show a clear continuity of different regional and intrusive traditions.

The presence of perforated Beaker pottery traditionally considered to be used for making cheese, at Son Ferrandell-Oleza and at Coval Simó confirms the introduction of production and conservation of dairy. Also, the presence of spindles at sites like Son Ferrandell-Oleza or Es Velar d’Aprop points to knowledge of making thread and textiles from wool. However, more details on the strategies for tending and slaughtering the domestic animals involved are forthcoming.

Being traditionally associated to the introduction of metallurgy, the first traces of copper working on the Baleares was here indeed also clearly associated to the Bell Beakers.

The islands had a very mixed population, of whose habits several strange stories are told. In ancient times, the islanders constructed talayots, and were famous for their skill with the sling. The Phoenicians took possession of the islands in very early times.

As slingers, they served as mercenaries, first under the Carthaginians, and afterwards under the Romans. They went into battle ungirt, with only a small buckler, and a javelin burnt at the end, and in some cases tipped with a small iron point; but their effective weapons were their slings, of which each man carried three, wound round his head (Strabo p. 168; Eustath), or, as seen in other sources, one round the head, one round the body, and one in the hand (Diodorus).

The three slings were of different lengths, for stones of different sizes; the largest they hurled with as much force as if it were flung from a catapult; and they seldom missed their mark. To this exercise they were trained from infancy, in order to earn their livelihood as mercenary soldiers. It is said that the mothers allowed their children to eat bread only when they had struck it off a post with the sling.


A naveta (in Minorcan Catalan, naveta, or naueta, a diminutive form of nau, means nave) is a megalithic chamber tomb unique to the Balearic island of Minorca. It dates to the early Bronze Age. It has two vertical and two corbelled walls giving it the form of an upturned boat which is where the name comes from.

The largest example is the Naveta d’Es Tudons (Es Tudons, lit. the woodpigeons, is the name of the place) which is around 4m high, 14m long and 6.4m wide and located in the Western part of the island, on the Ciutadella de Menorca-Mahón road, approximately 3 miles out from Ciutadella, and 200 m south of the road.

Navetas are chronologically pre-Talaiotic (i.e. prior to the Talaiotic age) constructions. They were described in the early 19th century but not excavated until the 20th, notably during the 1960s and 1970s. They were first given their name by the rather imaginative Dr Juan Ramis (1818) from their resemblance to upturned boats. Similar but not necessarily related are the “nuraghes” of Sardinia, the “torri” of Corsica and the “sesi” of Pantelleria.

Pre-Talaiotic constructions are dated using an uncalibrated radiocarbon chronology from 1640 to 1400 BC. The navetas used for communal burial rituals are dated to the late second millennium and early first millennium BC. According to Phil Lee, the author of The Rough Guide to Menorca, folkloric memories of the navetas’ original purpose may have survived into modern times, for the Menorcans were loath to go near these odd-looking and solitary monuments until well into the 19th century.


A taula (meaning ‘table’ in Catalan) is a T-shaped stone monument found on the Balearic island of Minorca. Taulas can be up to 3.7 metres high and consist of a vertical pillar (a monolith or several smaller stones on top of each other) with a horizontal stone lying on it. A U-shaped wall often encloses the structure. They were built by the Talaiotic Culture between 1000 BC and 300 BC.

Their exact cultural meaning remains unknown, but they probably had religious and/or astronomical purposes. Most of the taulas face south, which seems to suggest some astronomical meaning. Archeologist Michael Hoskin has suggested the taulas may have been part of an ancient healing cult. They are frequently found near talayots. Examples include those at Torre Trencada, Talatí de Dalt, Torrellissá Nou, Trepucó, and the site at Torralba d’en Salord.


The talaiots, or talayots, are Bronze Age megaliths on the islands of Minorca and Majorca forming part of the Talaiotic Culture or Talaiotic Period. They date back to the late second millennium and early first millennium BC.

There are at least 274 of them, in, near, or related to Talaiotic settlements and Talaiotic navetes. While some of the talaiots certainly had a defensive purpose, the use of others is not clearly understood. Some believe them to have served the purpose of lookout or signalling towers, as on Minorca, where they form a network. These monuments pre-date the taulas, which are usually found nearby.

