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Pre History of Europe

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 15, 2013

Epipaleolithic Europe

Epipaleolithic Europe

Around 17,000 BCE, Europe witnesses the appearance of a new culture, known as Magdalenian, possibly rooted in the old Aurignacian one. This culture soon supersedes the Solutrean area and also the Gravetian of Central Europe. However, in Mediterranean Iberia, Italy and Eastern Europe, epi-Gravettian cultures continue evolving locally.

With the Magdalenian culture, Paleolithic development in Europe reaches its peak and this is reflected in the advanced art, owing to the previous traditions of painting in the West and sculpture in Central Europe.

The populations evolving at the onset of the Bölling oscillation (approximately 12,000 BP) and which have continued to the end of the Preboreal have been generally attributed to the Epipaleolithic. Consequently, this historical period could be associated with the interval between 13,000 and about 9,500-9,000 BP.

These communities continued the lifestyles of the Upper Paleolithic. Due to numerous factors, including changes in the climate, the small groups of hunters-fishermen-gatherers innovated tool and weapon types — producing, for instance, microlites (trapeze) — while also keeping the traditional tool types.

The area of Porţile de Fier (Iron Gates) is settled by a population attributed to the Late Epigravettian or Mediterranean Tardigravettian. The first stage of this period has been made known to us by the discoveries in the Climente II cave (Mehedinţi County), and the second stage, by discoveries in the shelter under the rocks at Cuina Turcului, Dubova, both of which are located in the same limestone massif — Ciucaru Mare.

The two dwelling levels at Cuina Turcului have produced a large quantity of tools and weapons made of flint in particular, and less so of obsidian, bone and horn, as well as body ornaments (shells and drilled teeth, bone pendants, etc.) The ornaments are often decorated with incised geometrical patterns. The most remarkable is a drilled horse phalange, wholly ornamented and probably representing a female figure.

Besides the mammal (beaver, boar, mountain goat, etc.), bird and fish remnants, fragments of human skeletons were also found. The Climente II cave has produced a human skeleton, set in a crouching position, and covered by a thick layer of red ochre, which is attributed to the Tardigravettian dwelling and which predates Level I at Cuina Turcului.

The discoveries in the Clisura area display striking similarities to the industries of the Italian Peninsula — the expression of the migrant human bearers of the Late Epigravettian in the mentioned area.

Around 10,500 BCE, the Würm Glacial age ends. Slowly, through the following millennia, temperatures and sea levels rise, changing the environment of prehistoric people. Nevertheless, Magdalenian culture persists until circa 8000 BCE, when it quickly evolves into two microlithist cultures: Azilian, in Spain and southern France, and Sauveterrian, in northern France and Central Europe.

Though there are some differences, both cultures share several traits: the creation of very small stone tools called microliths and the scarcity of figurative art, which seems to have vanished almost completely, being replaced by abstract decoration of tools.

In the late phase of this Epipaleolithic period, the Sauveterrean culture evolves into the so-called Tardenoisian and influences strongly its southern neighbour, clearly replacing it in Mediterranean Spain and Portugal.

The recession of the glaciers allows human colonization in Northern Europe for the first time. The Maglemosian culture, derived from the Sauveterre-Tardenois culture but with a strong personality, colonizes Denmark and the nearby regions, including parts of Britain.

Ahrenburg culture belongs to a Late Paleolithic and early Mesolithic (or Epipaleolithic) cultural complex that started with the glacial recession and the subsequent disintegration of Late Palaeolithic cultures between 15,000 and 10,000 calBC. The extinction of mammoth and other megafauna provided for an incentive to exploit other forms of subsistence that included maritime resources.

Northward migrations coincided with the warm Bølling and Allerød events, but much of northern Eurasia remained inhabited during the Younger Dryas. During the holocene climatic optimum, the increased biomass led to a marked intensification in foraging by all groups, the development of inter-group contacts, and ultimately, the initiation of agriculture.

The different technolithic complexes are chronologically associated with the climatic chronozones. The re-colonisation of Northern Germany is connected to the onset of the late Glacial Interstadial between Weichsel and the Dryas I glaciation, at the beginning of the Meiendorf Interstadial around 12.700 calBC. Palynological results demonstrate a close connection between the prominent temperature rise at the beginning of the Interstadial and the expansion of the hunter-gatherers into the northern Lowlands.

The existence of a primary “pioneer phase” in the re-colonisation is contradicted by proof of e.g. an early Central European Magdalenian in Poland. Today it is commonly accepted that the Hamburgian, featured by “Shouldered Point” lithics, is a techno-complex closely related to the Creswellian, a British Upper Palaeolithic culture named after the type site of Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, which dates from c. 13.000 to 11,500 BP and was replaced by the Ahrensburg culture, and rooted in the Magdalenian.

The Magdalenian (French: Magdalénien), refers to one of the later cultures of the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe, towards the end of the last ice age, dating from around 17,000 to 12,000 years ago. It is named after the type site of La Madeleine, a rock shelter located in the Vézère valley, commune of Tursac, in the Dordogne department of France.

Originally termed “L’âge du renne” (the Age of the Reindeer) by Édouard Lartet and Henry Christy, the first systematic excavators of the type site, in their publication of 1875, the Magdalenian is synonymous in many people’s minds with reindeer hunters, although Magdalenian sites also contain extensive evidence for the hunting of red deer, horse and other large mammals present in Europe towards the end of the last ice age. The culture was geographically widespread, and later Magdalenian sites have been found from Portugal in the west to Poland in the east.

There is extensive debate about the precise nature of the earliest Magdalenian assemblages, and it remains questionable whether the Badegoulian culture is in fact the earliest phase of the Magdalenian. Similarly finds from the forest of Beauregard near Paris have often been suggested as belonging to the earliest Magdalenian. The earliest Magdalenian sites are all found in France. The Epigravettian is another similar culture appearing during the same period in Italy and Eastern Europe (Moldavia, Romania).

The Late Glacial Maximum (ca. 13,000-10,000 years ago), or Tardiglacial (“Late Glacial”), is defined primarily by climates in the northern hemisphere warming substantially, causing a process of accelerated deglaciation following the Last Glacial Maximum (ca. 25,000-13,000 years ago).

It is at this time that human populations, previously forced into refuge areas as a result of Last Glacial Maximum climatic conditions, gradually begin to repopulate the northern hemisphere’s Eurasian landmass and eventually populate North America via Beringia for the first time.

Climate amelioration begins to occur rapidly throughout Western Europe and the North European Plain ca. 16,000-15,000 years ago. The environmental landscape becomes increasing boreal except in the far north, where conditions remain arctic. Sites of human occupation reappear in northern France, Belgium, northwest Germany, and southern Britain between 15,500 to 14,000 years ago. Many of these sites are classified as Magdalenian though other industries containing distinctive curved back and tanged points appear as well. As the Fennoscandian ice sheet continued to shrink, plants and people began to repopulate the freshly deglaciated areas of southern Scandinavia.

The European distribution of Y-chromosome Haplogroup I and various associated subclades has also been explained as resulting from male post-glacial re-colonization of Europe from refuge in the Balkans, Iberia, and Eastern Europe. Males possessing Haplogroup Q are postulated as representing a significant portion of the population that crossed Beringia and populated North America for the first time.

Human site occupation density was most prevalent in the Crimea region and increased as early as ca. 16,000 years before the present. However reoccupation of northern territories of the East European Plain did not occur until 13,000 years before the present. Prior to this settlement of the central portion of the East European Plain was significantly reduced during a period of maximum cold ca. 21,000-17,000 years before the present.

Overall, there is little archaeological evidence to suggest major shifting settlement pattern during this time on the East European plain. This is unlike what was occurring in Western Europe, where Magdalenian industry producers were rapidly repopulating much of Europe. Evidence of this can be found as far east at Kunda sites (ca. 10,000 years ago) located throughout Baltic country territory where tanged point and other tool making traditions reminiscent of the northwestern European Magdalenian persist.

Generally, lithic technology is dominated by blade production and typical Upper Paleolithic tool forms such as burins and backed blades (the most persistent). Kostenki archaeological sites of multiple occupation layers persist from the Last Glacial Maximum and into the Late Glacial Maximum on the eastern edge of the Central Russian Upland, along the Don River. Epigravettian archaeological sites, similar to Eastern Gravettian sites, are common in the southwest, central, and southern regions of the East European Plain ca. 17,000-10,000 years BP, and are also present in the Crimea and Northern Caucasus.

In Western Europe, between ca. 22 k.a. and 20 k.a cal BP, human groups responded to LGM environmental conditions by developing a suite of new technologies characterized by a variety of diagnostic projectile points produced by bifacial retouch, which define the Solutrean technocomplex.

In the regions of southeastern Europe, hunter-gatherers of the LGM produce a different lithic technology, the early Epigravettian (20,000-8000 BP), which evolved into the Mesolithic, characterized by shouldered and backed projectile points produced by unifacial retouch most probably being derived from the preceding Gravettian technocomplex. Bifacial leaf-shaped points are rare and have been recovered from only a few sites in northern Italy.

Epigravettian was followed by the Sauveterrian and Castelnovian in the 7th millennium BC. Epigravettian cultures developed contemporaneously in various parts of Europe, notably the Creswellian in Britain.

Reconstructions of their ecological niches indicate that they overlap broadly, but that the Solutrean was able to exploit colder and more humid areas, corresponding to areas with permanent permafrost during the LGM. In contrast, the Epigravettian in Italia and the Balkans seems to have been better adapted to areas characterized by discontinuous permafrost and seasonal freezing. Neither technocomplex was adapted to the more southerly dry and relatively warmer Mediterranean environments during the LGM.

The later phases of the Magdalenian are also synonymous with the human re-settlement of north-western Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum during the Late Glacial Maximum. Research in Switzerland, southern Germany and Belgium has provided AMS radiocarbon dating to support this. However being hunter gatherers Magdalenians did not simply re-settle permanently in north-west Europe as they often followed herds and moved depending on seasons.

By the end of the Magdalenian, the lithic technology shows a pronounced trend towards increased microlithisation. The bone harpoons and points have the most distinctive chronological markers within the typological sequence. As well as flint tools, the Magdalenians are best known for their elaborate worked bone, antler and ivory which served both functional and aesthetic purposes including perforated batons. Examples of Magdalenian portable art include batons, figurines and intricately engraved projectile points, as well as items of personal adornment including sea shells, perforated carnivore teeth (presumably necklaces) and fossils.

The sea shells and fossils found in Magdalenian sites can be sourced to relatively precise areas of origin, and so have been used to support hypothesis of Magdalenian hunter-gatherer seasonal ranges, and perhaps trade routes. Cave sites such as the world famous Lascaux contain the best known examples of Magdalenian cave art. The site of Altamira in Spain, with its extensive and varied forms of Magdalenian mobillary art has been suggested to be an agglomeration site where multiple small groups of Magdalenian hunter-gatherers congregated.

In northern Spain and south west France it was superseded by the Azilian culture. In northern Europe we see a slightly different picture, with different variants of the Tjongerian techno-complex following it. It has been suggested that key Late Glacial sites in south-western Britain can also be attributed to the Magdalenian, including the famous site of Kent’s Cavern, although this remains open to debate.

The Hamburg culture or Hamburgian (13,500-11,100 BC) was a Late Upper Paleolithic culture of reindeer hunters in northwestern Europe during the last part of the Weichsel Glaciation beginning during the Bölling Interstatial. Sites are found close to the ice caps of the time.

The Hamburg Culture has been identified at many places, for example, the settlement at Meiendorf and Ahrensburg north of Hamburg, Germany. It is characterized by shouldered points and zinken tools, which were used as chisels when working with horns. In later periods tanged Havelte-type points appear, sometimes described as most of all a northwestern phenomenon. Notwithstanding the spread over a large geographical area in which a homogeneous development is not to be expected, the definition of the Hamburgian as a technological complex of its own has not recently been questioned.

The culture spread from northern France to southern Scandinavia in the north and to Poland in the east. In the early 1980s, the first find from the culture in Scandinavia was excavated at Jels in Sønderjylland. Recently, new finds have been discovered at, for example, Finja in northern Skåne. The latest findings (2005) have shown that these people traveled far north along the Norwegian coast dryshod during the summer, since the sea level was 50m lower than today.

In northern Germany, camps with layers of detritus have been found. In the layers, there is a great deal of horn and bone, and it appears that the reindeer was an important prey.

The distribution of the finds in the settlements show that the settlements were small and only inhabited by a small group of people. At a few settlements, archaeologists have discovered circles of stones, interpreted as weights for a teepee covering.

Within the Hamburgian techno-complex, a younger dating is found for the Havelte phase, sometimes interpreted as a northwestern phenomenon, perhaps oriented towards the former coastline. The Hamburgian culture existed during the warm Bølling period, the brief Dryas II glaciation (lasting 300 years) and in the early warmer Allerød period.

However, the distribution of the Hamburgian east of the Oder River has been confirmed and Hamburgian culture can also be distinguished in Lithuania. Finds in Jutland indicates the expansion of early Hamburgian hunters and gatherers reached further north than previously expected. The Hamburgian sites with shouldered point lithics reach as far north as the Pomeranian ice margin. The younger Havelte phase has been proven for the area beyond the Pomeranian ice margin and on the Danish Isles after circa 12.300 calBC.

The “Backed Point” lithics of Federmesser culture are usually dated in the Allerød Interstadial. Early Federmesser finds follows shortly or are contemporary to Havelte. The culture lasted approximately 1200 years from 11.900 to 10.700 calBC., and is located in Northern Germany and Poland to south Lithuania.

The Federmesser culture or Federmesser group is a toolmaking tradition of the late Upper Palaeolithic era, of the Northern European Plain from Poland (where the culture is called Tarnowian and Witowian) to northern France, dating to between c. 12000 and 10800 BC (uncalibrated). It is closely related to the Tjongerian culture, as both have been suggested as being part of the more generalized Azilian culture, a name given by archaeologists to an industry of the Epipaleolithic in northern Spain and southern France.

It used small backed flint blades, from which its name derives (Federmesser is German for “feather knife”), and shares characteristics with the Creswellian culture in Britain.

The Creswellian culture has parallels with the Federmesser and Hamburgian cultures of today northwestern continental Europe and the Magdelanian culture of southern Europe.

Swiderian culture, also published in English literature as Sviderian and Swederian, is the name of Final Palaeolithic cultural complexes in Poland and the surrounding areas. The type-site is Świdry Wielkie, in Otwock. The Swiderian is recognized as a distinctive culture that developed on the sand dunes left behind by the retreating glaciers.

Rimantiene (1996) considered the relationship between Swiderian and Solutrean, a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP, “outstanding, though also indirect”, in contrast with the Bromme-Ahrensburg complex (Lyngby culture), for which she introduced the term “Baltic Magdalenian” for generalizing all other North European Late Paleolithic culture groups that have a common origin in Aurignacian.

“Solutrean” is named after the type-site of Crôt du Charnier at Solutré in the Mâcon district, Saône-et-Loire, eastern France, and appeared around 21,000 BP. The Solutré site was discovered in 1866 by the French geologist and paleontologist Henry Testot-Ferry (second son of Napoleon’s famous cavalryman, General Claude Testot-Ferry, Baron of the Empire). It is now preserved as the Parc archéologique et botanique de Solutré.

The industry was named by Gabriel de Mortillet to describe the second stage of his system of cave chronology, following the Mousterian, and he considered it synchronous with the third division of the Quaternary period. The era’s finds include tools, ornamental beads, and bone pins as well as prehistoric art.

