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.

  • Archives


The Slavs

The Slavs

Slavic Languages


Early Slavic History


Slavic Homeland

Sclaveni and Antes


South Slavs

East Slavs

West Slavs


Vistula Veneti

The Vends

Nordic Bronze Age

Tumulus culture

Ottomány culture

Komarov culture

Trzciniec culture

Lusatian culture

Urnfield culture

Naue II Swords

Hallstatt culture

La Tène culture

Milograd culture

Zarubintsy culture

Lipitsa culture

Carpathian Tumuli

Ipotesti–Candesti culture

Korchak culture

Prague-Korchak culture

Penkovka culture

Sukow-Dziedzice group

Saltovo-Mayaki culture

Volyntsevo culture

Pannonian Avars

The Slavs

Slavs are Indo-European people who speak the various Slavic languages of the larger Balto-Slavic linguistic group. They are native to Eurasia, stretching from Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe all the way north and eastwards to Northeast Europe, Northern Asia (Siberia) and Central Asia, as well as historically in Western Europe (particularly in Eastern Germany) and Western Asia (including Anatolia).

From the early 6th century they spread to inhabit most of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Today, there is a large Slavic diaspora throughout North America, particularly in the United States and Canada as a result of immigration.

Slavs are the largest ethno-linguistic group in Europe, followed by Germanic peoples and Romance peoples. Present-day Slavic people are classified into East Slavs (chiefly Belarusians, Russians, Rusyns, and Ukrainians), West Slavs (chiefly Czechs, Kashubs, Poles, Silesians, Slovaks and Sorbs) and South Slavs (chiefly Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenes).

The oldest mention of the Slavic ethnonym is the 6th century AD Procopius, writing in Byzantine Greek, using various forms such as Sklaboi, Sklabēnoi, Sklauenoi, Sthlabenoi, or Sklabinoi, while his contemporary Jordanes refers to the Sclaveni in Latin.

The oldest documents written in Old Church Slavonic, dating from the 9th century, attest the autonym as Slověne. These forms point back to a Slavic autonym which can be reconstructed in Proto-Slavic as *Slověninъ, plural Slověne.

The reconstructed autonym *Slověninъ is usually considered a derivation from slovo (“word”), originally denoting “people who speak (the same language)”, i. e. people who understand each other, in contrast to the Slavic word denoting German people, namely *němьcь, meaning “silent, mute people” (from Slavic *němъ “mute, mumbling”).

The word slovo (“word”) and the related slava (“glory, fame”) and slukh (“hearing”) originate from the Proto-Indo-European root *ḱlew- (“be spoken of, glory”), cognate with Ancient Greek kléos (“fame”), as in the name Pericles, Latin clueo (“be called”), and English loud.

Slavs are customarily divided along geographical lines into three major subgroups: West Slavs, East Slavs, and South Slavs, each with a different and a diverse background based on unique history, religion and culture of particular Slavic groups within them. Apart from prehistorical archaeological cultures, the subgroups have had notable cultural contact with non-Slavic Bronze- and Iron Age civilisations.

West Slavs originate from early Slavic tribes which settled in Central Europe after the East Germanic tribes had left this area during the migration period. They are noted as having mixed with Germanics, Hungarians, Celts (particularly the Boii), Old Prussians, and the Pannonian Avars. The West Slavs came under the influence of the Western Roman Empire (Latin) and of the Roman Catholic Church.

East Slavs have origins in early Slavic tribes who mixed and contacted with Finno-Ugric peoples and Balts. Their early Slavic component, Antes, mixed or absorbed Iranians, and later received influence from the Khazars and Vikings.

The East Slavs trace their national origins to the tribal unions of Kievan Rus’ and Rus’ Khaganate, beginning in the 10th century. They came particularly under the influence of the Byzantine Empire and of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

South Slavs from most of the region have origins in early Slavic tribes who mixed with the local Proto-Balkanic tribes (Illyrian, Dacian, Thracian, Paeonian, Hellenic tribes), and Celtic tribes (particularly the Scordisci), as well as with Romans (and the Romanized remnants of the former groups), and also with remnants of temporarily settled invading East Germanic, Asiatic or Caucasian tribes such as Gepids, Huns, Avars, Goths and Bulgars.

The original inhabitants of present-day Slovenia and continental Croatia have origins in early Slavic tribes who mixed with Romans and romanized Celtic and Illyrian people as well as with Avars and Germanic peoples (Lombards and East Goths).

The South Slavs (except the Slovenes and Croats) came under the cultural sphere of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), of the Ottoman Empire and of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Islam, while the Slovenes and the Croats were influenced by the Western Roman Empire (Latin) and thus by the Roman Catholic Church in a similar fashion to that of the West Slavs.

Throughout their history, Slavs came into contact with non-Slavic groups. In the postulated homeland region (present-day Ukraine), they had contacts with the Iranian Sarmatians and the Germanic Goths. After their subsequent spread, the Slavs began assimilating non-Slavic peoples.

For example, in the Balkans, there were Paleo-Balkan peoples, such as Romanized and Hellenized (Jireček Line) Illyrians, Thracians and Dacians, as well as Greeks and Celtic Scordisci and Serdi. Because Slavs were so numerous, most indigenous populations of the Balkans were Slavicized. Thracians and Illyrians mixed as ethnic groups in this period.

Exceptions are Greece, where Slavs were Hellenized because Greeks were more numerous (aided by more Greeks returning to Greece in the 9th century and by the church and administration), Romania, where Slavs settled en route to present-day Greece, North Macedonia, Bulgaria and East Thrace but assimilated, and the modern Albanian nation which claims descent from Illyrians.

Ruling status of Bulgars and their control of land cast the nominal legacy of the Bulgarian country and people onto future generations, but Bulgars were gradually also Slavicized into the present day South Slavic ethnic group known as Bulgarians. The Romance speakers within the fortified Dalmatian cities retained their culture and language for a long time. Dalmatian Romance was spoken until the high Middle Ages, but, they too were eventually assimilated into the body of Slavs.

In the Western Balkans, South Slavs and Germanic Gepids intermarried with invaders, eventually producing a Slavicized population. In Central Europe, the West Slavs intermixed with Germanic, Hungarian, and Celtic peoples, while in Eastern Europe the East Slavs had encountered Finnic and Scandinavian peoples.

Scandinavians (Varangians) and Finnic peoples were involved in the early formation of the Rus’ state but were completely Slavicized after a century. Some Finno-Ugric tribes in the north were also absorbed into the expanding Rus population.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchak and the Pecheneg, caused a massive migration of East Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north. In the Middle Ages, groups of Saxon ore miners settled in medieval Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria, where they were Slavicized.

Saqaliba refers to the Slavic mercenaries and slaves in the medieval Arab world in North Africa, Sicily and Al-Andalus. Saqaliba served as caliph’s guards. In the 12th century, Slavic piracy in the Baltics increased. The Wendish Crusade was started against the Polabian Slavs in 1147, as a part of the Northern Crusades.

The pagan chief of the Slavic Obodrite tribes, Niklot, began his open resistance when Lothar III, Holy Roman Emperor, invaded Slavic lands. In August 1160 Niklot was killed, and German colonization (Ostsiedlung) of the Elbe-Oder region began.

In Hanoverian Wendland, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Lusatia, invaders started germanization. Early forms of germanization were described by German monks: Helmold in the manuscript Chronicon Slavorum and Adam of Bremen in Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum.

The Polabian language survived until the beginning of the 19th century in what is now the German state of Lower Saxony. In Eastern Germany, around 20% of Germans have historic Slavic paternal ancestry, as revealed in Y-DNA testing. Similarly, in Germany, around 20% of the foreign surnames are of Slavic origin.

Cossacks, although Slavic-speaking and practicing Orthodox Christianity, came from a mix of ethnic backgrounds, including Tatars and other Turks. Many early members of the Terek Cossacks were Ossetians. The Gorals of southern Poland and northern Slovakia are partially descended from Romance-speaking Vlachs, who migrated into the region from the 14th to 17th centuries and were absorbed into the local population.

The population of Moravian Wallachia also descended from the Vlachs. Conversely, some Slavs were assimilated into other populations. Although the majority continued towards Southeast Europe, attracted by the riches of the area that became the state of Bulgaria, a few remained in the Carpathian Basin in Central Europe, and were assimilated into the Magyar people. Numerous river and other place names in Romania have Slavic origin.

Slavic Languages

The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages) are the Indo-European languages spoken by the Slavic peoples. Proto-Slavic, the supposed ancestor language of all Slavic languages, is a descendant of common Proto-Indo-European, via a Balto-Slavic stage in which it developed numerous lexical and morphophonological isoglosses with the Baltic languages. In the framework of the Kurgan hypothesis, “the Indo-Europeans who remained after the migrations [from the steppe] became speakers of Balto-Slavic”.

They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic, spoken during the Early Middle Ages, which in turn is thought to have descended from the earlier Proto-Balto-Slavic language, linking the Slavic languages to the Baltic languages in a Balto-Slavic group within the Indo-European family.

The Slavic languages are conventionally (that is, also on the basis of extralinguistic features) divided intro three subgroups: East, West, and South, which together constitute more than 20 languages. Of these, 10 have at least one million speakers and official status as the national languages of the countries in which they are predominantly spoken: Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian (of the East group), Polish, Czech and Slovak (of the West group) and Bulgarian and Macedonian (eastern dialects of the South group), and Serbo-Croatian and Slovene (western dialects of the South group).

Since the interwar period scholars have traditionally divided Slavic languages, on the basis of geographical and genealogical principle, and with the use of the extralinguistic feature of script, into three main branches, that is, East, West and South. (From the vantage of linguistic features alone, there are only two branches of the Slavic languages, namely North and South.

The current geographic distribution of natively spoken Slavic languages includes Southern Europe, Central Europe, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and all of the territory of Russia, which includes northern and north-central Asia (though many minority languages of Russia are also still spoken).

Furthermore, the diasporas of many Slavic peoples have established isolated minorities of speakers of their languages all over the world. The number of speakers of all Slavic languages together was estimated to be 315 million at the turn of the twenty-first century. Despite the large extent, the individual Slavic languages are considerably less differentiated than Germanic and Romance languages.

Slavic languages descend from Proto-Slavic, their immediate parent language, ultimately deriving from Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor language of all Indo-European languages, via a Proto-Balto-Slavic stage. During the Proto-Balto-Slavic period a number of exclusive isoglosses in phonology, morphology, lexis, and syntax developed, which makes Slavic and Baltic the closest related of all the Indo-European branches.

Proto-Slavic is the unattested, reconstructed proto-language of all the Slavic languages. The secession of the Balto-Slavic dialect ancestral to Proto-Slavic is estimated on archaeological and glottochronological criteria to have occurred sometime in the period 1500–1000 BCE.

It represents Slavic speech until the 6th century AD. As with most other proto-languages, no attested writings have been found; scholars have reconstructed the language by applying the comparative method to all the attested Slavic languages and by taking into account other Indo-European languages.

Rapid development of Slavic speech occurred during the Proto-Slavic period, coinciding with the massive expansion of the Slavic-speaking area. Dialectal differentiation occurred early on during this period, but overall linguistic unity and mutual intelligibility continued for several centuries, into the 10th century or later.

During this period, many sound changes diffused across the entire area, often uniformly. This makes it inconvenient to maintain the traditional definition of a proto-language as the latest reconstructable common ancestor of a language group, with no dialectal differentiation.

This would necessitate treating all pan-Slavic changes after the 6th century or so as part of the separate histories of the various daughter languages. Instead, Slavicists typically handle the entire period of dialectally-differentiated linguistic unity as Common Slavic.

Although the Slavic languages diverged from a common proto-language later than any other group of the Indo-European language family, enough differences exist between the various Slavic dialects and languages to make communication between speakers of different Slavic languages difficult. Within the individual Slavic languages, dialects may vary to a lesser degree, as those of Russian, or to a much greater degree, as those of Slovene.

One can divide the Proto-Slavic/Common-Slavic time of linguistic unity roughly into three periods: An early period with little or no dialectal variation, a middle period of slight-to-moderate dialectal variation and a late period of significant variation.

Authorities differ as to which periods should be included in Proto-Slavic and in Common Slavic. The language described in this article generally reflects the middle period, usually termed Late Proto-Slavic (sometimes Middle Common Slavic) and often dated to around the 7th to 8th centuries. This language remains largely unattested, but a late-period variant, representing the late 9th-century dialect spoken around Thessaloniki in Greek Macedonia, is attested in Old Church Slavonic manuscripts.

