Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Paleo-Balkan Languages

Subgrouping hypotheses

Balkan Sprachbund



Iron Gates Mesolithic


Bronze Age

Iron Age

Catacomb culture

Coţofeni culture

Ezero culture

Baden culture

Vučedol culture

Multi-cordoned Ware culture

Srubnaya culture


Illyrian Languages


Albanian Language


Paeonian Language



Messapian Language


Liburnian language


Mysian language


The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in Southeast Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian–Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast.

The Balkan Peninsula is bounded by the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Mediterranean Sea (including the Ionian and Aegean seas) and the Marmara Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the east. Its northern boundary is often given as the Danube, Sava and Kupa Rivers. It is more or less identical to the region known as Southeast Europe.

The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea in the northwest, the Ionian Sea in the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south, the Turkish Straits in the east, and the Black Sea in the northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined.

The concept of the Balkan peninsula was created by the German geographer August Zeune in 1808, who mistakenly considered the Balkan Mountains the dominant mountain system of Southeast Europe spanning from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea.

Historians state the Balkans comprise Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, Moldavia, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. Italy, although having a small part of its territory in the Balkan peninsula, is not included in the term “the Balkans”.

The term Southeast Europe is also used for the region, with various definitions. Individual Balkan states can also be considered part of other regions, including Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Europe. Turkey, often including its European territory, is also included in Western or Southwestern Asia.

The term of Balkan Peninsula was a synonym for Rumelia (European Turkey) in the 19th century, the former provinces of the Ottoman Empire in Southeast Europe. It had a geopolitical rather than a geographical definition, further promoted during the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the early 20th century.

The definition of the Balkan peninsula’s natural borders do not coincide with the technical definition of a peninsula and hence modern geographers reject the idea of a Balkan peninsula, while scholars usually discuss the Balkans as a region. The term has acquired a stigmatized and pejorative meaning related to the process of Balkanization, and hence the preferred alternative term used for the region is Southeast Europe.

The origin of the word Balkan is obscure; it may be related to Persian bālk ‘mud’, and the Turkish suffix an ‘swampy forest’ or Persian balā-khāna ‘big high house’. Related words are also found in other Turkic languages. The term was brought in Europe with Ottoman Turkish influence, where balkan means ‘chain of wooded mountains’.

From classical antiquity through the Middle Ages, the Balkan Mountains were called by the local Thracian name “Haemus”. According to Greek mythology, the Thracian king Haemus was turned into a mountain by Zeus as a punishment and the mountain has remained with his name. A reverse name scheme has also been suggested.

D. Dechev considers that Haemus is derived from a Thracian word *saimon, ‘mountain ridge’. A third possibility is that “Haemus” derives from the Greek word “haima” meaning ‘blood’. The myth relates to a fight between Zeus and the monster/titan Typhon. Zeus injured Typhon with a thunder bolt and Typhon’s blood fell on the mountains, from which they got their name.

The prehistory of Southeastern Europe, defined roughly as the territory of the wider Balkan Peninsula, covers the period from the Upper Paleolithic, beginning with the presence of Homo sapiens in the area some 44,000 years ago, until the appearance of the first written records in Classical Antiquity, in Greece as early as the 8th century BC.

Human prehistory in Southeastern Europe is conventionally divided into smaller periods, such as Upper Paleolithic, Holocene Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic, Neolithic Revolution, expansion of Proto-Indo-Europeans, and Protohistory.

The changes between these are gradual. For example, depending on interpretation, protohistory might or might not include Bronze Age Greece (2800–1200 BC), Minoan, Mycenaean, Thracian and Venetic cultures. By one interpretation of the historiography criterion, Southeastern Europe enters protohistory only with Homer. At any rate, the period ends before Herodotus in the 5th century BC.

Paleo-Balkan Languages

The Paleo-Balkan languages is a geolinguistic term referring to various extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in the Balkans and surrounding areas in ancient times.

Except for Modern Greek—which is descended from Ancient Greek—and Albanian—which evolved from either Illyrian, Thracian, Dacian or another similar tongue, they are all extinct, due to the processes of Hellenization, Romanization, Slavicization and Turkicization in the region.

The following languages are reported to have been spoken on the Balkan Peninsula by Ancient Greek and Roman writers: Ancient Macedonian (sometimes considered as a dialect of Ancient Greek), Dacian, Illyrian languages, Liburnian, Messapic, Mysian, Paeonian, Phrygian, Thracian, and Venetic.

Paleo-Balkan studies are obscured by the scarce attestation of these languages outside of Ancient Greek and, to a lesser extent, Messapic and Phrygian. Although these languages are all considered to be members of the Indo-European language family, the relationships between them are still debated.

Classification of the languages spoken in the region is severely hampered by the fact that they are all scantily attested. Furthermore, many of the individuals who have published studies on these languages have had strong patriotic or nationalistic interests, which compromises the scholarly value of their work.

Subgrouping hypotheses

It is possible that Illyrian, Dacian and Thracian were three dialects of the same language, according to Rădulescu. Georgiev (1966), however, considers Illyrian a language closely related to Venetic and Phrygian but with a certain Daco-Moesian admixture.

Venetic and Phrygian are considered centum languages, and this may mean that Georgiev, like many other paleolinguists, viewed Illyrian as probably being a centum language with Daco-Moesian admixture. Georgiev proposed that Albanian, a satemised language, developed from Daco-Moesian, a satemised language group, and not from Illyrian.

But lack of evidence prevents any firm centum/satem classification for these ancient languages. Renfrew argues that the centum/satem classification is irrelevant in determining relationships between languages. This is because a language may contain both satem and centum features and these, and the balance between them, may change over time.

Illyrian is a group of reputedly Indo-European languages whose relationship to other Indo-European languages as well as to the languages of the Paleo-Balkan group, many of which might be offshoots of Illyrian, is poorly understood due to the paucity of data and is still being examined.

The Illyrian languages are often considered to be centum dialects, but this is not confirmed as there are hints of satemization. Today, the main source of authoritative information about the Illyrian language consists of a handful of Illyrian words cited in classical sources, and numerous examples of Illyrian anthroponyms, ethnonyms, toponyms and hydronyms.

A grouping of Illyrian with Messapian has been proposed for about a century, but remains an unproven hypothesis. The theory is based on classical sources, archaeology, as well as onomastic considerations. Messapian material culture bears a number of similarities to Illyrian material culture. Some Messapian anthroponyms have close Illyrian equivalents.

A grouping of Illyrian with Venetic and Liburnian, once spoken in northeastern Italy and Liburnia respectively, is also proposed. The consensus now is that Illyrian was quite distinct from Venetic and Liburnian, but a close linguistic relation has not been ruled out and is still being investigated.

Another hypothesis would group Illyrian with Dacian and Thracian into a Thraco-Illyrian branch, and a competing hypothesis would exclude Illyrian from a Daco-Thracian grouping in favor of Mysian. The classification of Thracian itself is a matter of contention and uncertainty.

The place of Paeonian remains unclear. Not much has been determined in the study of Paeonian, and some linguists do not recognize a Paeonian area separate from Illyrian or Thracian.

The classification of Ancient Macedonian and its relationship to Greek are also under investigation, with solid sources pointing that Ancient Macedonian is in fact a variation of Doric Greek, but also the possibility of being only related through the local sprachbund.

Phrygian, on the other hand, is considered to have been most likely closely related to Greek. Modern studies has shown that assertions about the proximity of Greek and Phrygian with Armenian are not confirmed in the language material, and that the Armenian language is as close to Greek and Phrygian as it is to Indo-Iranian.

The Albanian language is considered by current linguistic consensus to have developed from one of the non-Greek, ancient Indo-European languages of the region. For more historical and geographical reasons than specifically linguistic ones, the widespread claim is that Albanian is the modern descendant of Illyrian, spoken in much the same region in classical times.

Alternative hypotheses hold that Albanian may have descended from Thracian or Daco-Moesian, other ancient languages spoken farther east than Illyrian. Not enough is known of these languages to completely prove or disprove the various hypotheses.



Balkan Sprachbund

The Balkan Sprachbund or Balkan language area is the ensemble of areal features—similarities in grammar, syntax, vocabulary and phonology—among the languages of the Balkans. Several features are found across these languages though not all apply to every single language.

The languages in question may belong to various separate branches of Indo-European (such as Slavic, Greek, Romance, Albanian and Indo-Aryan) or even outside of Indo-European (such as Turkish).

Some of the languages use these features for their standard language (i.e. those whose homeland lies almost entirely within the region) whilst other populations to whom the land is not a cultural pivot (as they have wider communities outside of it) may still adopt the features for their local register.

While some of these languages may share little vocabulary, their grammars have very extensive similarities; for example they have similar case systems, in those that have preserved grammatical case and verb conjugation systems and have all become more analytic, although to differing degrees. Some of those languages mark evidentiality, which is uncommon among Indo-European languages, and was likely inspired by contacts with Turkish.

The earliest scholar to notice the similarities between Balkan languages belonging to different families was the Slovenian scholar Jernej Kopitar in 1829. August Schleicher (1850) more explicitly developed the concept of areal relationships as opposed to genetic ones, and Franz Miklosich (1861) studied the relationships of Balkan Slavic and Romance more extensively. Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1923), Kristian Sandfeld-Jensen (1926), and Gustav Weigand (1925, 1928) developed the theory in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the 1930s, the Romanian linguist Alexandru Graur criticized the notion of “Balkan linguistics,” saying that one can talk about “relationships of borrowings, of influences, but not about Balkan linguistics”.

The term “Balkan language area” was coined by the Romanian linguist Alexandru Rosetti in 1958, when he claimed that the shared features conferred the Balkan languages a special similarity. Theodor Capidan went further, claiming that the structure of Balkan languages could be reduced to a standard language. Many of the earliest reports on this theory were in German, hence the term “Balkansprachbund” is often used as well.

The languages that share these similarities belong to five distinct branches of the Indo-European languages: Albanian, Hellenic (Greek), Romance (Romanian, Aromanian, Megleno-Romance and Istro-Romanian), Balkan Slavic (Bulgarian, Macedonian and the Prizren-Timok dialect of Serbian) and Indo-Aryan (Romani).

The Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt computed in 2000 a “Balkanization factor” which gives each Balkan language a score proportional with the number of features shared in the Balkan language area. The results were: Balkan Slavic 11.5, Albanian 10.5, Greek and Balkan Romance 9.5 and Balkan Romani 7.5.

Another language that may have been influenced by the Balkan language union is the Judaeo-Spanish variant that used to be spoken by Sephardi Jews living in the Balkans. The grammatical features shared (especially regarding the tense system) were most likely borrowed from Greek. The source of these features as well as the directions have long been debated, and various theories were suggested.

Since most of these features cannot be found in languages related to those that belong to the language area (such as other Slavic or Romance languages), early researchers, including Kopitar, believed they must have been inherited from the Paleo-Balkan languages (e.g. Illyrian, Thracian and Dacian) which formed the substrate for modern Balkan languages.

But since very little is known about Paleo-Balkan languages, it cannot be determined whether the features were present. The strongest candidate for a shared Paleo-Balkan feature is the postposed article. The Albanian language originates from one of these languages.

Another theory, advanced by Kristian Sandfeld in 1930, was that these features were an entirely Greek influence, under the presumption that since Greece “always had a superior civilization compared to its neighbours”, Greek could not have borrowed its linguistic features from them.

However, no ancient dialects of Greek possessed Balkanisms, so that the features shared with other regional languages appear to be post-classical innovations. Also, Greek appears to be only peripheral to the Balkan language area, lacking some important features, such as the postposed article.

Nevertheless, several of the features that Greek does share with the other languages (loss of dative, replacement of infinitive by subjunctive constructions, object clitics, formation of future with auxiliary verb “to want”) probably originated in Medieval Greek and spread to the other languages through Byzantine influence.

The Roman Empire ruled all the Balkans, and local variation of Latin may have left its mark on all languages there, which were later the substrate to Slavic newcomers. This was proposed by Georg Solta.

The weak point of this theory is that other Romance languages have few of the features, and there is no proof that the Balkan Romans were isolated for enough time to develop them.

An argument for this would be the structural borrowings or “linguistic calques” into Macedonian from Aromanian, which could be explained by Aromanian being a substrate of Macedonian, but this still does not explain the origin of these innovations in Aromanian.

The analytic perfect with the auxiliary verb “to have” (which some Balkan languages share with Western European languages), is the only feature whose origin can fairly safely be traced to Latin.

The most commonly accepted theory, advanced by Polish scholar Zbigniew Gołąb, is that the innovations came from different sources and the languages influenced each other: some features can be traced from Latin, Slavic, or Greek languages, whereas others, particularly features that are shared only by Romanian, Albanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian, could be explained by the substratum kept after Romanization (in the case of Romanian) or Slavicization (in the case of Bulgarian). Albanian was influenced by both Latin and Slavic, but it kept many of its original characteristics.

Several arguments favour this theory. First, throughout the turbulent history of the Balkans, many groups of people moved to another place, inhabited by people of another ethnicity. These small groups were usually assimilated quickly and sometimes left marks in the new language they acquired.

Second, the use of more than one language was common in the Balkans before the modern age, and a drift in one language would quickly spread to other languages. Third, the dialects that have the most “balkanisms” are those in regions where people had contact with people of many other languages.

Balkan sprachbund

Paleo-Balkan mythology

Languages of the Balkans

Paleo-Balkan languages

Prehistory of Southeastern Europe

Prehistoric Balkans

Paleo-Balkan languages

Balkan sprachbund

Paleo-Balkanic mythology


The earliest evidence of human occupation discovered in the region comes from Kozarnika or Peshtera Kozarnika (“The Goat Shed”), a cave in northwestern Bulgaria that was used as a hunters’ shelter as early as the Lower Paleolithic 1.6-1.4 million years ago. There is evidence of human presence in the Balkans from the Lower Paleolithic onwards, but the number of sites is limited.

The cave marks an older route of early human migration from Africa to Europe via the Balkans, prior to the currently suggested route across Gibraltar. The cave probably keeps the earliest evidence of human symbolic behaviour and the earliest European Gravette flint assemblages came to light here.

According to Douglass W. Bailey: “it is important to recognize that the Balkan Upper Palaeolithic was a long period containing little significant internal change. Thus, regional transition was not as dramatic as in other European regions.

Crucial changes that define the earliest emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens are presented at Bacho Kiro at 44,000 BC. The Bulgarian key Palaeolithic caves named Bacho Kiro and Temnata Dupka with early Upper Palaeolithic material correlate that the transition was gradual”.

The Palaeolithic period, literally the “Old Stone Age”, is an ancient cultural level of human development characterized by the use of unpolished chipped stone tools. The transition from Middle to Upper Palaeolithic is directly related to the development of behavioural modernity by hominids around 40,000 years BP. To denote the great significance and degree of change, this dramatic shift from Middle to Upper Palaeolithic is sometimes called the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution.

In the late Pleistocene, various components of the transition–material culture and environmental features (climate, flora, and fauna) indicate continual change, differing from contemporary points in other parts of Europe. The aforementioned aspects leave some doubt that the term Upper Palaeolithic Revolution is appropriate to the Balkans.

In general, continual evolutionary changes are the first crucial characteristic of the transition to the Upper Palaeolithic in the region. The notion of the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution that has been developed for core European regions is not applicable to the region. What is the reason? This particularly significant moment and its origins are defined and enlightened by other characteristics of the transition to upper Old Stone Age. The environment, climate, flora and fauna corroborate the implications.