The Solutrean may be seen as a transitory stage between the flint implements of the Mousterian and the bone implements of the Magdalenian epochs. Faunal finds include horse, reindeer, mammoth, cave lion, rhinoceros, bear and aurochs. Solutrean finds have been also made in the caves of Les Eyzies and Laugerie Haute, and in the Lower Beds of Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, England. The industry first appeared in what is now Spain, and disappears from the archaeological record around 17,000 BP.

The Solutrean hypothesis builds on similarities between the Solutrean industry and the later Clovis culture / Clovis points of North America, and suggests that people with Solutrean tool-technology crossed the Ice Age Atlantic by moving along the pack ice edge, using survival skills similar to those of modern Eskimo people. The migrants arrived in northeastern North America and served as the donor culture for what eventually developed into Clovis tool-making technology. Archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley suggest that the Clovis point derived from the points of the Solutrean culture of southern France (19,000 BP) through the Cactus Hill points of Virginia (16,000 BP) to the Clovis point. This would mean that people would have had to move from the Bay of Biscay across the edge of the Atlantic ice sheet to North America. Supporters of this hypothesis believe it would have been feasible using traditional Eskimo techniques still in use today, while others argue that the conditions at the time would have made such a journey unlikely.

The idea of a Clovis-Solutrean link remains controversial and does not enjoy wide acceptance. The hypothesis is challenged by large gaps in time between the Clovis and Solutrean eras, a lack of evidence of Solutrean seafaring, lack of specific Solutrean features in Clovis technology, and other issues.

Three periods of the Swiderian culture can be distinguished. The crude flint blades of Early Swiderian are found in the area of Nowy Mlyn in the Holy Cross Mountains region. The Developed Swiderian appeared with their migrations to the north and is characterized by tanged blades: this stage separates the northwestern European cultural province, embracing Belgium, Holland, northwest Germany, Denmark and Norway, and the Middle East European cultural province, embracing Silesia, Brandenburgia, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Central Russia, Ukraine and the Crimea. Late Swiderian is characterized by blades with a blunted back.

The Swiderian culture plays a central role in the Palaeolithic-Mesolithic transition. It has been generally accepted that most of the Swiderian population emigrated at the very end of the Pleistocene (10,000 BP uncalibrated; 9500 BC calibrated) to the northeast following the retreating tundra, after the Younger Dryas. Recent radiocarbon dates prove that some groups of the Svidero-Ahrensburgian Complex persisted into the Preboreal.

Unlike western Europe, the Mesolithic groups now inhabiting the Polish Plain were newcomers. This has been attested by a 300-year-long gap between the youngest Palaeolithic and the oldest Mesolithic occupation.

The oldest Mesolithic site is Chwalim, located in western Poland; it outdates the Mesolithic sites situated to the east in central and northeastern Poland by about 150 years. Thus, the Mesolithic population progressed from the west after a 300-year-long settlement break, and moved gradually towards the east. The lack of good flint raw materials in the Polish early Mesolithic has been interpreted thus that the new arriving people were not acquainted yet with the best local sources of flint, proving their external origin.

The Ukrainian archaeologist L. Zalizniak (1989, p. 83-84) believes Kunda culture of Central Russia and the Baltic zone, and other so-called post-Swiderian cultures, derive from the Swiderian culture. Sorokin (2004) rejects the “contact” hypothesis of the formation of Kunda culture and holds it originated from the seasonal migrations of Swiderian people at the turn of Pleistocene and Holocene when human subsistence was based on hunting reindeer.

Many of the earliest Mesolithic sites in Finland are post-Swiderian; these include the Ristola site in Lahti and the Saarenoja 2 site in Joutseno with lithics in imported flint, as well as the Sujala site in Utsjoki in the province of Lapland. The raw materials of the lithic assemblage at Sujala originate in the Varanger Peninsula in northern Norway.

Concerning this region, the commonly held view today is that the earliest settlement of the North Norwegian coast originated in the Fosna culture of the western and southwestern coast of Norway and ultimately in the final Palaeolithic Ahrensburg culture of northwestern Europe.

The combination of a coastal raw material and a lithic technique typical to Late Palaeolithic and very early Mesolithic industries of northern Europe, originally suggested that Sujala was contemporaneous to Phase 1 of the Norwegian Finnmark Mesolithic (Komsa proper), dating to between 9 000 and 10 000 BP.

Proposed parallels with the blade technology among the earliest Mesolithic finds in southern Norway would have placed the find closer or even before 10 000 BP. However, a preliminary connection to early North Norwegian settlements is contradicted by the shape of the tanged points and by the blade reduction technology from Sujala.

The bifacially shaped tang and ventral retouch on the tip of the arrowpoints and the pressure technique used in blade manufacture are rare or absent in Ahrensburgian contexts, but very characteristic of the so-called Post-Swiderian cultures of northwestern Russia. There, counterparts of the Sujala cores can also be found.

The Sujala assemblage is currently considered unquestionably post-Swiderian and is dated by radiocarbon to 9265-8930 BP, the true age being approximately 8300-8200 CalBC. Such an Early Mesolithic influence from Russia or the Baltic might imply an adjustment to previous thoughts on the colonization of the Barents Sea coast.

Fish-hooks were discovered in Allerød layers and emphasize the importance of fishing in the Late Palaeolithic. A certain survival of late Upper Palaeolithic traditions similar to contemporary Azilian (France, Spain) becomes apparent, such as the amber elk from Weitsche that can be considered as a link to the Mesolithic, amber animal sculptures.

The Neman culture (7th – 3rd millennium BC) is the name of two archaeological cultures that existed in Mesolithic and continued into middle Neolithic. It was a continuation of the Swiderian culture and was replaced by the Corded Ware culture. It was located in the upper basin of the Neman River: northern Poland, southern Lithuania, western Belarus and Kaliningrad Oblast. In the north, the Neman culture bordered the Kunda culture during Mesolithic and Narva culture during Neolithic.

During the Atlantic period, the climate warmed and broad-leaved tree forests covered much of the territory. The migrating reindeer, mainstay of the Paleolithic hunters, retreated to the North and were followed by forest animals.

The people adapted to the changed environment. They were still nomadic, but traveled shorter distances and stayed in the same place for longer periods. The archaeologists found small camps used just once and larger camps to which hunters returned repeatedly.

These camps were usually located near lakes or rivers. The people used to hunt with arrows and spears and fish with harpoons. The flint tools of Mesolithic Neman culture were influenced both by microliths from southeastern Europe and macroliths from northern Europe (Maglemosian culture).

Therefore the culture was initially called Microlithic-Macrolithic culture to avoid confusion with the already established Neolithic Neman culture. Despite variety of influences, the culture was rather stable for 2500–3000 years indicating no significant migrations. Therefore the artifacts are rather unvaried stock of arrowheads, trapezoid blades, oval axes.

The Neolithic began with appearance of pottery in mid 5th millennium BC. The Semi-Neolithic Neman culture was a successor of the Mesolithic Neman culture. Most of flint tools are very similar between both cultures. A new widespread development was knives with sharpened and flared point.

Pottery of the Neman culture had pointed bottoms and was made of clay mixed with organic matter or crushed quartzite. Some latter examples have flat bottoms. The vessels were a bit narrower and curvier than of the Narva culture. They were decorated with a thin layer of white clay and rows of small imprints around the rim.

The rest of the vessel had diagonal stripes forming a pattern of a fishnet or more rows of small imprints. Some pottery found in settlements of Neman culture was made by Narva culture. Such phenomenon is explained by trade of flint, which Narva culture in the north did not have.

Towards the end of the Neman culture, the pottery became more varied and exhibits influence of the Rzucewo culture: imprints made by a cord or resembling a fir. Eventually the culture was overtaken by the Corded Ware culture and Globular Amphora culture.

The Azilian culture dates to the period of the Allerød Oscillation around 12,000 years ago (uncalibrated) and followed the Magdalenian culture. Archaeologists think the Azilian represents the tail end of the Magdalenian as the warming climate brought about changes in human behaviour in the area. The effects of melting ice sheets would have diminished the food supply and probably impoverished the previously well-fed Magdalenian manufacturers. As a result, Azilian tools and art were cruder and less expansive than their Ice Age predecessors – or simply different.

Diagnostic artifacts from the culture include Azilian points (microliths with rounded retouched backs), crude flat bone harpoons and pebbles with abstract decoration. The latter were first found in the River Arize at the type-site for the culture, Le Mas-d’Azil in the French Pyrenees. 145 are known from the Swiss site of Birsmatten-Eremitage. Compared with the late Magdelanian, the number of microliths increases.

The Azilian co-existed with similar early Mesolithic European cultures such as the Tjongerian and the Ahrensburg culture of Northern Europe, the Swiderian of North-Eastern Europe, and the Creswellian in Britain.

In its late phase, it experienced strong influences from neighbouring Tardenoisian, reflected in the presence of many geometrical microliths persisted until the arrival of the Neolithic, that in some western areas was only adopted very late, almost in the Chalcolithic era.

Bromme culture sites are found in the entire southern and southeastern Baltic, and are dated to the second half of Allerød and the early cold Dryas III period. The “classical” Brommian complex is typified by simple and fast, but uneconomical, flint processing using unipolair cores. A new development noticed in Lithuania introduced both massive and smaller “Tanged Points”.

In Bromme culture this technology is proposed to be an innovation derived from tanged Havelte groups. As such, derivation of Bromme culture and even migration of its representatives from the territories of Denmark and northern Germany have been proposed, although other sources hold early Bromme not to be very well defined in (late Allerød) Northern Germany, where it groups with Federmesser.

Ahrensburg culture is normally associated with the Younger Dryas glacialization and the Pre-boreal period. The traditional view of the Ahrensburg culture being a direct inheritor of the Bromme culture in the late Dryas period is contradicted by new information that the Ahrensburgian techno-complex probably already started before the Younger Dryas, strengthening proposals to a direct derivation from the Havelte stage of the Hamburg culture.

Some recent finds, such as the Hintersee 24 site in southern Landkreis Vorpommern-Greifswald, would contribute to the argument of an early Ahrensburgian in northern Germany. Alternatively, flint artefacts of Bromme tanged-point groups is considered to prelude the techno-complex of the Ahrensburg culture and would point to the provenience of Ahrensburg from Bromme culture. As such, the Grensk culture in Bromme territory at the source of the Dnieper River was proposed to be the direct originator of Ahrensburgian culture.

However, the exact typological chronology of this culture is still unclear. Though associated with the Bromme complex, Grensk culture has its roots more defined in the local Mammoth Hunters’ culture.

Another possibility derives from the observation that on a regional scale, the Hamburgian culture is succeeded geographically as well as chronologically by the Federmesser culture, or Arch-Backed Piece Complex. The existence of a genuine Federmesser occupation in southern Scandinavia is highly controversial, and there is wide, though not unanimous, agreement that some Federmesser types constitute an integral part of the early Brommean artefact inventory. Still, Federmesser types are also often found in close association with Hamburgian assemblages (e.g. at Slotseng and Sølbjerg) and tentative, dating from northern Germany shows some degree of contemporaneity between the late Hamburgian Havelte sites and the Federmesser ones. Therefore in southern Scandinavia the Federmesser may represent a brief transitory phase between the Hamburgian and the Brommean.

This corresponds with the notion that “tanged point cultures” such as “Brommian” or “Bromme-Lyngby” appear to be based on the Magdalenian, during the Allerød and were closely associated with reindeer hunting.

Stellmoor was a seasonal settlement inhabited primarily during October, and bones from 650 reindeer have been found there. The hunting tool was bow and arrow. From Stellmoor there are also well-preserved arrow shafts of pine intended for the culture’s characteristic skaftunge arrowheads of flintstone. A number of intact reindeer skeletons, with arrowheads in the chest, has been found, and they were probably sacrifices to higher powers. At the settlements, archaeologists have found circles of stone, which probably were the foundations of hide teepees.

The earliest reliable traces of habitation in the northern territories of Norway and western Sweden date to the transition period from the Younger Dryas to the Preboreal. More favourable living conditions, and past experience gained through seasonal rounds, prompted increased maritime resource exploitation in the northern territories.

The Hensbacka group on the west coast of Sweden exemplifies the cultural fragmentation process that took place within the Continental Ahrensburgian. Instead of new immigrations at the beginning of the Mesolithic, the discovery of deposited bones and new dating indicate that there was no (significant) break in settlement continuity. New knowledge provides aspects for a further autochthonous development, with a rapid climatic change stimulating a swift cultural change.

The Ahrensburg culture or Ahrensburgian (11th to 10th millennia BCE) was a late Upper Paleolithic nomadic hunter culture (or technocomplex) in north-central Europe during the Younger Dryas, the last spell of cold at the end of the Weichsel glaciation resulting in deforestation and the formation of a tundra with bushy arctic white birch and rowan.

The culture is named after a tunnel valley near the village of Ahrensburg, 25 km (16 mi) northeast of Hamburg in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where Ahrensburg find layers were excavated in Meiendorf, Stellmoor and Borneck.

While these as well as the majority of other find sites date to the Young Dryas, the Ahrensburgian find layer in Alt Duvenstedt has been dated to the very late Allerød, thus possibly representing an early stage of Ahrensburgian which might have corresponded to the Bromme culture in the north. Artefacts with tanged points are found associated with both the Bromme and the Ahrensburg cultures.

The most important prey was the wild reindeer. The earliest definite finds of arrow and bow date to this culture, though these weapons might have been invented earlier. The Ahrensburgian was preceded by the Hamburg and Federmesser cultures and superseded by mesolithic cultures (Maglemosian).

Ahrensburgian finds were made in southern and western Scandinavia, the North German plain and western Poland. The Ahrensburgian area also included vast stretches of land now at the bottom of the North and Baltic Sea, since during the Younger Dryas the coastline took a much more northern course than today.

The Bromme culture is a late Upper Paleolithic culture dated to c. 11 600 to 10 800 cal BC, which corresponds to the second half of the Allerød Oscillation.

At this time, reindeer was the most important prey, but the Bromme people also hunted moose, wolverine and beaver. The landscape was a combination of taiga and tundra.

The culture is named after a settlement at Bromme on western Zealand, and it is known from several settlements in Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein. In Sweden, it is known from the country’s earliest known settlement at Segebro, near Malmö.

It is characterized by sturdy lithic flakes that were used for all tools, primarily awls (sticklar), scrapers and skaftunge arrow heads. No stone axes have been found.

The Bromme culture and the Ahrensburg culture are so similar that it has been proposed that they should be classed as one and the same, under the label Lyngby culture, with the Bromme culture being recognized as an older northern branch of the same culture as the Ahrensburg culture.

The oldest traces of settlements in the territory of the Wieliszew Commune dating back to 8000 years BC have been discovered at numerous archaeological sites in the territory of the village of Komornica (e.g. flint tools). This so-called Komornica culture, which is one of the oldest cultures discovered on the European continent, prevailed in parts of Poland, Germany, Denmark, and southern Sweden.

The Sauveterrian is the name for an archaeological culture of the European Epipaleolithic which flourished around 8500–6500 years BC. The name is derived from the type site of Sauveterre-la-Lémance in the French département of Lot-et-Garonne.

It extended through large parts of western and central Europe. Characteristic artefacts include geometric microliths and backed points on micro-blades. Woodworking tools are notably missing from Sauveterrian assemblages. There is evidence for ritual burial.

It eventually evolved into the Tardenoisian culture, an archaeological culture of the Epipaleolithic period from northern France and Belgium, of similar characteristics. Similar cultures are known further east in central Europe, Italy, parts of Britain, and west across Spain. Characteristic artefacts include trapezoid, chisel-ended arrowheads and small flint blades made by the pressure-technique.