The ancestor of Proto-Slavic is Proto-Balto-Slavic, which is also the ancestor of the Baltic languages, e.g. Lithuanian and Latvian. This language in turn is descended from Proto-Indo-European, the parent language of the vast majority of European languages. Proto-Slavic gradually evolved into the various Slavic languages during the latter half of the first millennium AD, concurrent with the explosive growth of the Slavic-speaking area.

There is no scholarly consensus concerning either the number of stages involved in the development of the language (its periodization) or the terms used to describe them. Proto-Slavic is divided into periods. One division is made up of three periods: Early Proto-Slavic (until 1000 BC), Middle Proto-Slavic (1000 BC – 1 AD) and Late Proto-Slavic (1–600 AD).

Another division is made up of four periods: Pre-Slavic (c. 1500 BC – 300 AD): A long, stable period of gradual development. The most significant phonological developments during this period involved the prosodic system, e.g. tonal and other register distinctions on syllables.

Early Common Slavic or simply Early Slavic (c. 300–600): The early, uniform stage of Common Slavic, but also the beginning of a longer period of rapid phonological change. As there are no dialectal distinctions reconstructible from this period or earlier, this is the period for which a single common ancestor (that is, “Proto-Slavic proper”) can be reconstructed.

Middle Common Slavic (c. 600–800): The stage with the earliest identifiable dialectal distinctions. Rapid phonological change continued, although with the massive expansion of the Slavic-speaking area.

Although some dialectal variation did exist, most sound changes were still uniform and consistent in their application. By the end of this stage, the vowel and consonant phonemes of the language were largely the same as those still found in the modern languages. For this reason, reconstructed “Proto-Slavic” forms commonly found in scholarly works and etymological dictionaries normally correspond to this period.

Late Common Slavic (c. 800–1000, although perhaps through c. 1150 in Kievan Rus’, in the far northeast): The last stage in which the whole Slavic-speaking area still functioned as a single language, with sound changes normally propagating throughout the entire area, although often with significant dialectal variation in the details.

Proto-Slavic hydronyms have been preserved between the source of the Vistula and the middle basin of the Dnieper. Its northern regions adjoin territory where river names of Baltic origin (Daugava, Neman and others) abound. On the south and east, it borders the area of Iranian river names (including the Dniester, the Dnieper and the Don).

A connection between Proto-Slavic and Iranian languages is also demonstrated by the earliest layer of loanwords in the former; the Proto-Slavic words for god (*bogъ), demon (*divъ), house (*xata), axe (*toporъ) and dog (*sobaka) are of Scythian origin. The Iranian dialects of the Scythians and Sarmatians influenced Slavic vocabulary during the millennium-long contact between them and early Proto-Slavic.

A longer, more intensive connection between Proto-Slavic and the Germanic languages can be assumed from the number of Germanic loanwords, such as *duma (“thought”), *kupiti (“to buy”), *mĕčь (“sword”), *šelmъ (“helmet”), and *xъlmъ (“hill”).

The Common Slavic words for beech, larch and yew were also borrowed from Germanic, which led Polish botanist Józef Rostafiński to place the Slavic homeland in the Pripet Marshes (where the plants were missing).

Germanic languages were a mediator between Common Slavic and other languages; the Proto-Slavic word for emperor (*cĕsar’ь) was transmitted from Latin through a Germanic idiom, and the Common Slavic word for church (*crъky) came from Greek.

Common Slavic dialects before the fourth century AD cannot be detected; all daughter languages emerged from later variants. Tonal word stress (a ninth-century change) is present in all Slavic languages, and Proto-Slavic reflects the language probably spoken at the end of the first millennium.

Early Slavic History

The early Slavs were a diverse group of tribal societies who lived during the Migration Period and Early Middle Ages (approximately the 5th to the 10th centuries) in Eastern Europe and established the foundations for the Slavic nations through the Slavic states of the High Middle Ages.

It’s still a matter of controversy where the original habitat of the Slavs was, but scholars believe it was somewhere in Eastern Europe. In the past not much attention was paid to the origin of the Slavic people.

Early Slavic archeological findings are most often associated with the Przeworsk ( 300 BC to 500 AD) and Zarubintsy (300 BC to 100 AD) and the Oksywie cultures, with evidence ranging from hill forts, ceramic pots, weapons, jewelry and abodes.

However, in many areas archaeologists face difficulties in distinguishing Slavic and non-Slavic findings, as the early Slavic culture over the subsequent centuries was heavily influenced by the Sarmatian culture, a large Iranian confederation that existed in classical antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD, from the east, and by the various Germanic cultures in the west.

The first written use of the name “Slavs” dates to the 6th century, when the Slavic tribes inhabited a large portion of Central and Eastern Europe. By that century, nomadic Iranian ethnic groups living on the Eurasian Steppe (the Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans etc.) had been absorbed by the region’s Slavic population.

Over the next two centuries, the Slavs expanded southwest toward the Balkans and the Alps and northeast towards the Volga River. Beginning in the 9th century, the Slavs gradually converted to Christianity (both Byzantine Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism).

By the 12th century, they were the core population of a number of medieval Christian states: East Slavs in the Kievan Rus’, South Slavs in the Bulgarian Empire, the Kingdom of Croatia, Banate of Bosnia and the Grand Principality of Serbia, and West Slavs in the Great Moravia, the Kingdom of Poland, Duchy of Bohemia and Principality of Nitra.


The Slavic population of eastern Europe expanded during the sixth century, bringing their customs and language. Although there is no consensus about their homeland, scholars generally looked north of the Carpathians.

Russian archaeologist Valentin Sedov, using the Herderian concept of nationhood, proposed that the Venethi were the proto-Slavic bearers of the Przeworsk culture. Their expansion began during the second century AD, and they occupied a large area of eastern Europe between the Vistula and the middle Dnieper.

The Venethi slowly expanded south and east by the fourth century, assimilating the neighbouring Zarubinec culture (which Sedov considered partly Baltic) and continuing southeast to become part of the Chernyakhov culture. The Antes separated themselves from the Venethi by 300 (followed by the Sclaveni by 500) in the areas of the Penkovka and Prague-Korchak cultures, respectively.

During the seventh century BC, the Chernoles culture was loosely governed by the Scythians via trade. There was limited interaction between the Slavs, who were tribute-paying ploughmen under the Scythians, and the nomads.

Their homeland in the forest steppe enabled them to preserve their language, except for phonetic and some lexical constituents (Satemisation) and their patrilineal, agricultural customs. After a millennium, when the Hunnic Empire collapsed, an eastern-Slavic culture re-emerged and spread rapidly in the south and central-eastern Europe.

According to Marija Gimbutas, “Neither Bulgars nor Avars colonized the Balkan Peninsula; after storming Thrace, Illyria and Greece they went back to their territory north of the Danube. It was the Slavs who did the colonizing … entire families or even whole tribes infiltrated lands.

As an agricultural people, they constantly sought an outlet for the population surplus. Suppressed for over a millennium by foreign rule of Scythians, Sarmatians and Goths, they had been restricted to a small territory; now the barriers were down and they poured out”.

In addition to their growth, the depopulation of eastern Europe (due, in part, to Germanic migration) and the lack of imperial defences encouraged Slavic expansion.

With processual archaeology during the 1960s, scholars began to believe that “there was no need to explain culture change exclusively in terms of migration and population replacement”. According to historical linguist Johanna Nichols, “Ethnic spreads can involve either the spread of a language to speakers of other languages or the spread of a population.

Massive population spread or demographic replacement has probably been a rarity in human history… There is no reason to assume that the Slavic expansion was a primarily demographic event.

Some migration took place, but the parsimonious assumption is the Slavic expansion was primarily a linguistic spread”. Colin Renfrew proposed elite-dominance and system-collapse theories to explain language replacement.

Dolukhanov suggested that their experience with nomads enabled the Slavs political and military experience, becoming a “dominant force and establishing a new socio-political network in the entire area of central and southeastern Europe”.

According to Paul Barford, “The Spartan and egalitarian (Slavic) culture … clearly had something attractive for great numbers of the populations living over considerable areas of central Europe”, resulting in their assimilation.

“The analysis of Slav material culture (especially South Slavs) and results of anthropological investigations, as well as the loan-words in philological studies, clearly demonstrate the contribution of the previous populations of these territories in the make-up of some of the Slav populations”.

Byzantine chroniclers noted that Roman prisoners captured by the Sclavenes could soon become free members of Slavic society if they wished. Horace Lunt attributed Slavic spread to the “success and mobility of the Slavic ‘special border guards’ of the Avar khanate”, (military elites), who used it as a lingua franca in the Avar Khanate.

According to Lunt, only as a lingua franca could Slavic supplant other languages and dialects whilst remaining relatively uniform. Although it explains the formation of regional Slavic groups in the Balkans, eastern Alps and the Morava-Danube basin, Lunt’s theory does not account for Slavic spread to the Baltic region and the territory of the Eastern Slavs (areas with no historical links to the Avar Khanate).

A concept related to elite dominance is system collapse, where a power vacuum created by the fall of the Hun and Roman Empires allows a minority group to impose their customs and language.

Paul Barford suggested that Slavic groups might have existed in a wide area of central-eastern Europe (in the Chernyakov and Zarubintsy-Przeworsk cultural zones) before the documented Slavic migrations from the sixth to the ninth centuries.

Serving as auxiliaries in the Sarmatian, Goth and Hun armies, small numbers of Slavic speakers might have reached the Balkans before the sixth century: These scattered groups were centers for the creation of a Slavic cultural identity under favorable conditions, assimilating or conveying their culture and language.

A similar idea has been proposed by Florin Curta. Seeing no clear evidence for a migration from Polesia or elsewhere north, Curta suggests that southeastern Europe saw the development of a “broad area of common economic and cultural traditions …

Whether living within the same region or widely scattered, adherence to this style helped to integrate isolated individuals within a group whose social boundaries crisscrossed those of local communities”.

“During the early 600s, however, at the time of the general collapse of the Byzantine administration in the Balkans, access to and manipulation of such (Slavic) artifacts may have been strategies for creating a new sense of identity for local elites”. Curta suggests that the chief impetus for this identity originated in the Danubian frontier.

Scholars acknowledge that an attempt to define a localized Slavic homeland may be simplistic. Although proto-Slavic may have developed in a localized area, Slavic ethnogenesis occurred in a large area, from the Oder in the west to the Dnieper in the east and south to the Danube.

It was a complex process, fueled by changes in the Barbaricum and the Roman Empire. Despite cultural uniformity, Slavic development seems to have been less politically consolidated than that of the Germanic peoples.

According to Patrick Geary, Slavic expansion was a decentralized-but-forceful process which assimilated a large population with small groups of “soldier-farmers” who had common traditions and language: “Without kings or large–scale chieftains to bribe or defeat, the Byzantine Empire had little hope of either destroying them or co-opting them into the imperial system”.

Walter Pohl agrees: “Avars and Bulgars conformed to the rules of the game established by the Romans. They built up a concentration of military power that was paid, in the last resort, from Roman tax revenues. Therefore they paradoxically depended on the functioning of the Byzantine state.

The Slavs managed to keep up their agriculture (and a rather efficient kind of agriculture, by the standards of the time), even in times when they took their part in plundering Roman provinces. The booty they won apparently did not (at least initially) create a new military class with the greed for more and contempt for peasant’s work, as it did with the Germans. Thus the Slavic model proved an attractive alternative … which proved practically indestructible.

Slav traditions, language, and culture shaped, or at least influenced, innumerable local and regional communities: a surprising similarity that developed without any central institution to promote it. These regional ethnogeneses inspired by Slavic tradition incorporated considerable remnants of the Roman or Germanic population ready enough to give up ethnic identities that had lost their cohesion”.

Slavic Homeland

The Proto-Slavic homeland is the area of Slavic settlement in Central and Eastern Europe during the first millennium AD, with its precise location debated by archaeologists, ethnographers and historians. None of the proposed homelands reaches the Volga River in the east, over the Dinaric Alps in the southwest or the Balkan Mountains in the south, or past Bohemia in the west.