During the last interglacial period and the most recent glaciation of the Pleistocene (from 131,000 till 12,000 BP), Europe was very different from the regional glaciation. The glaciations did not affect southeastern Europe to the extent that they did in the northern and central regions. The evidence of forest and steppe indicate the influence was not so drastic; some species of flora and fauna survived only in this part of Europe. The region today still abounds in species endemic only to this part of Europe.

The notion of gradual transition (or evolution) best defines southeastern Europe from about 50,000 BP. In this sense, the material culture and natural environment of the region of the late Pleistocene and the early Holocene were distinct from other parts of Europe. Douglass W. Bailey writes in Balkan Prehistory: Exclusion, Incorporation and Identity: “Less dramatic changes to climate, flora and fauna resulted in less dramatic adaptive, or reactive, developments in material culture.”

Thus, in speaking about southeastern Europe, many classic conceptions and systematizations of human development during the Palaeolithic (and then by implication the Mesolithic) should not be considered correct in all cases.

In this regard, the absence of Upper Palaeolithic cave art in the region does not seem to be surprising. Civilisations develop new and distinctive characteristics as they respond to new challenges in their environment.


In 2002, some of the oldest modern human (Homo sapiens sapiens) remains in Europe were discovered in the “Cave With Bones” (Peștera cu Oase), near Anina, Romania. Nicknamed “John of Anina” (Ion din Anina), the remains (the lower jaw) are approximately 37,800 years old.

These are some of Europe’s oldest remains of Homo sapiens, so they are likely to represent the first such people to have entered the continent. According to some researchers, the particular interest of the discovery resides in the fact that it presents a mixture of archaic, early modern human and Neanderthal morphological features, indicating considerable Neanderthal/modern human admixture, which in turn suggests that, upon their arrival in Europe, modern humans met and interbred with Neanderthals. Recent reanalysis of some of these fossils has challenged the view that these remains represent evidence of interbreeding. A second expedition by Erik Trinkaus and Ricardo Rodrigo, discovered further fragments (for example, a skull dated ~36,000, nicknamed “Vasile”).

Two human fossil remains found in the Muierii (Peştera Muierilor) and the Cioclovina caves in Romania have been radiocarbon dated using the technique of the accelerator mass spectrometry to the age of ~ 30,000 years BP (see Human fossil bones from the Muierii Cave and the Cioclovina Cave, Romania).

The first skull, scapula and tibia remains were found in 1952 in Baia de Fier, in the Muierii Cave, Gorj County in the Oltenia province, by Constantin Nicolaescu-Plopşor.

In 1941 another skull was found at the Cioclovina Cave near Commune Bosorod, Hunedoara County, in Transylvania. The anthropologist, Francisc Rainer, and the geologist, Ion Th. Simionescu, published a study of this skull.

The physical analysis of these fossils was begun in the summer of the year 2000 by Emilian Alexandrescu, archaeologist at the Vasile Pârvan Institute of Archaeology in Bucharest, and Agata Olariu, physicist at the Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering-Horia Hulubei, Bucharest, where samples were taken.

One sample of bone was taken from the skull from Cioclovina; samples were also taken from the scapula and tibia remains from Muierii Cave. The work continued at the University of Lund, AMS group, by Göran Skog, Kristina Stenström and Ragnar Hellborg. The samples of bones were dated by radiocarbon method applied at the AMS system of the Lund University and the results are shown in the analysis bulletin issued on the date 14 December 2001.

The human fossil remains from Muierii Cave, Baia de Fier, have been dated to 30,150 ± 800 years BP, and the skull from the Cioclovina Cave has been dated to 29,000 ± 700 years BP.


The Mesolithic period began at the end of the Pleistocene epoch (10th millennium BC) and ended with the Neolithic introduction of farming, the date of which varied in each geographical region.

According to Douglass W. Bailey: “It is equally important to recognize that the Balkan upper Palaeolithic was a long period containing little significant internal change. The Mesolithic may not have existed in the Balkans for the same reasons that cave art and mobiliary art never appeared: the changes in climate and flora and fauna were gradual and not drastic. (…)

Furthermore, one of the reasons that we do not distinguish separate industries in the Balkans as Mesolithic is because the lithic industries of the early Holocene were very firmly of a gradually developing late Palaeolithic tradition.”

The Mesolithic is the transitional period between the Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gathering existence and the development of farming and pottery production during the Postglacial Neolithic.

The duration of the classical Palaeolithic, which lasted until about 10,000 years ago, is applicable to the Balkans. It ended with the Mesolithic (duration is two to four millennia) or, where an early Neolithisation was peculiar to, with the Epipalaeolithic.

In regions with limited glacial impact (e.g. the Balkans), the term Epipalaeolithic is preferable. Regions that experienced less environmental impact during the last ice age have a much less apparent and straightforward change, and occasionally are marked by an absence of sites from the Mesolithic era. See the above Douglass W. Bailey quote.

There is lithic evidence of the Iron Gates mesolithic culture, which is notable for its early urbanization, at Lepenski Vir. Iron Gates mesolithic sites are found in modern Serbia, south-west Romania and Montenegro.

At Ostrovul Banului, the Cuina Turcului rock shelter in the Danube gorges and in the nearby caves of Climente, there are finds that people of that time made relatively advanced bone and lithic tools (i.e. end-scrapers, blade lets, and flakes).

The single site with materials related to the Mesolithic era in Bulgaria is Pobíti Kámǎni. There has been no other lithic evidence of this period found in Bulgaria. There is a 4,000-year gap between the latest Upper Palaeolithic material (13,600 BP at Témnata Dupka) and the earliest Neolithic evidence presented at Gǎlǎbnik (the beginning of the 7th millennium BC).

At Odmut in Montenegro there is evidence of human activity in the Mesolithic period. The research on the period has been supplemented with Greek Mesolithic finds, well represented by sites such as Frachthi Cave.

Other sites are Theopetra Cave and Sesklo in Thessaly that represent the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic as well as the early Neolithic period. Yet southern and coastal sites in Greece, which contained materials from the Mesolithic, are less known.

Activities began to be concentrated around individual sites where people displayed personal and group identities using various decorations: wearing ornaments and painting their bodies with ochre and hematite.

As regards personal identity D. Bailey writes, “Flint-cutting tools as well as time and effort needed to produce such tools testify to the expressions of identity and more flexible combinations of materials, which began to be used in the late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic.”

The aforementioned allows us to speculate whether or not there was a period which could be described as Mesolithic in southeastern Europe, rather than an extended Upper Palaeolithic. On the other hand, lack of research in a number of regions, and the fact that many of the sites were close to seashores (It is evident that the current sea level is 100 m higher, and a number of sites were covered by water.) means that the Mesolithic Balkans could be referred to as the Epipalaeolithic Balkans, which might describe better its gradual changes and poorly defined development.

The relative climatic stability in the Balkans, compared to northern and western Europe, enabled continuous settlement in the Balkans. The Balkans therefore may have effectively functioned as an ice-age refuge from which much of Europe, especially eastern Europe, was re-populated.

 Iron Gates Mesolithic

The Iron Gates Mesolithic is a Mesolithic archaeological culture, dating to between 11,000 and 3,500 years BCE, in the Iron Gates region of the Danube River, in modern Romania and Serbia.

Major sites within this archaeological complex include Lepenski Vir. The latest radiocarbon and data suggests that the chronology of Lepenski Vir is compressed between 9500/7200–6000 BC. There is some disagreement about the early start of the settlement and culture of Lepenski Vir. But the latest data suggest 9500–7200 to be the start.

The late Lepenski Vir (6300–6000 BC) architectural development was the development of the Trapezoidal buildings and monumental sculpture. The Lepenski Vir site consists of one large settlement with around 10 satellite villages. It has been described as “the first city in Europe”, due to its permanency, organisation, as well as the sophistication of its architecture and construction techniques.

Numerous piscine sculptures and peculiar architecture have been found at the site. Archaeologist Dragoslav Srejović, who first explored the site, said that the sculptures of this size so early in human history and original architectural solutions, define Lepenski Vir as the specific and very early phase in the development of the prehistoric culture in Europe.

It is assumed that the people of Lepenski Vir culture represent the descendants of the early European population of the Brno-Předmostí (Czech Republic) hunter gatherer culture from the end of the last ice age. Archeological evidence of human habitation of the surrounding caves dates back to around 20,000 BC. The first settlement on the low plateau dates back to 9500–7200 BC, a time when the climate became significantly warmer.

Předmostí (Skalka) (often without diacritics as Predmosti or Predmost), situated in the north western part of Přerov, Moravia near the city of Přerov, is an important Late Pleistocene hill site of Central Europe. A fossil site at Předmostí is located near Přerov in the country Moravia of what is today the Czech Republic.

The skeletal remains of the few dozen people from Předmostí are among the most important finds ever made of anatomically modern humans, and are accompanied by items from the Gravettian culture. The Předmostí site appears to have been a living area with associated burial ground with some 20 burials, including 15 complete human interments, and portions of five others, representing either disturbed or secondary burials.

The non-human fossils are mostly mammoth. Many of the bones are heavily charred, indicating they were cooked. Other remains include fox, reindeer, ice-age horse, wolf, bear, wolverine, and hare. Remains of three dogs were also found, one of which had a mammoth bone in its mouth.

The Předmostí site is dated to between 24,000 and 37,000 years old. The people had robust features indicative of a big-game hunter lifestyle. They also share square eye socket openings found in the French material. Skulls of Předmostí individuals are significantly longer and more robust than of modern Europeans, with thick brow ridges, and prognathism, and show marked sexual dimorphism. They also display a degree of variability.

The Epigravettian was one of the last archaeological industries and cultures of the European Upper Paleolithic. It emerged after the Last Glacial Maximum around ~21,000 BP and is considered to be a cultural derivative of the Gravettian culture.

Three subphases, the Early Epigravettian (20,000 to 16,000 BP), the Evolved Epigravettian (16,000 to 14,000 BP) and the Final Epigravettian (14,000 to 8,000 BP), have been established, that were further subdivided and reclassified.

In this sense, the Epigravettian is simply the Gravettian after ~21,000 BP, when the Solutrean (22,000 to 17,000 BP) had replaced the Gravettian in most of France and Spain. The Epigravettian is the last stage of the Upper Paleolithic succeeded by Mesolithic cultures after 10,000 BP.

The Solutrean industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic of the Final Gravettian. Solutrean sites have been found in modern-day France, Spain and Portugal. The Solutrean may be seen as a transitional 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 also been made in the caves of Les Eyzies and Laugerie Haute, and in the Lower Beds of Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, England (Proto-Solutrean). The industry first appeared in what is now Spain, and disappears from the archaeological record around 17,000 BP.

Several Epigravettian cultural centers have developed contemporaneously after 22,000 years BP in Europe. These range across southern, central and most of eastern Europe, including south-western France, Italy, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Western Russia to the banks of the Volga River.

Its lithic complex was first documented at numerous sites in Italy. Great geographical and local variability of the facies is present, however all sites are characterized by the predominance of microliths, such as backed blades, backed points, and bladelets with retouched end.

In a genetic study published in Nature in May 2016, the remains an Epigravettian male from Ripari Villabruna in Italy were examined. He carried the paternal haplogroup R1b1 and the maternal haplogroup U5b. An Epigravettian from the Satsurblia Cave in Georgia examined in a previous study has been found to be carrying the paternal haplogroup J2 and the maternal haplogroup K3.

A group of 80 institutes and 117 researchers published results of their genome research in the Nature magazine in February 2018. Genomes of 235 ancient inhabitants were studied. When it comes to the area surrounding Lepenski Vir (localities of Starčevo, Saraorci-Jezava, Lepenski Vir, Padina, Vlasac), it was established that the region’s original population, the hunter gatherers, inhabited the area for a long time.

Starting from c.7500 BC, new population began to settle the Balkans and the Danube valley. Evidence shows that the Neolithic newcomers mixed with the indigenous population in Lepenski Vir. Arriving from Asia Minor, the immigrants had a completely different lifestyle. With them, they brought a knowledge of agriculture, first grain crops and husbandry: sheep, cattle and goats.

Based on the research, Starović concluded that the blending of the population occurred almost immediately, during the first immigrant generation, which was unique as in the other parts of Europe two such different communities would live next to each other at first. He believes that this melting pot was a keystone of human development in Europe.

It produced the boom of the Lepenski Vir culture, establishing the “original Balkan Neolithic, the most original occurrence in the entire prehistory in Europe, which founded all we know today – the concepts of village, square, family – which then spread over and overwhelmed the continent”. Modern Serbian population, which began settling in the area in the 6th century, still incorporates some 10% of the genes from this original mix.

Lepenski Vir gives us a rare opportunity to observe the gradual transition from the hunter gatherer way of life of early humans to the agricultural economy of the Neolithic. More and more complex social structure influenced the development of planning and self-discipline necessary for agricultural production.

Once agricultural products became a commodity, a new way of life replaced the old social structure. Distinct characteristics of Lepenski Vir culture, its house architecture and fish sculptures, disappeared gradually.

Lepenski Vir III is representative of a Neolithic site and is more typical of other sites across a much wider area. The exact mechanism of this transition remains unclear, but the evidence suggests development through evolution rather than outside invasion.

A February 2018 study published in Nature included an analysis of a large number of individuals from the Iron Gates Mesolithic dating from 9500 BC to 5000 BC. They were most closely related to Western European hunter-gatherers, but with some additional affinity toward Eastern European hunter-gatherers and Anatolian Neolithic farmers.

Their most common maternal haplogroup was U5, typical of European hunter-gatherers, but they also carried haplogroups U4, K1, and a single case of H13. Their paternal haplogroups were I and R, which predominated in other European hunter-gatherers as well. Where a finer classification was possible, the R was specifically R1b1a-L754 (not belonging to subclade R1b1a1a-P297), and the I belonged to I2a-L460.

Numerous individuals from the Mesolithic Iron Gates culture of the central Danube (modern Romania and Serbia), dating from 10,000 to 8,500 BP – most of them falling into R1b-L754;This is the same as Villabruna 1, found in an Epigravettian culture setting in the Cismon valley (modern Veneto, Italy), who lived circa 14,000 years BP and belonged to R1b-L754.


The Balkans were the site of major Neolithic cultures, including Butmir, Vinča, Varna, Karanovo, and Hamangia. The Vinča culture was an early culture of the Balkans (between the 6th and the 3rd millennium BC), stretching around the course of the Danube in Serbia, Croatia, northern parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Republic of North Macedonia, although traces of it can be found all around the Balkans, parts of Central Europe and in Asia Minor.

The Varna Necropolis, Bulgaria, is a burial site in the western industrial zone of Varna (approximately 4 km from the city centre), internationally considered one of the key archaeological sites in world prehistory. The oldest gold treasure in the world, dating from 4,600 BC to 4,200 BC, was discovered at the site. The gold piece dating from 4,500 BC, recently founded in Durankulak, near Varna is another important example.

“Kurganization” of the eastern Balkans (and the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture adjacent to the north) during the Eneolithic is associated with an early expansion of Indo-Europeans. Wietenberg culture battle axes found at Valea Chioarului, Maramureș County, Romania. 

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age in the Balkans is divided as follows (Boardman p. 166): Early Bronze Age: 20th to 16th centuries BCE, Middle Bronze Age: 16th to 14th centuries BCE and Late Bronze Age: 14th to 13th centuries BCE. The Bronze Age in the Central and Eastern Balkans begins late, around 1800 BCE. The transition to the Iron Age gradually sets in over the 13th century BCE.