The Fosna/Hensbacka cultures (ca. 8300 BC – 7300 BC), or (12000 cal.BP – 10500 cal.BP) were two very similar Late Palaeolithic/early Mesolithic cultures in Scandinavia, and are often subsumed under the name Fosna-Hensbacka culture.

This complex includes the Komsa culture, a Mesolithic culture of hunter-gatherers that existed from around 10000 BC in Northern Norway, that, notwithstanding different types of tools, is also considered to be a part of the Fosna culture group.

The culture is named after the Komsa Mountain in the community of Alta, Finnmark, where the remains of the culture were first discovered. The term was first used by Norwegian archaeologist Anders Nummedal (1867-1944) after the discoveries he made in the Komsa Mountains during 1925. The distinction between a “Komsa” type of stone-tool culture north of the Arctic Circle and a “Fosna” type from Trøndelag to Oslo Fjord was rendered obsolete in the 1970s. Nowadays both phenomena are ascribed to different types of tools of the same culture.

Recent archeological finds from Finnish Lapland were originally thought to represent an inland aspect of the Komsa culture equally old to the earliest finds from the Norwegian coast. However, this material is now considered to be affiliated with the contemporary Post-Swiderian culture of North Central Russia and the eastern Baltic and thus represents a separate early incursion into northernmost Scandinavia.

The commonly held view today is that the earliest settlement of the North Norwegian coast originated on the western and southwestern coast of Norway and ultimately in the final Palaeolithic Ahrensburg culture of northwestern Europe.

The Komsa are thought to have followed the Norwegian coastline when receding glaciation at the end of the last ice age (between 11,000 and 8000 BC) opened up new areas for settlement. Some elements may have moved into modern-day Finnmark from the northeast, possibly coming from ice-free coasts of the Kola Peninsula, though evidence to this formerly widely held view is still poor.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Komsa culture was almost exclusively sea-oriented, living mainly off seal hunting and being able boatbuilders and fishermen. In comparison to the southern Norway’s contemporary Fosna variety of this same culture, stone tools and other implements appear relatively crude. This has been explained with a paucity of flintstone in the region.

The main difference is that the Fosna/Komsa culture was distributed along the coast of Northern Norway, whereas the Hensbacka culture had a more eastern distribution along the coast of western Sweden; primarily in central Bohuslän to the north of Göteborg.

Recent investigations indicate that this particular area, i.e. central Bohuslän, may well have had the largest seasonal population in northern Europe during the Late Palaeolithic/early Mesolithic transition. This was due to environmental circumstances brought about by the relationship between the Vänern basin in the east, and topographical features in the North Sea basin to the west.

The Hensbacka culture evolved into the later Sandarna culture which is found along the coast of western Sweden.

Kunda Culture, with its roots in Swiderian culture[1] is a mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities of the Baltic forest zone extending eastwards through Latvia into northern Russia dating to the period 8000–5000 BC by calibrated radiocarbon dating. It is named after the Estonian town of Kunda, about 110 kilometres (70 mi) east of Tallinn along the Gulf of Finland, near where the first extensively studied settlement was discovered on Lammasmäe Hill and in the surrounding peat bog.

Most Kunda settlements are located near the edge of the forests beside rivers, lakes, or marshes. Elk were extensively hunted, perhaps helped by trained domestic hunting-dogs. On the coast seal hunting is represented. Pike and other fish were taken from the rivers. There is a rich bone and antler industry, especially in relation to fishing gear. Tools were decorated with simple geometric designs, lacking the complexity of the contemporary Maglemosian Culture communities to the southwest.

The Kunda Culture is succeeded by the Narva culture who use pottery and show some traces of food production. The oldest known Kunda culture settlement in Estonia is Pulli settlement.

The Kunda culture appears to have undergone a transition from the Palaeolithic Swiderian culture located previously over much of the same range. One such transition settlement, Pasieniai 1C in Lithuania, features stone tools of both Late Swiderian and early Kunda. One shape manufactured in both cultures is the retouched tanged point. The final Swiderian is dated 7800-7600 BC by calibrated radiocarbon dating, which is in the Preboreal period, at the end of which time with no gap the early Kunda begins. Evidently the descendants of the Swiderians were the first to settle Estonia when it became habitable. Other post-Swiderian groups extended as far east as the Ural mountains.

Narva culture or eastern Baltic (ca. 5300 to 1750 BC) was a European Neolithic archaeological culture found in present-day Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad Oblast (former East Prussia), and adjacent portions of Poland and Russia. A successor of the Mesolithic Kunda culture, Narva culture continued up to the start of the Bronze Age. The technology was that of hunter-gatherers. The culture was named after the Narva River in Estonia.

The people of the Narva culture had little access to flint; therefore, they were forced to trade and conserve their flint resources. For example, there were very few flint arrowheads and flint was often reused. The Narva culture relied on local materials (bone, horn, schist). As evidence of trade, researchers found pieces of pink flint from Valdai Hills and plenty of typical Narva pottery in the territory of the Neman culture while no objects from the Neman culture were found in Narva.

Heavy use of bones and horns is one of the main characteristics of the Narva culture. The bone tools, continued from the predecessor Kunda culture, provide the best evidence of continuity of the Narva culture throughout the Neolithic period. The people were buried on their backs with few grave goods.

The Narva culture also used and traded amber; a few hundred items were found in Juodkrantė. One of the most famous artifacts is a ceremonial cane carved of horn as a head of female elk found in Šventoji.

The people were primarily fishers, hunters, and gatherers. They slowly began adopting husbandry in middle Neolithic. They were not nomadic and lived in same settlements for long periods as evidenced by abundant pottery, middens, and structures built in lakes and rivers to help fishing.

The pottery shared similarities with Comb Ceramic culture, but had specific characteristics. One of the most persistent features was mixing clay with other organic matter, most often crushed snail shells.

The pottery was made of 6-to-9 cm (2.4-to-3.5 in) wide clay strips with minimal decorations around the rim. The vessels were wide and large; the height and the width were often the same. The bottoms were pointed or rounded, and only the latest examples have narrow flat bottoms. From mid-Neolithic Narva pottery was influenced and eventually disappeared into the Corded Ware culture.

For a long time archaeologists believed that the first inhabitants of the region were Finno-Ugric, who were pushed north by people of the Corded Ware culture. In 1931, Latvian archeologist Eduards Šturms was the first to note that artifacts found near Zebrus Lake in Latvia were different and possibly belonged to a separate archaeological culture. In early 1950s settlements on the Narva River were excavated. Lembit Jaanits and Nina Gurina grouped the findings with similar artifacts from eastern Baltic region and described the Narva culture.

At first it was believed that Narva culture ended with appearance of the Corded Ware culture. However, newer research extended it up to the Bronze Age. As Narva culture spanned several millenniums and encompassed a large territory, archaeologists attempted to subdivide the culture into regions or periods. For example, in Lithuania two regions are distinguished: southern (under influence of the Neman culture) and western (with major settlements found in Šventoji).

There is an academic debate what ethnicity represented the Narva culture: Finno-Ugrians or Europids, preceding arrival of the Indo-Europeans. It is also unclear how the Narva culture fits with the arrival of the Indo-Europeans (Corded Ware and Globular Amphora cultures) and formation of the Baltic tribes.

Mesolithic cultures

Mesolithic Europe

The Mesolithic (Greek: mesos “middle”, lithos “stone”) is an archaeological concept used to refer to specific groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The term developed as a catch-all to refer to material that did not fit into the other categories of prehistory. The term “Epipaleolithic” is often used for areas outside northern Europe but was also the preferred synonym used by French archaeologists until the 1960s.

The term is used to refer to different time spans in different parts of Eurasia. It was first used to refer to post-Pleistocene but pre-agricultural material in northwest Europe about 10,000 to 5000 BCE but is also applied to material from the Levant (about 20,000 to 9500 BCE).

Mesolithic 1 (Kebara culture; 20–18,000 BCE to 12,150 BCE) followed the Aurignacian or Levantine Upper Paleolithic throughout the Levant. By the end of the Aurignacian, gradual changes took place in stone industries. Small stone tools called microliths and retouched bladelets can be found for the first time. The microliths of this culture period differ greatly from the Aurignacian artifacts. This period is more properly called Epipaleolithic.

By 20,000 to 18,000 BCE the climate and environment had changed, starting a period of transition. The Levant became more arid and the forest vegetation retreated, to be replaced by steppe. The cool and dry period ended at the beginning of Mesolithic 1. The hunter-gatherers of the Aurignacian would have had to modify their way of living and their pattern of settlement to adapt to the changing conditions. The crystallization of these new patterns resulted in Mesolithic 1. New types of settlements and new stone industries developed.

The inhabitants of a small Mesolithic 1 site in the Levant left little more than their chipped stone tools behind. The industry was of small tools made of bladelets struck off single-platform cores. Besides bladelets, burins and end-scrapers were found. A few bone tools and some ground stone have also been found. These so-called Mesolithic sites of Asia are far less numerous than those of the Neolithic and the archeological remains are very poor.

The second period, Mesolithic 2, is also called the Natufian culture. The change from Mesolithic 1 to Natufian culture can be dated more closely. The latest date from a Mesolithic 1 site in the Levant is 12,150 BCE. The earliest date from a Natufian site is 11,140 BCE.

This period is characterized by the early rise of agriculture that would later emerge into the Neolithic period. Radiocarbon dating places the Natufian culture between 12,500 and 9500 BCE, just before the end of the Pleistocene. This period is characterised by the beginning of agriculture. The earliest known battle occurred during the Mesolithic period at a site in Egypt known as Cemetery 117.

Natufian culture is commonly split into two subperiods: Early Natufian (12,500–10,800 BCE) (Christopher Delage gives a. 13000 – 11500 BP uncalibrated, equivalent to ca. 13,700 to 11,500 BCE) and Late Natufian (10,800–9500 BCE). The Late Natufian most likely occurred in tandem with the Younger Dryas.

The Mesolithic began with the Holocene warm period around 11,660 BP and ended with the introduction of farming, the date of which varied in each geographical region. Regions that experienced greater environmental effects as the last glacial period ended have a much more apparent Mesolithic era, lasting millennia. In northern Europe, for example, societies were able to live well on rich food supplies from the marshlands created by the warmer climate. Such conditions produced distinctive human behaviors that are preserved in the material record, such as the Maglemosian and Azilian cultures. Such conditions also delayed the coming of the Neolithic until as late as 5000-4000 BC in northern Europe.

As the “Neolithic package” (including farming, herding, polished stone axes, timber longhouses and pottery) spread into Europe, the Mesolithic way of life was marginalized and eventually disappeared. Mesolithic adaptations such as sedentism, population size and use of plant foods are cited as evidence of the transition to agriculture.

In North-Eastern Europe, Siberia, and certain southern European and North African sites, a “ceramic Mesolithic” can be distinguished between 7000-3850 BCE. Russian archaeologists prefer to describe such pottery-making cultures as Neolithic, even though farming is absent. This pottery-making Mesolithic culture can be found peripheral to the sedentary Neolithic cultures. It created a distinctive type of pottery, with point or knob base and flared rims, manufactured by methods not used by the Neolithic farmers. Though each area of Mesolithic ceramic developed an individual style, common features suggest a single point of origin.

The earliest manifestation of this type of pottery may be in the region around Lake Baikal in Siberia. It appears in the Elshan or Yelshanka or Samara culture on the Volga in Russia c. 7000 BCE, and from there spread via the Dnieper-Donets culture to the Narva culture of the Eastern Baltic. Spreading westward along the coastline it is found in the Ertebølle culture of Denmark and Ellerbek of Northern Germany, and the related Swifterbant culture of the Low Countries.

In one sample from the Blätterhöhle in Hagen, it seems that the descendants of Mesolithic people maintained a foraging lifestyle for more than 2000 years after the arrival of farming societies in the area. In north-Eastern Europe, the hunting and fishing lifestyle continued into the Medieval period in regions less suited to agriculture.

The Tardenoisian culture lasted from about 6500 BC until the Neolithic, and is the source of the first Nordic culture, the Maglemosian (ca. 9000 BC–6000 BC), the name given to a culture of the early Mesolithic period in Northern Europe.

Specialist opinions fix the beginning of the Mesolithic era at the end of the Preboreal, its development throughout the Boreal, and its end as late as the beginnings of the Atlantic. Chronologically then, it can be set between 9,500-9,000 and 7,500 BP. Two cultures are documented on the territory of Romania in this time period: the Tardenoisian and the Schela Cladova types.

The Tardenoisian spread in several of the country’s regions (Moldavia, Muntenia, Dobrogea), including the mountainous area of Transylvania in the southeast (Cremenea-Sita Buzăului, Costanta-Lădăuţi) and northwest (Ciumeşti-Păşune). In the settlement of Ciumeşti (Satu Mare County), besides the typically Central and East European Tardenoisian microlitice tools made of flint and obsidian, some artefacts were found in the form of circular segments and two triangular ones, in addition to trapezes. The fauna remnants indicate the presence of wild boar and deer.

Some specialists do not exclude the possibility of identifying the Late Tardenoisian communities of the north-western Pontic or central European types (of which the settlement at Ciumeşti is one) as being in the process of neolithization, albeit incomplete, that is, displaying an incipient productive economy, whose foundations were laid by animal domestication and plant cultures.

The Schela Cladovei culture is known through the nine open air settlements in the proximity of the Danube. The lithic utensils come in numerous atypical forms and are fashioned of quartzite and siliceous sandstone while an additional small number are made of flint. The horn tools (agriculture artefacts with one or two handle attachment holes) apparently indicate the debut of plant cultivation. Some of the larger river rocks flattened by water or some of the thicker slabs might have served for grinding. The examination of the fauna indicates an economy based mainly on hunting. The targeted game were deer, roebucks, European bisons, wild boars, hares, wild donkeys, foxes, etc. Furthermore, it would seem that the representatives of this culture domesticated the dog.

Anthropological data are quite consistent. The physical type was evaluated as Oriental Cro-Magnon. The skeletons of the deceased were laid in rectangular holes, some dug in the floor of the dwelling itself. Part of them was laid in a crouching position, part was laid on their back, together with some of their personal belongings. Child mortality was high, while the average life expectancy for adults was 36.2 years. The discovery of some skeletons with arrowhead marks speaks of violent death. Research so far has proved that this culture does not have its roots in the Mediterranean type Tardigravettian, but rather originated by some new migration into the Porţile de Fier region. In addition, it would seem that on the arrival of the first bearers of the Neolithic civilisation (Precriş culture), the Schela Cladovei culture had already come to an end.

Maglemosian (ca. 9000 BC–6000 BC) is the name given to a culture of the early Mesolithic period in Northern Europe. The actual name came from an archeological site in Denmark, named Maglemose near Høng on western Zealand, where the first settlement was found in 1900. During the following century a long series of similar settlements were excavated from England to Poland and from Skåne in Sweden to northern France.

The Maglemosian people lived in forest and wetland environments using fishing and hunting tools made from wood, bone, and flint microliths. It appears that they had domesticated the dog. Some may have lived settled lives but most were nomadic.

Huts made of bark have been preserved, and the tools were made of flintstone, bone, and horn. A characteristic of the culture are the sharply edged microliths of flintstone which were used for spear heads and arrow heads. A notable feature is the Leister or Fish Spear.

Sea levels in northern Europe did not reach current levels until almost 6000 BC by which time they had inundated some territories inhabited by Maglemosian people.

The Maglemosian culture in Scandinavia is succeeded by the Kongemose culture (ca. 6000 BC–5200 BC), a mesolithic hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia.