Talayots on Minorca were much less prone to weathering as were the ones found on Majorca. Despite this, very few grave goods have been found in Minorcan talayots, leading historians to believe that the island had a poorer economy than its larger neighbor.

The Talaiotic Culture

The Talaiotic Culture or Talaiotic Period is the name used to describe the society that existed on the Gymnesian Islands (the easternmost Balearic Islands) during the Iron Age, between 1000 BC and 300 BC. Its name is derived from the talaiots, which are the most abundant and emblematic structures from the prehistoric period of the Balearic Islands.

Its origins date from the end of the second millennium BC, when the inaccurately named Pre-Talaiotic Culture underwent a crisis and evolved into the Talaiotic Culture.

Up until the end of the 20th century it was theorized that the Talaiotic Culture arose out of interaction between new peoples from the eastern Mediterranean and local island culture, in the form of an aggressive invasion, or perhaps as a peaceful assimilation. This because the Talaiotic Culture arose at the same time that the crisis caused by the Sea Peoples, which had revolutionized societies in this part of the Mediterranean until the 13th century BC, was occurring.

In addition the talaiots were similar in many respects to the nuraghes of Sardinia, which lends credence to the theory that the Talaiotic people were of Sardinian origin.

These theories were based mainly on architectonic remains that exist in abundance on Majorca and Menorca. The Talaiotic people were considered a warlike race due to the abundance of talaiots or defensive towers and the existence of walled towns.

However, archaeological excavations conducted at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries have established that the talaiots were built much later – at the beginning of the first millennium BC, which means that they were not built during the time of the Sea Peoples and the Sardinian nuraghes.

In addition, there is more and more proof that what was considered a sudden transition from a Pre-Talaiotic Culture during the Bronze Age to the Talaiotic Culture was actually a slow evolution lasting several centuries, and actually caused by a localized crisis on the Balearic Islands.

However, external influences on the Talaiotic Culture cannot be completely discounted, since the existence of bronze alloys on the island (which requires tin, not available on the Balearic Islands) indicates that frequent contacts with the outside world existed.

The first evidence indicating the development of this culture appeared at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, when island society was threatened by population increases, inefficient food production, and limited living space.

Agricultural techniques that the first inhabitants had brought with them a millennium before the Copper Age consisted of planting in newly-broken ground by burning forests and plowing the newly cleared ground. This technique resulted in a rapid deterioration of fertile land, and may be the main cause for the almost completely meat-based diet of the islanders towards the end of the Bronze Age.

The first great monuments on Majorca from this period are the Layered Tumuli (Túmulos Escalonados), which had a funerary purpose. The date of their construction dates from the end of the second millennium BC to the beginnings of the first millennium BC, and many of the Tumuli are associated with hypogea from the Bronze Age.

In sum, the society of this era is called “Proto-Talaiotic,” since many features of the subsequent Talaiotic society begin to appear at this time. These features include the clustering of the population into towns. It has been confirmed that in some of these Talaiotic towns naviform structures were dismantled in order to use the building material to build ordinary dwellings.

The very factors that gave rise to the Talaiotic Period spelled its doom. Construction of talaiots ceased, and many of them were destroyed or converted for different uses. The nearby Punic center of Ebusus, present-day Ibiza, increased its commercial influence to include the Gymnesian Islands; this economic extension in effect transformed itself into an actual Punic colonization of the Gymnesian Islands.

The Mediterranean subsequently became dominated by the Roman and Carthaginian Empires. The Punic Wars would erupt between these two powers, and the islands of Mallorca and Menorca would be forcibly dragged into what is called the Post-Talaiotic Period (also known as the Balearic Culture or Post-Talaiotic Culture).


Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily and before Cyprus) and an autonomous region of Italy, which goes by the official name of Regione Autonoma della Sardegna / Regione Autònoma de Sardigna (Autonomous Region of Sardinia).

The nearest land masses are (clockwise from north) the island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia, the Balearic Islands, and Provence. The Tyrrhenian Sea portion of the Mediterranean Sea is directly to the east of Sardinia between the Sardinian east coast and the west coast of the Italian mainland peninsula. The Strait of Bonifacio is directly north of Sardinia and separates Sardinia from the French island of Corsica.