The “East Balkan Complex” (Karanovo VII, Ezero culture) covers all of Thrace (modern Bulgaria). The Bronze Age cultures of the Central and Western Balkans are less clearly delineated and stretch to Pannonia, the Carpathians and into Hungary.

The culture of Mycenaean Greece (1600-1100 BC) offers the first written evidence of the Greek language. Several Mycenaean attributes and achievements were borrowed or held in high regard in later periods. while their religion already included several deities that can also be found in the Olympic Pantheon. Mycenaean Greece was dominated by a warrior elite society and consisted of a network of palace states.

Iron Age

After the period that followed the arrival of the Dorians, known as the Greek Dark Ages or Submycenaean Period, the classical Greek culture began to develop in the southern Balkan peninsula, the Aegean islands and the western Asia Minor Greek colonies starting around the 9–8th century (the Geometric Period) and peaking with the 5th century BC Athens democracy.

The Greeks were the first to establish a system of trade routes in the Balkans and, in order to facilitate trade with the natives between 700 BC and 300 BC, they founded several colonies on the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus) coast, Asia Minor, Dalmatia etc.

The other peoples of the Balkans organized themselves in large tribal unions such as the Thracian Odrysian kingdom in the Eastern Balkans in the 5th century BC, and the Illyrian kingdom in the Western Balkans from the early 4th century.

The Odrysian Kingdom was a state union of over 40 Thracian tribes and 22 kingdoms that existed between the 5th century BC and the 1st century AD. It consisted mainly of present-day Bulgaria, spreading to parts of Southeastern Romania (Northern Dobruja), parts of Northern Greece and parts of modern-day European Turkey.

Other tribal unions existed in Dacia at least as early as the beginning of the 2nd century BC under King Oroles. In the beginning of 1st century BC under Burebista’s rule, Dacia expanded its territory from Central Europe to the Southern Balkans. The Illyrian tribes were situated in the area corresponding to today’s former Yugoslavia and Albania.

The name Illyrii was originally used to refer to a people occupying an area centred on Lake Skadar, situated between Albania and Montenegro. The term Illyria was subsequently used by the Greeks and Romans as a generic name to refer to different peoples within a well defined but much greater area.

Hellenistic culture spread throughout the Macedonian Empire created by Alexander the Great from the later 4th century BC. By the end of the 4th century BC Greek language and culture were dominant not only in the Balkans but also around the whole Eastern Mediterranean.

By the 6th century BC the first written sources dealing with the territory north of the Danube appear in Greek sources. By this time the Getae (and later the Daci) had branched out from the Thracian-speaking populations.


Butmir culture

Starčevo-Criş culture

Dudeşti culture

Cucuteni-Trypillian culture

Hamangia culture

Vinča culture

Varna culture

Tărtăria tablets

Kurgan hypothesis

Catacomb culture

The Catacomb culture (c. 2800–1700 BC) was a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe. Originating on the southern steppe as an outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture came to cover a large area of what essentially today is present-day Ukraine. It was preceded by the Yamna culture and succeeded by the Srubna culture from ca the 17th century BC.

The name Catacomb culture comes from its burial practices. These are similar to those of the Yamna culture, but with a hollowed-out space off the main shaft, creating the “catacomb”. Animal remains were incorporated into a small minority of graves.

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

It was Indo-European-speaking, perhaps speaking an early form of Indo-Iranian or Thracian. Influences of the Catacomb culture have been detected as far as Mycenaean Greece. It spawned the Multi-cordoned ware culture, and was eventually succeeded by the Srubnaya culture.

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

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

The culture is first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East.

The Catacomb culture emerged on the southern part of the Pontic steppe in 2800 BC as a western descendant of the Yamnaya culture. Its origin is disputed. Jan Lichardus enumerates three possibilities: a local development departing from the previous Yamna Culture only, a migration from Central Europe, or an oriental origin.

Influences from the west appears to have had a decisive role on the formation of the Catacomb culture. In addition to the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture displays links with the earlier Sredny Stog culture, the Afanasievo culture and the Poltavka culture.

The Catacomb culture was distributed on the Pontic steppe, an area which had earlier been occupied by the Yamnaya culture. This was a large area, and on the basis of ceramic styles and burial practices, regional variants have been found. On this basis, the Catacomb culture has by some been designated as a “cultural-historical area” with the regional variants classified as distinct cultures in their own respect.

In the east the Catacomb culture neighbored the Poltavka culture, which was an eastern descendant of the Yamnaya culture. The Catacomb culture influenced the development of the Poltavka culture. Throughout its existence, the Catacomb culture expanded eastward and northward.

Elena Efimovna Kuzmina suggests that the Seima-Turbino phenomenon emerged as a result of interaction between the Abashevo culture, the Catacomb culture and the early Andronovo culture.

Evidence of Catacomb influence has been discovered far outside of the Pontic steppe. Its burial chambers, metal types and figurines are very similar to those appearing in Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, while the hammer-head pin, a characteristic ornament of the Catacomb culture, has been found in Central Europe and Italy.

Based on these similarities, migrations or cultural diffusion from the Catacomb culture to these areas have been suggested. Similarities between the Catacomb culture and Mycenaean Greece are particularly striking. These include types of socketed spear-heads, types of cheekpieces for horses, and the custom of making masks for the dead.

In certain graves there was the distinctive practice of what amounts to modelling a clay mask over the deceased’s face, creating an obvious if not necessarily correct association to the famous gold funeral mask of Agamemnon (see also Tashtyk culture).

The Catacomb culture is named for its burials. These augmented the shaft grave of the Yamnaya culture with burial niche at its base. This is the so-called catacomb. Such graves have also been found in Mycenaean Greece and parts of Eastern Europe.

Deceased Catacomb individuals were typically buried in a flexed position on their right side. They were often accompanied by ornaments such as silver rings, and weapons such as stone and metal axes, arrows, daggers and maces.

Animal sacrifies, including head and hooves of goats, sheep, horses and cattle, occur in about 16% of Catacomb graves. Cattle sacrifices in the Catacomb culture are more frequent than in the Yamnaya culture. Similar horse burials also appeared in the earlier Khvalynsk culture, and in the Poltavka culture.

Catacomb burials are occasionally covered with Kurgan stelae. This practice was also common in the Yamnaya culture. Some three hundred stelae have been found from the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture.

Catacomb burials are sometimes accompanied by wheeled vehicles. Such wagon burials are attested in the earlier Yamnaya culture, and later among Iranian peoples (Scythians), Celts and Italic peoples. Aspects of the burial rite of the Catacomb culture have been detected in the Bishkent culture of southern Tajikistan.

In some cases the skull of deceased Catacomb people was modelled in clay. This involved the filling of the mouth, ears and nasal cavity with clay and modeling the surface features of the face.

This practice is associated with high-status burials containing prestige items. The practice was performed on both men, women and children. It has been suggested that these clay masks may have served as a prototype for the later gold masks found in Mycenaean Greece.

The economy of the Catacomb culture is believed to have been based mostly on stockbreeding, although traces of grain have been found. Remains of cattle, sheep, goat, horse and some pigs have been found. Plant remains are exceedingly rare, but traces of wheat, such as einkorn and emmer, have been found. Wooden ploughs have been found at Catacomb burials, indicating that agriculture was practiced.

There seem to have been skilled specialists, particularly metal-workers. The types of tools used by the Catacomb people suggest that the culture included several craft specialists, including weavers, bronze workers and weapons manufacturers. Similar metal types to those of the Catacomb culture later appears among the Abashevo culture.

Little evidence of Catacomb settlements has been found. These are mostly seasonal camp-sites located near soures of water. A larger settlement has been found at Matveyevka on the southern Bug. It has three large structures with foundations of stone. On the island of Bayda in the Dnieper river, a stone-built fortress of the late Catacomb period with a surrounding ditch has been found.

Catacomb ceramics is more elaborate than those of the Yamnaya culture. Low footed vessels that have been discovered in female burials are believed to have been used in rituals that included the use of narcotic substances such as hemp. Catacomb ceramics appears to have influenced the ceramics of the Abashevo culture and the Sintashta culture.

Evidence of early composite bows have been yielded from the Catacomb culture. Quivers with space for ten to twenty arrows have also been found. Its arrowheads may have influenced those of the Sintashta culture.

Its hollow-based flint arrowheads are similar to those of the Middle Dnieper culture. Stone battle-axes of the Catacomb culture are similar to those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture. A knife from ca. 2500 BC ascribed to the Catacomb culture in the Donets had a handle of arsenical bronze and a blade made of iron.

Wheeled vehicles have been found in Catacomb burials. Some of these have been suggested as among the earliest chariots that have been found. Bronze warty beads of the Catacomb culture are similar to those of the Sintashta culture.

Certain variants of the Catacomb culture, particularly those centered at the Donets, appear to have practiced cranial deformation. This may have been an aesthetic device or an ethnic marker. Around 9% of Catacomb skulls had holes drilled into them. This appears to have been associated with a ritual or medical practice. Remains of bears have been found at Catacomb sites.

The Catacomb people were massively built Europoids. Their skulls are similar to those of the Potapovka culture. Potapovka skulls are less dolichocephalic than those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture.

The physical type of the Potapovka appears to have emerged through a mixture between the strongly dolichocephalic type of the Sintashta, and the less dolichocephalic type of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.

A genetic study published in August 2014 examined the DNA of the remains of 28 Catacomb individuals. Catacomb people were found to have much higher frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4 than people of the preceding Yamnaya culture. Haplogroups U5 and U4 are typical of Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers.

A generic similarity between Catacomb people and northern hunter-gatherers, particularly the people of the Pitted Ware culture of southern Scandinavia, was detected. It was suggested that the Catacomb people and the Yamnaya people were not as genetically admixed as previously believed. Interestingly, the modern population of Ukraine was found to be more closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture than people of the Catacomb culture.

In genetic study published in the Journal of Human Genetics in 2017, the remains of several individuals from the Catacomb culture were analyzed. One individual was found to be carrying haplogroup U5, while another carried U5a. These and other subclades of haplogroup U have been found in high frequencies among early hunter-gatherers of Northern Europe and Eastern Europe.

From the Mesolithic they appear among populations of the Pontic steppe, including the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture, the Corded Ware culture, the Andronovo culture, the Srubnaya culture and the Scythians. This suggests continuity of mtDNA among populations of the Pontic steppe going back at least to the Bronze Age.

In a genetic study published in Scientific Reports in 2018, the remains of two individuals from the Catacomb culture were analyzed. Both were found to belong to haplogroup X4. They are the first ancient individuals that have been identified with this lineage, which is very rare among modern populations.

In a February 2019 study published in Nature Communications, the remains of five individuals ascribed to the Catacomb culture were analyzed. Three males were found to be carrying R1b1a2. With regards to mtDNA, all five individuals carried various subclades of haplogroup U (particularly U5 and U4).

The Catacomb culture was Indo-European-speaking. It has sometimes been considered ancestral to Indo-Iranian or Thracian. More recently, scholars have suggested that the culture provided a common background for Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.

The Srubnaya culture was a successor of the Catacomb culture. It has been suggested that the Abashevo culture was partially derived from the Catacomb culture. Parts of the area of the Catacomb culture came to be occupied by the Abashevo culture, and later by the Srubnaya culture.

The Multi-cordoned ware culture was an eastern successor of the Catacomb culture. It in turn may have played a role in the emergence of the Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture, and thus on the formation of the Andronovo culture.

Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.

Coţofeni culture

The Coţofeni culture (3500-2500 BC), generally associated with the Usatovo culture, was an Early Bronze Age archaeological culture that existed between 3500 and 2500 BC in the mid-Danube area of south-eastern Central Europe.

The Coţofeni culture area can be seen from two perspectives, as a fluctuation zone, or in its maximum area of extent. This covers present day Maramureş, some areas in Sătmar, the mountainous and hilly areas of Crişana, Transylvania, Banat, Oltenia, Muntenia (not including the North-East), and across the Danube in present-day eastern Serbia and northwestern Bulgaria.

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

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

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

Ezero culture

The Ezero culture (3300—2700 BC) was a Bronze Age archaeological culture occupying most of present-day Bulgaria. It takes its name from the Tell-settlement of Ezero. It follows the copper age cultures of the area (Karanovo VI culture, Gumelniţa culture, Kodzadjemen culture and Varna culture), after a settlement hiatus in Northern Bulgaria.

It bears some relationship to the earlier Cernavodă III culture to the north. Some settlements were fortified. It is interpreted as part of a larger Balkan-Danubian early Bronze Age complex, a horizon reaching from Troy Id-IIc into Central Europe, encompassing the Baden of the Carpathian Basin and the Coţofeni culture of Romania.

Agriculture is in evidence, along with domestic livestock. There is evidence of grape cultivation. Metallurgy was practiced. Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, it would represent a fusion of native “Old European culture” and intrusive “Kurgan culture” elements. It could also represent an Anatolian-influenced culture, either coming from Anatolia (in Renfrew’s hypothesis), or heading to Asia Minor.

Baden culture

The Baden culture (3600–2800 BC) is a Chalcolithic culture found in Central and Southeast Europe. It is known from Moravia (Czech Republic), Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, northern Serbia, western Romania and eastern Austria. Imports of Baden pottery have also been found in Germany and Switzerland (Arbon-Bleiche III), where it could be dated by dendrochronology.

Baden has been interpreted as part of a much larger archaeological complex encompassing cultures at the mouth of the Danube (Ezero-Cernavoda III) and the Troad, the historical name of the Biga Peninsula in the northwestern part of Anatolia, Turkey.

Bounded by the Dardanelles to the northwest, by the Aegean Sea to the west and separated from the rest of Anatolia by the massif that forms Mount Ida, the Troad is drained by two main rivers, the Scamander (Karamenderes) and the Simois, which join at the area containing the ruins of Troy.

Baden developed out of the late Lengyel culture in the western Carpathian Basin. Němejcová-Pavuková proposes a polygenetic origin, including southeastern elements transmitted by the Ezero culture of the early Bronze Age (Ezero, layers XIII-VII) and Cernavoda III/Coțofeni.

It was approximately contemporaneous with the late Funnelbeaker culture (4300- 2800 BC), the Globular Amphora culture (3400-2800 BC) and the early Corded Ware culture (2900-2350 BC), which comprises a broad archaeological horizon of Europe, thus from the late Neolithic, through the Copper Age, and ending in the early Bronze Age.

The Corded Ware people carried mostly Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and were closely related to the people of the Yamna culture. It is a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery, the Eurasiatic steppes.

It may have disseminated the Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic Indo-European languages. The Corded Ware Culture also shows genetic affinity with the later Sintashta culture, where the Proto-Indo-Iranian language may have originated. European Late Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures such as Corded Ware, Bell Beakers, Unetice, and the Scandinavian cultures are genetically very similar to each other.

Marija Gimbutas assumed an Indo-European origin of the Globular Amphora Culture, though this is contradicted by newer genetic studies which clearly show a connection to the earlier wave of Neolithic farmers rather than to invaders from the southern Russian steppes.

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 a 2017 genetic study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the fifteen samples of mtDNA was extracted. The majority of the samples belonged to subclades of U and Haplogroup H (mtDNA), while J, W and K was also detected.

The remains were found to closely related to Neolithic European farmers and Western Hunter-Gatherers, with little genetic relations to the Yamnaya culture in the east. The authors of the study suggested that the Globulara Amphora culture was non-Indo-European-speaking, but with cultural influences from Yamnaya.