The Kongemose culture was the origin of the Ertebølle culture (ca 5300 BC – 3950 BC), the name of a hunter-gatherer and fisher, pottery-making culture dating to the end of the Mesolithic period, and was bordered on the Scandinavian Nøstvet and Lihult cultures in the north.

The Nøstvet culture (ca 6200 BC-3200 BC) and the Lihult culture are two very similar Mesolithic cultures in Scandinavian prehistory derived from the earlier Fosna-Hensbacka cultures. They are so varied and vaguely defined that they are rather a tradition than an archaeological culture.

The Nøstvet culture appeared around the Oslofjord and along the Norwegian coast up to Trøndelag, whereas the Lihult culture is found in Sweden. Sometimes the Sandarna culture appears as the name of an intermediary form between the Swedish Hensbacka and Lihult cultures. This name comes from a settlement near Gothenburg (approximately 7000 BC–5000 BC).

The Nøstvet people lived on open settlements. They used honed axes and microliths of various rocks, such as quartz, quartzite and flint. They lived primarily of hunting various animals such as seafowl and marine mammals, in addition to fishing and gathering. The size of the settlements grows during time, which reflects an increase in population and a more sedentary lifestyle.

In southern Scandinavia, its neighbours were first the Kongemose culture (roughly 6000 BC–5200 BC) and later on the Ertebølle culture (about 5200 BC–4000 BC).

During the period 4000 BC–3200 BC, the Nøstvet and Lihult cultures are succeeded by the Funnelbeaker (ca 4300 BC–ca 2800 BC) and the Pitted Ware cultures (ca 3200 BC– ca 2300 BC), and disappear from the archaeological record.

The Kongemose culture is named after a location in western Zealand and its typical form is known from Denmark and Skåne. The Ertebølle culture was concentrated in Southern Scandinavia, but genetically linked to strongly related cultures in Northern Germany and the Northern Netherlands.

The Ertebølle culture was concentrated in Southern Scandinavia, but genetically linked to strongly related cultures in Northern Germany and the Northern Netherlands. It is named after the type site, a location in the small village of Ertebølle on Limfjorden in Danish Jutland.

In the 1890s, the National Museum of Denmark excavated heaps of oyster shells there, mixed with mussels, snails, bones and bone, antler and flint artifacts, which were evaluated as kitchen middens (Danish køkkenmødding), or refuse dumps. Accordingly the culture is less commonly named the Kitchen Midden. As it is approximately identical to the Ellerbek culture of Schleswig-Holstein, the combined name, Ertebølle-Ellerbek is often used. The Ellerbek culture (German Ellerbek Kultur) is named after a type site in Ellerbek, a community on the edge of Kiel, Germany.

The Ertebølle culture was roughly contemporaneous with the Linear Pottery culture, food-producers whose northernmost border was located just to the south. The Ertebølle did not practice agriculture but it did utilize domestic grain in some capacity, which it must have obtained from the south.

In the 1960s and 1970s another closely related culture was found in the (now dry) Noordoostpolder in the Netherlands, near the village Swifterbant and the former island of Urk.

During the formative stages contact with nearby Linear Pottery culture settlements in Limburg has been detected. Like the Ertebølle culture, they lived near open water, in this case creeks, riverdunes and bogs along post-glacial banks of the Overijsselse Vecht.

Recent excavations show a local continuity going back to (at least) 5600 BC, when burial practices resembled the contemporary gravefields in Denmark and South Sweden “in all details”, suggesting only part of a diverse ancestral “Ertebølle”-like heritage was locally continued into the later (Middle Neolithic) Swifterbant tradition (4200 – 3400 BC).

The Ertebølle culture replaced the earlier Kongemose culture of Denmark. It was limited to the north by the Scandinavian Nøstvet and Lihult cultures. It is divided into an early phase ca 5300 BC-ca 4500 BC, and a later phase ca 4500 BC-3950 BC. Shortly after 4100 BC the Ertebølle began to expand along the Baltic coast at least as far as Rügen. Shortly thereafter it was replaced by the Funnelbeaker culture.

In recent years archaeologists have found the acronym EBK most convenient, parallel to LBK for German Linearbandkeramik (Linear Pottery culture) and TRB for German Trichterbecher, Danish Tragtbæger (Funnelbeaker culture) and Dutch trechterbekercultuur. Ostensibly for Ertebølle Kultur, EBK could be either German or Danish and has the added advantage that Ellerbek also begins with E.

Named the Swifterbant culture (5300 – 3400 BC) they show a transition from hunter-gatherer to both animal husbandry, primarily cows and pigs, and cultivation of barley and emmer wheat.

The oldest finds related to this culture, dated to circa 5600 BC, cannot be distinguished from the Ertebølle culture, normally associated with Northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia. The culture is ancestral to the Western group of the agricultural Funnelbeaker culture (4000–2700 BC), which extended through Northern Netherlands and Northern Germany to the Elbe.

The earliest dated sites are season settlements. A transition from hunter-gatherer culture to cattle farming, primarily cows and pigs, occurred around 4800–4500 BC. Pottery has been attested from this period. In the region indications to the existence of pottery are present from before the arrival of the Linear Pottery culture in the neighbourhood.

The material culture reflects a local evolution from Mesolithic communities, with a pottery in a Nordic (Ertebølle) style and trade relationships with southern late Rössen culture communities, as testified by the presence of true Breitkeile pottery sherds.

The Rössen culture, being an offshoot of Linear Pottery, is older than the finds in Swifterbant, and contemporary to older stages of this culture as found in Hoge Vaart (Almere) and Hardinxveld. Contact between Swifterbant and Rössen expressed itself by some hybrid early Swifterbant pots in Anvers (Doel) and hybrid Rössen pottery Hamburg-Boberg. In general, Swifterbant pottery does not show the same variety as Rössen pottery and Swifterbant pottery with Rössen influences are rare. Possibly the idea of cooking could be derived from agricultural neighbours. However, the technical style for making pottery are too different to consider such external influences.

Wetland settlement, unlike previous opinions, was a deliberate choice by prehistoric communities, as this offered attractive ecological conditions and a high natural productivity or agricultural potential. The economy covered a broad spectrum of resources to gather food, ruled by a strategy to diversify rather than increasing volume. As such, the wetlands offered, next to hunting and fishing, optimized conditions to explore both cattle and small scale cultivation of different crops, each having conditions for growing of their own.

The agrarian transformation of the prehistoric community was an exclusively indigenous process, that ultimatey realized itself only at the end of the Neolithic. This view has been supported by the actual discovery of an agricultural field in Swifterbant dated 4300–4000 BC.

Animal sacrifices found in the bogs of Drenthe are attributed to Swifterbant and suggest a religious role for both wild and domesticated bovines.

Neolithic (Old) Europe

Neolithic Europe

Neolithic Europe refers to a prehistoric period in which Neolithic technology was present in Europe. This corresponds roughly to a time between 7000 BC (the approximate time of the first farming societies in Greece) and c. 1700 BC (the beginning of the Bronze Age in northwest Europe). The Neolithic overlaps the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods in Europe as cultural changes moved from the southeast to northwest at about 1 km/year.

The duration of the Neolithic varies from place to place, its end marked by the introduction of bronze implements: in southeast Europe it is approximately 4,000 years (i.e. 7000 BC–3000 BC) while in Northwest Europe it is just under 3,000 years (c. 4500 BC–1700 BC).

Regardless of specific chronology, many European Neolithic groups share basic characteristics, such as living in small-scale, family-based communities, subsisting on domesticated plants and animals supplemented with the collection of wild plant foods and with hunting, and producing hand-made pottery, that is, pottery made without the potter’s wheel.

There are also many differences, with some Neolithic communities in southeastern Europe living in heavily fortified settlements of 3,000-4,000 people (e.g., Sesklo in Greece) whereas Neolithic groups in England were small (possibly 50-100 people) and highly mobile cattle-herders.

The details of the origin, chronology, social organization, subsistence practices and ideology of the peoples of Neolithic Europe are obtained from archaeology, and not historical records, since these people left none.

Since the 1970s, population genetics has provided independent data on the population history of Neolithic Europe, including migration events and genetic relationships with peoples in South Asia. A further independent tool, linguistics, has contributed hypothetical reconstructions of early European languages and family trees with estimates of dating of splits, in particular theories on the relationship between speakers of Indo-European languages and Neolithic peoples.

Some archaeologists believe that the expansion of Neolithic peoples from southwest Asia into Europe, marking the eclipse of Mesolithic culture, coincided with the introduction of Indo-European speakers, whereas other archaeologists and many linguists believe the Indo-European languages were introduced from the Pontic-Caspian steppe during the succeeding Bronze Age. A few see Indo-European languages starting in Paleolithic times.

Archeologists believe that food-producing societies first emerged in the Levantine region of southwest Asia at the close of the mini-Ice Age around 12,000 BC, and developed into a number of regionally distinctive cultures by the eighth millennium BC. Remains of food-producing societies in the Aegean have been carbon-dated to around 6500 BC at Knossos, Franchthi Cave, and a number of mainland sites in Thessaly. Neolithic groups appear soon afterwards in the Balkans and south-central Europe. The Neolithic cultures of southeastern Europe (the Balkans, Italy, and the Aegean) show some continuity with groups in southwest Asia and Anatolia (e.g., Çatalhöyük).

Current evidence suggests that Neolithic material culture was introduced to Europe via western Anatolia, and that similarities in cultures of North Africa and the Pontic steppes are due to diffusion out of Europe. All Neolithic sites in Europe contain ceramics, and contain the plants and animals domesticated in Southwest Asia: einkorn, emmer, barley, lentils, pigs, goats, sheep, and cattle.

Genetic data suggest that no independent domestication of animals took place in Neolithic Europe, and that all domesticated animals were originally domesticated in Southwest Asia. The only domesticate not from Southwest Asia was broomcorn millet, domesticated in East Asia. The earliest evidence of cheese-making dates to 5500 BC in Kujawy, Poland.

Archaeologists seem to agree that the culture of the early Neolithic is relatively homogeneous, compared both to the late Mesolithic and the later Neolithic. The diffusion across Europe, from the Aegean to Britain, took about 2,500 years (6500 BC – 4000 BC). The Baltic region was penetrated a bit later, around 3500 BC, and there was also a delay in settling the Pannonian plain.

In general, colonization shows a “saltatory” pattern, as the Neolithic advanced from one patch of fertile alluvial soil to another, bypassing mountainous areas. Analysis of radiocarbon dates show clearly that Mesolithic and Neolithic populations lived side by side for as much as a millennium in many parts of Europe, especially in the Iberian peninsula and along the Atlantic coast.

With some exceptions, population levels rose rapidly at the beginning of the Neolithic until they reached the carrying capacity. This was followed by a population crash of “enormous magnitude” after 5000 BC, with levels remaining low during the next 1,500 years. Populations began to rise after 3500 BC, with further dips and rises occurring between 3000 and 2500 BC but varying in date between regions.

The Balkan region was the first area of 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.

The Neolithic began with the slow migration of communities from the south of the Balkan Peninsula (the Protosesklo culture from the Thesalo-Macedonean area), who brought with them momentous economic progress. Consequently, the process of neolithisation, which is essentially a shift to plant growing and animal breeding, was not an innovation of the local Mesolithic population but rather the result of the penetration of this territory by communities carrying the Neolithic civilization.

The normal divisions of the Neolithic are: Early Neolithic, Developed Neolithic and Chalcolithic (Copper Age). The Neolithic epoch on the territory of Romania, as certified by calibrated 14C dates, began around 6600 BC, and ended around 3800-3700 BC, and no later than 3500 BC.

The Early Neolithic (c. 6600 – 5500 BC) consists of two cultural layers: genetically linked and with similar physiognomies. The first (layer Gura Baciului – Cârcea/Precriş) is the exclusive result of the migration of a Neolithic population from the South Balkan area, while the second (the Starčevo-Criş culture) reflects the process of adjusting to local conditions by a South Balkan community, possibly a synthesis with the local Tardenoisian groups.

Layer Gura Baciului – Cârcea, also called the Precriş culture, is a spin-off of a Protosesklo culture group that advanced north and reached the North Danubian region where it founded the first culture of painted pottery in Romania. The small number of sites attributable to this early cultural time has not allowed the route followed by the group, to penetrate the Inter-Carpathian area, to be firmly established, yet in all likelihood, it was the Oltului Valley.

Based on the stratigraphy in the site of Gura Baciului (Cluj County) and Ocna Sibiului (Sibiu County) the development of the culture is divided into three major stages. The settlements are situated on high terraces strung along secondary valleys. The dwellings are most often underground, but there are also ground level houses, usually standing on river stone platforms. Pottery (bowls, cups) is refined, with white painted dots or geometrical patterns on red or brown-red background.

Concomitant with pottery, plant cultures and animal breeding, the new culture introduces implements of polished stone and the first clay statuettes. The dead are buried on the grounds of the settlements sometimes directly under the dwellings. Gura Baciului is the first site on the territory of Romania attesting incineration as a funerary practice.

Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic plastic art reveals a bipolar system of beliefs: the Great Mother, representing the female principle, and the Bull, representing the male principle. The presence among the findings at Gura Baciului of some anthropomorphic stone heads, similar to the famous stone heads of Lepenski Vir, signify possible contact between the locals, the Mesolithic cultures, and the newcomers. Furthermore, the adoption of these alien deities, even if exclusively a plastic substantiation,speaks of a remarkable process of assimilation, characteristic of the layer above mentioned.

At Ocna Sibiului, at Precriş, level II, a small conical stone statuette was found, with a shape representing a couple embracing, and a plinth of the same material associated with the figure. On the statue and the plinth several symbols can be distinguished interpreted by the discoverer as ideograms.

Archaeologists have identified several early culture-complexes, including the Cucuteni culture (4500 to 3500 BC), Starcevo culture (6500 to 4000 BC), Vinča culture (5000 to 3000 BC), Linear pottery culture (5500 to 4500 BC), and Ezero culture (3300—2700 BC). The Eneolithic Varna culture in Bulgaria(4600-4200 BC radiocarbon dating) produced the world’s earliest known gold treasure, communicated with the Mediterranean and had sophisticated beliefs about afterlife.

The Starčevo-Criş culture, representing the generalisation of the early Neolithic in the Intra-Carpathian territory, has been regarded by some as the prolongation of the Gura Baciului-Cârcea/Precriş culture, disregarding that it is probably the result of a new south Balkan migration (the Presesklo culture) arriving in Transylvania via Banat. The Starčevo – Criş culture has a long evolution in four stages.

Dwellings were set up on meadows, terraces, hills and even in caves, wherever the environment was friendly. The dwellings were embedded in the early phases and were huts at ground level, in the later phases. Asymmetrical receptacles, bowls, spherical cups, all of which were made of clay, furnish the interiors of this culture.

The lithic utensil inventory includes flint and obsidian microlites, as well as large polished stone axes of the Walzenbiele type. It is now, too, that the first small copper items occur sporadically. The pintaderas decorated with geometrical patterns as well as the Spondylus and Tridacna shells testify to possible connections with Eastern Mediterranean regions. Burials were performed both inside and among the dwellings. Anthropological analyses have revealed a major Mediterranean component suggesting a southern origin of this population.

The Developed Neolithic (c. 5500 – 4000 BC) covers the interval between the last phase of the Starčevo – Criş culture and the beginnings of the Petreşti culture, the period including what has long been known as middle and late Neolithic. The Developed Neolithic is marked by the migration of some new groups of populations, whose point of departure was the south of the Balkan Peninsula, as part of the group of cultures with polished black pottery.