The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard-, romanised as sardus (feminine sarda); that the name had a religious connotation is suggested from its use also as the adjective for the ancient Sardinian mythological hero-god Sardus Pater “Sardinian Father” (in modern times misunderstood as being “Father Sardus”), as well as being the stem of the adjective “sardonic”. Sardinia was called Ichnusa (the Latinised form of the Greek Hyknousa), Sandàlion (in Greek meaning sandal), Sardinia and Sardó by the Romans and the ancient Greeks.

Sardinia is one of the most geologically ancient bodies of land in Europe. Sardinia has been in contact with extra-insular communities in Corsica, Tuscany, Liguria and Provence since the Stone Age. The island was populated in various waves of emigration from prehistory until recent times. As time passed, the different Sardinian populations appear to has become united in customs, yet remained politically divided into various small, tribal groupings, at times banding together, and at others waging war against each other.

The first people to settle in Sardinia during the Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic came from the Iberian and the Italian peninsula; some populations, particularly from the ancient region of Etruria (present-day Tuscany), managed to move to northern Sardinia via Corsica; however, there is some evidence in Oliena’s Corbeddu Cave of a previous Paleolithic colonization of the island. In the mid-Neolithic period, the Ozieri culture, probably of Aegean origin, flourished on the island.

Ozieri culture

In the Stone Age the island was inhabited by people who had arrived there in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages from several parts of Europe and the Mediterranean area. The most ancient settlements have been discovered both in central Sardinia and Anglona; later several cultures developed in the island, such as the Ozieri culture or San Michele culture (3200−2700 BC), a prehistoric pre-Nuragic culture that lived in Sardinia.

The archaeological excavation held there in 1914 and 1949 found fine worked vases with geometrical motifs carved in the clay and colored with red ochre. The oldest ones were still rather crude, while the more recent examples were more refined and slender.

Such ceramics were a novelty for prehistoric Sardinia, since up to that point they had been considered typical of the Cyclades and Crete. The development of the Ozieri culture, therefore, probably stemmed from contacts with other eastern Mediterranean civilizations, in particular from the Neolithic Greece area.

The economy was based on agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing and trading with the mainland. During this period copper objects and weapons also appeared in the island. Religion included the adoration of the Neolithic Mother goddess and of a Bull god, perhaps connected to fertility. Female statuettes similar to those of the Ozieri culture have been found in Malta.

Remains from this period include at least 332 menhir, 100 Dolmen and more than 2,400 hypogeum tombs called Domus de Janas, (Sardinian: “House of the Fairies” or of the “Witches”), a type of pre-Nuragic chamber tombs found in Sardinia, the 3rd millennium BC statue menhirs representing warriors or female figures, and the stepped pyramid of Monte d’Accoddi, near Sassari, which has some similarities with the monumental complex of Los Millares (Andalusia) and the later Talaiots in the Balearic Islands.

According to some scholars, the similarity between this structure and Mesopotamian ones is due to cultural influxs coming from the Eastern Mediterranean. The altar of Monte d’Accoddi fell out of use starting from c. 2000 BC, when the Beaker culture, which at the time was widespread in almost all Western Europe, appeared in the island.

Beaker people

During the early Bronze Age the so-called Beaker culture, coming from Continental Europe, appeared in Sardinia ca 2100-1800 BC. These new people predominantly settled on the west coast, where the majority of the sites attributed to them had been found.

From the late third millennium BC on, comb-impressed Beaker ware, as well as other Beaker material in Monte Claro, a Chalcolithic culture that spread throughout the island of Sardinia around the second half of the 3rd millennium BC (2400-2100 BC), contexts, has been found (mostly in burials, suchs as domus de janas), demonstrating continuing relationships with the western Mediterranean.

Archaeologists divide the Monte Claro culture into four facies: Sassari, Nuoro, Campidano Oristanese. Within each facies there are recognizable peculiarities that concern not only the material culture (ceramics, metallurgy and so on) but also the religious sphere and the settlement patterns.

Characteristics of southern Sardinia are a variety of tombs types, including “oven-tombs”, while in northern Sardinia appeared for the first time large megalithic defensive walls, one of which is that of Monte Baranta near Olmedo. Its spread appears to have occurred through a slow expansion, which started from the South to the North of the island.