In the archaeological literature, attempts have been made to assign an early Slavic character to several cultures in a number of time periods and regions. The Prague-Korchak cultural horizon encompasses postulated early Slavic cultures from the Elbe to the Dniester, in contrast with the Dniester-to-Dnieper Penkovka culture.

“Prague culture” refers to western Slavic material grouped around Bohemia, Moravia and western Slovakia, distinct from the Mogilla (southern Poland) and Korchak (central Ukraine and southern Belarus) groups further east. The Prague and Mogilla groups are seen as the archaeological reflection of sixth-century western Slavs.

The second-to-fifth-century Chernyakhov culture encompassed modern Ukraine, Moldova and Wallachia. Chernyakov finds include polished black-pottery vessels, fine metal ornaments and iron tools. Soviet scholars, such as Boris Rybakov, saw it as the archaeological reflection of the proto-Slavs.

The Chernyakov zone is now seen as representing the cultural interaction of several peoples, one of which was rooted in Scytho-Sarmatian traditions, modified by Germanic elements introduced by the Goths. The semi-subterranean dwelling with a corner hearth later became typical of early Slavic sites, with Volodymir Baran calling it a Slavic “ethnic badge”.

In the Carpathian foothills of Podolia, at the northwestern fringes of the Chernyakov zone, the Slavs gradually became a culturally-unified people; the multi-ethnic environment of the Chernyakhov zone presented a “need for self-identification in order to manifest their differentiation from other groups”.

The Przeworsk culture, northwest of the Chernyakov zone, extended from the Dniester to the Tisza valley and north to the Vistula and Oder. It was an amalgam of local cultures, most with roots in earlier traditions modified by influences from the (Celtic) La Tène culture, (Germanic) Jastorf culture beyond the Oder and the Bell-Grave culture of the Polish plain. The Venethi may have played a part; other groups included the Vandals, Burgundians and Sarmatians.

East of the Przeworsk zone was the Zarubinets culture, sometimes considered part of the Przeworsk complex. Early Slavic hydronyms are found in the area occupied by the Zarubinets culture, and Irena Rusinova proposed that the most prototypical examples of Prague-type pottery later originated there. The Zarubinets culture is identified as proto-Slavic or an ethnically-mixed community which became Slavicized.

With increasing age, the confidence with which archaeological connections can be made to known historic groups lessens. The Chernoles culture has been seen as a stage in the evolution of the Slavs, and Marija Gimbutas identified it as the proto-Slavic homeland. According to many pre-historians, ethnic labels are inappropriate for European Iron Age peoples.

The Globular Amphora culture stretched from the middle Dnieper to the Elbe during the late fourth and early third millennia BC. It has been suggested as the locus of a Germano-Balto-Slavic continuum (the Germanic substrate hypothesis), but the identification of its bearers as Indo-Europeans is uncertain. The area of this culture contains a number of tumuli, typical of Indo-Europeans.

The eighth-to-third-century BC Chernoles culture, sometimes associated with Herodotus’ “Scythian farmers”, is “sometimes portrayed as either a state in the development of the Slavic languages or at least some form of late Indo-European ancestral to the evolution of the Slavic stock.”

The Milograd culture (700 BC–100 AD), centered roughly in present-day Belarus and north of the Chernoles culture, has also been proposed as ancestral for the Slavs or the Balts. According to the Chernoles culture theory, the pre-Proto-Slavs originated in the 1025–700 BC culture of northern Ukraine and the third century BC–first century AD Zarubintsy culture.

According to Polish historian Gerard Labuda, the ethnogenesis of Slavic people is the Trzciniec culture from about 1700 to 1200 BC. The Milograd culture hypothesis posits that the pre-Proto-Slavs (or Balto-Slavs) originated in the seventh century BC–first century AD culture of northern Ukraine and southern Belarus.

According to the Lusatian culture hypothesis, they were present in north-eastern Central Europe in the 1300–500 BC culture and the second century BC–fourth century AD Przeworsk culture. The Danube basin hypothesis, postulated by Oleg Trubachyov and supported by Florin Curta and Nestor’s Chronicle, theorizes that the Slavs originated in central and southeastern Europe.

The latest attempt of locating the place of Slavic origin using genetics, after studying paternal lineages of all existing modern Slavic populations, placed the earliest known homeland of Slavs within the area of the middle Dnieper basin in present-day Ukraine.

Southern Ukraine is known to have been inhabited by Scythian and Sarmatian tribes before the Goths. Early Slavic stone stelae found in the middle Dniester region are markedly different from the Scythian and Sarmatian stelae of the Crimea.

Although the second-to-fifth-century Chernyakhov culture triggered the decline of the late Sarmatian culture from the second to fourth centuries, the western part of the Przeworsk culture remained intact until the fourth century and the Kiev culture flourished from 200-500 AD. The latter is recognized as the predecessor of the Prague-Korchak and Pen’kovo cultures, the first archaeological cultures identified as Slavic.

Although Proto-Slavic probably reached its final stage in the Kiev area, there is disagreement in the scientific community about the Kiev culture’s predecessors; some scholars trace it from the Ruthenian Milograd culture, others from the Ukrainian Chernoles and Zarubintsy cultures and still others from the Polish Przeworsk culture.

Frederik Kortlandt places the territory of this common language near the Indo-European homeland: “The Indo-Europeans who remained after the migrations became speakers of Balto-Slavic”. However, “geographical contiguity, parallel development and interaction” may explain the existence of these language-group characteristics.

Kortlandt has suggested that the number of candidates for Slavic homeland may rise from a tendency among historians to date “proto-languages farther back in time than is warranted by the linguistic evidence”.

Although all spoken languages change gradually over time, in the absence of written records that change can be identified by historians only after a population has expanded and separated long enough to develop daughter languages.

The existence of an “original home” is sometimes rejected as arbitrary, because the earliest origin sources “always speak of origins and beginnings in a manner which presupposes earlier origins and beginnings”.

According to historical records, the Slavic homeland would have been somewhere in central Europe, possibly along the southern shore of the Baltic Sea. The Prague-Penkova-Kolochin complex of cultures during the sixth and seventh centuries AD is generally accepted to reflect the expansion of Slavic speakers at the time. Core candidates are cultures within the territories of modern Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine.

Traditionally, scholars put it in the marshes of Ukraine, or alternatively between the Bug and the Dnieper; however, according to F. Curta, the homeland of the southern Slavs mentioned by 6th-century writers was just north of the Lower Danube. Little is known about the Slavs before the 5th century, when they began to spread out in all directions.

Jordanes, Procopius and other late Roman authors provide the probable earliest references to southern Slavs in the second half of the 6th century. They were portrayed by Procopius as unusually tall and strong, of dark skin and “reddish” hair (neither blond nor black), leading a primitive life and living in scattered huts, often changing their residence.

Procopius described the Sclaveni and Antes as two barbarian peoples with the same institutions and customs since ancient times, not ruled by a single leader but living under democracy, while Pseudo-Maurice called them a numerous people, undisciplined, unorganized and leaderless, who did not allow enslavement and conquest, and resistant to hardship, bearing all weathers. 

Procopius said they were henotheistic, believing in the god of lightning (Perun), the ruler of all, to whom they sacrificed cattle. They went into battle on foot, charging straight at their enemy, armed with spears and small shields, but they did not wear armour. While archaeological evidence for a large-scale migration is lacking, most present-day historians claim that Slavs invaded and settled the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries.

According to this dominant narrative, up until the late 560s their main activity across the Danube was raiding, though with limited Slavic settlement mainly through Byzantine colonies of foederati. The Danube and Sava frontier was overwhelmed by large-scale Slavic settlement in the late 6th and early 7th century.

What is today central Serbia was an important geo-strategical province, through which the Via Militaris crossed. This area was frequently intruded upon by barbarians in the 5th and 6th centuries.

From the Danube, the Slavs commenced raiding the Byzantine Empire on an annual basis from the 520s, spreading destruction, taking loot and herds of cattle, seizing prisoners and taking fortresses. Often, the Byzantine Empire was stretched, defending its rich Asian provinces from Arabs, Persians and others.

This meant that even numerically small, disorganised early Slavic raids were capable of causing much disruption, but could not capture the larger, fortified cities. The first Slavic raid south of the Danube was recorded by Procopius, who mentions an attack of the Antes, “who dwell close to the Sclaveni”, probably in 518.

Sclaveni and Antes

The Byzantines broadly grouped the numerous Slav tribes living in proximity with the Eastern Roman Empire into two groups: the Sklavenoi and the Antes. Based on the literary evidence provided by Procopius (ca 500 to ca 560) and by Jordanes (fl. ca 551), the Antes, the Sklaveni and the Venethi have long been viewed as one of the constituent proto-Slavic peoples ancestral both to medieval groups and to modern nations.

The Antes or Antae were an early East Slavic tribal polity which existed in the 6th century lower Danube, on the regions around the Don river (Middle- and Southern Russia) and northwestern Black Sea region (modern-day Moldova and central Ukraine). 

The Sclaveni were mentioned by early Byzantine chroniclers as barbarians having appeared at the Byzantine borders along with the Antes. The Sclaveni (in Latin) or Sklavenoi (in Greek) were early Slavic tribes that raided, invaded and settled the Balkans in the Early Middle Ages and eventually became known as the ethnogenesis of the South Slavs.

The derived Greek term Sklavinia(i) (Latin: Sclaviniae) was used for Slav tribes in Byzantine Macedonia and the Peloponnese; these Slavic territories were initially outside of Byzantine control. The Sclaveni were called as such by Procopius, and as Sclavi by Jordanes and Pseudo-Maurice (Greek: Sklabēnoi, Sklauēnoi, or Sklabinoi; Latin: Sclaueni, Sclavi, Sclauini, or Sthlaueni – Sklaveni.

The Sclaveni were differentiated from the Antes and Wends (West Slavs); however, they were described as kin. Scholar Michel Kazanski identified the 6th-century Prague culture and Sukow-Dziedzice group as Sclaveni archaeological cultures, and the Penkovka culture was identified as Antes.

The first Slavic raid south of the Danube was recorded by Procopius, who mentions an attack of the Antes, “who dwell close to the Sclaveni”, probably in 518. First mentioned in 518, the Antes invaded the Diocese of Thrace at some point between 533 and 545. In the 530s, Emperor Justinian seems to have used divide and conquer and the Sclaveni and Antes are mentioned as fighting each other.

Shortly after, they became Byzantine foederati, and were given gold payments and a fort named Turris, somewhere north of the Danube at a strategically important location, so as to prevent hostile barbarians invading Roman lands. Thus, between 545 and the 580s, Antean soldiers fought in various Byzantine campaigns.

The Antes remained Roman allies until their demise in the first decade of the 7th century. They were often involved in conflicts with the Avars in the 560s. Later, in retaliation for a Roman attack on their Sklavene allies, the Avars attacked the Antes in 602. The Avars sent their general Apsich to “destroy the nation of the Antes”.

Despite numerous defections to the Romans during the campaign, the Avar attack appears to have ended the Antean polity. The Antes were eventually attacked and destroyed by the Pannonian Avars at the beginning of the 7th century. They never appear in sources apart from the epithet Anticus in the imperial titulature in 612. Curta argues that the 602 attack on the Antes destroyed their political independence.

However, the epithet Anticus is attested in imperial titulature until 612, thus Kardaras rather argues that they disappearance of the Antes relates to general collapse of the Scythian/ lower Danubian limes which they defended, at which time their hegemony on the lower Danube ended.

Whatever the case, shortly after the collapse of the Danubian limes (more specifically, the tactical Roman withdrawal), the first evidence of Slavic settlement in north-eastern Bulgaria begin to appear.

By 800, however, the term also referred specifically to Slavic mobile military colonists who settled as allies within the territories of the Byzantine Empire. Slavic military settlements appeared in the Peloponnese, Asia Minor, and Italy.

Eventually, most South Slavic tribes accepted Byzantine suzerainty, and came under Byzantine cultural influence. The term was widely used as general catch-all term until the emergence of separate tribal names by the 10th century.


Studying the Antes since the late 18th century, modern scholars have at times engaged in heated polemics regarding Antean origins and the attribution of their ancestors. They have variously regarded the Antes as ancestors of specifically the Vyatichi or Rus (from a medieval perspective), and of the Ukrainians versus other East Slavs (with regard to extant populations). Additionally, South Slavic historians have regarded the Antes as the ancestors of the East South Slavs.