These same groups created the Vinča culture (more commonly divided into four main phases: A, B, C and D), whose beginning is synchronous with the final phase of the Sesklo culture (Greece) occupying Banat and most of Transylvania. In about the same period, the north-east of Transylvania was penetrated by several groups, bearing the linear and musical note pottery culture.

The Linear Pottery culture, a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic in Central Europe, is a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic, flourishing ca. 5500–4500 BC.

It is abbreviated as LBK (from German: Linearbandkeramik), is also known as the Linear Band Ware, Linear Ware, Linear Ceramics or Incised Ware culture, and falls within the Danubian I culture, coined by the Australian archaeologist Vere Gordon Childe to describe the first agrarian society in central and eastern Europe. It covers the Linear Pottery culture (Linearbandkeramik, LBK), stroked pottery and Rössen cultures (4,600–4,300 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.

The beginning of the Linear Pottery culture dates to around 5500 BC. It appears to have spread westwards along the valley of the river Danube and interacted with the cultures of Atlantic Europe when they reached the Paris Basin.

Danubian I peoples cleared forests and cultivated fertile loess soils from the Balkans to the Low Countries and the Paris Basin. They made LBK pottery and kept domesticated cows, pigs, dogs, sheep and goats.

A second wave of the culture, which used painted pottery with Asiatic influences, superseded the first phase starting around 4500 BC. This was followed by a third wave which used stroke-ornamented ware.

Middle and late phases are also defined. In the middle phase, the Early Linear Pottery Culture intruded upon the Bug-Dniester culture and began to manufacture Musical note pottery. In the late phase, the Stroked Pottery Culture moved down the Vistula and Elbe.

The Stroke-ornamented ware (culture) or (German) Stichbandkeramik (abbr. STK or STbK), Stroked Pottery culture, Danubian Ib culture, or Middle Danubian culture, is the successor of the Linear Pottery culture. The STK flourishes during approximately 4600-4400 BC. Centered on Silesia in Poland, eastern Germany and the northern Czech Republic, it overlaps with the Lengyel horizon to the south, and the Rössen culture to the west.

A number of cultures ultimately replaced the Linear Pottery culture over its range, but there is no one-to-one correspondence between its variants and the replacing cultures. The culture map instead is complex. Some of the successor cultures are the Hinkelstein, Großgartach, Rössen, Lengyel, Cucuteni-Trypillian, and Boian-Maritza.

The Vinča culture in Romania comes in many forms depending on the local background against which it developed (the Starčevo-Criş culture and the linear pottery) and the degree of southern influence.

The Vinča communities that advanced on the middle course of the Mureş River, under the influence of the Starčevo-Criş traditions and the elements of the linear pottery, created a new cultural synthesis called the Turdaş culture. The occurrence of signs incised on the bottom of several vessels, particularly on those at Turdaş (Hunedoara County), have often been regarded as the potter’s mark. More recently they have been considered by some researchers as early attempts at recording dates graphically.

That things might stand this way is demonstrated, apparently, by the baked clay tablets covered with incised pictographic patterns at Tărtăria (Alba County), discovered, according to Nicolae Vlassa, in a ritual hole in the ground, next to clay and alabaster idols and a fragment of an anchor, all of which have triggered hot debate over the stratigraphy and chronology of the settlement.

The preservation by some Starčevo-Criş communities of painted pottery, in addition to the Vinča elements, engendered in the area of the eastern arch of the Western Carpathians the Cluj-Cheile–Turzii-Lumea Nouă-Iclod cultural complex. This complex represents the substratum for the emergence of the Petreşti culture. Long term research at Iclod has demonstrated that this station possessed a complex fortification system built during the Iclod, Phase I, still in use for some time in the Iclod II phase, eventually abandoned when the settlement expanded.

It is in the same spot that research has been carried in two inhumation necropoles, where the dead were laid on their backs hands across their chests or abdomens or along their bodies; the bodies were oriented east-west, their heads facing east. The inventory consists of vessels (cylindrical, painted bowls, and S profile pots), ochre, stone utensils, ornaments and animal offerings.

The synthesis of the above mentioned elements gave birth to numerous related regional elements, so that when referring to the Transylvania territory, specialists do not speak of a Vinča culture per se, but rather that of the Banat culture, the Bucovăţ group, the Pişcolt group, the Turdaş culture, the Cluj-Cheile–Turzii-Lumea Nouă-Iclod complex, the Iclod group.

A general characteristic of these groups is the black polished pottery (cups, bowls, lids, etc.). The decorations are variously incised and impressed (bands filled in with stripes, in particular) in addition to displaying fine grooves. The statuettes feature oblong heads (possibly indicating a mask), cross-like bodies, and are often decorated with spiral winding patterns.

In Banat, with the end of the Vinča A2 stage there emerges the Banat culture with several distinctive regional peculiarities (groups Bucovăţ and Parţa). The Parţa settlement, thoroughly researched, demonstrates that the culture reached a high level of civilization, attested to by the one storey buildings and by a complex spiritual life, partly decoded by the components of the great sanctuary studied here.

The charred seeds found in the Liubcova settlement indicate that several cereals were grown. Wheat prevailed, particularly the Triticum dicoccum species, as well as the Triticum monococcum and Triticum aestivus species in proportion of approx. 10%.

The first occurrence on the territory of Romania of the Hordeum vulgare barley is seen. Also present are such leguminous plants as lentil and vetch. Of paramount interest is that wheat was harvested, as discovered in a settlement south of the Carpathians (the Gumelniţa culture), and was possibly used in other areas, too. The wheat was harvested by pulling out, then was sheaved and tied with a switch, vine shoots or ivy. Once carried to the settlement, the grain was threshed.

Sesklo is a village near the city of Volos, in Thessaly (central Greece), in the regional unit of Magnesia. It is part of the municipal unit Aisonia. Nearby, a Neolithic settlement was discovered at the end of the 19th century and the first excavations were made by Greek archaeologist, Christos Tsountas.

The Starčevo culture, sometimes included within a larger grouping known as the Starčevo–Kőrös–Criş culture, is an archaeological culture of Southeastern Europe, dating to the Neolithic period between c. 5500 and 4500 BCE (according to other source, between 6200 and 5200 BCE).

Starčevo, the type site, is located on the north bank of the Danube in Serbia (Vojvodina province), opposite Belgrade. It represents the earliest settled farming society in the area, although hunting and gathering still provided a significant portion of the inhabitants’ diet.

The pottery is usually coarse but finer fluted and painted vessels later emerged. A type of bone spatula, perhaps for scooping flour, is a distinctive artifact. The Kőrös is a similar culture in Hungary named after the River Kőrös with a closely related culture which also used footed vessels but fewer painted ones. Both have given their names to the wider culture of the region in that period. Parallel and closely related cultures also include the Karanovo culture in Bulgaria, Criş in Romania and the pre-Sesklo in Greece.

The Starčevo culture covered sizable area that included most of present-day Serbia and Montenegro, as well as parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, and the Republic of Macedonia. The westernmost locality of this culture can be found in Croatia, in the vicinity of Ždralovi, a part of the town of Bjelovar.

This was the final stage of the culture. Findings from Ždralovi belong to a regional subtype of the final variant in the long process of development of that Neolithic culture. It is designated as Ždralovi facies of the Starčevo culture or the Starčevo – Final stages. In 1990, Starčevo was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by Republic of Serbia.

There are different opinions about the ethno-linguistic origin of the people of Starčevo culture. According to one opinion, Neolithic cultures of the Balkans were of non-Indo-European origin[9] and Indo-European peoples (originating from eastern Europe) did not settle in this area before the Eneolithic period. According to other opinions, Neolithic cultures of the Balkans were also Indo-European and originated from Anatolia, which some researchers identified with a place of origin of Indo-European peoples. These differing theories are termed the Kurgan hypothesis and the Anatolian hypothesis (see also; Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses).

This settlement gives its name to the first Neolithic culture of Europe, which inhabited Thessaly and parts of Macedonia (Greece). The oldest fragments researched at Sesklo place the civilization’s development as far back as 6850 BC with a +/- 660 year margin of error. The first settlements, which predate the 6th millennium BCE, are known as proto-Sesklo (main group) and pre-Sesklo (secondary groups with differentiated characteristics) and they show an advanced agriculture and a very early use of pottery that rivals in age those of the Near East.

The peoples of Sesklo built their villages on hillsides near fertile valleys, where they grew wheat and barley, also keeping herds of mainly sheep and goats, though they also had cows, pigs and dogs. Their houses were small, with one or two rooms, built of wood or mudbrick in the early period. Later the construction technique becomes more homogeneous and all homes are built of adobe with stone foundations. In the 6th millennium BCE, the first houses with two levels are found and there is also a clear intentional urbanism.

The lower levels of proto-Sesklo lack pottery, but the Sesklo people soon developed very fine glazed earthenware (cups and bowls) that they decorated with geometric paintings in red or brown colours. In the Sesklo period new types of ware are incorporated. At the end of the period the decoration evolves to flame motifs. Pottery of this ‘classic’ Sesklo style was also used in Western Macedonia as at Servia.

When investigating whether these settlers could be migrants from Asia Minor, there are many similarities between the rare Asia Minor pottery and Greek Early Neolithic pottery, but these similarities seem to exist between all early pottery from Near Eastern regions. The repertoire of shapes is not very different, but the Asia Minor vessels seem to be deeper than their Thessalian counterparts. Shallow, slightly open bowls are characteristic of the Sesklo culture and absent in Anatolian settlements. The ring base was almost unknown in Anatolia, whereas flat and plano-convex bases were common there. Altogether the appearance of the vessels is different. The appearance of the earliest figurines is additionally completely different.

The very rare pottery from levels XII and XI at Çatal Hüyük closely resembles in shape the very coarse ware of Early Neolithic I from Sesklo, but the paste is quite different, having a partly vegetable temper. This pottery is contemporaneous with the better made ware and not a predecessor of the Thessalian material. On the whole, the artefactual data argues in favour of a largely independent indigenous development of the Greek Neolithic settlements.

The data available also indicates that the domestication of cattle has taken place at Argissa as early as 6300 BC during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. The non-pottery bearing levels at Sesklo contained bone fragments of domesticated cattle too. The earliest occurrence reported in the Near East is at Çatal Hüyük, in stratum VI, dating around 5750 BC, though it may have been present in stratum XII too – somewhere around 6100 BC. This indicates that the domestication of cattle was indigenous on the Greek mainland.

One significant characteristic of this culture is the abundance of statuettes of women, often pregnant, probably connected to the widely hypothesized prehistoric fertility cult. Whichever the case, these abundant sculptures are present in all the Balcanic and most of the Danubian Neolithic complex form many millennia, though they can’t be considered exclusive of this area.

The culture of Sesklo is crucial in the expansion of the Neolithic into Europe. Dating and research points to the influence of this culture to other Balcanic (Karanovo I-II and Starčevo-Körös) which seem to originate here, and will be these which will stimulate the birth of the important Danubian Neolithic current. Also, it is thought that the differentiated settlements of pre-Sesklo can be, at least partly, responsible for the origin of the Mediterranean Neolithic (Cardium pottery). So it can be said that, with some geographically isolated exceptions, European Neolithic seem to originate here: in the Thessalia of Sesklo.

The “invasion theory” states that the Sesklo culture lasted more than one full millennium up until 5000 BC when it was violently conquered by people of the Dimini culture. The Dimini culture in this theory is considered different from that found at Sesklo. However, Professor Ioannis Lyritzis provides a different story pertaining to the final fate of the “Seskloans”. He, along with R. Galloway, compared ceramic materials from both Sesklo and Dimini utilizing thermoluminescence dating methods. He discovered that the inhabitants of the settlement in Dimini appeared around 4800 BC, four centuries before the fall of the Sesklo civilization (ca. 4400 BC). Lyritzis concluded that the “Seskloans” and “Diminians” coexisted for a period of time.

The Funnel(-neck-)beaker culture, short TRB or TBK from (German) Trichter(-rand-)becherkultur (ca 4300 BC–ca 2800 BC) was an archaeological culture in north-central Europe. It 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 STK groups/Late Lengyel and Baden-Boleraz in the southeast, Rössen groups in the southwest and the Ertebølle-Ellerbek groups in the north, the TRB techno-complex is divided into a northern group 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 around 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 (see Yamna culture) intruding from 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 is more likely that Indo-European languages were adopted by local populations because they represented a new way of life, bringing with them horses and cattle and the status they represented.

The Globular Amphora Culture (GAC), German Kugelamphoren-Kultur (KAK), ca. 3400–2800 BC, is an archaeological culture preceding the central area occupied by the Corded Ware culture. Somewhat to the south and west, it was bordered by the Baden culture. To the northeast was the Narva culture. It occupied much of the same area as the earlier Funnelbeaker culture. The name was coined by Gustaf Kossinna because of the characteristic pottery, globular-shaped pots with two to four handles. The Globular Amphora culture is thought to be of Indo-European origin and was succeeded by the Corded Ware culture.

The inclusion of animals in the grave of Globular Amphora Culture is seen as an intrusive cultural element by Marija Gimbutas. The practice of suttee, hypotised by Gimbutas is also seen as a highly intrusive cultural element. 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 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.

In the 19th century the Corded Ware culture was favoured by some authors as the Urheimat (original homeland) of the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, a theory that has been discarded by modern science in favor of the Kurgan hypothesis or the Renfrew NDT. Still it is generally held that “Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic may possibly be traced back to the Corded Ware horizon of north, central, and eastern Europe”.

However, this is not to suppose that all of these proto-languages actually arose during the period of the Corded Ware horizon, across its whole territory, or exclusively within its confines. The Proto-Germanic language is often assumed to have been spoken in southern Scandinavia or northern Germany towards the end of the Nordic Bronze Age or at the beginning of the Pre-Roman Iron Age (mid-first millennium BC), and the Proto-Balto-Slavic language and Proto-Celtic language may date only slightly earlier, to the Early Iron Age (early first millennium BC).

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

The Pitted Ware culture (ca 3200 BC– ca 2300 BC) was a hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia, mainly along the coasts of Svealand, Götaland, Åland, north-eastern Denmark and southern Norway. Despite its Mesolithic economy, it is by convention classed as Neolithic, since it falls within the period in which farming reached Scandinavia. It was first contemporary and overlapping with the agricultural Funnelbeaker culture, and later with the agricultural Corded Ware culture.

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

Though some vessels are flat-bottomed, others are round-based or pointed-based, which would facilitate stable positioning in the soil or on the hearth. In shape and decoration, this ceramic reflects influences from the Comb Ceramic culture (also known as Pit-Comb Ware) of Finland and other parts of north-eastern Europe, established in the sixth and fifth millennia BC.[5]

Small animal figurines were modelled out of clay, as well as bone. These are also similar to the art of the Comb Ware culture. A large number of clay figurines have been found at Jettböle on the island of Åland, including some which combine seal and human features.[6]

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

A theory among archaeologists was that the Pitted Ware culture evolved from the Funnelbeaker culture by a process of abandonment of farming for hunting and fishing. However the two populations are genetically distinct. Samples of skeletal remains from Pitted Ware and Funnelbeaker sites in Sweden yielded mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The nineteen Pitted Ware samples from Gotland were dominated by mtDNA haplogroups U4, U5 and U5a, though it should be noted that, because of the low resolution of the tests performed, some haplotypes reported as U4 may actually belong to haplogroup H. By contrast the three Funnelbeaker samples from Gökhem contained no haplogroup U. This is consistent with findings elsewhere in northern Europe of a distinct difference in mtDNA between hunter-gatherers and farmers.