The Baden culture has some of the earliest attestation of often wheeled, wagon-shaped models in pottery, sometimes with a handle. There are burials of pairs of cattle that have been interpreted as draft animals. Though there are no finds of actual wagons, some scholars take these finds together as proof for the presence of real wagons.

In a 2017 genetic study published in Nature, the remains of thirteen individuals ascribed to the Baden culture was analyzed. Of the ten samples of Y-DNA extracted, five belonged to various subclades of haplogroup G2a2, and five belonged to I or various subclades of it. mtDNA extracted included subclades of U, J, H, T2, HV and K.

Vučedol culture

In the Kurgan hypothesis espoused by Marija Gimbutas, the Baden culture is seen as being Indo-Europeanized. Following the Baden culture, another wave of possible Indo-European speakers came to the banks of the Danube river.

The Vučedol culture (3000 and 2200 BC) flourished in the Eneolithic period of earliest copper-smithing. It was thus contemporary with the Sumer period in Mesopotamia, the Early Dynastic period in Egypt and the earliest settlements of Troy (Troy I and II).

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

One of the major places they occupied is present-day Vučedol (“Wolf’s Valley”), located six kilometers downstream from the town of Vukovar, Croatia. It is estimated that the site had once been home to about 3,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest and most important European centers of its time.

No final conclusions about the linguistic character of Vučedol can be made, such as the inference that its people were linguistically Indo-European, or to what extent they mixed with native European populations, in regions of the eastern Adriatic coast, Dalmatia and Herzegovina with some parts of Bosnia as well. According to Bogdan Brukner, proto-Illyrians descended from this wave of Indo-European settlers.

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

Marija Gimbutas characterized the Bell Beaker culture complex as an amalgam of the Vučedol and Yamna culture, formed after the incursion of the Yamna people into the Vučedol milieu and the interaction of these peoples for three or four centuries, from circa 3000 BC.

Multi-cordoned Ware culture

Multi-cordoned Ware culture (2200-1800 BC), also known as Mnogovalikovaya (MVK) or Multiroller ceramics culture, also known as the Multiple-relief-band ware culture, the Babyno culture and the Mnogovalikovaya kul’tura (MVK), are archaeological names for a Middle Bronze Age culture of Eastern Europe.

The name of this culture is related to its ceramic goods, such as pots, which were decorated with multiple strips of clay (cordons) before firing. The culture also featured various other distinctive ornaments.

Tribes of this culture inhabited an area stretching from the Don to Moldavia, including Dnieper Ukraine, Right-bank Ukraine, and part of the modern Ternopil oblast, and was bordered by the Volga to the east.

The culture succeeded the western Catacomb culture (ca. 2800–2200 BC), a group of related cultures in the early Bronze Age occupying essentially what is present-day Ukraine. Tribes of this culture practiced herding. Chariots were widespread.

In 1929, the archaeologist Ya. Brik studied four kurgans of this culture near Ostapye village, Podvolochisk raion, Ukraine. He found ceramics, flint tools, bone and bronze decorations. Bottoms, walls and ceilings of the graves are layered with rocks. Skeletons are laid in contracted position towards the east.

KMK succeeded the western Catacomb culture. KMK tribes practiced herding and made widespread use of chariots. The physical type of the Multi-cordoned Ware culture has been designated as dolichocephalic.

It was increasingly influenced, assimilated and eventually displaced by the Srubnaya culture (lit. ‘log house culture’), also known as Timber-grave culture, a Late Bronze Age (18th–12th centuries BC) culture in the eastern part of Pontic-Caspian steppe. In c. 2000 – 1800 BCE bearers of KMK migrated southward into the Balkans.

Circumstantial evidence links KMK to the spread of one or more Indo-European languages. Leo Klejn identifies its bearers with the early Thracians. Other scholars suggest that KMK may have been connected to the Bryges and/or Phrygians and Proto-Armenians (Mushki).

Srubnaya culture

The Srubnaya culture is a successor of the Yamna culture, Catacomb culture and Poltavka culture. It is co-ordinate and probably closely related to the Andronovo culture, its eastern neighbor. Whether the Srubnaya culture originated in the east, west, or was a local development, is disputed among archaeologists.

The Srubnaya culture occupied the area along and above the north shore of the Black Sea from the Dnieper eastwards along the northern base of the Caucasus to the area abutting the north shore of the Caspian Sea, west of the Ural Mountains. 

The Srubnaya culture is generally considered to have been Iranian. It has been suggested as a staging area from which the Iranian peoples migrated across the Caucasus into the Iranian Plateau. Historical testimony indicate that the Srubnaya culture was succeeded by the Cimmerians and Scythians.

In a study published on 10 October 2015, 14 individuals of the Srubnaya culture could be surveyed. Extractions from 100% of the males (six men from 5 different cemeteries) were determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1.

Extractions of mtDNA from fourteen individuals were determined to represent five samples of haplogroup H, four samples of haplogroup U5, two samples of T1, one sample of T2, one sample of K1b, one of J2b and one of I1a.

Another 2017 genetic study, published in Scientific Reports, found that the Scythians shared similar mitochondrial lineages with the Srubnaya culture. The authors of the study suggested that the Srubnaya culture was ancestral to the Scythians.

In 2018, a genetic study of the earlier Srubnaya culture, and later peoples of the Scythian cultures, including the Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, was published in Science Advances. Six males from two sites ascribed to the Srubnaya culture were analysed, and were all found to possess haplogroup R1a1a1.

Cimmerian, Sarmatian and Scythian males were however found have mostly haplogroup R1b1a1a2, although one Sarmatian male carried haplogroup R1a1a1. The authors of the study suggested that rather than being ancestral to the Scythians, the Srubnaya shared with them a common origin from the earlier Yamnaya culture.

In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of twelve individuals ascribed to the Srubnaya culture was analyzed. Of the six samples of Y-DNA extracted, three belonged to R1a1a1b2 or subclades of it, one belonged to R1, one belonged to R1a1, and one belonged to R1a1a. With regards to mtDNA, five samples belonged to subclades of U, five belonged to subclades of H, and two belonged to subclades of T.

People of the Srubnaya culture were found to be closely related to people of the Corded Ware culture, the Sintashta culture, Potapovka culture and the Andronovo culture. These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic. The genetic data suggested that these cultures were ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.



The Illyrians (Ancient Greek: Ἰλλυριοί, Illyrioi; Latin: Illyrii or Illyri) were a group of Indo-European tribes in antiquity, who inhabited part of the western Balkans. The first account of Illyrian peoples comes from the Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax, an ancient Greek text of the middle of the 4th century BC that describes coastal passages in the Mediterranean.

The territory the Illyrians inhabited came to be known as Illyria to Greek and Roman authors, who identified a territory that corresponds to Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo and most of central and northern Albania, between the Adriatic Sea in the west, the Drava river in the north, the Morava river in the east and the mouth of the Aoos river in the south.

The name “Illyrians,” as applied by the ancient Greeks to their northern neighbors, may have referred to a broad, ill-defined group of peoples. The Illyrian tribes never collectively identified as “Illyrians,” and it is unlikely that they used any collective nomenclature at all.

Illyrians seems to be the name of a specific Illyrian tribe who were among the first to encounter the ancient Greeks during the Bronze Age. The Greeks later applied this term Illyrians, pars pro toto, to all people with similar language and customs.

Historians have been unable to determine to what extent the Illyrians were linguistically and culturally homogeneous. Illyric origin was and still is attributed also to a few ancient tribes residing in Italy: the Dauni, the Peuceti and Messapi (collectively known as Iapyges), who are thought to have most likely followed Adriatic shorelines to the Italian peninsula from the geographic “Illyria”.

The name of Illyrians as applied by the ancient Greeks to their northern neighbours may have referred to a broad, ill-defined group of peoples, and it is today unclear to what extent they were linguistically and culturally homogeneous. The Illyrian tribes never collectively regarded themselves as ‘Illyrians’, and it is unlikely that they utilized any collective nomenclature for themselves.

The term Illyrioi may originally have designated only a single people who came to be widely known to the Greeks due to proximity. This occurred during the Bronze Age, when Greek tribes were neighboring the southernmost Illyrian tribe of that time in the Zeta plain of Montenegro.

Indeed, such a people known as the Illyrioi have occupied a small and well-defined part of the south Adriatic coast, around Skadar Lake astride the modern frontier between Albania and Montenegro.

The name may then have expanded and come to be applied to ethnically different peoples such as the Liburni, Delmatae, Iapodes, or the Pannonii. In any case, most modern scholars are certain the Illyrians were not a homogeneous entity.

Pliny the Elder referred, in his Natural History, to “Illyrians proper” (Illyrii proprie dicti) as natives in the south of Roman Dalmatia. Appian’s Illyrian Wars employed the more common broader usage, simply stating that Illyrians lived beyond Macedonia and Thrace, from Chaonia and Thesprotia to the Danube River. In later Greek mythology, Illyrius was the son of Cadmus and Harmonia who eventually ruled Illyria and became the eponymous ancestor of the whole Illyrian people.

Illyrius had multiple sons (Encheleus, Autarieus, Dardanus, Maedus, Taulas and Perrhaebus) and daughters (Partho, Daortho, Dassaro and others). From these, sprang the Taulantii, Parthini, Dardani, Encheleae, Autariates, Dassaretae and the Daors. Autareius had a son Pannonius or Paeon and these had sons Scordiscus and Triballus.

A later version of this mythic genealogy gives as parents Polyphemus and Galatea, who gave birth to Celtus, Galas, and Illyrius, three brothers, progenitors respectively of Celts, Galatians and Illyrians expresses perceived similarities to Celts and Gauls on the part of the mythographe.

Scholars have long recognized a “difficulty in producing a single theory on the ethnogenesis of the Illyrians” given their heterogeneous nature. Modern scholarship is unable to refer to the Illyrians as a unique and compact people and agrees that they were a sum of ill-defined communities without common origins that never merged to a single ethnic entity.

According to linguist Robert Elsie, “the term ‘Illyrian’ probably referred initially to the tribe with which the ancient Greeks first had contact, but it was later used as a collective term for a wide range of tribes in the region, although they may not have been culturally or linguistically homogenous at all.”

Older Pan-Illyrian theories are now generally dismissed by scholars, based as they were on racialistic notions of Nordicism and Aryanism. The specific theories have found little archaeological corroboration, as no convincing evidence for significant migratory movements from the Luzatian culture into the west Balkans have ever been found.

Rather, archaeologists from former Yugoslavia highlighted the continuity between the Bronze and succeeding Iron Age (especially in regions such as Donja Dolina, central Bosnia-Glasinac, and northern Albania (Mat river basin)), ultimately developing the so-called “autochthonous theory” of Illyrian genesis.

The “autochthonous” model was most elaborated upon by Alojz Benac and B. Čović. They argued (following the “Kurgan hypothesis”) that the ‘proto-Illyrians’ had arrived much earlier, during the Bronze Age as nomadic Indo-Europeans from the steppe.

From that point, there was a gradual Illyrianization of the western Balkans leading to historic Illyrians, with no early Iron Age migration from northern Europe. He did not deny a minor cultural impact from the northern Urnfield cultures, however “these movements had neither a profound influence on the stability.. of the Balkans, nor did they affect the ethnogenesis of the Illyrian ethnos”.

Aleksandar Stipčević raised concerns regarding Benac’s all-encompassing scenario of autochthonous ethnogenesis. He points out “can one negate the participation of the bearers of the field-urn culture in the ethnogenesis of the Illyrian tribes who lived in present-day Slovenia and Croatia” or “Hellenistic and Mediterranean influences on southern Illyrians and Liburnians?”.

He concludes that Benac’s model is only applicable to the Illyrian groups in Bosnia, western Serbia and a part of Dalmatia, where there had indeed been a settlement continuity and ‘native’ progression of pottery sequences since the Bronze Age.

Following prevailing trends in discourse on identity in Iron Age Europe, current anthropological perspectives reject older theories of a longue duree (long term) ethnogenesis of Illyrians, even where ‘archaeological continuity’ can be demonstrated to Bronze Age times. They rather see the emergence of historic Illyrians tribes as a more recent phenomenon – just prior to their first attestation.

The impetus behind the emergence of larger regional groups, such as “Iapodes”, “Liburnians”, “Pannonians” etc., is traced to increased contacts with the Mediterranean and La Tène ‘global worlds’.

This catalyzed “the development of more complex political institutions and the increase in differences between individual communities”. Emerging local elites selectively adopted either La Tène or Hellenistic and, later, Roman cultural templates “in order to legitimise and strengthen domination within their communities.

They were competing fiercely through either alliance or conflict and resistance to Roman expansion. Thus, they established more complex political alliances, which convinced (Greco-Roman) sources to see them as ‘ethnic’ identities.”

Contemporary perspectives again highlight that the term “Illyrian” was a ‘catch-all’ exonym used by the Greeks and Romans to denote diverse communities beyond Epirus and Macedonia. Each was differentially conditioned by specific local cultural, ecological and economic factors; none of which fall into a compact, unitary “Illyrian” narrative.

It is generally assumed that the Illyrians originated from an Indo-European group of nomadic tribes some time prior to the second millennium BC. Depending on the complexity of the diverse physical geography of the Balkans, arable farming and livestock rearing had constituted the economic basis of the Illyrians during the Iron Age.

The structure of Illyrian society during classical antiquity was characterised by a conglomeration of numerous tribes and realms ruled by warrior aristocracy, a situation similar like that in most other societies at that time. The Illyrian kingdoms frequently came into conflicts with the neighbouring Ancient Macedonians, and the Illyrian pirates were also seen as significant threat to the neighbouring peoples.

The history of Illyrian warfare and weaponry spanned from around the 10th century BC up to the 1st century AD in the region defined by the Ancient Greek and Roman historians as Illyria. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Illyrian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkan Peninsula and the Italian Peninsula as well as their pirate activity in the Adriatic Sea within the Mediterranean Sea.

The Illyrians were a notorious seafaring people with a strong reputation for piracy especially common during the regency of king Agron and later queen Teuta. They used fast and maneuverable ships of types known as lembus and liburna which were subsequently used by the Ancient Macedonians and Romans. Livy described the Illyrians along the Liburnians and Istrians as nations of savages in general noted for their piracy.

Illyria appears in Greco-Roman historiography from the 4th century BC. Illyrians were regarded as bloodthirsty, unpredictable, turbulent, and warlike by Greeks and Romans. They were seen as savages on the edge of their world.

Polybius (3rd century BC) wrote: “the Romans had freed the Greeks from the enemies of all mankind”. According to the Romans, the Illyrians were tall and well-built. Herodianus writes that “Pannonians are tall and strong always ready for a fight and to face danger but slow witted”. Illyrian rulers wore bronze torques around their necks. Apart from conflicts between Illyrians and neighbouring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Illyrian tribes also.

There are few remains to connect with the Bronze Age with the later Illyrians in the western Balkans. Moreover, with the notable exception of Pod near Bugojno in the upper valley of the Vrbas River, nothing is known of their settlements. Some hill settlements have been identified in western Serbia, but the main evidence comes from cemeteries, consisting usually of a small number of burial mounds (tumuli).

In the cemeteries of Belotić and Bela Crkva (sr), the rites of exhumation and cremation are attested, with skeletons in stone cists and cremations in urns. Metal implements appear here side by side with stone implements. Most of the remains belong to the fully developed Middle Bronze Age.