They have variously been regarded as ancestors of specifically the Vyatichi or Rus (from a medieval perspective), and of the Ukrainians versus other East Slavs (with regard to extant populations). Additionally, South Slavic historians have regarded the Antes as the ancestors of the East South Slavs.

Although regarded as a predominantly Slavic tribal union, numerous other theories have arisen, especially with regard to the origins of their ruling core; including theories of an Iranic, Gothic and Slavic ruling nobility, or some mixture thereof.

Much dispute arose because of scant literary evidence: little is known apart from the tribal name itself and a handful of anthroponyms. The name Antes itself does not appear to be Slavic, and is often held to be an Iranian word.

Omeljan Pritsak, citing Max Vasmer, argues that anta- means “frontier, end” (in Sanskrit), thus *ant-ya could mean “frontier-man”, or “which is at the end” and in the Ossetian att’iya means “the last, behind”. Bohdan Struminskyj in comparison considered that the etymology of Antes remains unproven and is nevertheless “irrelevant”.

Struminskyj analysed the personal names of Antean chiefs and offered Germanic etymological alternatives to the commonly accepted Slavic etymology (first proposed by Stanislaw Rospond). Whatever their exact ‘origins’, Jordanes and Procopius appear to suggest that the Antes were Slavic by the 5th century.

In describing the lands of Scythia (Getica. 35), Jordanes states that “the populous race of the Venethi occupy a great expanse of land. Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans and places, yet they are chiefly called Sklaveni and Antes”.

Later, in describing the deeds of Ermanaric, the mythical Ostrogothic king. He informs that the Venethi “have now three names, Venethi, Antes and Sklaveni” (Get. 119′). Finally, Jordanes details a battle between the Antean king Boz and Vinitharius (Ermanaric’s successor) after the latter’s subjugation by the Huns.

After initially defeating the Goths, the Antes lost the second battle, and Boz and 70 of his leading nobles were crucified (Get. 247). Scholars have traditionally taken the accounts of Jordanes at face value as evidence that Sklaveni and (the bulk of the) Antes descended from the Venedi, a tribe known to historians such as Tacitus, Ptolemy and Pliny the Elder since the 2nd century AD.

However, the utility of Getica as an accurate ethnographic excursus has been questioned. Prominent in raising doubts have been Walter Goffart, who argues that Getica created an entirely mythical story of Gothic, and other peoples’ origins. Curta further argues that Jordanes had no real ethnographic knowledge of “Scythia”, despite claims that he himself was a Goth and was born in Thrace.

He borrowed heavily from earlier historians, and only artificially linked the 6th-century Sklaveni and Antes with the earlier Venethi, who had otherwise long disappeared by the 6th century. Whilst being anachronistic, he also employed a “modernizing narrative strategy” whereby older events – the war between the Ostrogothic Vithimiris and the Alans – was re-told as a war between Vinitharius and the contemporary Antes. In any case, no fourth-century source mentions Antes, and the “Ostrogoths” only formed in the 5th century – inside the Balkans.

Apart from respect to older historians, Jordanes narrative style was shaped by his polemical debate with his contemporary – Procopius. Whilst Jordanes linked the Sclaveni and Antes with the ancient Venedi, Procopius states that they were both once called Sporoi (Procopius. History of the Wars. VII 14.29).

Although the first unequivocal attestation of the tribal Antes in the 6th century AD, scholars have tried to connect the Antes with a tribe rendered An-tsai in a 2nd-century BC Chinese source (Hou Han-shu, 118, fol. 13r). Pliny the Elder (Natural History VI, 35) mentions some Anti living near the Azov shores; and inscriptions from the Kerch peninsula dating to the third century AD bear the word antas.

Based on documentation of “Sarmatian” tribes inhabiting the north Pontic region during the early centuries of the Common Era, presumed Iranian loanwords into Slavic, and Sarmatian ‘cultural borrowings’ into the Penkovka culture, scholars such as Robert Magosci, Valentin Sedov and John Fine Jr. maintain earlier proposals by Soviet-era scholars such as Boris Rybakov, that the Antes were originally a Sarmatian-Alan frontier tribe which become Slavicized, but preserved their name.

Sedov argues that by the ethnonym was for the Slavic-Scythian-Sarmatian population living between rivers Dniester and Dnieper, and later for the related Slavic tribes who emerged from this Slavic-Iranian symbiosis.

However, recent perspectives view the tribal entities named by Graeco-Roman sources as fluctuant political formations which were, above all, etic categorizations based on ethnographic stereotypes rather than first-hand, accurate knowledge of the barbarian language or ‘culture’. Szmoniewski summarizes that the Antes were not a “discrete, ethnically homogeneous entity” but rather “a highly complex political reality”.

Linguistically, contemporary evidence suggests that Proto-Slavic was the common language of an area from the eastern Alps to the Black Sea, by populations of varying ethnic backgrounds, including Slavs, provincial Romans, Germanic tribes (such as the Gepids and Lombards), and Turkic peoples (such as the Avars and Bulgars).

It has further been proposed that the Sklaveni were not distinguished from others on the basis of language or culture, but the type of their military organization. If compared to the Avars, or 6th century Goths, the Sklaveni were numerous, smaller disunited groups, one of which – the Antai – became foederati constituted by a treaty.

According to the Sarmatians-Antes link, the Antes were a sub-group of the Alans, which dominated the Black Sea and North Caucasus region during the Late Sarmatian Period. The Antes were based between the Prut and lower Dniester during the 1st to 2nd centuries AD. From the 4th century, their center of power shifted northward toward the southern Bug.

In the fifth and sixth centuries they settled in Volhynia and subsequently in the middle Dnieper region near the present-day city of Kiev. As they moved north from the open steppe to the forest steppe. They organized the Slavic tribes and the name Antes came to be used for the mixed Slavo-Alanic body.

The first contact between the East Romans and the Antes was in 518 AD. Recorded by Procopius (Wars VII 40.5–6), the Antean raid appeared to coincide with Vitalian’ revolt, but was intercepted and defeated by the magister militum per Thraciam Germanus.

Germanus was replaced by Chilbudius in the early 530s, who was killed 3 years later, during an expedition against the various Sklavenoi. With the death of Chilbudius, Justinian appears to have changed his policy against Slavic barbarians from attack to defense, exemplified by his grand programme of re-fortification of garrisons along the Danube.

Procopius notes that in 539/40, the Sklavenes and Antes ‘became hostile to one another and engaged in battle. probably encouraged by the Romans’ traditional tactic of ‘divide and conquer’. At the same time, the Romans recruited mounted mercenaries from both groups to aid their war against the Ostrogoths.

Nevertheless, both Procopius and Jordanes report numerous raids by “Huns”, Slavs, Bulgars and Antes in the years 539–40 AD; reporting that some 32 forts and 120, 000 Roman prisoners were captured. Sometime between 533 and 545, the Antes invaded the Diocese of Thrace, enslaving many Romans and taking them north of the Danube to the Antean homelands. Indeed, there were numerous raids during this turbulent decade by numerous barbarians, including the Antes.

Shortly after, the Antes became Roman allies (after they approached the Romans) and were given gold payments and a fort named Turris, somewhere north of the Danube at a strategically important location, so as to prevent hostile barbarians invading Roman lands.

This was part of a larger set of alliances, including the Lombards, so that pressure can be lifted off the lower Danube and forces can be diverted to Italy. Thus in 545, the Antean soldiers were fighting in Lucania against Ostrogoths, and in the 580s they attacked the settlements of the Sklavenes at the behest of the Romans. In 555 and 556, Dabragezas (of Antean origin) led the Roman fleet in Crimea against Persian positions.

South Slavs

The South Slavs are a subgroup of Slavic peoples who speak the South Slavic languages. They inhabit a contiguous region in the Balkan Peninsula and the eastern Alps, and in the modern era are geographically separated from the body of West Slavic and East Slavic people by the Romanians, Hungarians, and Austrians in between.

The South Slavs today include the nations of Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenes. They are the main population of the Eastern and Southeastern European countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia.

In the 20th century, the country of Yugoslavia (lit. “South Slavia”/”Southern Slavland”) united the regions inhabited by South Slavic nations – with the key exception of Bulgaria – into a single state. The concept of Yugoslavia, a single state for all South Slavic peoples, emerged in the late 17th century and gained prominence through the 19th-century Illyrian movement.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929, was proclaimed on 1 December 1918, following the unification of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs with the kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro.

The South Slavs are known in Serbian, Macedonian and Montenegrin as Južni Sloveni; in Bulgarian as Yuzhni Slavyani; in Croatian and Bosnian as Južni Slaveni; in Slovene as Južni Slovani. The Slavic root *jugъ means “south”.

The Slavic ethnonym itself was used by 6th-century writers to describe the southern group of Early Slavs (the Sclaveni); West Slavs were called Veneti and East Slavs Antes. The South Slavs are also called “Balkan Slavs”, although this term does not encompass the Slovenes.

Another name popular in the early modern period was “Illyrians”, the name of a pre-Slavic Balkan people, a name first adopted by Dalmatian intellectuals in the late 15th century to refer to South Slavic lands and population.

It was then used by the Habsburg Monarchy, France, and notably adopted by the 19th-century Croatian nationalist and Pan-Slavist Illyrian movement. Eventually, the idea of Yugoslavism appeared, aimed at uniting all South Slav-populated territories into a common state. From this idea emerged Yugoslavia, which however did not include Bulgaria.

Sclaveni are first mentioned in the context of the military policy on the Danube frontier of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565). Throughout the century, Slavs raided and plundered deep into the Balkans, from Dalmatia to Greece and Thrace, and were also at times recruited as mercenaries, fighting the Ostrogoths.

Justinian seems to have used the strategy of ‘divide and conquer’, and the Sclaveni and Antes are mentioned as fighting each other. The Antes are last mentioned as anti-Byzantine belligerents in 545, and the Sclaveni continued to raid the Balkans. In 558 the Avars arrived at the Black Sea steppe, and defeated the Antes between the Dnieper and Dniester.

The Avars subsequently allied themselves with the Sclaveni, although there was an episode in which the Sclavene Daurentius (fl. 577–579), the first Slavic chieftain recorded by name, dismissed Avar suzerainty and retorted that “Others do not conquer our land, we conquer theirs […] so it shall always be for us”, and had the Avar envoys slain.

By the 580s, as the Slav communities on the Danube became larger and more organized, and as the Avars exerted their influence, raids became larger and resulted in permanent settlement. Most scholars consider the period of 581-584 as the beginning of large-scale Slavic settlement in the Balkans.

F. Curta points out that evidence of substantial Slavic presence does not appear before the 7th century and remains qualitatively different from the “Slavic culture” found north of the Danube. In the mid-6th century, the Byzantines re-asserted their control of the Danube frontier, thereby reducing the economic value of Slavic raiding.

This growing economic isolation, combined with external threats from the Avars and Byzantines, led to political and military mobilisation. Meanwhile, the itinerant form of agriculture (lacking crop rotation) may have encouraged micro-regional mobility. Seventh-century archaeological sites show earlier hamlet collections evolving into larger communities with differentiated zones for public feasts, craftmanship, etc.

It has been suggested that the Sclaveni were the ancestors of the Serbo-Croatian group while the Antes were that of the Bulgarian Slavs, with much mixture in the contact zones. The diminished pre-Slavic inhabitants, also including also Romanized native peoples, fled from the barbarian invasions and sought refuge inside fortified cities and islands, whilst others fled to remote mountains and forests and adopted a transhumant lifestyle.

The Romance speakers within the fortified Dalmatian city-states managed to retain their culture and language for a long time. Meanwhile, the numerous Slavs mixed with and assimilated the descendants of the indigenous population.

Subsequent information about Slavs’ interaction with the Greeks and early Slavic states comes from the 10th-century De Administrando Imperio (DAI) by Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, the 7th-century compilations of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius (MSD) and the History by Theophylact Simocatta.

DAI mentions the beginnings of the Croatian, Serbian and Bulgarian states from the early 7th to the mid-10th century. MSD and Theophylact Simocatta mention the Slavic tribes in Thessaly and Macedonia at the beginning of the 7th century. The 9th-century Royal Frankish Annals (RFA) also mention Slavic tribes in contact with the Franks.