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 lactase 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.

Ancient DNA extracted from three individuals ascribed to a TRB horizon in Gökhem, Sweden, were found to possess mtDNA haplogroups H, J, and T.

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

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Doggerland – Exploring the submerged landscapes of Prehistoric North Sea

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 15, 2013

‘Britain’s Atlantis’ – a hidden underwater world swallowed by the North Sea – has been discovered by divers working with science teams from the University of St Andrews. Doggerland, a huge area of dry land that stretched from Scotland to Denmark was slowly submerged by water between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC.

Divers from oil companies have found remains of a ‘drowned world’ with a population of tens of thousands – which might once have been the ‘real heartland’ of Europe. A team of climatologists, archaeologists and geophysicists has now mapped the area using new data from oil companies – and revealed the full extent of a ‘lost land’ once roamed by mammoths.

‘Britain’s Atlantis’ found at bottom of North sea – a huge undersea world swallowed by the sea in 6500BC

‘Britain’s Atlantis’ found at bottom of North sea

Doggerland – Wikipedia

Picture of artwork depicting a Mesolithic camp in Doggerland

Searching for Doggerland – National Geographic Magazine

Doggerland – Exploring the submerged landscapes of Prehistoric Wales

Beyond Stone and Bone » Drowned Worlds – Archaeology.org

Doggerland – Mapping a lost world « NextNature.net

Archaeology: The lost world : Nature News

Life in 'Doggerland' - the ancient kingdom once stretched from Scotland to Denmark and has been described as the 'real heart of Europe'

A visualisation of how life in the now-submerged areas of Dogger Bank might have looked

A visualisation of how life in the now-submerged areas of Dogger Bank might have looked

Doggerland

The research suggests that the populations of these drowned lands could have been tens of thousands, living in an area that stretched from Northern Scotland across to Denmark and down the English Channel as far as the Channel Islands

File:Kultura ahrensburska.jpg

Extension of the Ahrensburg culture

Doggerland is a name given by archaeologists and geologists to a former landmass in the southern North Sea that connected the island of Great Britain to mainland Europe during and after the last Ice Age, surviving until about 6,500 or 6,200 BCE and then gradually being flooded by rising sea levels.

Geological surveys have suggested that Doggerland was a large area of dry land that stretched from Britain’s east coast across to the present coast of the Netherlands and the western coasts of Germany and Denmark. Doggerland was probably a rich habitat with human habitation in the Mesolithic period.

The archaeological potential of the area had first been discussed in the early 20th century, but interest intensified in 1931 when a commercial trawler operating between the sandbanks and shipping hazards of the Leman Bank and Ower Bank east of the Wash dragged up a barbed antler point that dated to a time when the area was tundra.

Later vessels have dragged up mammoth and lion remains, among other remains of land animals, and small numbers of prehistoric tools and weapons that were used by the region’s inhabitants. The recession of the glaciers allows human colonization in Northern Europe for the first time.

Around 10,500 BCE, the Würm Glacial age ends. Slowly, through the following millennia, temperatures and sea levels rise, changing the environment of prehistoric people. Nevertheless, Magdalenian culture persists until circa 8000 BCE, when it quickly evolves into two microlithist cultures: Azilian, in Spain and southern France, and Sauveterrian, in northern France and Central Europe. Though there are some differences, both cultures share several traits: the creation of very small stone tools called microliths and the scarcity of figurative art, which seems to have vanished almost completely, being replaced by abstract decoration of tools.

In the late phase of this Epipaleolithic period, the Sauveterrean culture evolves into the so-called Tardenoisian and influences strongly its southern neighbour, clearly replacing it in Mediterranean Spain and Portugal.

The Ahrensburg culture or Ahrensburgian (11th to 10th millennia BCE) was a late Upper Paleolithic nomadic hunter culture (or technocomplex) in north-central Europe during the Younger Dryas, the last spell of cold at the end of the Weichsel glaciation resulting in deforestation and the formation of a tundra with bushy arctic white birch and rowan.

Ahrensburgian finds were made in southern and western Scandinavia, the North German plain and western Poland. The Ahrensburgian area also included vast stretches of land now at the bottom of the North and Baltic Sea, since during the Younger Dryas the coastline took a much more northern course than today.

The most important prey was the wild reindeer. The earliest definite finds of arrow and bow date to this culture, though these weapons might have been invented earlier.

The Ahrensburgian was preceded by the Hamburg and Federmesser cultures and superseded by mesolithic cultures, the Maglemosian culture (ca. 9000 BC–6000 BC), the name given to a culture of the early Mesolithic period in Northern Europe derived from the Sauveterre-Tardenois culture, but with a strong personality.

The actual name came from an archeological site in Denmark, named Maglemose near Høng on western Zealand, where the first settlement was found in 1900. During the following century a long series of similar settlements were excavated from England to Poland and from Skåne in Sweden to northern France. The Maglemosian colonizes Denmark and the nearby regions, including parts of Britain.

The Maglemosian people lived in forest and wetland environments using fishing and hunting tools made from wood, bone, and flint microliths. It appears that they had domesticated the dog. Some may have lived settled lives but most were nomadic.

Huts made of bark have been preserved, and the tools were made of flintstone, bone, and horn. A characteristic of the culture are the sharply edged microliths of flintstone which were used for spear heads and arrow heads. A notable feature is the Leister or Fish Spear.

Sea levels in northern Europe did not reach current levels until almost 6000 BC by which time they had inundated some territories inhabited by Maglemosian people.

In Scandinavia the Maglemosian culture is succeeded by the Kongemose culture (ca. 6000 BC–5200 BC), a mesolithic hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia, and the origin of the Ertebølle culture (ca 5300 BC – 3950 BC). In the north the Kongemose culture were bordered on the Scandinavian Nøstvet and Lihult cultures.

Geological history of Europe

Prehistoric Europe

Ahrensburg culture

Maglemosian

 

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Ice Age Swastika found in Mezine, Ukraine

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 15, 2013

File:Mizyn.png

Ivory bracelets – Mezine

The world’s oldest swastika is this one here associated with these carvings in the shape of birds found in the Mezine, Ukraine region, dated to about 10,000 BCE.

The bird carving, which is a 4-fold rotational symmetry, suggest that the ancients were aware of asymmetry found in nature. The Swastika, the shape of movement is key to understanding how to get from point A to point B most efficiently, it reveals itself as a biomimicry diplomat, giving us clues to how Mother Nature and Papa Time operate with a high degree of probability. The ancient cultures did associate the swastika to the idea of movement, the solar wheel, and the sun.

Ice Age Swastika found in Ukraine: Interpretation of a Basic Symbol of Mankind

Ice Age Swastika found in Ukraine

Gravettian culture is a phase (c.32,000–22,000 ya) of the European Upper Paleolithic that is characterized by a stone-tool industry with small pointed blades used for big-game hunting (bison, horse, reindeer and mammoth). People in the Gravettian period also used nets to hunt small game.

It is divided into two regional groups: the western Gravettian, mostly known from cave sites in France, and the eastern Gravettian, with open sites of specialized mammoth hunters on the plains of central Europe and Russia such as the derivative Pavlovian culture, the modern name given to a distinctive Upper Paleolithic culture that existed in the region of Moravia, northern Austria and southern Poland around 29,000 – 25,000 years BP.

Artifacts and technologies of this and the preceding Aurignacian culture figure centrally in the romanticized adaptation of the culture in the popular fictional pre-history depicted in the Earth’s Children novel series which leans heavily on archeological finds and theories from this era. In the series, the Venus figurines are central to a fertility rite and worship of “The Great Earth Mother”, a nature spirit from which all life flows.

The Gravettian toolmaking culture was a specific archaeological industry of the European Upper Palaeolithic era prevalent before the last glacial epoch. It is named after the type site of La Gravette in the Dordogne region of France where its characteristic tools were first found and studied.

The earliest signs of the culture were found at Kozarnika, Bulgaria. One of the earliest artifacts is also found in eastern Crimea (Buran-Kaya) (see Crimean Mountains) dated 32 000 years ago. It lasted until 22,000 years ago. Where found, it succeeded the artifacts datable to the Aurignacian culture.

Artistic achievements of the Gravettian cultural stage include the hundreds of Venus figurines, which are widely distributed in Europe. The predecessor culture was linked to similar figurines and carvings.

“Venus figurines” is an umbrella term for a number of prehistoric statuettes of women portrayed with similar physical attributes from the Upper Palaeolithic, mostly found in Europe, but with finds as far east as Irkutsk Oblast, Siberia, extending their distribution to much of Eurasia, from the Pyrenees to Lake Baikal.

All generally accepted Paleolithic female figurines are from the Upper Palaeolithic. Although they were originally mostly considered Aurignacian, the majority are now associated with the Gravettian and Solutrean. In these periods, the more rotund figurines are predominant. During the Magdalenian, the forms become finer with more detail; conventional stylization also develops.

Most of them date to the Gravettian period, but there are a number of early examples from the Aurignacian, including the Venus of Hohle Fels, discovered in 2008, carbon dated to at least 35,000 years ago, and late examples of the Magdalenian, such as the Venus of Monruz, aged about 11,000 years.

These figurines were carved from soft stone (such as steatite, calcite or limestone), bone or ivory, or formed of clay and fired. The latter are among the oldest ceramics known. In total, over a hundred such figurines are known; virtually all of modest size, between 4 cm and 25 cm in height. They are some of the earliest works of prehistoric art.

Some scholars and popular theorists suggest a direct continuity between the Palaeolithic female figurines and later examples of female depictions from the Neolithic or even the Bronze Age. Such views have been contested on numerous grounds, not least the general absence of such depictions during the intervening Mesolithic.

A theory put forth by Leroy McDermott suggests that the figurines are self-portraits done by female sculptors due to their resemblance to the view a woman would have looking down at her own body.

The Late Glacial Maximum (ca. 13,000-10,000 years ago), or Tardiglacial (“Late Glacial”), is defined primarily by climates in the northern hemisphere warming substantially, causing a process of accelerated deglaciation following the Last Glacial Maximum (ca. 25,000-13,000 years ago).

It is at this time that human populations, previously forced into refuge areas as a result of Last Glacial Maximum climatic conditions, gradually begin to repopulate the northern hemisphere’s Eurasian landmass and eventually populate North America via Beringia for the first time.

Climate amelioration begins to occur rapidly throughout Western Europe and the North European Plain ca. 16,000-15,000 years ago. The environmental landscape becomes increasing boreal except in the far north, where conditions remain arctic. Sites of human occupation reappear in northern France, Belgium, northwest Germany, and southern Britain between 15,500 to 14,000 years ago. Many of these sites are classified as Magdalenian though other industries containing distinctive curved back and tanged points appear as well. As the Fennoscandian ice sheet continued to shrink, plants and people began to repopulate the freshly deglaciated areas of southern Scandinavia.

The European distribution of Y-chromosome Haplogroup I and various associated subclades has also been explained as resulting from male post-glacial re-colonization of Europe from refuge in the Balkans, Iberia, and Eastern Europe. Males possessing Haplogroup Q are postulated as representing a significant portion of the population that crossed Beringia and populated North America for the first time.

Human site occupation density was most prevalent in the Crimea region and increased as early as ca. 16,000 years before the present. However reoccupation of northern territories of the East European Plain did not occur until 13,000 years before the present. Prior to this settlement of the central portion of the East European Plain was significantly reduced during a period of maximum cold ca. 21,000-17,000 years before the present.

Overall, there is little archaeological evidence to suggest major shifting settlement pattern during this time on the East European plain. This is unlike what was occurring in Western Europe, where Magdalenian industry producers were rapidly repopulating much of Europe. Evidence of this can be found as far east at Kunda sites (ca. 10,000 years ago) located throughout Baltic country territory where tanged point and other tool making traditions reminiscent of the northwestern European Magdalenian persist.

Generally, lithic technology is dominated by blade production and typical Upper Paleolithic tool forms such as burins and backed blades (the most persistent). Kostenki archaeological sites of multiple occupation layers persist from the Last Glacial Maximum and into the Late Glacial Maximum on the eastern edge of the Central Russian Upland, along the Don River. Epigravettian archaeological sites, similar to Eastern Gravettian sites, are common in the southwest, central, and southern regions of the East European Plain ca. 17,000-10,000 years BP, and are also present in the Crimea and Northern Caucasus.

In Western Europe, between ca. 22 k.a. and 20 k.a cal BP, human groups responded to LGM environmental conditions by developing a suite of new technologies characterized by a variety of diagnostic projectile points produced by bifacial retouch, which define the Solutrean technocomplex.

In the regions of southeastern Europe, hunter-gatherers of the LGM produce a different lithic technology, the early Epigravettian (20,000-8000 BP), which evolved into the Mesolithic, characterized by shouldered and backed projectile points produced by unifacial retouch most probably being derived from the preceding Gravettian technocomplex. Bifacial leaf-shaped points are rare and have been recovered from only a few sites in northern Italy.

Epigravettian was followed by the Sauveterrian and Castelnovian in the 7th millennium BC. Epigravettian cultures developed contemporaneously in various parts of Europe, notably the Creswellian in Britain.

Reconstructions of their ecological niches indicate that they overlap broadly, but that the Solutrean was able to exploit colder and more humid areas, corresponding to areas with permanent permafrost during the LGM. In contrast, the Epigravettian in Italia and the Balkans seems to have been better adapted to areas characterized by discontinuous permafrost and seasonal freezing. Neither technocomplex was adapted to the more southerly dry and relatively warmer Mediterranean environments during the LGM.

Mezine is a place in the Ukraine having the most artifacts from the Paleolithic culture. The epigravettian site is located on a bank of the Desna river. The settlement is best known for an archaeological small find of a set of bracelets, engraved with marks considered as being possibly calendar lunar-cycles.

Near to Mezine was found the earliest known example of a swastika-like form, as part of a decorative object, found on an artifact dated to 10,000 BCE. Described (see references for illustrations) as an object carved of the ivory tusks of Mammuthus to resemble an «Ice age Bird … with Inscribed Swastikas».

The bird figure (bird) is understood as an inherently shamanistic animal, such as being the expression of the soul or of the spirit experienced in flight (from death).

Reviewing Mezine and also sites at Yeliseevici and Timovka Joseph Campbell comments: It is impossible not to feel, when reviewing the material of these mammoth-hunting stations on the loess plains north of the Black and Caspian Seas, that we are in a province fundamentally different in style and mythology from that of the hunters of the great painted caves.

The richest center of this more easterly style would appear to have been the area between the Dnieper and Don river systems – at least as far as indicated by the discoveries made up to the present.

The art was not, like that of the caves, impressionistic, but geometrically stylized, and the chief figure was not the costumed shaman, at once animal and man, master of the mysteries of the temple-caves, but the perfectly naked, fertile female, standing as guardian of the hearth.

And I think it most remarkable that we detect in her surroundings a constellation of motifs that remained closely associated with the goddess in the later epoch of the neolithic and on into the periods of the high civilizations: the meander (as a reference to the labyrinth), the bird (in the dove- cotes of the temples of Aphrodite), the fish (in the fish ponds of the same temples), the sitting animals, and the phallus. Who, furthermore, reading of the figure amid the mammoth skulls, does not think of Artemis as the huntress, the lady of the wild things.

The swastika (卐)

 

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In the beginning

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 13, 2013

The name Armenia is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc. The most ancient and principal national deity of the Armenian people was the deity of the sun and fire.

The term “Natufian” was coined by Dorothy Garrod who studied the Shuqba cave in Wadi an-Natuf, in the western Judean Mountains, about halfway between Tel Aviv and Ramallah.