During the 7th century BC, the beginning of the Iron Age, the Illyrians emerge as an ethnic group with a distinct culture and art form. Various Illyrian tribes appeared, under the influence of the Halstatt cultures from the north, and they organized their regional centers. The cult of the dead played an important role in the lives of the Illyrians, which is seen in their carefully made burials and burial ceremonies, as well as the richness of the burial sites.

In the northern parts of the Balkans, there existed a long tradition of cremation and burial in shallow graves, while in the southern parts, the dead were buried in large stone, or earth tumuli (natively called gromile) that in Herzegovina were reaching monumental sizes, more than 50 meters wide and 5 meters high.

The Japodian tribe (found from Istria in Croatia to Bihać in Bosnia) have had an affinity for decoration with heavy, oversized necklaces out of yellow, blue or white glass paste, and large bronze fibulas, as well as spiral bracelets, diadems and helmets out of bronze.

Small sculptures out of jade in form of archaic Ionian plastic are also characteristically Japodian. Numerous monumental sculptures are preserved, as well as walls of citadel Nezakcij near Pula, one of numerous Istrian cities from Iron Age. Illyrian chiefs wore bronze torques around their necks much like the Celts did.

The Illyrians were influenced by the Celts in many cultural and material aspects and some of them were Celticized, especially the tribes in Dalmatia and the Pannonians. In Slovenia, the Vače situla was discovered in 1882 and attributed to Illyrians. The term “Illyrians” last appears in the historical record in the 7th century, referring to a Byzantine garrison operating within the former Roman province of Illyricum.

At the beginning of the 19th century, many educated Europeans regarded the South Slavs as the descendants of ancient Illyrians. Consequently, when Napoléon conquered part of the South Slavic lands, these areas were named after ancient Illyrian provinces (1809–1814).

After the demise of the First French Empire in 1815, the Habsburg Monarchy became increasingly centralized and authoritarian, and fear of Magyarization arouse patriotic resistance among Croatians.

Under the influence of Romantic nationalism, a self-identified “Illyrian movement”, in the form of a Croatian national revival, opened a literary and journalistic campaign initiated by a group of young Croatian intellectuals during the years of 1835–49.

This movement, under the banner of Illlyrism, aimed to create a Croatian national establishment under Austro-Hungarian rule but was repressed by the Habsburg authorities after the failed Revolutions of 1848.

The possible continuity between the Illyrian populations of the Western Balkans in antiquity and the Albanians has played a significant role in Albanian nationalism from the 19th century until the present day.

For example, Ibrahim Rugova, the first President of Kosovo introduced the “Flag of Dardania” on October 29, 2000, Dardania being the name for a Thraco-Illyrian region including parts of eastern Kosovo, the Republic of North Macedonia and Southern Serbia.

Illyrian Languages

Illyrian languages were a group of reputedly Indo-European languages whose relationship to other Indo-European languages as well as to the languages of the Paleo-Balkan group, many of which might be off-shoots of Illyrian, is poorly understood due to the paucity of data and is still being examined.

The Illyrian languages are often considered to be Centum dialects. They were spoken in the western part of the Balkans in former times by groups identified as Illyrians: Ardiaei, Delmatae, Pannonii, Autariates, Taulantii.

Today, the main source of authoritative information about the Illyrian language consists of a handful of Illyrian words cited in classical sources, and numerous examples of Illyrian anthroponyms, ethnonyms, toponyms and hydronyms.

Some sound changes from Proto-Indo-European to Illyrian and other language features are deduced from what remains of the Illyrian languages, but because there are no examples of ancient Illyrian literature surviving (aside from the Messapian writings if they can be considered Illyrian), it is difficult to clarify its place within the Indo-European language family. Because of the uncertainty, most sources provisionally place Illyrian on its own branch of Indo-European, though its relation to other languages, ancient and modern, continues to be studied.

Illyrian was part of the Indo-European language family. Its relation to other Indo-European languages—ancient and modern—is poorly understood due to the paucity of data and is still being examined.

The languages spoken by the Illyrian tribes are nowadays an extinct and poorly attested Indo-European languages and though it is not clear whether the languages belonged to the centum or the satem group. The Illyrians were subject to varying degrees of Celticization, Hellenization, Romanization and later Slavicization which possibly lead to the extinction of their languages.

The vast majority of knowledge of Illyrian is based on the Messapian language if the latter is considered an Illyrian dialect. An extinct Indo-European language, Messapian was once spoken in Messapia in the southeastern Italian Peninsula. It was spoken by the three Iapygian tribes of the region, the Messapians, the Daunii and the Peucetii.

The non-Messapian testimonies of Illyrian are too fragmentary to allow any conclusions whether Messapian should be considered part of Illyrian proper, although it has been widely thought that Messapian was related to Illyrian. 

The Illyrian languages were once thought to be connected to the Venetic language in the Italian Peninsula but this view was abandoned. Other scholars have linked them with the adjacent Thracian language supposing an intermediate convergence area or dialect continuum, but this view is also not generally supported.

All these languages were likely extinct by the 5th century AD although traditionally, the Albanian language is identified as the descendant of Illyrian dialects that survived in remote areas of the Balkans during the Middle Ages but evidence “is too meager and contradictory for us to know whether the term Illyrian even referred to a single language”.

The ancestor dialects of the Albanian language would have survived somewhere along the boundary of Latin and Ancient Greek linguistic influence, the Jireček Line. There are various modern historians and linguists who believe that the modern Albanian language might have descended from a southern Illyrian dialect whereas an alternative hypothesis holds that Albanian was descended from the Thracian language. Not enough is known of the ancient language to completely prove or disprove either hypothesis, see Origin of the Albanians.

Today, the main source of authoritative information about the Illyrian language consists of a handful of Illyrian words cited in classical sources, and numerous examples of Illyrian anthroponyms, ethnonyms, toponyms and hydronyms. Given the scarcity of the data it is difficult to identify the sound changes that have taken place in the Illyrian languages; the most widely accepted one is that the Indo-European voiced aspirates /bʰ/, /dʰ/, /ɡʰ/ became voiced consonants /b/, /d/, /ɡ/.

A grouping of Illyrian with the Messapian language has been proposed for about a century, but remains an unproven hypothesis. The theory is based on classical sources, archaeology and onomastics. Messapian material culture bears a number of similarities to Illyrian material culture. Some Messapian anthroponyms have close Illyrian equivalents.

A grouping of Illyrian with the Venetic and Liburnian language, once spoken in northeastern Italy and Liburnia respectively, has also been proposed. The consensus now is that Illyrian was quite distinct from Venetic and Liburnian, however a close linguistic relation has not been ruled out and is still being investigated.

Another hypothesis would group Illyrian with Dacian and Thracian into a Thraco-Illyrian branch, whereas a competing hypothesis would exclude Illyrian from a Daco-Thracian grouping in favor of Mysian. The classification of Thracian itself is a matter of contention and uncertainty.

In the absence of sufficient lexical data and texts written in the Illyrian languages, the theories supporting the Centum character of the Illyrian language have been based mainly on the Centum character of the Venetic language, which was thought to be related to Illyrian, in particular regarding Illyrian toponyms and names such as Vescleves, Acrabanus, Gentius, Clausal etc.

The relation between Venetic and Illyrian was later discredited and they are no longer considered closely related. Scholars supporting the Satem character of the Illyrian languages highlight particular toponyms and personal names such as Asamum, Birzinimum, Zanatis etc. in which these scholars claim that there is clear evidence of the Satem character of the Illyrian language. They also point to other toponyms including Osseriates derived from /*eghero/ (lake) or Birziminium from PIE /*bherǵh/ or Asamum from PIE /*aḱ-mo/ (sharp).

Even if the above-mentioned Venetic toponyms and personal names are accepted as Illyrian in origin, it is not clear that they originated in a Centum language. Vescleves, Acrabanus, Gentius and Clausal are explained by proponents of the hypothesis that the Illyrian languages had a Centum character, through comparison with IE languages such as Sanskrit or Ancient Greek, or reconstructed PIE. For example, Vescleves has been explained as PIE *wesu-ḱlewes (of good fame). Also, the name Acrabanus as a compound name has been compared with Ancient Greek /akros/ with no signs of palatalization, or Clausal has been related to /*klew/ (wash, rinse).

In all these cases the supporters of the Centum character of the Illyrian language consider PIE *ḱ > /*k/ or PIE *ǵ > /*g/ followed by an /l/ or /r/ to be evidence of a Centum character of the Illyrian language. However, it has been shown that even in Albanian and Balto-Slavic, which are Satem languages (with some uncertainty surrounding Albanian), the palatovelars have been generally depalatized (the depalatization of PIE *ḱ > *k and *ǵ > *g before /r/ and /l/ regularly in Albanian) in this phonetical position.

The name Gentius or Genthius does not help either as there are two Illyrian forms for it, Genthius and Zanatis. If Gentius or Genthius derives from *ǵen- (“to be born”), this is proof of a Centum language, but if the name Zanatis is similarly generated (or from *ǵen-, “know”) then Illyrian is a Satem language. Another problem related to the name Gentius is that it cannot be stated whether the initial /g/ of the sources was a palatovelar or a labiovelar.

Taking into account the absence of sufficient data and sometimes the dual nature of their interpretation, the Centum/Satem character of the Illyrian language is still uncertain and requires more evidence.

The Illyrian languages were likely extinct between the 2nd and 6th centuries AD, with the possible exception of the language that developed into Albanian according to the theory of Albanian descent from Illyrian. It has also been posited that Illyrian was preserved and spoken in the countryside, as attested in the 4th-5th century testimonies of St. Jerome.



Illyrian religion

Illyrian languages



The Albanians are an ethnic group native to the Balkan Peninsula and are identified by a common Albanian ancestry, culture, history and language. They primarily live in Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia as well as in Croatia, Greece and Italy. They also constitute a diaspora with several communities established in the Americas, Europe and Oceania.

Little is known about the Albanian people prior to the 11th century, though a text compiled around the beginning of the 11th century in the Bulgarian language contains possibly a reference to the Albanian people.

It is preserved in a manuscript written in the Serbo-Croatian Language traced back to the 17th century but published in the 20th century by Radoslav Grujic. It is a fragment of a once longer text that endeavours to explain the origins of peoples and languages in a question-and-answer form similar to a catechism.

The fragmented manuscript differentiated the world into seventy-two languages and three religious categories including Christians, half-believers and non-believers. Grujic dated it to the early 11th century and if this and the identification of the Arbanasi, as Albanians, are correct it would be the earliest written document referring to the Albanian people as a people or language group.

It can be seen that there are various languages on earth. Of them, there are five Orthodox languages: Bulgarian, Greek, Syrian, Iberian (Georgian) and Russian. Three of these have Orthodox alphabets: Greek, Bulgarian and Iberian.

There are twelve languages of half-believers: Alamanians, Franks, Magyars (Hungarians), Indians, Jacobites, Armenians, Saxons, Lechs (Poles), Arbanasi (Albanians), Croatians, Hizi and Germans.

The first undisputed mention of Albanians in the historical record is attested in Byzantine source for the first time in 1079–1080, in a work titled History by Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates, who referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium.

It is disputed, however, whether the “Albanoi” of the events of 1043 refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense or whether “Albanoi” is a reference to Normans from Sicily under an archaic name (there was also a tribe in Italy by the name of “Albanoi”).

However a later reference to Albanians from the same Attaleiates, regarding the participation of Albanians in a rebellion around 1078, is undisputed. At this point, they are already fully Christianized, although Albanian mythology and folklore are part of the Paleo-Balkan pagan mythology, in particular showing Greek influence.

The origin of the Albanians has long been a matter of dispute within scholarship.

The ethnogenesis of the Albanians and their language is a matter of controversy among historians and ethnologists. They were mentioned for the first time in historical records from the 11th century as a tribe of people living across the mountainous region of the Mat and Drin. The Shkumbin more southerly splits the Albanians into the Ghegs and Tosks nevertheless both groups identify with a shared ethnic culture, history and traditions.

The history of the Albanian diaspora is centuries old and has its roots in migration from the Middle Ages initially established in Southern Europe and subsequently on across other parts of Europe and the New World. Between the 13th and 18th centuries, sizeable numbers of Albanians migrated to escape either various social, economic or political difficulties.

One population, the Arvanites, settled Southern Greece between the 13th and 16th centuries assimilating into and now self-identifying as Greeks. Another population who emerged as the Arbëreshë settled Sicily and Southern Italy. Smaller populations such as the Arbanasi whose migration dates back to the 18th century are located in Southern Croatia and scattered across Southern Ukraine.

The Great Schism of 1054 formalised the break of communion between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Church and was instantly reflected in Albania through the emergence of a Catholic north and Orthodox south.

Inhabiting the west of Lake Ochrida and the upper valley of River Shkumbin, the Albanians established the Principality of Arbanon in 1190 with the capital in Krujë. In the 13th century, the Ghegs converted to Roman Catholicism in larger numbers from Eastern Orthodoxy as a means to resist the pressure of Slavic Serbs.

In the 15th century, the expanding Ottoman Empire overpowered the Balkan Peninsula and so the Albanians. Their consequent resistance to Ottoman expansion into Europe led by Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg won them acclaim all over Europe.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, a substantial number of Albanians converted to Islam offering them equal opportunities and advancement within the Ottoman Empire. Hence, they attained significant positions and culturally contributed to the broader Muslim world.

The Ottomans had cut the Albanians off from significant European intellectual movements, amongst them the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and these ideas together with the ideals of Nationalism traditionally began to reach the Albanians through the Albanian diaspora conclusively leading to the Albanian Renaissance which was also incorporated with the influences of Romanticism.

During the Balkan Wars, the Albanians were partitioned between Independent Albania, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia. After the Second World War until the Revolutions of 1991, Albania was governed by a communist government launching the Albanians on a path of oppression and decades of isolation.

Though in neighbouring Yugoslavia, Albanians underwent periods of discrimination that concluded with the Breakup of Yugoslavia and eventually the Independence of Kosovo.

The history of Albania forms a part of the history of Europe. During the classical times, Albania was home to several Illyrian tribes such as the Ardiaei, Albanoi, Amantini, Enchele, Taulantii and many others, but also Thracian and Greek tribes, as well as several Greek colonies established on the Illyrian coast.

In the 3rd century BC, the area was annexed by Rome and became part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Macedonia and Moesia Superior. Afterwards, the territory remained under Roman and Byzantine control until the Slavic migrations of the 7th century. It was integrated into the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century.

In the Middle Ages, the Principality of Arbër and a Sicilian dependency known as the medieval Kingdom of Albania were established. Some areas became part of the Venetian and Serbian Empire, but passed to the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.

It remained under Ottoman control as part of the province of Rumelia until 1912, when the first independent Albanian state was founded by an Albanian Declaration of Independence following a short occupation by the Kingdom of Serbia. The formation of an Albanian national consciousness dates to the later 19th century and is part of the larger phenomenon of the rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire.

Several Bronze Age artifacts from tumulus burials have been unearthed in central and southern Albania that show close connection with sites in south-western Macedonia and Lefkada, Greece.

Archaeologists have come to the conclusion that these regions were inhabited from the middle of the third millennium BC by Indo-European people who spoke a Proto-Greek language. A part of this population later moved to Mycenae around 1600 BC and founded the Mycenaean civilisation there.

Another population group, the Illirii, probably the southernmost Illyrian tribe of that time that lived on the border of Albania and Montenegro, possibly neighbored the Greek tribes.