By 700 AD, Slavs had settled in most of the Central and Southeast Europe, from Austria even down to the Peloponnese of Greece, and from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, with the exception of the coastal areas and certain mountainous regions of the Greek peninsula.

The Avars, who arrived in Europe in the late 550s and had a great impact in the Balkans, had from their base in the Carpathian plain, west of main Slavic settlements, asserted control over Slavic tribes with whom they besieged Roman cities.

Their influence in the Balkans however diminished by the early 7th century and they were finally defeated and disappeared as a power at the turn of the 9th century by Bulgaria and the Frankish Empire.

The first South Slavic polity and regional power was Bulgaria, a state formed in 681 as a union between the much numerous Slavic tribes and the bulgars of Khan Asparuh. The scattered Slavs in Greece, the Sklavinia, were Hellenized. Romance-speakers lived within the fortified Dalmatian city-states. Traditional historiography, based on DAI, holds that the migration of Serbs and Croats to the Balkans was part of a second Slavic wave, placed during Heraclius’ reign.

Inhabiting the territory between the Franks in the north and Byzantium in the south, the Slavs were exposed to competing influences. In 863 to Christianized Great Moravia were sent two Byzantine brothers monks Saints Cyril and Methodius, Slavs from Thessaloniki on missionary work. They created the Glagolitic script and the first Slavic written language, Old Church Slavonic, which they used to translate Biblical works.

At the time, the West and South Slavs still spoke a similar language. The script used, Glagolitic, was capable of representing all Slavic sounds, however, it was gradually replaced in Bulgaria in the 9th century, in Russia by the 11th century Glagolitic survived into the 16th century in Croatia, used by Benedictines and Franciscans, but lost importance during the Counter-Reformation when Latin replaced it on the Dalmatian coast.

Cyril and Methodius’ disciples found refuge in already Christian Bulgaria, where the Old Church Slavonic became the ecclesiastical language. Early Cyrillic alphabet was developed during the 9th century AD at the Preslav Literary School in Bulgaria.

The earliest Slavic literary works were composed in Bulgaria, Duklja and Dalmatia. The religious works were almost exclusively translations, from Latin (Croatia, Slovenia) and especially Greek (Bulgaria, Serbia).

In the 10th and 11th centuries the Old Church Slavonic leaded to the creation of various regional forms like Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian economic, religious and political centres of Ohrid and Plovdiv contributed to the important literary production in the Bulgarian Empire. The Bogomil sect, derived from Manichaeism, was deemed heretical, but managed to spread from Bulgaria to Bosnia (where it gained a foothold). and France (Cathars).

Carinthia came under Germanic rule in the 10th century and came permanently under Western (Roman) Christian sphere of influence. What is today Croatia came under Eastern Roman (Byzantine) rule after the Barbarian age, and while most of the territory was Slavicized, a handful of fortified towns, with mixed population, remained under Byzantine authority and continued to use Latin.

Dalmatia, now applied to the narrow strip with Byzantine towns, came under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, while the Croatian state remained pagan until Christianization during the reign of Charlemagne, after which religious allegiance was to Rome.

Croats threw off Frankish rule in the 9th century, and took over the Byzantine Dalmatian towns, after which Hungarian conquest led to Hungarian suzerainty, although retaining an army and institutions. Croatia lost much of Dalmatia to the Republic of Venice which held it until the 18th century. Hungary governed Croatia through a duke, and the coastal towns through a ban.

A feudal class emerged in the Croatian hinterland in the late 13th century, among whom were the Kurjaković, Kačić and most notably the Šubić. Dalmatian fortified towns meanwhile maintained autonomy, with a Roman patrician class and Slavic lower class, first under Hungary and then Venice after centuries of struggle.

Ibn al-Faqih, a 10th-century Persian historian and geographer, famous for his Mukhtasar Kitab al-Buldan (“Concise Book of Lands”) written in Arabic, described two kinds of South Slavic people, the first of swarthy complexion and dark hair, living near the Adriatic coast, and the other as light, living in the hinterland.

After Ottoman expansion into Byzantine territories in the east in the first half of the 14th century, the internally divided Bulgarian Empire and the short-lived and crumbling Serbian Empire stood next. In 1371, the Ottomans defeated a large Serbian army at the Battle of Maritsa, and in 1389 defeated the Serbian army at the Battle of Kosovo.

By now, Serbian and Bulgarian rulers became Ottoman vassals, the southern Serbian provinces and Bulgaria holding out until annexation in the 1390s. The Ottomans conquered Constantinople (1453), Greece (1453–60), the Serbian Despotate (1459) and Bosnia (1463). Much of the Balkans was under Ottoman rule throughout the early modern period.

Ottoman rule lasted from the 14th into the early 20th century in some territories. Ottoman society was multi-ethnic and multi-religious, and confessional groups were divided according to the millet system, in which Orthodox Christians (Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, etc.) constituted the Rum Millet.

In Islamic jurisprudence, the Christians had dhimmi status, which entailed certain taxes and lesser rights. Through Islamization, communities of Slavic Muslims emerged, which survive until today in Bosnia, south Serbia, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria.

In the 16th century, the Habsburg Monarchy controlled what is today Slovenia, Croatia and northern Serbia. The Kingdom of Croatia, which included smaller parts of what is today Croatia, was a crown land of the Habsburg emperor.

The early modern period saw large-scale migrations of Orthodox Slavs (mainly Serbs) to the north and west. The Military Frontier was set up as the cordon sanitaire against Ottoman incursions. There were several rebellions against Ottoman rule, but it was not until the 18th century that parts of the Balkans, namely Serbia, were liberated for a longer period.

While Pan-Slavism has its origins in the 17th-century Slavic Catholic clergymen in the Republic of Venice and Republic of Ragusa, it crystallized only in the mid-19th century amidst rise of nationalism in the Ottoman and Habsburg empires.

East Slavs

The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking the East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the loose medieval Kievan Rus federation state, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Belarusian, Russian, Rusyn and Ukrainian people.

Researchers know relatively little about the Eastern Slavs prior to approximately 859 AD, when the first events recorded in the Primary Chronicle occurred. The Eastern Slavs of these early times apparently lacked a written language. The few known facts come from archaeological digs, foreign travellers’ accounts of the Rus’ land, and linguistic comparative analyses of Slavic languages.

Very few native Rus’ documents dating before the 11th century (none before the 10th century) have survived. The earliest major manuscript with information on Rus’ history, the Primary Chronicle, dates from the late 11th and early 12th centuries.

It lists twelve Slavic tribal unions which, by the 10th century, had settled in the later territory of the Kievan Rus between the Western Bug, the Dniepr and the Black Sea: the Polans, Drevlyans, Dregovichs, Radimichs, Vyatichs, Krivichs, Slovens, Dulebes (later known as Volhynians and Buzhans), White Croats, Severians, Ulichs, and Tivertsi.

There is no consensus among scholars as to the urheimat of the Slavs. In the first millennium AD, Slavic settlers are likely to have been in contact with other ethnic groups who moved across the East European Plain during the Migration Period.

Between the first and ninth centuries, the Sarmatians, Huns, Alans, Avars, Bulgars, and Magyars passed through the Pontic steppe in their westward migrations. Although some of them could have subjugated the region’s Slavs, these foreign tribes left little trace in the Slavic lands. The Early Middle Ages also saw Slavic expansion as an agriculturist and beekeeper, hunter, fisher, herder, and trapper people. By the 8th century, the Slavs were the dominant ethnic group on the East European Plain.

By 600 AD, the Slavs had split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches. The East Slavs practiced “slash-and-burn” agricultural methods which took advantage of the extensive forests in which they settled. This method of agriculture involved clearing tracts of forest with fire, cultivating it and then moving on after a few years.

Slash and burn agriculture requires frequent movement, because soil cultivated in this manner only yields good harvests for a few years before exhausting itself, and the reliance on slash and burn agriculture by the East Slavs explains their rapid spread through eastern Europe.

The East Slavs flooded Eastern Europe in two streams. One group of tribes settled along the Dnieper river in what is now Ukraine and Belarus to the North; they then spread northward to the northern Volga valley, east of modern-day Moscow and westward to the basins of the northern Dniester and the Southern Buh rivers in present-day Ukraine and southern Ukraine.

Another group of East Slavs moved to the northeast, where they encountered the Varangians of the Rus’ Khaganate and established an important regional centre of Novgorod. The same Slavic population also settled the present-day Tver Oblast and the region of Beloozero. Having reached the lands of the Merya near Rostov, they linked up with the Dnieper group of Slavic migrants.

In the eighth and ninth centuries, the south branches of East Slavic tribes had to pay tribute to the Khazars, a Turkic-speaking people who adopted Judaism in the late eighth or ninth century and lived in the southern Volga and Caucasus regions. Roughly in the same period, the Ilmen Slavs and Krivichs were dominated by the Varangians of the Rus’ Khaganate, who controlled the trade route between the Baltic Sea and the Byzantine Empire.

The earliest tribal centres of the East Slavs included Novgorod, Izborsk, Polotsk, Gnezdovo, and Kiev. Archaeology indicates that they appeared at the turn of the tenth century, soon after the Slavs and Finns of Novgorod had rebelled against the Norse and forced them to withdraw to Scandinavia. The reign of Oleg of Novgorod in the early tenth century witnessed the return of the Varangians to Novgorod and relocation of their capital to Kiev on the Dnieper.

From this base, the mixed Varangian-Slavic population (known as the Rus) launched several expeditions against Constantinople. At first the ruling elite was primarily Norse, but it was rapidly Slavicized by the mid-century. Sviatoslav I of Kiev (who reigned in the 960s) was the first Rus ruler with a Slavonic name.

The disintegration, or parcelling of the polity of Kievan Rus’ in the 11th century resulted in considerable population shifts and a political, social, and economic regrouping. The resultant effect of these forces coalescing was the marked emergence of new peoples.

While these processes began long before the fall of Kiev, its fall expedited these gradual developments into a significant linguistic and ethnic differentiation among the Rus’ people into Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians.

All of this was emphasized by the subsequent polities these groups migrated into: southwestern and western Rus’, where the Ruthenian and later Ukrainian and Belarusian identities developed, was subject to Lithuanian and later Polish influence; whereas the Russian ethnic identity developed in the Muscovite northeast and the Novgorodian north.

West Slavs

The West Slavs (also known as Central Slavs) are a subgroup of Slavic peoples who speak the West Slavic languages. They separated from the common Slavic group around the 7th century, and established independent polities in Central Europe by the 8th to 9th centuries. The West Slavic languages diversified into their historically attested forms over the 10th to 14th centuries.

West Slavic speaking nations today include the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Sorbs and ethnic groups Kashubians, Moravians and Silesians. They inhabit a contiguous area in Central Europe stretching from the north of the Baltic Sea to the Sudetes and the Carpathian Mountains in the south, historically also across the Eastern Alps into the Apennine peninsula and the Balkan peninsula.

The West Slavic group can be divided into three subgroups: Lechitic, including Polish, Kashubian and the extinct Polabian and Pomeranian languages as well as Lusatian (Sorbian) and Czecho-Slovak.

Culturally, West Slavs developed along the lines of other Western European nations due to affiliation with the Roman Empire and Western Christianity. Thus, they experienced a cultural split with the other Slavic groups: while the East Slavs and part of South Slavs converted to Orthodox Christianity, thus being culturally influenced by the Byzantine Empire, all the West Slavs converted to Roman Catholicism, thus coming under the cultural influence of the Latin Church.

In the Middle Ages the name “Wends” (derived from Roman-era Veneti) was applied to Western Slavic peoples. Mieszko I, the first historical ruler of Poland, also appeared as “Dagome, King of the Wends”.(need to be confirmed by sources).

The early Slavic expansion began in the 5th century, and by the 6th century, the groups that would become the West, East and South Slavic groups had probably become geographically separated. The first independent West Slavic states originate beginning in the 7th century, with the Empire of Samo (623–658), the Principality of Moravia (8th century–833), the Principality of Nitra (8th century–833) and Great Moravia (833–c. 907).

The Sorbs and other Polabian Slavs like Obodrites and Veleti came under the domination of the Holy Roman Empire after the Wendish Crusade in the Middle Ages and had been strongly Germanized by Germans at the end of the 19th century. The Polabian language survived until the beginning of the 19th century in what is now the German state of Lower Saxony.

At this time only 60,000-80,000 Sorbs have survived as a group which kept its language and traditions, living predominantly in Lusatia, a region in modern Germany in the states of Brandenburg and Saxony.