Elsewhere, Beaker material has been found stratigraphically above Monte Claro and at the end of the Chalcolithic period in association with the related Bronze Age Bonnanaro culture (1800-1600 BC), a protohistoric culture that flourished in Sardinia considered to be the first stage of the Nuragic civilization, for which C-14 dates calibrate to ca. 2250 BC.

The Bonnanaro culture had been described by scholars as the Sardinian regionalization of the pan-European Bell Beaker culture, with some influences from the Polada culture (22nd to 16th centuries BC), the name for a culture of the ancient Bronze Age which spread primarily in the territory of modern-day Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino of northern Italy, characterized by settlements on pile-dwellings.

There is virtually no evidence in Sardinia of external contacts in the early second millennia, apart from late Beakers and close parallels between Bonnannaro pottery and that of the North Italian Polada culture. Polada culture influences, regarding ceramics in particular, are especially strong in the early Bonnanaro phase (or Bonnanaro A1).

Bonnanaro finds have been unearthed in over 70 sites, scattered throughout Sardinian territory, with a higher concentration in the mining regions of Nurra and Sulcis-Iglesiente and in the Campidano. Ceramics were smooth and linear without decorations and characterized by handles. Metal objects increased and the first swords of arsenical bronze appeared.

The Bonnanaro culture brought new religious ideas and funerary rites and a new mode of burial, the so-called “giants’ grave”, a derivative of the Allée couverte or a gallery grave, a form of megalithic tomb where there is no size difference between the burial chamber itself and the entrance passage.

A Gallery grave has two parallel walls of stone slabs were erected to form a corridor and covered with a line of capstones. The rectangular tomb was covered with a barrow or a cairn. Most were built during the fourth millennium BC, though some were still being built in the Bronze Age.

They are distributed across Europe and they are usually subdivided by period, region and also into more generic types of chambered long barrows, chambered round barrows, chambered long cairns and chambered round cairns. Examples are known in Catalonia, France, the Low Countries, Germany, The British Isles, Scandinavia, Sardinia and southern Italy.

Giants’ tomb (Italian: Tomba dei giganti, Sardinian: Tumba de sos zigantes) is the name given by local people and archaeologists to a type of Sardinian megalithic gallery grave built during the Bronze Age by the Nuragic civilization. They can be found throughout Sardinia, with 800 being discovered there.

A stone cairn lies over the burial chambers, with some examples having a cup-shaped entrance similar to the court cairn tombs of Ireland. There are also structures similar to the block-type giants tombs on the island of Malta and in the United Kingdom.

It is still uncertain whether the first “protonuraghi” or “pseudonuraghi”, megalithic edifices which are considered the precursors of the future Nuraghi, were built at this time, or in the successive Sub-Bonnanaro culture (or Bonnanaro B) of the middle bronze age (1600-1330 BC).

The Proto-Nuraghi are horizontal buildings characterized by a long corridor with rooms and cells, and represent an attempt to fortify the more traditional huts in a period where tribal clashes, due to the introduction of the first sophisticated weapons, were becoming increasingly common.

There are some commonalities between the Polada culture and the previous Bell Beaker Culture including the usage of the bow and a certain mastery in metallurgy. According to Barfield the appearance of Polada facies is connected to the movement of populations from from southern Germany and from Switzerland.

Most of the sites attributable to this culture were discovered around the Lake Garda, between eastern Lombardy, Trentino and western Veneto and around the Lago di Viverone and the Lake Maggiore in Piedmont. Its influences are also found in the cultures of the Early Bronze Age of Liguria, Romagna, Corsica and Sardinia (Bonnanaro culture).

If the pottery is still coarse, other human activities grow and develop: lithic industry, in bone and horn, wood and metals. The Bronze tools and weapons show similarities with those of the Unetice Culture (2300–1600 BC) and other groups in the north of Alps including the Singen and Straubing groups.

The Únětice culture is considered to be part of a wider pan-European cultural phenomenon, arising gradually between the second half of the third and at the beginning of second millennium.