In the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age a number of possible population movements occurred in the territories of modern Albania, for example the settlement of the Bryges in areas of southern Albania-northwestern Greece and Illyrian tribes into central Albania.

The latter derived from early an Indo-European presence in the western Balkan Peninsula. The movement of the Illyrian tribes can be assumed to coincide with the beginning Iron Age in the Balkans during the early 1st millennium BC.

Archaeologists associate the Illyrians with the Hallstatt culture, an Iron Age people noted for production of iron, bronze swords with winged-shaped handles, and the domestication of horses.

It is impossible to delineate Illyrian tribes from Paleo-Balkans in a strict linguistic sense, but areas classically included under “Illyrian” for the Balkans Iron Age include the area of the Danube, Sava, and Morava rivers to the Adriatic Sea and the Shar Mountains.

The Illyrians were a group of tribes who inhabited the western Balkans during the classical times. The territory the tribes covered came to be known as Illyria to Greek and Roman authors, corresponding roughly to the area between the Adriatic sea in the west, the Drava river in the north, the Morava river in the east and the mouth of Vjosë river in the south. The first account of the Illyrian peoples comes from the Coastal Passage written by Periplus, an ancient Greek text of the middle of the 4th century BC.

Several Illyrian tribes that resided in the region of Albania were the Ardiaei, Taulantii and Albanoi in central Albania, the Parthini, the Abri and the Caviii in the north, the Enchelei in the east, the Bylliones in the south and several others. In the westernmost parts of the territory of Albania, along with the Illyrian tribes, lived the Bryges, a Phrygian people, and in the south lived the Greek tribe of the Chaonians.

In the 4th century BC, the Illyrian king Bardylis united several Illyrian tribes and engaged in conflicts with Macedon to the south-east, but was defeated. Bardyllis was succeeded by Grabos, then by Bardylis II, and then by Cleitus the Illyrian, who was defeated by Alexander the Great.

Albanian Language

Albanian, or gjuha shqipe, is an Indo-European language spoken by the Albanians in the Balkans and the Albanian diaspora in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. With about 7.5 million speakers, it comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European languages and is not closely related to any other language.

The Albanian language occupies an independent branch of the Indo-European language tree.[34] In 1854, Albanian was demonstrated to be an Indo-European language by the philologist Franz Bopp. Albanian was formerly compared by a few Indo-European linguists with Germanic and Balto-Slavic, all of which share a number of isoglosses with Albanian. Other linguists linked the Albanian language with Latin, Greek and Armenian, while placing Germanic and Balto-Slavic in another branch of Indo-European.

The first written mention of the Albanian language was on 14 July 1284 in Dubrovnik in modern Croatia when a crime witness named Matthew testified: “I heard a voice shouting on the mountainside in the Albanian language” (Latin: Audivi unam vocem, clamantem in monte in lingua albanesca).

Albanian is considered an isolate within the Indo-European language family; no other language has been conclusively linked to its branch. The only other language that is a sole surviving member of a branch of Indo-European is Armenian.

The Albanian language is part of the Indo-European language group and is considered to have evolved from one of the Paleo-Balkan languages of antiquity, although it is still uncertain which particular Paleo-Balkan language represents the ancestor of Albanian, or where in Southern Europe that population lived.

In general there is insufficient evidence to connect Albanian with one of those languages, whether one of the Illyrian languages (which historians mostly confirm),[citation needed] or Thracian and Dacian. Among these possibilities, Illyrian is typically held to be the most probable, though insufficient evidence still clouds the discussion.

Although Albanian shares lexical isoglosses with Greek, Germanic, and to a lesser extent Balto-Slavic, the vocabulary of Albanian is quite distinct. In 1995, Taylor, Ringe and Warnow, using quantitative linguistic techniques, found that Albanian appears to comprise a “subgroup with Germanic”.

However, they argued that this fact is hardly significant, as Albanian has lost much of its original vocabulary and morphology, and so this “apparently close connection to Germanic rests on only a couple of lexical cognates – hardly any evidence at all”.

The place and the time where the Albanian language was formed is uncertain. American linguist Eric Hamp stated that during an unknown chronological period a pre-Albanian population (termed as “Albanoid” by Hamp) inhabited areas stretching from Poland to the southwestern Balkans.

Further analysis has suggested that it was in a mountainous region rather than on a plain or seacoast: while the words for plants and animals characteristic of mountainous regions are entirely original, the names for fish and for agricultural activities (such as ploughing) are borrowed from other languages.

A deeper analysis of the vocabulary, however, shows that this could be a consequence of a prolonged Latin domination of the coastal and plain areas of the country, rather than evidence of the original environment where the Albanian language was formed.

For example, the word for ‘fish’ is borrowed from Latin, but not the word for ‘gills’, which is native. Indigenous are also the words for ‘ship’, ‘raft’, ‘navigation’, ‘sea shelves’ and a few names of fish kinds, but not the words for ‘sail’, ‘row’ and ‘harbor’ – objects pertaining to navigation itself and a large part of sea fauna.

This rather shows that Proto-Albanians were pushed away from coastal areas in early times (probably after the Latin conquest of the region) thus losing large parts (or the majority) of sea environment lexicon.

A similar phenomenon could be observed with agricultural terms. While the words for ‘arable land’, ‘corn’, ‘wheat’, ‘cereals’, ‘vineyard’, ‘yoke’, ‘harvesting’, ‘cattle breeding’, etc. are native, the words for ‘ploughing’, ‘farm’ and ‘farmer’, agricultural practices, and some harvesting tools are foreign. This, again, points to intense contact with other languages and people, rather than providing evidence of a possible Urheimat.

The centre of Albanian settlement remained the Mat river. In 1079, they were recorded farther south in the valley of the Shkumbin river. The Shkumbin, a seasonal stream that lies near the old Via Egnatia, is approximately the boundary of the primary dialect division for Albanian, Tosk and Gheg.

The characteristics of Tosk and Gheg in the treatment of the native and loanwords from other languages are evidence that the dialectal split preceded the Slavic migration to the Balkans, which means that in that period (the 5th to 6th centuries AD), Albanians were occupying nearly the same area around the Shkumbin river, which straddled the Jireček Line.

References to the existence of Albanian as a distinct language survive from the 14th century, but they failed to cite specific words. The oldest surviving documents written in Albanian are the “formula e pagëzimit” (Baptismal formula), Un’te paghesont’ pr’emenit t’Atit e t’Birit e t’Spertit Senit. (“I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”) recorded by Pal Engjelli, Bishop of Durrës in 1462 in the Gheg dialect, and some New Testament verses from that period.

Linguists Stefan Schumacher and Joachim Matzinger (University of Vienna) assert that the first literary records of Albanian date from the 16th century. The oldest known Albanian printed book, Meshari, or “missal”, was written in 1555 by Gjon Buzuku, a Roman Catholic cleric. In 1635 Frang Bardhi wrote the first Latin–Albanian dictionary. The first Albanian school is believed to have been opened by Franciscans in 1638 in Pdhanë.

One of the earliest dictionaries of Albanian language was written in 1693 which was an Italian language manuscript authored by Montenegrin sea captain Julije Balović Pratichae Schrivaneschae and includes a multilingual dictionary of hundreds of the most often used words in everyday life in the Italian, Slavo-Illirico, Greek, Albanian and Turkish languages.

The majority of the Albanian people speak the Albanian language which comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European family of languages. It is a language isolate to any other known living language in Europe and indeed no other language in the world has been conclusively associated to its branch. Its origin remains conclusively unknown but it is believed it has descended from an ancient Paleo-Balkan language.

There are two principal dialects of the Albanian language traditionally represented by Gheg and Tosk. The ethnogeographical dividing line is traditionally considered to be the Shkumbin with Gheg spoken in the north of it and Tosk in the south.

Dialects spoken in Croatia (Arbanasi and Istrian), Kosovo, Montenegro and Northwestern North Macedonia are Gheg dialects, while those dialects spoken in Greece (Arvanites and Çam), Southwestern North Macedonia and Italy (Arbëreshë) are Tosk dialects.

The Arbëreshë and Arvanitika languages represent varieties of the Albanian language spoken by the Arbëreshës and Arvanites in Southern Italy and Southern Greece respectively. They retain elements of medieval Albanian vocabulary and pronunciation that are no longer used in modern Albanian language however both varieties are classified as endangered languages in the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages.

Most of the Albanians in Albania and the Former Yugoslavia are polyglot and have the ability to understand, speak, read, or write a foreign language. As defined by the Institute of Statistics of Albania, 39.9% of the 25 to 64 years old Albanians in Albania are able to use at least one foreign language including English (40%), Italian (27.8%) and Greek (22.9%).

The origin of the Albanian language remains a contentious subject that has given rise to numerous hypotheses. The hypothesis of Albanian being one of the descendant of the Illyrian languages is based on geography where the languages were spoken however not enough archaeological evidence is left behind to come therefore to a definite conclusion.

Another hypothesis associates the Albanian language with the Thracian language. This theory takes exception to the territory, since the language was spoken in an area distinct from Albania, and no significant population movements have been recorded in the period when the shift from one language to the other is supposed to have occurred.

The Albanian language is considered by current linguistic consensus to have developed from one of the non-Greek, ancient Indo-European languages of the region, but attempts to connect it to a specific language are still controversial.

The Proto-Albanian language is the unattested language from which Albanian later developed. Albanian evolved from an ancient Paleo-Balkan language, traditionally thought to be an Illyrian idiom, or otherwise a totally unattested Balkan Indo-European language that was closely related to Illyrian and Messapic.

Proto-Albanian is reconstructed by way of the comparative method between the Tosk and Gheg dialects, as well as the treatment of loanwords, the most important of which are those from Latin (dated by De Vaan to the period 167 BCE to 400 CE) and from Slavic (dated from 600 CE onward). The evidence from loanwords allows linguists to construct in great detail the shape of native words at the points of major influxes of loans from well-attested languages.

Proto-Albanian is broken up into different stages which are usually delimited by the onset of contact with different well-attested languages. Its earliest stages are dated to the early Roman Empire, just before the period of intense Latin-Albanian contact, while in its late stages it experienced contact with Slavic languages.

The Tosk-Gheg split is known to predate Slavic contact circa 600 CE, as evidenced by the fact that Latin and ancient Greek loanwords are treated like native words with regard to taxonomical differences between Gheg and Tosk, but the same is not true of Slavic loans.

Vladimir Orel distinguishes the following periods of Proto-Albanian: Early Proto-Albanian (EPA): spoken before the 1st century CE, when Albanian had not yet acquired extensive influence via language contact from Latin/Proto-Romance.

Late Proto-Albanian (LPA): after extensive Latin contact, with the end of the period seeing contacts between ancient Slavic idioms still close to the Proto-Slavic language, in the 6th and 7th centuries CE. During this period the structure of Proto-Albanian was “shattered” by major changes.

However, another periodization paradigm does exist, and is used by some scholars in the field, such as Ranko Matasović: Pre-Proto-Albanian : essentially equivalent to Vladimir Orel’s “Early Proto-Albanian”, except that the newer paradigm of Matasović dates Latin/Albanian contact a century earlier, and thus it ends for Matasović in the 1st century BCE rather than the 1st century CE. After this period ends, Latin contact begins to transform the language.

Early Proto-Albanian : corresponds to the earlier phases of what is for Orel “Late Proto-Albanian”. For Matasović, the period spans the 1st century BCE to the 6th century CE, halting before contact with Slavic idioms begins.

Late Proto-Albanian : includes the last two centuries of LPA for Orel, plus most of the unattested period of Old Albanian, halting before Turkish influence begins. Note that, in this paradigm, Gheg and Tosk split from Early Proto-Albanian, not Late Proto-Albanian, consistent with our knowledge that the split preceded Slavic contact.

Early Albanian : corresponds to the late, Ottoman, phase of Old Albanian in the traditional paradigm, ending in 1800, at which point it transitions to Modern Albanian.

Demiraj, like Matasović and unlike Orel, observes the 5th/6th centuries as a boundary between stages, but instead places the “emergence of Albanian” from its parent after this point, rather than the 14th.

In an Albanian chapter penned by Michiel de Vaan within Klein, Joseph and Fritz’ 2018 Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics, Demiraj’s periods are adhered to. Orel’s “Later Proto-Albanian”, which is for them also definitively placed before Slavic contact, is referred to as simply “Proto-Albanian” (PAlb) or, in German, Uralbanisch, reflecting the terminology of earlier writing in German.

What is for Orel “Early Proto-Albanian” (EPA), dated definitively before the onset of Latin contact, is for De Vaan, “Pre-Proto-Albanian” (PPAlb); in German, this stage is called Voruralbanisch or Frühuralbanisch. De Vaan also discusses the possibility of breaking Pre-Proto-Albanian into two stages: one before the first Greek loanwords, and one that is after the first Greek loanwords, but before contact with Latin.

First attested in the 15th century, it is the last Indo-European branch to appear in written records. This is one of the reasons why its still-unknown origin has long been a matter of dispute among linguists and historians.

Albanian is considered to be the descendant of one of the Paleo-Balkan languages of antiquity. For more historical and geographical reasons than specifically linguistic ones, there are various modern historians and linguists who believe that the Albanian language may have descended from a southern Illyrian dialect spoken in much the same region in classical times.

Alternative hypotheses hold that Albanian may have descended from Thracian or Daco-Moesian, other ancient languages spoken farther east than Illyrian. Not enough is known of these languages to completely prove or disprove the various hypotheses.

The two main Albanian dialects, Gheg and Tosk, are primarily distinguished by phonological differences, and are mutually intelligible, with Gheg spoken to the north and Tosk spoken to the south of the Shkumbin river.

Their characteristics in the treatment of the native and loanwords from other languages, have led to the conclusion that the dialectal split occurred after Christianisation of the region (4th century AD) and at the time of the Slavic migration to the Balkans, with the historic boundary between Gheg and Tosk being the Shkumbin which straddled the Jireček line.

Standard Albanian is a standardised form of spoken Albanian based on the Tosk dialect. It is the official language of Albania and Kosovo[a] and a co-official language in North Macedonia as well as a minority language of Italy, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

Centuries-old communities speaking Albanian dialects can be found scattered in Croatia (the Arbanasi), Greece (the Arvanites and some communities in Epirus, Western Macedonia and Western Thrace), Italy (the Arbëreshë) as well as in Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. Two varieties of the Tosk dialect, Arvanitika in Greece and Arbëresh in southern Italy, have preserved archaic elements of the language.


Arbëresh language


Gheg Albanian

Illyrian languages


Messapian language


Tosk Albanian

Origin of the Albanians

Albanian language

Proto-Albanian language


The exact original boundaries of Paeonia, like the early history of its inhabitants, are obscure, but it is known that it roughly corresponds to most of present-day North Macedonia and north-central parts of Greek Macedonia (i.e. probably the Greek municipalities of Paionia, Almopia, Sintiki, Irakleia, and Serres), and a small part of south-western Bulgaria.

Ancient authors placed it south of Dardania (an area corresponding to modern-day Kosovo and northern North Macedonia), west of the Thracian mountains, and east of the southernmost Illyrians. It was separated from Dardania by the mountains through which the Vardar river passes from the field of Scupi (modern Skopje) to the valley of Bylazora (near modern Sveti Nikole).

In the Iliad, the Paeonians are said to have been allies of the Trojans. During the Persian invasion of Greece the conquered Paeonians as far as the Lake Prasias, including the Paeoplae and Siropaiones, were deported from Paeonia to Asia.