However, the process of Germanization should not be understood as an expulsion by German settlers. The relationship between Slavs and Germans varied, depending on time and region. Often, German and Slavic villages co-existed as neighbours for centuries. In today’s Saxony many geographic names, even these of major cities such as Dresden, Leipzig or Zwickau are of Slavic origin. The Wendish Crusade did not involve these areas and the development of Slavic and German interaction remained largely peaceful.

The central Polish tribe of Western Polans created their own state in the 10th century under the Polish duke Mieszko I. For many centuries Poland has had close ties with its western neighbors, with the Polish ruler Bolesław I the Brave declared by Holy Roman Emperor Otto III as Frater et Cooperator Imperii (“Brother and Partner in the Empire”).

The precursors of the Czechs (i.e. Bohemians) migrated into Bohemia in the late 6th century and had established various fiefdoms by the 10th century when their rulers eventually became vassals (1002) of the Holy Roman Emperors. Kingdom of Bohemia stayed part of that Empire between 1002–1419 and 1526–1918.

Predecessors of Slovaks came under Hungarian domination after 907 (doom of the Great Moravia) – together with other Slavic groups as Croats, Slovenians, Serbs and Rusyns. Both the Czechs and the Slovaks were under rule of the Habsburg monarchy from 1526 to 1804; then in the Austrian Empire and between 1867–1918 part of Austria-Hungary.


Wends (Old English: Winedas; Old Norse: Vindr; German: Wenden, Winden; Danish: vendere; Swedish: vender; Polish: Wendowie) is a historical name for Slavs living near Germanic settlement areas. The term “Wends” derived from the Roman-era people called in Latin Veneti, Venedi or Venethi, in Greek Oueneve. This people was mentioned by Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy as inhabiting the Baltic coast.

It does not refer to a homogeneous people, but to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it was used. In the modern day, Wendish communities exist in Lusatia, Texas, and Australia.

In German-speaking Europe during the Middle Ages, the term “Wends” was interpreted as synonymous with “Slavs” and sporadically used in literature to refer to West Slavs and South Slavs living within the Holy Roman Empire. The name has possibly survived in Finnic languages (Finnish: Venäjä, Estonian: Vene, Karelian: Veneä), denoting Russia.

According to one theory, Germanic peoples first applied this name to the ancient Veneti, and then after the migration period they transferred it to their new neighbours, the Slavs. For the medieval Scandinavians, the term Wends (Vender) meant Slavs living near the southern shore of the Baltic Sea (Vendland), and the term was therefore used to refer to Polabian Slavs like the Obotrites, Rugian Slavs, Veleti/Lutici and Pomeranian tribes.

For people living in the medieval Northern Holy Roman Empire and its precursors, especially for the Saxons, a Wend (Wende) was a Slav living in the area west of the River Oder, an area later entitled Germania Slavica, settled by the Polabian Slav tribes (mentioned above) in the north and by others, such as the Sorbs and the Milceni, in the middle.

The Germans in the south used the term Winde instead of Wende and applied it, just as the Germans in the north, to Slavs they had contact with; e.g., the Polabians from Bavaria Slavica or the Slovenes (the names Windic March, Windisch Feistritz, or Windischgraz still bear testimony to this historical denomination). The same term was sometimes applied to the neighoring region of Slavonia, which appears as Windischland in some documents prior to the 18th century.

Following the 8th century, the Frankish kings and their successors organised nearly all Wendish land into marches. This process later turned into the series of crusades. By the 12th century, all Wendish lands had become part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the course of the Ostsiedlung, which reached its peak in the 12th to 14th centuries, this land was settled by Germans and reorganised.

Due to the process of assimilation following German settlement, many Slavs west of the Oder adopted the German culture and language. Only some rural communities which did not have a strong admixture with Germans and continued to use West Slavic languages were still termed Wends. With the gradual decline of the use of these local Slavic tongues, the term Wends slowly disappeared, too.

Some sources claim that in the 13th century there were actual historic people called Wends or Vends living as far as northern Latvia (east of the Baltic Sea) around the city of Wenden. Henry of Livonia (Henricus de Lettis) in his 13th-century Latin chronicle described a tribe called the Vindi. Today, only one group of Wends still exists: the Lusatian Sorbs in present-day eastern Germany, with international diaspora.

In the 1st millennium AD, during the Slavic migrations which split the recently formed Slav ethnicity into Southern, Eastern and Western groups, some West Slavs moved into the areas between the Rivers Elbe and Oder – moving from east to west and from south to north. There they assimilated the remaining Germanic population that had not left the area in the Migration period.

Their German neighbours adapted the term they had been using for peoples east of the River Elbe before to the Slavs, calling them Wends as they called the Venedi before and probably the Vandals also. In his late sixth century work History of Armenia, Movses Khorenatsi mentions their raids into the lands named Vanand after them.

While the Wends were arriving in so-called Germania Slavica as large homogeneous groups, they soon divided into a variety of small tribes, with large strips of woodland separating one tribal settlement area from another.

Their tribal names were derived from local place names, sometimes adopting the Germanic tradition (e.g. Heveller from Havel, Rujanes from Rugians). Settlements were secured by round burghs made of wood and clay, where either people could retreat in case of a raid from the neighbouring tribe or used as military strongholds or outposts.

Some tribes unified into larger, duchy-like units. For example, the Obotrites evolved from the unification of the Holstein and Western Mecklenburg tribes led by mighty dukes known for their raids into German Saxony. The Lutici were an alliance of tribes living between Obotrites and Pomeranians. They did not unify under a duke, but remained independent. Their leaders met in the temple of Rethra.

In 983, many Wend tribes participated in a great uprising against the Holy Roman Empire, which had previously established Christian missions, German colonies and German administrative institutions (Marken such as Nordmark and Billungermark) in pagan Wendish territories. The uprising was successful and the Wends delayed Germanisation for about two centuries.

Wends and Danes had early and continuous contact including settlement, first and mainly through the closest South Danish islands of Møn, Lolland and Falster, all having place-names of Wendish origin. There were also trading and settlement outposts by Danish towns as important as Roskilde, when it was the capital: ‘Vindeboder’ (Wends’ booths) is the name of a city neighbourhood there. Danes and Wends also fought wars due to piracy and crusading.

After their successes in 983 the Wends came under increasing pressure from Germans, Danes and Poles. The Poles invaded Pomerania several times. The Danes often raided the Baltic shores (and, in turn, the Wends often raided the raiders). The Holy Roman Empire and its margraves tried to restore their marches.

In 1068/69 a German expedition took and destroyed Rethra, one of the major pagan Wend temples. The Wendish religious centre shifted to Arkona thereafter. In 1124 and 1128, the Pomeranians and some Lutici were baptised. In 1147, the Wend crusade took place in what is today north-eastern Germany.

This did, however, not affect the Wendish people in today’s Saxony, where a relatively stable co-existence of German and Slavic inhabitants as well as close dynastic and diplomatic cooperation of Wendish and German nobility had been achieved. (See: Wiprecht of Groitzsch).

In 1168, during the Northern Crusades, Denmark mounted a crusade led by Bishop Absalon and King Valdemar the Great against the Wends of Rugia in order to convert them to Christianity. The crusaders captured and destroyed Arkona, the Wendish temple-fortress, and tore down the statue of the Wendish god Svantevit. With the capitulation of the Rugian Wends, the last independent pagan Wends were defeated by the surrounding Christian feudal powers.

From the 12th to the 14th centuries, German colonists settled in the Wend lands in large numbers, transforming the area’s culture from a Slavic to a Germanic one. Local dukes and monasteries invited settlers to repopulate land devastated in the wars, to cultivate the large woodlands and heavy soils that had not supported agriculture beforehand, and to found cities as part of the “Ostsiedlung” (German eastward expansion).

The Wendish people co-existed with the German settlers for centuries and became gradually assimilated into the German-speaking culture. The Polabian language was spoken in the central area of Lower Saxony and in Brandenburg until around the 17th or 18th century.

The Golden Bull of 1356 (one of the constitutional foundations of the German-Roman Empire) explicitly recognised in its Art. 31 that the German-Roman Empire was a multi-national entity with “diverse nations distinct in customs, manner of life, and in language”.

For that it stipulated “the sons, or heirs and successors of the illustrious prince electors, […] since they are expected in all likelihood to have naturally acquired the German language, […] shall be instructed in the grammar of the Italian and Slavic (i.e. Wendish) tongues, beginning with the seventh Year of their age.”

The German population assimilated most of the Wends, meaning that they disappeared as an ethnic minority – except for the Sorbs. Yet many place names and some family names in eastern Germany still show Wendish origins today. Also, the Dukes of Mecklenburg, of Rügen and of Pomerania had Wendish ancestors.

Many geographical names in Central Germany and northern Germany can be traced back to a Slavic origin. Typical Slavic endings include -itz, -itzsch and -ow. They can be found in city names such as Delitzsch and Rochlitz. Even names of major cities like Leipzig and Berlin are most likely of Wendish origin.

Today, the only remaining minority people of Wendish origin, the Sorbs, maintain their traditional language and culture and enjoy cultural self-determination exercised through the Domowina. The third minister president of Saxony Stanislaw Tillich (2008-2017) is of Sorbian origin, being the first head of a German federal state with an ethnic minority background.

Between 1540 and 1973, the kings of Sweden were officially called kings of the Swedes, the Goths and the Wends (in Latin translation: kings of Suiones, Goths and Vandals) (Swedish: Svears, Götes och Wendes Konung).

After the Danish monarch Queen Margrethe II chose not to use these titles in 1972 the current Swedish monarch, Carl XVI Gustaf also chose only to use the title King of Sweden” (Sveriges Konung), thereby changing an age-old tradition.

From the Middle Ages the kings of Denmark and of Denmark–Norway used the titles King of the Wends (from 1362) and Goths (from the 12th century). The use of both titles was discontinued in 1972.

Vistula Veneti

The Vistula Veneti (also called Baltic Veneti or Sarmatian Veinedi) were Indo-European peoples that inhabited the region of central Europe east of the Vistula river, and the coastal areas around the Bay of Gdańsk.

The name first appears in the 1st century AD, in the writings of ancient Roman geographers in order to differentiate a group of peoples whose manner and language differed from that of the Germanic and Sarmatian tribes around them.

Later in the 6th century AD, Byzantine historians described the Veneti as the ancestors of the Sclaveni (Slavs), who during the second phase of the migration period, crossed the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire.

The possible origin of the ethnonym Veneti relates to the Latin words venus, -eris meaning ‘love, passion, grace’ and in later forms ‘beloved, friendly’ and most likely refers to the passive or friendly nature of the barbarian peoples in relation to the Roman Empire.

Also, the Sanskrit vanas- ‘lust, zest’, vani- ‘wish, desire’; Old Irish fine (< Proto-Celtic *wenjā) ‘kinship, kinfolk, alliance, tribe, family’; Old Norse vinr, Old Saxon, Old High German wini, Old Frisian, Old English wine ‘friend’, Norwegian venn ‘friend’ and Dutch vennoot ‘partner’.

The name “Wends” was a historical designation for Slavs living near Germanic settlement areas. The word wend also meant water in the Baltic Old Prussian language. The Estonian and Finnish names for Russia—Venemaa and Venäjä—possibly originate from the name of the Veneti.

According to the 20th century linguist Julius Pokorný, the ethnonym Venetī (singular *Venetos) is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *wenh₁-, ‘to strive; to wish for, to love’. As shown by the comparative material, the Germanic languages may have had two terms of different origin: Old High German Winida ‘Wende’ points to Pre-Germanic *wenh₁étos, while Lat.-Germ. Venedi (as attested in Tacitus) and Old English Winedas ‘Wends’ call for Pre-Germanic *wénh₁etos.

Pliny the Elder places the Veneti along the Baltic coast. He calls them the Sarmatian Venedi (Latin: Sarmatae Venedi). Thereafter, the 2nd century Greko-Roman geographer Ptolemy in his section on Sarmatia, places the Greater Vouenedai along the entire Venedic Bay, which can be located from the context on the southern shores of the Baltic. He names tribes south of these Greater Venedae both along the eastern bank of the Vistula and further east.