The Natufian culture (13,000-9,800 BC) was an Epipaleolithic culture that existed in the Levant, a region in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was unusual in that it was sedentary, or semi-sedentary, before the introduction of agriculture.

The Natufian communities are possibly the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. There is some evidence for the deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at the Tell Abu Hureyra site, the site for earliest evidence of agriculture in the world. Generally, though, Natufians made use of wild cereals. Animals hunted included gazelles.

Zarzian culture (18,000-8,000 BC) is an archaeological culture of late Paleolithic and Mesolithic in Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, named and recognised of the cave of Zarzi in Iraqi. It was preceded by the Upper Palaeolithic Baradostian in the same region and was related to the Imereti culture of the Caucasus.

Andy Burns states “The Zarzian of the Zagros region of Iran is contemporary with the Natufian but different from it. The only dates for the entire Zarzian come from Palegawra Cave, and date to 17,300-17,000BP, but it is clear that it is broadly contemporary with the Levantine Kebaran, with which it shares features.

The Zarzian culture seems to have participated in the early stages of what Kent Flannery has called the broad spectrum revolution. It is found associated with remains of the domesticated dog and with the introduction of the bow and arrow. It seems to have extended north into the Kobistan region and into Eastern Iran as a forerunner of the Hissar and related cultures.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN, around 8500-5500 BCE) represents the early Neolithic in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent. It succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic) as the domestication of plants and animals was in its beginnings, possibly triggered by the Younger Dryas. The Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture came to an end around the time of the 8.2 kiloyear event, a cool spell lasting several hundred years centred around 6200 BC.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA, ca 8,500 – 7,500 BC), succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic) and denotes the first stage in early Levantine Neolithic culture. Archaeological remains are located in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent. The time period is characterized by tiny circular mud brick dwellings, the cultivation of crops, the hunting of wild game, and unique burial customs in which bodies were buried below the floors of dwellings.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and the following Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) were originally defined by Kathleen Kenyon in the type site of Jericho (Palestine). During this time, pottery was not in use yet. They precede the ceramic Neolithic (Yarmukian).

Like the earlier PPNA culture the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B culture (ca 7,500 to 6200 BC) developed from the Earlier Natufian but shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia.

The PPNB culture disappeared during the 8.2 kiloyear event, a term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6200 BC, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries.

Cultural tendencies of this period differ from that of the earlier Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period in that people living during this period began to depend more heavily upon domesticated animals to supplement their earlier mixed agrarian and hunter-gatherer diet. In addition the flint tool kit of the period is new and quite disparate from that of the earlier period. One of its major elements is the naviform core.

This is the first period in which architectural styles of the southern Levant became primarily rectilinear; earlier typical dwellings were circular, elliptical and occasionally even octagonal. Pyrotechnology was highly developed in this period. During this period, one of the main features of houses is evidenced by a thick layer of white clay plaster floors highly polished and made of lime produced from limestone.

It is believed that the use of clay plaster for floor and wall coverings during PPNB led to the discovery of pottery. The earliest proto-pottery was White Ware vessels, made from lime and gray ash, built up around baskets before firing, for several centuries around 7000 BC at sites such as Tell Neba’a Faour (Beqaa Valley).

In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, where it influenced the later development of Ghassulian culture.

On a hill known as Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”) in the Armenian Highland in todays southeastern Turkey, archaeologists have uncovered several large megalithic enclosures that date between 10000 and 8000 BC., the dawn of civilization and the Neolithic age.

Each of these circular enclosures, which many have described as Turkey’s “Stonehenge,” consists of ten to twelve massive stone pillars surrounding two larger monoliths positioned in the middle of the structure.

There are no village remains at or near the Göbekli Tepe ruins, suggesting that the unique site was a ceremonial center exclusively used for the practice of the Neolithic religion of local hunter-gatherer groups.

The tell includes two settlement phases dating back to the 10th-8th millennium BC. During the first phase (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected. More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and a weight of up to 20 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock.

In the second phase (PPNB), the erected pillars are smaller. They stood in rectangular rooms. These rooms had floors of polished lime. Obviously, the site was abandoned after the PPNB-period. Younger structures date to classical times.

Given the early age of the site, equally surprising are the varied and often highly elaborate carvings that adorn the pillars of the Göbekli Tepe ruins. Among the pillars are detailed and often very realistic depictions of animal figures, including vultures and scorpions, lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, asses, snakes, and other birds and reptiles.

In addition, some of the massive monoliths are carved with stylized anthropomorphic details – including arms, legs and clothing – that give the impression of large super-human beings watching over the enclosures.

The Göbekli Tepe ruins and enclosures – the earliest monumental ritual sites of Neolithic religion and possibly the oldest religion in the world – are causing experts to rethink the origins of religion and human civilization.

Until recently, scholars agreed that agriculture and human settlement in villages gave rise to religious practices. The discoveries at the Göbekli Tepe ruins, however, indicate that earlier hunter-gatherer groups that had not yet settled down had already developed complex religious ideas, together with monumental ceremonial sites to practice the sacred communal rituals of Neolithic religion.

The Khabur River is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Although the Khabur originates in Turkey, the karstic springs around Ra’s al-‘Ayn are the river’s main source of water. Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating what is known as the Khabur Triangle, or Upper Khabur area.

From north to south, annual rainfall in the Khabur basin decreases from over 400 mm to less than 200 mm, making the river a vital water source for agriculture throughout history. The Khabur joins the Euphrates near the town of Busayrah.

Since the 1930s, numerous archaeological excavations and surveys have been carried out in the Khabur Valley, indicating that the region has been occupied since the Lower Palaeolithic period. Important sites that have been excavated include Tell Halaf, Tell Brak, Tell Leilan, Tell Mashnaqa, Tell Mozan and Tell Barri.

The region has given its name to a distinctive painted ware found in northern Mesopotamia and Syria in the early 2nd millennium BCE, called Khabur ware. The region of the Khabur River is also associated with the rise of the kingdom of the Mitanni that flourished c.1500-1300 BC.

The Hurrians were an ancient people, who spoke a Hurro-Urartian language of the Ancient Near East, living in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia during the Bronze Age. Hurrian settlements are distributed over three modern countries, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The heart of the Hurrian world is dissected by the modern border between Syria and Turkey.

The Hurrians spoke an ergative-agglutinative language, conventionally called Hurrian, (unrelated to neighbouring Semitic or Indo-European languages), which may have been a language isolate. The Iron Age Urartian language is closely related to or a direct descendant of Hurrian. Several notable Russian linguists have claimed that the Hurrian and the Hattic were related to the Northeast Caucasian languages.

The Hurrians had a reputation in metallurgy. The Sumerians borrowed their copper terminology from the Hurrian vocabulary. Copper was traded south to Mesopotamia from the highlands of Anatolia. The Khabur Valley had a central position in the metal trade, and copper, silver and even tin were accessible from the Hurrian-dominated countries Kizzuwatna and Ishuwa situated in the Armenian highland.

Hurrian names occur sporadically in north western Mesopotamia and the area of Kirkuk in modern Iraq by the Middle Bronze Age. Their presence was attested at Nuzi, Urkesh and other sites. They eventually infiltrated and occupied a broad arc of fertile farmland stretching from the Khabur River valley to the foothills of the Zagros Mountains.

I. J. Gelb and E. A. Speiser believed Semitic Subarians had been the linguistic and ethnic substratum of northern Mesopotamia since earliest times, while Hurrians were merely late arrivals.

That idea is at odds with a long-held belief among scholars that the Hurrians arrived much later from the Caucasus or some other distant region to the northeast, drawn to the fringes of civilization after the rise of the great southern Sumerian centers of Ur, Uruk, and Nippur. Scholars long assumed that the Hurrians arrived in the middle of the third millennium B.C., and eventually settled down and adopted cuneiform as a script and built their own cities. That theory is based on linguistic associations with Caucasus’ languages and the fact that Hurrian names are absent from the historical record until Akkadian times.

The discovery of a sophisticated city with monumental architecture, plumbing, stonework, and a large population contradicts the idea that Hurrians were a roving mountain people in a strange land.

Far from being yet another rough nomadic tribe, such as the Amorites or Kassites who were latecomers to the Mesopotamian party, the Hurrians and their unique language, music, deities, and rituals may have played a key role in shaping the first cities, empires, and states. The language has died, the music faded, and the rituals are forgotten. But thanks to the sculptors, stone masons, and seal carvers at Urkesh, Hurrian creativity can shine once again.

Hurrian, like Sumerian, is a language unrelated to Semitic or Indo-European tongues that dominated the region during and after the third millennium BC. Perhaps the Hurrians were earlier inhabitants of the region, who, like the Sumerians, had to make room for the Semitic-speaking people who created the world’s first empire based at Akkad in central Mesopotamia around 2350 BC.

Hurrian cannot be considered an Indo-European language. Traditional Indo-European languages, such as Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Gothic, Old Irish, Old Church Slavic, Tocharian, etc., are clearly related to each other through many common features and shared innovations that are lacking in Hurrian.

Hurrian and Proto-Indo-European “[bear] a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could have been produced by accident; so strong that no philologer could examine [them] without believing them to have sprung from some common source.”

The relevant phonological, morphological, and lexical data shows that Urarto-Hurrian and Indo-European are, in fact, genetically related at a very deep level. They both are descended from a common ancestor, which may be called “Proto-Asianic”.

The origin of the Indo-Aryans is to be found in the Transcaucasus based on their possession of a genetic component related to that of modern Northeast Caucasian speakers and the putative relationship of the latter with the Hurro-Urartian group. This place the Proto-Indo-European homeland in the vicinity of the Hurrians.

Although there are few proofs of lexical borrowing between PIE and North Caucasian, there are a few undeniable areal-typological parallels in phonology and grammar. Some features generally attributed to PIE are not found in the majority of languages of North and Northeastern Eurasia, while they are common, or universally present, in the languages of the Caucasus (especially North Caucasus).

Those features include the high consonant-to-vowel ratio, tonal accent, number suppletion in personal pronouns, the presence of gender and the morphological optative and, possibly, the presence of glottalized consonants and ergativity.

Quite consistent with the idea that Proto-Indo-European is related to the West Asian autosomal component this component occurs at a a level greater than 50% level in modern North Caucasian speakers, is absent in Europe prior to 5,000 years ago, and occurs at levels greater or equal to 10% in most present-day Indo-European speakers from Europe.

Fusional languages are generally believed to have descended from agglutinative languages, though there is no linguistic evidence in the form of attested language changes to confirm this view. On the other hand, fusional languages generally tend to lose their inflection over the centuries – some languages much more quickly than others.

For example, while most Uralic languages are predominantly agglutinative, Estonian is markedly evolving in the direction of a fusional language. On the other hand, Finnish, its close relative, exhibits fewer fusional traits, thereby keeping closer to the mainstream Uralic type.

Also, supposedly, Sanskrit, Latin, Slovenian, Lithuanian, and Armenian are about as fusional as the unattested Proto-Indo-European, but modern English and Afrikaans are almost entirely analytic. The Slavic and Baltic languages have generally retained their inflection, along with Greek.

Armenian corresponds with other Indo-European languages in its structure, but it shares distinctive sounds and features of its grammar with neighboring languages of the Caucasus region. There is a Caucasian substratum, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages such as Udi, in Old Armenian.

There is a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and zoological and biological terms in Armenian. Some of the terms have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance. Given that these borrowings do not undergo sound changes characteristic of the development of Armenian from Proto-Indo-European their borrowing must have been before the written record, but after the Proto-Armenian language stage.

Armenian is characterized by a system of inflection unlike the other Indo-European languages, as well as a flexible and liberal use of combining root words to create derivative and compound words by the application of certain agglutinative affixes. In fact Armenian is one of only two Indo-European languages with this characteristic, the other one being Persian.

After reviewing some of the morphological basics of Armenian grammar, it is perhaps important to note that none of these characteristics bear any hints of influence from Classical Greek or Old Persian grammar. Amazingly, these characteristics reflect many of the features of the extinct languages that were spoken within the region, until recently known as the Armenian Plateau (currently designated as Anatolia) and its immediate surroundings.

The Hurro-Urartian languages (circa 2000-580 BC) were agglutinative languages, but they definitely did not belong to the Semitic or Indo-European language families. Scholars such as I.M. Diakanoff and Segei Starostin see affinities between Hurro-Urartian and the Northern Caucasian languages, yet, there is little evidence for a relationship of Hurro-Urartian to other language families and this view, prudently, is not shared by serious linguists who consider Hurro-Urartian as an independent family at present.

Today, studies demonstrate that there is evidence of a strong Hurrian cultural and linguistic influence on Hittite in ancient times. Consequently, one can easily conclude that together with Summerian, Elamite, Hattic or Urartian languages, Armenian grammar inherited some of its grammatical and lexical elements from the languages that have seen their political and military rise and fall throughout the ages. Astoundingly, Armenian language seems to be the only survivor as well as the only link to these extinct languages and civilizations.

Graeco-Armenian (also Helleno-Armenian) is the hypothetical common ancestor of the Greek and Armenian languages which postdates the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). The hypothetical Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage would need to date to the 3rd millennium BC, only barely differentiated from either late PIE or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan.

Evaluation of the hypothesis is tied up with the analysis of the poorly attested Phrygian language. While Greek is attested from very early times, allowing a secure reconstruction of a Proto-Greek language dating to the late 3rd millennium, the history of Armenian is opaque. It is strongly linked with Indo-Iranian languages; in particular, it is a Satem language.

The earliest testimony of the Armenian language dates to the 5th century AD (the Bible translation of Mesrob Mashtots). The earlier history of the language is unclear and the subject of much speculation. It is clear that Armenian is an Indo-European language, but its development is opaque. In any case, Armenian has many layers of loanwords and shows traces of long language contact with Greek and Indo-Iranian. Nakhleh, Warnow, Ringe, and Evans (2005) compared various phylogeny methods support a Graeco-Armenian subgroup.

An interrelated problem is whether there is a “Balkan Indo-European” subgroup of Indo-European, which would comprise not only Greek and Armenian, but also Albanian and possibly some dead languages on the Balkans.

Graeco-Aryan (or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan) is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family, ancestral to the Greek language, the Armenian language, and the Indo-Iranian languages. Graeco-Aryan unity would have become divided into Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian by the mid 3rd millennium BC. The Phrygian language would also be included. Conceivably, Proto-Armenian would have been located between Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, consistent with the fact that Armenian shares certain features only with Indo-Iranian (the satem change) but others only with Greek (s > h).

Graeco-Armeno-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists for the Indo-European Homeland to be located in the Armenian Highland. Early and strong evidence was given by Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal flection.

Used in tandem with the Graeco-Armeno-Aryan hypothesis, the Armenian language would also be included under the label Aryano-Greco-Armenic, splitting into proto-Greek/Phrygian and “Armeno-Aryan” (ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian).

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, Greco-Aryan is also known as “Late PIE” or “Late Indo-European” (LIE), suggesting that Greco-Aryan forms a dialect group which corresponds to the latest stage of linguistic unity in the Indo-European homeland in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC. By 2500 BC, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had separated, moving westward and eastward from the Pontic Steppe, respectively.

If Graeco-Aryan is a valid group, Grassmann’s law may have a common origin in Greek and Sanskrit. (Note, however, that Grassmann’s law in Greek postdates certain sound changes that happened only in Greek and not Sanskrit, which suggests that it cannot strictly be an inheritance from a common Graeco-Aryan stage. Rather, it is more likely an areal feature that spread across a then-contiguous Graeco-Aryan-speaking area after early Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had developed into separate dialects but before they ceased being in geographic contact.)