In 355–354 BC, Philip II of Macedon took advantage of the death of King Agi of Paeonia and campaigned against them in order to conquer them. So the southern part of ancient Paeonia was annexed by the ancient kingdom of Macedon and was named “Macedonian Paeonia”; this section included the cities Astraion (later Stromnitsa) Stenae (near modern Demir Kapija), Antigoneia (near modern Negotino) etc.

Some modern scholars consider the Paeonians to have been of either Thracian, or of mixed Thraco-Illyrian origins. Some of the names of the Paeonians are also definitely Hellenic (Lycceius, Ariston, Audoleon), although relatively little is known about them.

Linguistically, the very small number of surviving words in the Paeonian language have been variously connected to its neighboring languages – Illyrian and Thracian (and every possible Thraco-Illyrian mix in between). Several eastern Paeonian tribes, including the Agrianes, clearly fell within the Thracian sphere of influence. Yet, according to the national legend, they were Teucrian colonists from Troy.

Homer speaks of Paeonians from the Axios fighting on the side of the Trojans, but the Iliad does not mention whether the Paeonians were kin to the Trojans. Homer calls the Paeonian leader Pyraechmes (parentage unknown); later on in the Iliad (Book 21), Homer mentions a second leader, Asteropaeus, son of Pelagon.

Before the reign of Darius Hystaspes, they had made their way as far east as Perinthus in Thrace on the Propontis. At one time all Mygdonia, together with Crestonia, was subject to them. When Xerxes crossed Chalcidice on his way to Therma (later renamed Thessalonica), he is said to have marched through Paeonian territory.

They occupied the entire valley of the Axios (Vardar) as far inland as Stobi, the valleys to the east of it as far as the Strymon and the country round Astibus and the river of the same name, with the water of which they anointed their kings.

Emathia, roughly the district between the Haliacmon and Axios, was once called Paeonia; and Pieria and Pelagonia were inhabited by Paeonians. As a consequence of the growth of Macedonian power, and under pressure from their Thracian neighbors, their territory was considerably diminished, and in historical times was limited to the north of Macedonia from Illyria to the Strymon.

In Greek mythology, the Paeonians were said to have derived their name from Paeon the son of Endymion, king of Elis, and brother of Epeius, Aetolus, and Eurycyda; from whom the district of Paeonia, on the Axius river in Macedonia, was believed to have derived its name.

In Greek mythology, Endymion was variously a handsome Aeolian shepherd, hunter, or king who was said to rule and live at Olympia in Elis. He was also venerated and said to reside on Mount Latmus in Caria, on the west coast of Asia Minor.

There is confusion over Endymion’s correct identity, as some sources suppose that he was, or was related to, the prince of Elis, and others suggest he was a shepherd from Caria. There is a later suggestion that he was an astronomer: Pliny the Elder mentions Endymion as the first human to observe the movements of the moon, which (according to Pliny) accounts for Endymion’s love.

Consequently, there have been two attributed sites of Endymion’s burial: the citizens of Heracleia ad Latmo claimed that Endymion’s tomb was on Mount Latmus, while the Eleans declared that it was at Olympia. 

However, the role of lover of Selene, the Titan goddess of the moon, is attributed primarily to Endymion who was either a shepherd or an astronomer, either profession providing justification for him to spend time beneath the moon.

In early times, the chief town and seat of the Paeonian kings was Bylazora (now Veles in North Macedonia) on the Vardar; later, the seat of the kings was moved to Stobi (near modern Gradsko).

Subjugation of the Paeonians happened as a part of Persian military operations initiated by Darius the Great (521–486) in 513 – after immense preparations – a huge Achaemenid army invaded the Balkans and tried to defeat the European Scythians roaming to the north of the Danube river.

Darius’ army subjugated several Thracian peoples, and virtually all other regions that touch the European part of the Black Sea, such as parts of nowadays Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, before it returned to Asia Minor.

Darius left in Europe one of his commanders named Megabazus whose task was to accomplish conquests in the Balkans. The Persian troops subjugated gold-rich Thrace, the coastal Greek cities, as well as defeating and conquering the powerful Paeonians.

At some point after the Greco-Persian Wars, the Paeonian princedoms coalesced into a kingdom centred in the central and upper reaches of the Axios and Strymon rivers, corresponding with today’s northern part of North Macedonia and western Bulgaria. They joined with the Illyrians to attack the northern areas of the kingdom of Macedonia.

The Illyrians, who had a culture of piracy, would have been cut off from some trade routes if movement through this land had been blocked. They unsuccessfully attacked the northern defences of Macedonian territory in an attempt to occupy the region. In 360–359 BC, southern Paeonian tribes were launching raids into Macedon, (Diodorus XVI. 2.5) in support of an Illyrian invasion.

The Macedonian Royal House was thrown into a state of uncertainty by the death of Perdiccas III, but his brother Philip II assumed the throne, reformed the army (providing phalanxes), and proceeded to stop both the Illyrian invasion and the Paeonian raids through the boundary of the “Macedonian Frontier”, which was the northern perimeter which he intended to defend as an area of his domain. He followed Perdiccas’s success in 358 BC with a campaign deep into the north, into Paeonia itself.

This reduced the Paeonian kingdom (then ruled by Agis) to a semi-autonomous, subordinate status, which led to a process of gradual and formal Hellenization of the Paeonians, who, during the reign of Philip II, began to issue coins with Greek legends like the Macedonian ones. A Paeonian contingent, led by Ariston, was attached to Alexander the Great’s army.

At the time of the Persian invasion, the Paeonians on the lower Strymon had lost, while those in the north maintained, their territorial integrity. The daughter of Audoleon, a king of Paeonia, was the wife of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, and Alexander the Great wished to bestow the hand of his sister Cynane upon Langarus, king of the Agrianians, who had shown himself loyal to Philip II.

In 280 BC, the Gallic invaders under Brennus ravaged the land of the Paeonians, who, being further hard pressed by the Dardani, had no alternative but to join the Macedonians. Despite their combined efforts, however, the Paeonians and Macedonians were defeated.

Paeonia consolidated again but, in 217 BC, the Macedonian king Philip V of Macedon (220–179 BC), the son of Demetrius II, succeeded in uniting and incorporating into his empire the separate regions of Dassaretia and Paeonia. A mere 70 years later (in 168 BC), Roman legions conquered Macedon in turn, and a new and much larger Roman province bearing this name was formed.

Paeonia around the Axios formed the second and third districts respectively of the newly constituted Roman province of Macedonia. Centuries later under Diocletian, Paeonia and Pelagonia formed a province called Macedonia Secunda or Macedonia Salutaris, belonging to the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum.

Paeonian Language

Paeonian, sometimes spelled Paionian, is a poorly-attested, extinct language spoken by the ancient Paeonians until late antiquity. Paeonia once stretched north of Macedon, into Dardania, and in earlier times into southwestern Thrace.

Classical sources usually considered the Paeonians distinct from Thracians or Illyrians, comprising their own ethnicity and language. Athenaeus seems to have connected the Paeonian tongue to the barely-attested Mysian language, possibly a member of the Anatolian family. On the other hand, the Paeonians were also regarded as being related to Thracians and ancestors of the Phrygians.

The place of Paeonian remains unclear. Modern linguists are uncertain on the classification of Paeonian, due to the extreme scarcity of surviving materials in the language. Not much has been determined in the study of Paeonian, and some linguists do not recognize a Paeonian area separate from Illyrian or Thracian.

It is unclassified, argued to be either part of the Illyrian or Daco-Thracian branch, or descending from another unclassified Paleo-Balkan language. Wilhelm Tomaschek and Paul Kretschmer claim it belonged to the Illyrian family, while Dimitar Dechev claims affinities with Thracian.

Irwin L. Merker considers Paeonian closely related to Greek, a Hellenic language with “a great deal of Illyrian and Thracian influence as a result of this proximity”. Irwin L. Merker considers Paeonian closely related to both Greek Hellenic and Illyrian languages with a gret deal of Thracian influence as a result of this proximity”.

Paeonia (kingdom)


The Iapygians (Greek: Ἰάπυγες, Ĭāpyges; Latin: Iapyges, Iapygii) were an Indo-European people who inhabited Apulia in classical antiquity. They lived in the eponymous region Iapygia and were divided in three populations: the Daunians, Peucetians and Messapians. Their land was annexed by the Roman Republic, and they were eventually Latinized and assimilated into Roman culture.

The Iapyges have uncertain origins, although ancient authors and archeological evidence suggest that could have descended from Illyrian tribes that migrated to southeastern Italy in the early first millennium BCE. They spoke the Messapian language since the Messapians themselves were the southernmost tribe of the Iapyges. Their other tribes included the Daunians and the Peucetians.

The name Iapyges is derived from Greek authors, who linked the tribe’s origin to Daedalus’s son Iapyx. They were called Apuli, Salentini (or Sallentini) and Calabri by Roman authors. Iapygians were akin to the Oenotrians, an ancient Italic people who lived in the territory of Basilicata and Northern Calabria.

The genitive forms, -aihi- and -ihi- corresponding to the Sanskrit -asya- and the Greek -oio- , appear to indicate that the dialect belongs to the Indo-European family. Other indications, such as the use of the aspirated consonants and the avoiding of the letters m and t as terminal sounds, show that the Iapygian dialect was essentially different from the Italian one and corresponds in some respects to the Greek dialects.

The supposition of an especially close affinity between the Iapygian nation and the Hellenes finds further support in the frequent occurrence of the names of Greek divinities in the inscriptions and the surprising facility with which the people became Hellenized, presenting a striking contrast to the shyness in the respect of the other Italian Nations. Apulia, which in the time of Timaeus (400 BC) was still described as a barbarous land, had in the sixth century become a province thoroughly Greek, although no direct colonization from Greece had taken place.

19th century German historian Theodor Mommsen believed that the Iapygian people were either the oldest immigrants to, or the historical autochthones of Italy. The Iapygians are mentioned by Polybius as having provided Socii troops for Rome’s armies in the wars against Carthage.


The Messapians were a Iapygian tribe that inhabited Salento in classical antiquity. Two other Iapygian tribes, the Peucetians and the Daunians, inhabited central and northern Apulia respectively. All three tribes spoke the Messapian language, but had developed separate archaeological cultures by the seventh century BC.

The Messapians lived in the eponymous region Messapia, which extended from Leuca in the southeast to Kailia and Egnatia in the northwest, covering most of the Salento peninsula. This region includes the Province of Lecce and parts of the provinces of Brindisi and Taranto today.

Starting in the third century BC, Greek and Roman writers distinguished the indigenous population of the Salento peninsula differently. According to Strabo, the names Iapygians, Daunians, Peucetians and Messapians were exclusively Greek and not used by the natives, who divided the Salento in two parts.

The southern and Ionian part of the peninsula was the territory of the Salentinoi, ranging from Otranto to Leuca and from Leuca to Manduria. The northern part on the Adriatic belonged to the Kalabroi  and extended from Otranto to Egnatia with its hinterland.

After the conquest of the Salento by the Roman Republic in 266 BC the distinction between the Iapygian tribes blurred as they were assimilated into ancient Roman society. Strabo makes it clear that in his time, the end of the first century BC, most people used the names Messapia, Iapygia, Calabria and Salentina interchangeably for the Salento.

The name Calabria for the entire peninsula was made official when the Roman emperor Augustus divided Italy in regions and gave the whole region of Apulia the name Regio II Apulia et Calabria. Archaeology still follows the original Greek tripartite division of tribes based on the archaeological evidence.

Julius Pokorny derives their ethnonym Messapii from Messapia, interpreted as “(the place) Amid waters”, Mess- from Proto-Indo-European and *mes-, “middle” cf. Albanian *medhyo-, “middle” (cf. Ancient Greek μέσος méssos “middle”), and -apia from Proto-Indo-European *ap-, “water” (cf. another toponym, Salapia, “salt water”).

The origin of the Messapii is debated. The most credited theory is that they came from Illyria as one of the Illyrian tribes who settled in Apulia and that they emerged as a sub-tribe distinct from the rest of the Iapyges. It seems that the Iapyges spread northwards from the Salento.

The pre-Italic settlement of Gnatia was founded in the fifteenth century BC during the Bronze Age. It was captured and settled by the Iapyges, as they occupied large tracts of territory in Apulia. The Messapii developed a distinct identity from the Iapyges. Rudiae was first settled from the late ninth or early eighth centuries BC.

In the late sixth century BC, it developed into a much more important settlement. It flourished under the Messapii, but after their defeat by Rome it dwindled and became a small village. The nearby Lupiae (Lecce) flourished at its expense. The Messapi did not have a centralised form of government. Their towns were independent city-states. They had trade relationships with the Greek cities of Magna Graecia.

Messapian Language

Messapic (also known as Messapian; or as Iapygian to refer to the pre-Roman, non-Italic languages of Apulia) is an extinct Indo-European language of the southeastern Italian Peninsula, once spoken in Apulia by the three Iapygian tribes of the region: the Messapians, the Peucetians and the Daunians.

The Messapian language is generally considered similar to the Illyrian languages, although this has been debated as a mostly speculative grouping, as Illyrian languages are themselves poorly attested. Albanian dialects are still a relatable group with Messapian, due to toponyms in Apulia, some of towns that have no etymological forms outside Albanian linguistic sources.

The language became extinct following the Roman conquest of the region, which began during the late 4th century BC. It has been preserved in about 300 inscriptions written in the Greek alphabet and dating from the 6th to the 1st century BC.

The term ‘Messapic’ or ‘Messapian’ is traditionally used to refer to a group of languages spoken by a “relatively homogeneous linguistic community” of non-Italic-speaking tribes (Messapians, Peucetians and Daunians) in the region of Apulia before the Roman conquest.

However, some scholars have argued that the term ‘Iapygian languages’ should be preferred to refer to the grouping of languages, and the term ‘Messapic’ reserved to the inscriptions found in the Salento peninsula, where the specific tribe of the Messapians had been living in the pre-Roman era. The name Apulia derives from Iapygia after passing from Greek to Oscan to Latin and undergoing morphological shifts.

Messapic was a non-Italic Indo-European language. Modern archeologists and ancient sources hold that the ancestors of Messapic speakers came to Southeastern Italy (present-day Apulia) from Illyria, in the Western Balkans, in the early first millennium BC.

The Messapic language is generally considered similar to the Illyrian languages, although this has been debated as a mostly speculative grouping, since Illyrian languages are themselves scarcely attested.

The Illyro-Messapic theory is supported by a series of common personal and place names from both sides of the Adriatic Sea. Proposed cognates in Illyrian and Messapic, respectively, include: Bardyl(l)is/Barzidihi, Teuta/Teuta, Dazios/Dazes, Laidias/Ladi-, Platōr/Plator-, Iapygia/Iapygia, Apulus/Apuli, Dalmata/Dalmathus, Ana/Ana, Thana/Thana, Dei-paturos/Da-matura.

To compensate for the lack of fundamental information on the Illyrian languages, the linguistic data of Albanian can be used since Proto-Albanian was likewise an Indo-European language almost certainly spoken in the Balkans in ancient times.

A number of linguistic cognates with Albanian are proposed, such as Messap. aran and Alb. arë (“field”), biliā and bijë (“daughter”), menza- and mëz (“foal”). The toponomy points to a link between the two languages, as some towns in Apulia have no etymological forms outside Albanian linguistic sources.

Other linguistic elements such as particles, prepositions, suffixes, lexicon, but also toponyms, anthroponyms and theonyms of the Messapic language find singular affinities with Albanian.