The most exhaustive Roman treatment of the Veneti comes in Germania by Tacitus, who writing in AD 98, places the Veneti among the peoples on the eastern fringe of Germania. He was uncertain of their ethnic identity, classifying them as Germanic based on their way of life, but not based on their language (in comparison to, for example, the Peucini):

Here Suebia ends. I do not know whether to class the tribes of the Peucini, Venedi, and Fenni with the Germans or with the Sarmatians. The Peucini, however, who are sometimes called Bastarnae, are like Germans in their language, manner of life, and mode of settlement and habitation.

Squalor is universal among them and their nobles are indolent. Mixed marriages are giving them something of the repulsive appearance of the Sarmatians … The Veneti have borrowed largely from Sarmatian ways; their plundering forays take them all over the wooded and mountainous country that rises between the Peucini and the Fenni.

Nevertheless, they are to be classed as Germani, for they have settled houses, carry shields and are fond of travelling fast on foot; in all these respects they differ from the Sarmatians, who live in wagons or on horseback.

Among the Byzantine authors, the Gothic author Jordanes in his work Getica (written in 550 or 551 AD)[9] describes the Veneti as a “populous nation” whose dwellings begin at the sources of the Vistula and occupy “a great expanse of land”.

He describes them as the ancestors of the Sclaveni (a people who appeared on the Byzantine frontier in the early 6th century and who were the early South Slavs) and of the Antes (East Slavs). Specifically, he states that the Sclaveni and the Antes used to be called the Veneti, but are now “chiefly” (though, by implication, not exclusively) called Sclaveni and Antes.

He places the Sclaveni north of a line from the Dniestr to Lake Musianus, the location of which is unclear, but which has been variously identified with Lake Constance, the Tisa–Danube marshes or the Danube delta. He also places the Antes to the east of the Sclaveni.

Later, in Getica he returns to the Veneti stating, that though “off-shoots of one stock [these people] have now three names, that is Veneti, Antes and Sclaveni” and noting that they, at one time, had been conquered by the Goths under Ermanaric.

Consistent with the view that the Veneti were an umbrella term for these three peoples, he later also recalls the defeat of the Antes at the hands of a Gothic chieftain named Vinitharius, i.e., conqueror of the Veneti.

Though Jordanes is the only author to explicitly associate the Veneti with what appear to have been Sclaveni and Antes, the Tabula Peutingeriana, originating from the 3rd–4th century AD, separately mentions the Venedi on the northern bank of the Danube somewhat upstream of its mouth, and the Venadi Sarmatae along the Baltic coast.

Henry of Livonia in his Latin chronicle of c. 1200 described a tribe of the Vindi (German Winden, English Wends) that lived in Courland and Livonia in what is now Latvia. The tribe’s name is preserved in the river Windau (Latvian Venta), with the town of Windau (Latvian Ventspils) at its mouth, and in Wenden, the old name of the town of Cēsis in Livonia. The fact that 12th century Germans from Saxony referred to these people as ‘Winden’ suggests that they were Slavs.

In the region identified by Ptolemy and Pliny, east of the Vistula and adjoining the Baltic, there was an Iron Age culture known to archaeologists as the West Baltic Cairns Culture or West Baltic Barrow Culture, and the Przeworsk and Zarubintsy cultures east of the Vistula river.

The Baltic cultures are associated with the Proto-Balts. These herders lived in small settlements or in little lake dwellings built on artificial islands made of several layers of wooden logs attached by stakes. Their metals were imported, and their dead were cremated and put in urns covered by small mounds.

The Przeworsk and Zarubintsy cultures are associated with Proto-Slavs, though the Przeworsk culture was a mix of several tribal societies and is also often linked to the Germanic tribe of Vandals.

During the Middle Ages the region east of the mouth of the Vistula river was inhabited by people speaking Old Prussian, a now-extinct Baltic language in an area by Tacitus in AD 98 described as “Suebian Sea, which washes the country of the Aestii, who have the same customs and fashions as the Suebi”. It is unknown what language the yet further east Veneti spoke, although the implication of Tacitus’ description of them is that it was not a form of Germanic.

Modern historians most often link the Veneti to Early Slavs, based on Jordanes’ writings from the 6th century: The Slavs, an eastern branch of the Indo-European family, were known to the Roman and Greek writers of the 1st and 2d centuries A.D. under the name of Venedi as inhabiting the region beyond the Vistula. In the course of the early centuries of our era the Slavs expanded in all directions, and by the 6th century, when they were known to Gothic and Byzantine writers as Sclaveni, they were apparently already separated into three main divisions…

It is also clear that the Franks in later centuries (see, e.g., Life of Saint Martinus, Fredegar’s Chronicle, Gregory of Tours), Lombards (see, e.g., Paul the Deacon), and Anglo-Saxons referred to Slavs both in the Elbe-Saal region and in Pomerania generally, as Wenden or Winden (see Wends), which was a later corruption of the word Veneti. Likewise, the Franks and Bavarians of Styria and Carinthia referred to their Slavic neighbours as Windische.

It has not been shown that either the original Veneti or the Slavs themselves used the ethnonym Veneti to describe their ethnos. Of course, other peoples, e.g. the Germans (called so first by the Romans), did not have a name for themselves other than localized tribal names.

Roland Steinacher states that “The name Veneder was introduced by Jordanes. The assumption that these were Slavs can be traced back to the 19th century to Pavel Josef Šafařík from Prague, who tried to establish a Slavic Origin.

Scholars and historians since then viewed the reports on Venedi/Venethi by Tacitus, Pliny and Ptolemy as the earliest historical attestation of Slavs. “Such conceptions, started in the 16th century, resurfaced in the 19th century where they provided the basis for interpretations of the history and origins of Slavs.”

Considering Ptolemy’s Ouenedai and their location along the Baltic sea, the German linguist, Alexander M. Schenker, asserts that the vocabulary of the Slavic languages shows no evidence that the early Slavs were exposed to the sea.

Schenker claims that Proto-Slavic had no maritime terminology and further claims it even lacked a word for amber. Based on this belief, and the fact that Ptolemy refers to the Baltic Sea as the “Venedic” Bay, Schenker decides against a possible identification of the Veneti of Ptolemy’s times, with today’s Slavs.

According to Gołąb, Schenker’s conclusion is supported by the fact that to the east of the Venedae, Ptolemy mentions two further tribes called Stavanoi and Souobenoi, both of which have been interpreted as possibly the oldest historical attestations of at least some Slavs.

Others scholars have interpreted these as Prussian tribes (Sudini) as they follow other known Prussian tribes in Ptolemy’s listing (e.g., the Galindae). Moreover, that conclusion (Gołąb, Schenker), if correct, may only account for the Byzantine Slavs of Jordanes and Procopius since Jordanes clearly understands Veneti as a group at least as broad as today’s Slavs but does not understand the converse to be the case (i.e., his “Slavs” are localized around Byzantium and north through Moravia only) since his Slavs remain a subset of the broader category of Veneti. It also is clear that the Byzantine term “Slav” had gradually replaced the Germanic “Winden”/”Wenden” as applied to all the people we would, today, consider Slavs.

It has been argued that the Veneti were a centum Indo-European people, rather than satem Baltic-speakers. Zbigniew Gołąb considers that the hydronyms of the Vistula and Odra river basins had a North-West Indo-European character with close affinities to the Italo-Celtic branch, but different from the Germanic branch, and show similarities with those attested in the area of the Adriatic Veneti (in Northeastern Italy) as well as those attested in the Western Balkans that are attributed to Illyrians, which points to a possible connection between these ancient Indo-European peoples.

In the 1980s and 1990s some Slovene authors proposed a theory according to which the Veneti were Proto-Slavs and bearers of the Lusatian culture along the Amber Path who settled the region between the Baltic Sea and Adriatic Sea and included the Adriatic Veneti, as presented in their book “Veneti – First Builders of European Community”. This theory would place the Veneti as a pre-Celtic, pre-Latin and pre-Germanic population of Europe. The theory is rejected by mainstream historians and linguists.

The Vends

The Vends (Latin: wendi, Latvian: vendi) were a Baltic tribe that lived in the 12th to 16th centuries in the area around the town of Wenden (now Cēsis) in present-day north-central Latvia. According to Livonian Chronicle of Henry prior to their arrival in the area of Wenden in the 12th century, the Vends were settled in Ventava county (Latin: Wynda) by the Venta River near the present city of Ventspils in western Latvia.

Their proximity to more numerous Finnic and Baltic tribes inclined the Vends to ally with the German crusaders, who began building a stone castle near the older Vendian wooden fortress in 1207. The castle of Wenden later became the residence of the Master of the Livonian Order. The last known record of the Vends’ existence as a distinct entity dates from the sixteenth century.

Henry of Latvia made the first surviving mention of the Vends as they were chased away from Courland and Christianized by Germans during Livonian Crusade of 1198–1290. Traditionally researchers believe that Vends spoke a Finnic language and were related to the neighboring Livonians and the Votes. Sometimes they are associated with the Western Slavic Wends.

Vends may have a connection with the national flag of Latvia. The Rhyme Chronicle of Livonia (Livländische Reimchronik) states that in 1290 when the local militia was recruited to defend Riga, they came from Wenden with “a Latvian red banner crossed by white, in the manner of the Vends/of the Wenden” (nâch wendischen siten).

Nordic Bronze Age

The Nordic Bronze Age (also Northern Bronze Age, or Scandinavian Bronze Age) is a period of Scandinavian prehistory from c. 1700–500 BC. It  is a successor of the Corded Ware culture in southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany. It emerged about 1700 BC through the fusion of the Battle Axe culture and the preceding Pitted Ware culture.

The Battle Axe culture (2800-2300 BC), also called Boat Axe culture, is a Chalcolithic culture which flourished in the coastal areas of the south of the Scandinavian Peninsula and southwest Finland. It was an offshoot of the Corded Ware culture, and replaced the Funnelbeaker culture in southern Scandinavia, probably through a process of mass migration and population replacement.

The Battle Axe culture is thought to have been responsible for spreading Indo-European languages and other elements of Indo-European culture to the region. It co-existed for a time with the hunter-gatherer Pitted Ware culture (3200-2300 BC), which it eventually absorbed, developing into the Nordic Bronze Age. The Nordic Bronze Age has in turn been considered ancestral to the Germanic peoples.

The Pitted Ware culture emerged in east-central Sweden around 3,500 BC, gradually replacing the Funnelbeaker culture, which it co-existed with for several centuries, throughout the coastal areas of southern Scandinavia. 

It was a hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia, mainly along the coasts of Svealand, Götaland, Åland, north-eastern Denmark and southern Norway. Despite its Mesolithic economy, it is by convention classed as Neolithic, since it falls within the period in which farming reached Scandinavia.

The Pitted Ware people were largely maritime hunters, and were engaged in lively trade with both the agricultural communities of the Scandinavian interior and other hunter-gatherers of the Baltic Sea. The people were a genetically homogeneous and distinct population descended from earlier Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers (SHGs).

From about 2,800 BC, the Pitted Ware culture co-existed with the Battle Axe culture, which was the successor of the Funnelbeaker culture in southern Scandinavia. By 2300 BC, the Pitted Ware culture had been absorbed by the Battle Axe culture.

The subsequent Nordic Bronze Age represents a fusion of elements from the Pitted Ware culture and the Battle Axe culture. Modern Scandinavians, unlike the Sami, display partial genetic origins from the Pitted Ware people.

The Nordic Bronze Age maintained close trade links with Mycenaean Greece, with whom it shares several striking similarities. Cultural similarities between the Nordic Bronze Age, the Sintastha/Andronovo culture and peoples of the Rigveda have also been detected. Some scholars also include sites in what is now Finland, Estonia, northern Germany and Pomerania as part of its cultural sphere.

The people of the Nordic Bronze Age were actively engaged in the export of amber, and imported metals in return, becoming expert metalworkers. With respects to the number and density of metal deposits, the Nordic Bronze Age became the richest culture in Europe during its existence. It was succeeded by the Pre-Roman Iron Age and the Jastorf culture c. 5th century BC. It is often considered ancestral to the Germanic peoples.

Unetice culture

The Bronze Age in central Europe, begins with the innovative Unetice culture, in existence in Silesia and a part of Greater Poland during the first period of this era, that is from before 2200 to 1600 BC. This settled agricultural society’s origins consisted of the conservative traditions inherited from the Corded Ware populations and dynamic elements of the Bell-Beaker people.