The role of the Únětice Culture in the formation of Bronze Age Europe cannot be overrated. The rise and the existence of this original, expansive and dynamic populations mark one of the most interesting moments in European prehistory. The influence of this culture covered much larger areas mainly due to intensive exchange. Únětice pottery and bronzes are thus found in Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, Italy as well as the Balkans.

Starting from the late Copper Age, the island was settled by people who came probably by sea from Spain, southern France (early Beaker phase) and Central Europe (late Beaker phase) in various small waves.

Like elsewhere in Europe and in the Mediterranean area, the Bell Beaker culture in Sardinia is characterized by the typical ceramics decorated with overlaid horizontal bands and associated finds: brassards, V-pierced buttons etc.; for the first time gold items appeared on the island (collier of the Tomb of Bingia ‘e Monti, Gonnostramatza).

The different styles and decorations of the ceramics which succeed through the time allow to split the Beaker culture in Sardinia into three chronological phases: A1 (2100-2000 BC), A2 (2000-1900 BC), B (1900-1800 BC). In these various phases is observable the succession of two components of different geographical origin: the first “Franco-Iberian” and the second “Central European”.

It appears likely that Sardinia was the intermediary that brought Beaker materials to Sicily. It spread mainly in the north-west and south-west of the island. In the northwest and in the Palermo kept almost intact its cultural and social characteristics, while in the south-west there was a strong integration with local cultures. The only known single bell-shaped glass in eastern Sicily was found in Syracuse.

The nuraghe

The nuraghe (plural Italian nuraghi, Sardinian Logudorese nuraghes / Sardinian Campidanese nuraxis) is the main type of ancient megalithic edifice found in Sardinia, developed during the Nuragic Age between 1900 and 730 BCE. They consist of tower-fortresses, built starting from about 1800 BC. More than 7000 nuraghi have been found, though archeologists believe that originally there were not less than 10,000.

Today it has come to be the symbol of Sardinia and its distinctive culture, the Nuragic civilization, a civilization of Sardinia, lasting from the Bronze Age (18th century BC) to the 2nd century AD. The name derives from its most characteristic monuments, the nuraghes.

Dating to the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, the nuraghe are megalithic towers with a truncated cone shape, which are widespread in the whole of Sardinia, about one nuraghe every three square kilometers.

There has long been controversy among scholars. Theories about their utilization have included social, military, religious, astronomical role, as furnaces or sepulture places, but the modern agreement is that they were defensible home sites that included barns and silos.

In ancient times, Greek historians and geographers tried to solve the mystery of the nuraghe and their builders. They described the presence of fabulous edifices, called daidaleia, from the name of Daedalus, who, after building his labyrinth in Crete, would have moved to Sicily and then to Sardinia.

Around 1500 BC, archaeological studies have proved the increasing size of the settlements built around these structures, which were often located at the summit of hills. Perhaps for protection reasons, new towers were added to the original ones, connected by walls provided with slits.

The most famous among the numerous existing nuraghe, which have been included in the UNESCO Heritage List, are the Su Nuraxi at Barumini, Santu Antine at Torralba, Nuraghe Losa at Abbasanta, Palmavera (Alghero), Genna Maria at Villanovaforru, Santa Cristina at Paulilatino and Arrubiu at Orroli.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the etymology is “uncertain and disputed”: “The word is perhaps related to the Sardinian place names Nurra, Nurri, Nurru, and to Sardinian nurra ‘heap of stones, cavity in earth’ (although these senses are difficult to reconcile).

A connection with the Semitic base of Arabic nūr ‘light, fire, etc.’ is now generally rejected.” The Latin word murus (‘wall’) may be related to it, as the old Italian word mora (‘tombal rock mound’), as used by Dante in his Comedy. However, the derivation: murus–*muraghe–nuraghe is debated.

An etymological theory suggests a paleo-Basque origin by the term *nur (stone) with the common -ak plural ending; the Paleo-Sardinian suffix -ake it’s also found in some indoeuropean languages such as latin and greek. Another possible explanation is that the word Nuraghe came from the name of the mythological hero Norax, in this case the root *nur would be an adaptation of the indoeuropean root *nor.

It has been suggested that some of the current Sardinian villages trace their origin directly from Nuragic ones, including perhaps those containing the root Nur- in their name (like Nurachi, Nuraminis, Nurri, Nurallao, Noragugume).

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