Some phonological data can also be compared between the two languages, and it seems likely that Messapic belongs, like Albanian, to a specific subgroup of the Indo-European languages that shows distinct reflections of all the three dorsal consonant rows. In the nominal context, both Messapic and Albanian continue, in the masculine terms in -o-, the Indo-European ending *-osyo (Messapic -aihi, Albanian -i / -u).

Regarding the verbal system, both Messapic and Albanian have formally and semantically preserved the two Indo-European subjunctive and optative moods. If the reconstructions are correct, we can find in the preterital system of Messapic reflections of a formation in *-s- (which in other Indo-European languages are featured in the suffix of the sigmatic aorist), as in the 3rd sg. hipades/opades (‘he dedicated’ < *supo-dʰeh₁-s-t) and in the 3rd pl. stahan (‘they placed’ < *stah₂-s-n°t).

In Albanian, this formation was likewise featured in the category of aorists formed with the suffix -v-. However, except for the dorsal consonant rows, these similarities do not provide elements exclusively relating Messapic and Albanian, and only a few morphological data are comparable.

This may suggest that Messapic could have been the descendant of an unattested paleo-Balkanic language distinct from Illyrian, although closely related to it, and that the shared featured with Albanian may have emerged as a result of linguistic contacts between proto-Messapic and pre-proto-Albanian within the Balkan peninsula in prehistoric times.

An older theory, rejected by modern linguists, supposed that all Iapygian (i.e. ancient Apulian) languoids were nothing more than Oscan dialects. This hypothesis was mainly suggested by a sentence of Aulus Gellius stating that Ennius (who hailed from Rudiae, southern Apulia) used to speak the Oscan language together with Greek and Latin without mentioning Messapic, a phrase still difficult to explain today. Some scholars wonder whether Gellius knew that Messapic was a language separate from Oscan; if not, he may have simply used Osce instead of Messape.

According to a tradition reported by Servius, Ennius claimed to descend from Messapus, the eponymous legendary founder of Messapia, which may suggest that Ennius’ third “heart” and language reported by Gellius was not Oscan but Messapic. According to scholar James N. Adams, “Ennius might have known Messapic as well as Oscan, but continued speculation in the absence of any hard evidence is pointless.”

The development of a distinct Iapygian culture in southeastern Italy is widely considered to be the result of a confluence of Balkanic traditions with local cultures existing in the region prior to cross-Adriatic migrations in the early first millennium BC.

The Iapygians most likely left the eastern coasts of the Adriatic for Italy from the 11th century BC onwards, merging with pre-existing Italic and Mycenean cultures and providing a decisive cultural and linguistic imprint.

Throughout the second half of the 8th century, contacts between Messapians and Greeks must have been intense and continuous, although Taras was only founded about the end of the century by Spartan colonists.

Despite its proximity with Greece, Iapygia was generally not encompassed in Greek colonial territories, and with the exception of Taras, the inhabitants were evidently able to avoid other Greek colonies in the region.

During the 6th century BC Messapia, and more marginally Peucetia, underwent Hellenizing cultural influences, mainly from the nearby Taras. The use of writing systems was introduced in this period, with the acquisition of the Laconian-Tarantine alphabet and its adaptation to the Messapic language, which may have developed from a dialect of pre-Illyrian and have diverged substantially from the Illyrian of the Balkans by the 5th century BC.

The relationship between Messapians and Tarantines deteriorated over time, resulting in a series of clashes between the two peoples from the beginning of the 5th century BC.

After two victories of the Tarentines, the Iapygians inflicted a decisive defeat on them, causing the fall of the aristocratic government and the implementation of a democratic one in Taras. It also froze relations between Greeks and the indigenous people for about half a century. Only in the late-5th and 6th centuries did they re-establish relationships.

The second great Hellenizing wave occurred during the 4th century BC, this time also involving Daunia and marking the beginning of Peucetian and Daunian epigraphic records, in a local variant of the Hellenistic alphabet that replaced the older Messapic script.

Along with Messapic, Greek and Oscan were spoken and written during Roman times all over the territory of Apulia, and bilingualism in Greek and Messapic was probably common in the region.

Based upon the legends of the local currencies promoted by Rome, Messapic appears to have been written in the southern zone, Oscan in the northern area, while the central sector was a trilingual area where Messapic, Greek and Oscan co-existed in inscriptions. Messapic epigraphic records seem to have ended by the late-2nd century BC.






The Liburnians (or Liburni) were an ancient tribe inhabiting the district called Liburnia, a coastal region of the northeastern Adriatic between the rivers Arsia (Raša) and Titius (Krka) in what is now Croatia. According to legend they populated Kerkyra until shortly after the Corinthians settled the island, c. 730 BC.

The first account of the Liburni comes from Periplus or Coastal passage, an ancient Greek text of the mid 4th century BC. The fall of Liburnian domination in the Adriatic Sea and their final retreat to their ethnic region (Liburnia) were caused by the military and political activities of Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse (406 – 367 BC).

The development of Liburnian culture can be divided into 3 main time periods: 11th and 10th centuries BC. Between two waves of Balkan-Pannonian migrations, this was a transitive period between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, with features more related to the Late Bronze Age. It was characterized by the influence of the Urnfield Culture that spread in the Pannonian areas, in addition to the general changes caused by the Balkan-Pannonian migrations.

9th to the 5th centuries BC. Liburnian domination in the Adriatic Sea; its first phase (9th century BC), because of the aforementioned migrations, did not continue the developments of the Late Bronze Age, except in certain forms.

This was the beginning of the Liburnian Iron Age, marked by their expansion and colonization of Picenum, Daunia and Apulia on the Italic shores. The establishment of colonies resulted in a highly developed and rich culture based on naval trade, in the 8th and 7th centuries BC.

This was followed by isolation from the Balkan area, except from Iapodia. The lucrative exchange of materials with the opposite coast was continued in the 6th century BC, and its connection to Picenum remained strong, and links to Iapodes and Dalmatae have also been attested. In the 5th century BC, the Greeks undertook the leadership of trade in the Adriatic and considerable changes resulted, such as the importing of a wider range of Greek products.

5th to the 1st centuries BC. Decline of Liburnia’s power; Liburnian culture was thoroughly under Hellenic influence, although specifically local cultural aspects were retained. Apart from the extended importation of Hellenistic and Italic pottery, and other lesser influences, Liburnian cultural relations with other peoples were rather poor.

The Liburnians were renowned seafarers, notorious for their raids in the Adriatic Sea, which they conducted in their swift galleys. The Romans knew them principally as a people addicted to piracy.

The major harbour of the Liburnian navy since the 5th century BC was Corynthia at the eastern cape of Krk island, including 7 unearthed docks, a marine arsenal, and stony fortifications; this early harbour persisted in its function through ancient and medieval times to the 16th century.

The Liburnians constructed different ship types; their galaia was an early prototype of transport galleys, lembus was a fishing ship continued by the actual Croatian levut, and a drakoforos was apparently mounted with a dragonhead at the prow.

Remains of a 10 meter long ship from the 1st century BC were found in Zaton near Nin (Aenona in Liburnia proper), the ship keel with the bottom planking made of 6 rows of wooden boards on each side, joined together and sewn with resin cords and wooden wedges, testifying to the Liburnian shipbuilding tradition style known as “Serilia Liburnica”. Deciduous trees (oak and beech) were used, while some climber was used for the cords.

A 10th-century AD ship of identical form and size, made with wooden fittings instead of sewn planking joints, was found in the same place, “Condura Croatica” used by the Medieval Croats. Condura could be the closest known vessel to the original “liburna” galley in form, only much smaller, with the features of a quick and agile galley, having a shallow bottom, very straightened but long, with one large Latin sail and a row of oars on each side.

The best known Liburnian ship was their oar-propelled warship, known as a libyrnis to the Greeks and a liburna to the Romans. Liburnae may have been shown in a naval battle scene carved on a stone tablet (Stele di Novilara) found near Antique Pisaurum (Pesaro) and dated to the 5th or 6th century BC.

It depicts a legendary battle between the Liburnian and Picenian fleets. The liburna was presented as a light ship with one row of oars, one mast, one sail and a prow twisted outwards. Under the prow was a rostrum made for striking enemy ships under the sea.

In AD 634 Eastern Roman emperor Heraclius invited the Chrovates or Chrobati (ancestors of the Croats), who lived on the north side of the Carpathians, in what is now southern Poland (or Galicia), to occupy the province as vassals of the Empire. Their presence had a permanent effect on the Romanized culture, and the Liburnians faded as a distinct ethnic group.

Liburnian language

The Liburnian language is an extinct language which was spoken by the ancient Liburnians, who occupied Liburnia in classical times. Classification of the Liburnian language is not clearly established; it is reckoned as an Indo-European language with a significant proportion of the Pre-Indo-European elements from the wider area of the ancient Mediterranean.

The Liburnian language is an extinct language which was spoken by the ancient Liburnians, who occupied Liburnia, a variously defined region in modern southwestern Croatia, in classical times. Classification of the Liburnian language is not clearly established; it is reckoned as an Indo-European language with a significant proportion of the Pre-Indo-European elements from the wider area of the ancient Mediterranean.

No writings in Liburnian are known. The only Liburnian linguistic remains are Liburnian toponyms and some family and personal names in Liburnia, in Latinized form from the 1st century AD. Smaller differences found in the archaeological material of narrower regions in Liburnia are in a certain measure reflected also in these scarce linguistic remains. This has caused much speculation about the language.

Features shared by Liburnian and other languages have been noted in Liburnian language remains, names and toponyms, dating from between the Iron Age and the beginning of Common Era.

These are insufficient for a precise linguistic classification, other than a general indication that they have an Indo-European basis, but also incorporate significant elements from Pre-Indo-European languages.

This also appears to be the case in their social relations, and such phenomena are likely related to their separate cultural development, physical isolation and mixed ethnic origins.

Following studies of the onomastics of the Roman province of Dalmatia, Géza Alföldy has suggested that the Liburni and Histri belonged to the Venetic language area. In particular, some Liburnian anthroponyms show strong Venetic affinities, a few similar names and common roots, such as Vols-, Volt-, and Host- (< PIE *ghos-ti-, “stranger, guest, host”). Liburnian and Venetic names sometimes also share suffixes in common, such as -icus and -ocus.

Jürgen Untermann, who has focused on Liburnian onomastics, considers that only the Liburnians at the north-eastern Istrian coast were strongly Venetic. Untermann has suggested three groups of Liburnian names: one structurally similar to those of the Veneti and Histri; another linked to the Dalmatae, Iapodes and other Illyrians on the mainland to the south of the Liburnians, and; a third group of names that were common throughout Liburnian territory, and lacked any relation to those of their neighbors.

Other proper names, such as those of local deities and toponyms also showed differing regional distributions. According to R. Katičić, Liburnian toponyms, in both structure and form, also demonstrate diverse influences, including Pre-Indo-European, Indo-European and other, purely local features. Katičić has also stated that toponyms were distributed separately along ethnic and linguistic lines.

S. Čače has noted that it can not be determined whether Liburnian was more related to the North Adriatic language group (Veneti, Histri) or the languages of Iapodes and Dalmatae, due to the scarcity of evidence. While the Liburnians differed significantly from the Histri and Veneti, both culturally and ethnically, they have been linked to the Dalmatae by their burial traditions.

Other toponymical and onomastic similarities have been found between Liburnia and other regions of both Illyria and Asia Minor, especially Lycia, Lydia, Caria, Pisidia, Isauria, Pamphylia, Lycaonia and Cilicia, as well as similarities in elements of social organization, such as matriarchy/ginecocracy (gynaikokratia) and the numerical organization of territory.

These are also features of the wider Adriatic region, especially Etruria, Messapia and southern Italy. Topoymical and onomastic connections to Asia Minor may also indicate a Liburnian presence amongst the Sea Peoples. The old toponym Liburnum in Liguria may also link the Liburnian name to the Etruscans, as well as the proposed Tyrsenian language family.

The Liburnians underwent Romanization after being conquered by the Romans in 35 BCE. The Liburnian language was replaced by Latin, and underwent language death –most likely during Late Antiquity. The Liburnians nevertheless retained some of their cultural traditions until the 4th century CE, especially in the larger cities – a fact attested by archaeology.



Liburnian language


Mysians were the inhabitants of Mysia, a region in northwestern Asia Minor. Their first mention is by Homer, in his list of Trojans allies in the Iliad, and according to whom the Mysians fought in the Trojan War on the side of Troy, under the command of Chromis and Ennomus the Augur, and were lion-hearted spearmen who fought with their bare hands.

Herodotus in his Histories wrote that the Mysians were brethren of the Carians and the Lydians, originally Lydian colonists in their country, and as such, they had the right to worship alongside their relative nations in the sanctuary dedicated to the Carian Zeus in Mylasa.

He also mentions a movement of Mysians and associated peoples from Asia into Europe still earlier than the Trojan War, wherein the Mysians and Teucrians had crossed the Bosphorus into Europe and, after conquering all of Thrace, pressed forward till they came to the Ionian Sea, while southward they reached as far as the river Peneus. Herodotus adds an account and description of later Mysians who fought in Darius’ army.

Strabo in his Geographica informs that, according to his sources, the Mysians in accordance with their religion abstained from eating any living thing, including from their flocks, and that they used as food honey and milk and cheese. Citing the historian Xanthus, he also reports that the name of the people was derived from the Lydian name for the oxya tree.

Mysian language

The Mysian language was spoken by Mysians inhabiting Mysia in north-west Anatolia. Little is known about the Mysian language. Strabo noted that their language was, in a way, a mixture of the Lydian and Phrygian languages. As such, the Mysian language could be a language of the Anatolian group. However, a passage in Athenaeus suggests that the Mysian language was akin to the barely attested Paeonian language of Paeonia, north of Macedon.

A short inscription which could be in Mysian and which dates from between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC was found in Üyücek, near Kütahya, and seems to include Indo-European words, but it has not been deciphered. However, it is uncertain whether the inscription renders a text in the Mysian language or if it is simply a Phrygian dialect from the region of Mysia.



Mysian language



File:Map of Balkans linguistic groups late 3rd millenium BC, according to Georgiev.png


Map of Roman Dacia



The Illyrians had a Sun as their god and as their flag, they were sun worshippers.
Here is a drawing of Illyrian Warriors against the Romans. You can see the sun flag.


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File:Macedonia region map wikipedia.png

Map of Hellenistic World 240 B.C.E.




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File:Ruins of Gordion 3.JPG

Midas City:

Frygisk lue:



Wearing a Phrygian cap (from the French Revolution) Stephane Hessel, 93, a former French Resistance spy, Nazi concentration camp survivor and postwar diplomat,speaks during a rally of Solidarite-Palestine in Paris, January 18 2011. Hessel says his runaway best-seller “Indignez-Vous” (Be Indignant) is a call to action to protect human rights and combat the yawning gap between rich and poor.


TROY (Canakkale)&ASSOS (Behramkale) TOUR - Assos &Troy Full Day Tour-Troy Guide -Troy info-Truva ve Assos Turu-Asos tur-Troy tour map -Homers Troy-Assos-troy daily tour-Troy-Assos Private Tours-Canakkale to Troy and Assos-Troy and Assos  Canakkale Tour- CANAKKALE-TROY-ASSOS-Turkey





Pre-gresk stratum:

File:Tyrsenian languages.svg

File:Iron Age Italy.svg


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