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 argue 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 agriculture in the Levant (which seems to have been linked to haplogroup G and perhaps also E1b1b).

A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy (also from Anatolia and Mesopotamia) and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations.

Roy King and Peter Underhill had previously published on the Congruent distribution of Neolithic painted pottery and ceramic figurines with Y-chromosome lineages, in which they found that only the Eu9 [Dienekes: J2-M172] haplogroup successfully predicted the distribution of both Neolithic figurines (88% accuracy) and painted pottery (80% accuracy).

Examining the beginnings of agriculture in the ‘Fertile Crescent’, this research team has compared the distribution of rainfall with the distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroups. The extended families signalled by J1 and J2 haplogroups seem to have had different destinies in the era of agro-pastoralist experiment: J2 were the agricultural innovators who followed the rainfall, while J1 remained largely with their flocks.

In human genetics, Haplogroup J-M172 is a Y-chromosome haplogroup which is a subclade (branch) of haplogroup J-P209. J-M172 can be classified as Mediterranean/Aegean (Di Giacomo, 2004), Greco-Anatolian, Mesopotamian and/or Caucasian and is linked to the earliest indigenous populations of Anatolia and the Aegean. It was carried by Bronze Age immigrants to Europe.

The precise region of origin for haplogroup J-M172 remains a topic of discussion. However, at least within a European context, Anatolia and the Aegean seem to be source regions, with Hg J2 having perhaps arisen in the Levant (Di Giacomo 2004) / Middle East (Semino 2004) with the development of agriculture.

The highest reported frequency of J-M172 ever was 87.4%, among Ingush in Malgobek (Balanovsky 2011). J-M172 – Associated with Mediterranean, South Caucasian and Fertile Crescent populations, with its peaks at 87.4% in Ingushetia and 72% in Georgia’s Kazbegi region (near Mount Kazbek). In the North Caucasus, the largest frequencies are those of Nakh peoples (Chechens (56.7%) and Ingush (88.8%). Other notable values were found among North Caucasian Turkic peoples (Kumyks (25%) and Balkars (24%).

It is notable that according to both Nasidze’s study in 2004 and then a later study on Dagestani peoples by Yunusbaev in 2006, J-M172 suddenly collapses as one enters the territory of non-Nakh Northeast Caucasian peoples, dropping to very low values among Dagestani peoples. The overwhelming bulk of Chechen J-M172 is of the subclade J-M67), of which the highest frequencies by far are found among Nakh peoples- Chechens were 55.2% according to the Balanovsky study, while Ingush were 87.4%.

Y DNA haplogroup J-M267, also commonly known as Haplogroup J1 is found today in significant frequencies in many areas in order near the Middle East, and parts of the Caucasus, Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

North Africa received Semitic migrations, according to some studies it may have been diffused in recent time by Arabs who, mainly from the 7th century a.d., expanded to northern Africa. However the Canary islands is not known to have had any Semitic language. There J-M267 is dominated by J-P58, and dispersed in a very uneven manner according to studies so far, often but not always being lower among Berber and/or non-urban populations.

In Ethiopia there are signs of older movements of J-M267 into Africa across the Red Sea, not only in the J-P58 form. This also appears to be associated with Semitic languages. According to a study in 2011, in Tunisia, J-M267 is significantly more abundant in the urban (31.3%) than in the rural total population (2.5%).

According to the authors, these results could be explained by supposing that Arabization in Tunisia was a military enterprise, therefore, mainly driven by men that displaced native Berbers to geographically marginal areas but that frequently married Berber women.

Since the discovery of haplogroup J-P209 it has generally been recognized that it shows signs of having originated in or near West Asia. The frequency and diversity of both its major branches, J-M267 and J-M172, in that region makes them candidates as genetic markers of the spread of farming technology during the Neolithic, which is proposed to have had a major impact upon human populations.

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.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures. The Shulaveri-Shomu culture begins after the 8.2 kiloyear event which was a sudden decrease in global temperatures starting ca. 6200 BC and which lasted for about two to four centuries.

Shulaveri culture 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.

In around ca. 6000–4200 B.C 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).

Leyla-Tepe culture, a archaeological culture of the eneolithic era, was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus dated 4350-4000 BC. Leyla-Tepe culture is genetically well linked with the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements of the district of Eastern Anatolia (Arslan-tepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). The settlements is typical Near Eastern settlements.

According to some Russian scientists, media Leyla-Tepe culture were the founders of the Maykop culture (ca. 3700 BC-2500 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern Russia, which migrated to the northern slopes of the Central Caucasus.

There are similarities in the artifacts of Leyla-Tepe culture and Maykop culture. New data revealed the similarity of artifacts from the Maykop culture with those found recently in the course of excavations of the ancient city of Tell Khazneh in northern Syria, the construction of which dates back to 4000 BC. Correspondingly, it is supposed that the monuments of the Leyla-Tepe culture shows the migration to the South and then the North Caucasus in Ubaid period of the Near East.

The Maykop culture extends along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River. It is suggested 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. Considering that some attempt has been made to unite Indo-European with the Northwest Caucasian languages, an earlier Caucasian pre-Urheimat is not out of the question.

In the south the Maykop culture borders the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.

In the early 20th century, researchers established the existence of a local Maykop animal style in the found artifacts. This style was seen as the prototype for animal styles of later archaeological cultures: the Maykop animal style is more than a thousand years older than the Scythian, Sarmatian and Celtic animal styles.

The Yamna culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) in the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas. It is the strongest 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.

It is said to have originated in the middle Volga based Khvalynsk culture 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.

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.

The earliest remains in Eastern Europe of a wheeled cart were found in the “Storozhova mohyla” kurgan (Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, excavated by Trenozhkin A.I.) associated with the Yamna culture.

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread to Georgia by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), and during the next millennium it proceeded westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van, and finally down to the borders of present day Syria. Altogether, the early Trans-Caucasian culture, at its greatest spread, enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km.

The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Its territory corresponds to parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

Inhumation practices are mixed. Flat graves are found, but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs. This points to a heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population (see section below).

Late in the history of this culture, its people built kurgans of greatly varying sizes, containing greatly varying amounts and types of metalwork, with larger, wealthier kurgans surrounded by smaller kurgans containing less wealth. This trend suggests the eventual emergence of a marked social hierarchy. Their practice of storing relatively great wealth in burial kurgans is shared with the ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent to the south.

Their pottery was distinctive; in fact, the spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs for ornamentation. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya. The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes, and most certainly, had extensive trade contacts. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.

Hurrian and Urartian elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. Some authors subsume Hurrians and Urartians under Northeast Caucasian as well as part of the Alarodian theory. The presence of Kartvelian languages was also highly probable. Influences of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages are also highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial.

In the late 3rd millennium BC. settlements of the Kura-Araxes culture began to be replaced by early Trialeti culture sites, named after Trialeti region of Georgia. The Trialeti culture shows close ties with the highly-developed cultures of the ancient world, particularly with the Aegean, but also with cultures to the south, such as probably the Sumerians and their Akkadian conquerors.

The Trialeti culture was known for its particular form of burial. This form of burial in a tumulus or “kurgan”, along with wheeled vehicles, is the same as that of the Kurgan culture which has been associated with the speakers of the Caucasian language. In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery.

The Ubaid culture is characterized by large village settlements, characterized by multi-roomed rectangular mud-brick houses and the appearance of the first temples of public architecture in Mesopotamia, with a growth of a two tier settlement hierarchy of centralized large sites of more than 10 hectares surrounded by smaller village sites of less than 1 hectare. Domestic equipment included a distinctive fine quality buff or greenish colored pottery decorated with geometric designs in brown or black paint; tools such as sickles were often made of hard fired clay in the south. But in the north, stone and sometimes metal were used.

During the Ubaid Period (5000 BC.– 4000 BC.), the movement towards urbanization began. “Agriculture and animal husbandry [domestication] were widely practiced in sedentary communities”. There were also tribes that practiced domesticating animals as far north as Turkey, and as far south as the Zagros Mountains.

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.

It has been 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 is 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.

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.

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”.

Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border (Al Hasakah Governorate) and Turkey. The Excavations have shown that this site houses the remains of one of the world’s oldest known cities, leading scholars to believe that cities in this part of the world emerged much earlier than previously thought.

Traditionally, the origins of urban developments in this part of the world have been sought in the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC many of the famous Mesopotamian cities such as Ur and Uruk emerged, giving this region the attributes of “Cradle of Civilization” and “Heartland of Cities.” Following the discoveries at Hamoukar, this definition may have to extended further up the Tigris River to include that part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.

The discovery at Hamoukar indicates that some of the fundamental ideas behind cities – including specialization of labor, a system of laws and government, and artistic development – may have begun earlier than was previously believed.

Previously it was believed that a system of written language was a necessary predecessor of that type of complex city. This archaeological discovery suggests that civilizations advanced enough to reach the size and organizational structure that was necessary to be considered a city could have actually emerged before the advent of a written language.

Most importantly, archaeologists believe this apparent city was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer. Until now, the oldest cities with developed seals and writing were thought to be Sumerian Uruk and Ubaid in Mesopotamia, which would be in the southern one-third of Iraq today.

The fact that this discovery is such a large city is what is most exciting to archaeologists. While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing can quite compare to the discovery of this size and magnitude. Discoveries have been made here that have never been seen before, including materials from Hellenistic and Islamic civilizations.

The people of Mesopotamia originally consisted of the Sumerians. The Sumerians were a non-Semitic people, and spoke a language isolate. They were farmers who came from the north and migrated down to southern Iraq, after perfecting irrigation agriculture there. Farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centered social organization for mobilizing labor and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment.

The archaeological record shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the Early Ubaid period (5300 – 4700 BC C-14) settlements in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

The Ubaid pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected via Choga Mami Transitional ware to the pottery of the Samarra period culture (c. 5700 – 4900 BC C-14) in the north, who were the first to practice a primitive form of irrigation agriculture along the middle Tigris River and its tributaries. The connection is most clearly seen at Tell Awayli (Oueilli, Oueili) near Larsa, excavated by the French in the 1980s, where 8 levels yielded pre-Ubaid pottery resembling Samarran ware.

They settled in southern Mesopotamia, which became known as Sumer. They were incredibly advanced: as well as inventing writing, they also invented early forms of mathematics, early wheeled vehicles, astronomy, astrology and the calendar and they created the first city states/nations such as Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Isin, Umma, Eridu, Nippur and Larsa.

Ubaid 1, sometimes called Eridu (5300–4700 BC), 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.

Ubaid 2 (4800–4500 BC), after the type site of the same name, saw the development of extensive canal networks from major settlements. Irrigation agriculture, which seem to have developed first at Choga Mami (4700–4600 BC) and rapidly spread elsewhere, form the first required collective effort and centralised coordination of labour.

Ubaid 3/4, sometimes called Ubaid I and Ubaid II – In the period from 4500–4000 BC saw a period of intense and rapid urbanisation with the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia replacing (after a hiatus) 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.

In the past it was asserted that pastoral nomads left no presence archaeologically but this has now been challenged. Pastoral nomadic sites are identified based on their location outside the zone of agriculture, the absence of grains or grain-processing equipment, limited and characteristic architecture, a predominance of sheep and goat bones, and by ethnographic analogy to modern pastoral nomadic peoples.

Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period which existed between 8,200 and 7,900 BP. According to Juris Zarins pastoral nomadism began as a cultural lifestyle in the wake of the 6200 BC, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in Pre-Pottery Neolithic B agriculturalists upon animal domesticates and a fusion with Harifian hunter-gatherers in Southern Palestine, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt, and PPNB to produce a nomadic lifestyle based on animal domestication, developing a circum-Arabian nomadic pastoral complex, and spreading Proto-Semitic languages. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq.

The earliest attestations of a Semitic language are in Akkadian, dating to ca. the 23rd century BC (see Sargon of Akkad) and Eblaite, but earlier evidence of Akkadian comes from personal names in Sumerian texts circa 2800 BC. Researchers in Egypt also claim to have discovered Canaanite snake spells that “date from between 3000 and 2400 BC”.

The specific appearance of the donkey (an African animal) in Proto-Semitic but total absence of any reference to wheeled vehicles rather narrowly dates Proto-Semitic to between 4,800 BC and 4,500 BC.

The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, 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.

Aleppo, which has been occupied from around 5000 BC, as excavations in Tallet Alsauda show, appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus. The first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, when Aleppo was the capital of an important Bronze Age city-kingdom kingdom closely related to Ebla (modern Tell Mardikh, Idlib Governorate, Syria) in northern Syria, known as Armi to Ebla and Armani to the Akkadians, during the late third millennium BC located.

Giovanni Pettinato describes Armi as Ebla’s alter ego. Naram-Sin of Akkad (or his grandfather Sargon) destroyed both Ebla and Armani in the 23rd century BC. It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources.

The site is most famous for the Ebla tablets, an archive of about 20,000 cuneiform tablets found there, dated from around 2250 BC, written in Sumerian script to record the Eblaite language – a previously unknown language that is now the earliest attested Semitic language after the closely related Akkadian.

Eblaite has been described as an East Semitic language which may be very close to pre-Sargonic Akkadian. For example, Manfred Krebernik says that Eblaite “is so closely related to Akkadian that it may be classified as an early Akkadian dialect”, although some of the names that appear in the tablets are Northwest Semitic. According to Cyrus H. Gordon, although scribes might have spoken it sometimes, Eblaite was probably not spoken much, being rather a written lingua franca with East and West Semitic features.

The Semitic family is a member of the larger Afroasiatic family, all of whose other five or more branches are based in north and north east Africa. Largely for this reason, the ancestors of Proto-Semitic speakers were originally believed by some to have first arrived in the Middle East from North Africa, possibly as part of the operation of the Saharan pump, around the late Neolithic.

A recent Bayesian analysis of alternative Semitic histories supports the latter possibility and identifies an origin of Semitic languages in the Levant around 3,750 BC with a single introduction from southern Arabia into Africa around 800 BC.

In one interpretation, Proto-Semitic itself is assumed to have reached the Arabian Peninsula by approximately the 4th millennium BC, from which Semitic daughter languages continued to spread outwards.

When written records began in the late 4th millennium BC, the Semitic-speaking Akkadians (Assyrians/Babylonians) were entering Mesopotamia from the deserts to the west, and were probably already present in places such as Ebla in Syria. Akkadian personal names began appearing in written record in Mesopotamia from the late 29th Century BC.

The Sumerians had a huge influence over the incoming East Semitic Akkadians (later to be known as Assyrians and Babylonians) and their culture. Akkadian Semitic names first appear in king lists of these states circa 2800 BC. The Sumerians were largely dominant in this synthesised Sumero-Akkadian culture however, until the rise of the Akkadian Empire under Sargon of Akkad in 2334 BC. which united all of Mesopotamia under one ruler.

By the late 3rd millennium BC, East Semitic languages, such as Akkadian and Eblaite, were dominant in Mesopotamia and north east Syria, while West Semitic languages, such as Amorite, Canaanite and Ugaritic, were probably spoken from Syria to the Arabian Peninsula, although Old South Arabian is considered by most people to be South Semitic despite the sparsity of data.

The Akkadian language of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia had become the dominant literary language of the Fertile Crescent, using the cuneiform script that was adapted from the Sumerians. The Middle Assyrian Empire, which originated in the 14th century BC, facilitated the use of Akkadian as a ‘lingua franca’ in many regions outside its homeland. The related, but more sparsely attested, Eblaite disappeared with the city, and Amorite is attested only from proper names in Mesopotamian records.

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