Significantly, the Unetice people cultivated contacts with the highly developed cultures of the Carpathian Basin, through whom they had trade links with the cultures of early Greece. Their culture also echoed inspiring influence coming all the way from the most highly developed at that time civilizations of the Middle East.

Characteristic of the Unetice societies was greater general affluence and developed social stratification, compared with Late Neolithic cultures. Objects made of bronze, often of luxurious or prestigious nature, were in high demand as symbols of power and importance and are typically found in the graves of “princes”.

Fourteen such burial sites, circular mounds of earth heaped up on top of wooden, clay and stone structures, some as large as 30 meters in diameter, were found in Łęki Małe near Grodzisk Wielkopolski, erected 2000–1800 BC, suggesting the existence of a local dynasty.

Proliferation of locally-made bronze items (Uneticean daggers were in high demand all over Europe and in Anatolia) far from the centers of ore mining or bronze craftsmanship shows that the elites were able to control the trade routes, which involved also the transportation of amber from the Baltic Sea shores to Aegean Sea area artisans.

Many concealed (for unknown reasons) bronze treasures have been found, including a fine one from Pilszcz near Głubczyce.[8] Stylistically refined Uneticean ceramics show inspiration from the Achaean vessels obtained through trade.

Fortified settlements were built; one actively researched site, that was utilized and went through a number of phases during the 2000–1500 BC period, is in Bruszczewo in Kościan County. Remains of settlements and cemeteries were discovered around Wrocław and elsewhere in Lower Silesia, including an amber processing workshop in Nowa Wieś, Bolesławiec County.

The nature of the weapons and other items found at Unetice sites suggests a chronic state of warfare and the emergence of a warrior class. At the forefront of civilization in its time and place, the Unetice culture eventually succumbed to social and economic deterioration; its demise may have been hastened by destructive raids waged by the warriors of the belligerent Burial Mound culture, which in the end replaced it.

Chłopice–Veselé culture

East of the Unetice culture, in Lesser Poland and further north to the Masovia region, during roughly the same span of time, lay the territory of the Mierzanowice culture, named after the type-site village near Opatów.

These people, culturally also descendants of the Corded Ware culture, at first lived as mobile cattle breeders, but around 2200 BC started building permanent settlements and engaged in agriculture as well. Mierzanowice culture was a conservative society, frequently still using stone tools and reserving copper for decorations.

The Pleszów group of the Mierzanowice culture originated the most significant of the Polish Bronze Age fortified settlements, located in Trzcinica near Jasło. It was constructed on a particularly suitable, elevated natural location, with the initial enclosed area of 0.6 hectares. It remained in continuous use from about 2100 to 1300 BC and is often dubbed the Carpathian Troy or the Troy of the North.

The area has been a site of archeological explorations for the past hundred years, but only the more recent investigations uncovered its true significance in terms of the understanding of the early Bronze Age developments in central Europe.

30,000 Pleszów group artifacts have been unearthed, including exceptionally well-made ornamented pottery and weaving equipment. Some of the objects recovered, as well as the nature of the defensive structures, reveal the Pleszów group’s contacts with the Carpathian Basin peoples and the resulting influence coming from their cultures.[15]

The East Early Bronze Age refers specifically to the Chłopice–Veselé and Mierzanowice cultures, spanning from north-east Moravia to Lesser Poland. It represents the south-eastern periphery of the Bell Beaker culture.

It is characterised by vessels and ceramic technique, including cord decoration: horizontal bands on the upper part in Proto-Mierzanowice (ca. 2350/2300–2200 BC) and with supplementary bands in the bottom half in Early Mierzanowice (ca. 2200–2050 BC).

Nitra appears later, after ca. 2050 BC, with the classic phase of Mierzanowice (during its eastward expansion), probably as part of the Chłopice–Veselé culture (coincident with Proto- and Early Mierzanowice) under Únětice influence.

The Epi-Corded Ware Chłopice–Veselé culture represents a southern expansion of late Corded Ware groups, from Lesser Poland into the Carpathian Mountains, where they formed a border culture with influences from Pannonian cultures.

The appearance of Bell Beaker communities of Silesia (ca. 2350 BC) occurred simultaneously with the transformation of the Chłopice–Veselé culture, with Bell Beaker cultural patterns influencing its transition from late CWC, evidenced by mixed materials found in Upper Silesian settlements ca. 2300–2200 BC.

Chłopice–Veselé shows flat inhumation graves with funerary ritual inherited from the Corded Ware culture and cord ornamentation, as well as copper–wire artefacts and willow–leaf ornaments, proper of the eastern regions.

Bell Beaker materials disappear from Upper Silesia ca. 2150 BC. Another part of the Epi-Corded Ware complex is the Košťany culture in the north-eastern Carpathians, known from inhumation graves in flat cemeteries and similar material culture.

Proto-Mierzanowice appears with the arrival of Bell Beakers in the west part of Lesser Poland (ca. 2400–2300 BC), possibly representing an infiltration of groups rather than a massive migration. In the Proto-Mierzanowice phase, only scattered graves and short-lived settlements are found, and their distribution pattern is similar to the previous Corded Ware settlements.

These small groups were very mobile, with traces found from Moravia to Volhynia. One of the important signs of change associated with BBC in this period is the position of the deceased—inverted with respect to the characteristic Corded Ware tradition—and the nature of the deposited grave goods.

The early phase lasts probably no more than three generations, with dynamic internal processes of indeterminate nature resulting in a stabilisation of the settlement, the establishment of large permanent settlements (like those at Mierzanowice and Iwanowice), sudden demographic development and accompanying changes in economy (animal husbandry replaced by agriculture) and society (dominant family groups replaced by local or village groups).

This evolution period ca. 2300–2200 BC is coincident with the increasing advantage gained by the Únětice cultural model to the west (Włodarczak 2017), which may have triggered this reaction.

An adaptation to Corded Ware ideas is seen in the following period (ca. 2200–2050 BC), represented by a ‘weak’ acculturation and evolution of a local ethnic identity, marked by the increasing frequency in cord ornaments and the growing elaboration of decorative motifs made with the technique of cord impressions.

The Mierzanowice culture gradually cut its contacts with the west, and after ca. 2000 BC the upper Oder and Vistula rivers became a real cultural barrier among Mierzanowice (to the south), Únětice (to the west), and the developing Trzciniec culture (to the north).

Similar to the Proto-Únětice evolution, Mierzanowice does not follow Corded Ware cultural traits directly during this development (like the usually proposed Kraków–Sandomierz Corded Ware group of Lesser Poland), but rather Epi-Corded Ware cultures from the Carpathian Basin over a Bell Beaker culture in the stable network of large and long-lasting head settlements, the consistency in observing strict rules of funerary rites, and organisation based on sex.

Such Epi-Corded Ware groups of south-east Europe include north-western Makó/Kosihý–Čaka; south-eastern Ljubljana; central Early Nagýrev, Pitvaros(–Maros); north-eastern Ada; central and southern Transdanubian Somogyvár–Vinkovci, Vučedol; southern Balkans Belotić–Bela Crkva.

The Nitra culture was also formed under the influence of Chłopice–Veselé, Makó/Kosihý–Čaka, and Bell Beaker cultures, although the gradual decrease of elements of eastern origin—such as copper willow–leaf ornaments, chipped stone in the form of shouldered points, and aspect s of funeral rite—suggest a greater western EBA influence of the culture.

Bodies are in the crouched bipolar position, with a basic east–west orientation. Grave pits and pot-built houses indicate social ranking, with graves of hunters, medicine men and craftsmen identified among them. The Únětice culture expands coinciding with the end of the Nitra culture, although the tradition of bipolar west–east and east–west orientation usually survives in graves of Nitra tradition.

In the three late phases of Mierzanowice (2200–1600 BC), settlements appear in certain areas that develop stable microregional structures, centred on the Lesser Poland territory, while some groups—more numerous during the older period (ca. 2300–2200 BC)—continue the mobile settlement model.

At the end of the millennium, a dense network of small settlements (having just a few homesteads) was established within the fertile loess areas. The stabilisation of the settlement pattern is seen especially after 2000 BC, coinciding with the classic phase of the development of the Únětice culture; until that point, the development of groups correlated with the late phase of Bell Beaker culture, e.g. the Dobre group in Kuyavia, or the Lower Oder group in Western Pomorze.

Main, long-lasting settlements and regions of constant occupation with stable households appear, always in higher regions, and always accompanied by cemeteries, alongside short-term settlements linked to certain economic activities.

The burial rite, although remaining entrenched in the Corded Ware tradition and symbolism—like gender-differentiated burials with a predominance of males—shows a reaction against the previous beliefs in the avoidance of kurgan building and the use of communal graves.

The position of the lower limbs was clearly less flexed, and at the same time more bodies appeared in a lateral position, which led to the crystallisation of a new tradition (as in cemeteries of the Strzyżów culture) of dead interred in a slightly flexed or extended position.

The social structure is based on the family unit, which inhabits a farmstead. Multiple farmsteads and a cemetery form a village, and a settlement microregion is formed by various local groups. Economic autarchy and cultural homogeneity of local groups point to their ethnic unity, but only in the latest stage would a common language be needed, because of the intense exchange contacts.

Due to the homogeneity in decoration, female exogamy was probably restricted to the own culture. In the three earlier phases, Mierzanowice was a fully egalitarian society, but there was gender-based asymmetry (as in the previous Neolithic and Corded Ware cultures of the region), and also some interest in imitating prestige goods of western cultural centres, from local raw materials.

Microregions had an area of few to 10 km2, and some of them existed for the whole timespan of the culture. Agriculture played an important role in its subsistence economy, as did pastures at some distance of the settlements, for relatively big herds of cattle and sheep. Each settlement had 5–20 farmsteads, each with at least 200 m2 and probably multiple buildings, including a cellar. Most settlements had less than 150–200 inhabitants, with only a few (like Mierzanowice and Wojciechowice) having more.

Interestingly, microregions of western Lesser Poland (including the Iwanowice settlement), the Sandomierz-Opatów Upland, and the Upper Bug, appear to have suffered ca. 2050 BC a conflict and disruption of the moral order, with ‘a return to the roots’, reflected in the abandonment of cord ornamentation on ceramic vessels, and in the predominance of undecorated pots with knobs on their necks or rims.

Similar forms were used at the beginning of the Mierzanowice culture, and also in Bell Beaker settlements over vast areas in Europe, e.g. in late groups from nearby Moravia.

This process has been described as a likely rebellion whose leader would have acquired certain features of a traditionalistic ruler, invocating the ‘sanctioned’ Bell Beaker tradition, in order to assume power more securely, a power structure that could be maintained until ca. 1850/1800 BC.

Before 1900 BC, there is no proof of long-distance exchange, with mostly local raw materials. The circulation of imports begins in the latest phase, and includes stone sickles, faience pearls, and rarely metal objects, at the same time as foreign influence is noticed in the local pottery production.

Until then, all microregions had shown a great unity in style and typology, in spite of specific local elements.  A ranked society appears in this latest phase marked by rich graves, signalling the elevated social position of some males and females, and putting an end of the gender-asymmetry.

In the earliest phase, there were two main regions: a western one, with corded and incision ornamentation, and an eastern one, with only corded decoration. In the classic phase, the Nitra group/culture appeared in the south-west, and the Strzyżów culture in the north-east. While violence from close combat with axe–hammers is evidenced in human remains, the use of archery and related war culture proper of Bell Beaker and Únětice peoples also continue in these groups.

In the latest phase, the Mierzanowice style—initially appearing on mugs, jugs, and amphorae, and later on jars—was fragmented into four distinct local groups based on their different regional styles: Giebułtów, Szarbia, Pleszów, and Samborzec groups.


The Iwno culture, named after Iwno near Szubin, was a contemporary of the Unetice culture. Located in Kujawy, eastern (Gdańsk) Pomerania and northeastern Greater Poland, it was influenced by the Unetice culture, from where their bronze items were imported, and had many common traits with the Mierzanowice culture. Iwno thin-walled clay vessels were carefully finished and domestic animal rising was important for the economy.

Before 2500 BC, the Single Grave culture had reached from Jutland to Mecklenburg and to the Polish Lowlands, through a stable network of long-range contacts that had been created in the Corded Ware A-horizon, and which followed previous similar routes of Mesolithic and Neolithic expansions, facilitated by the geographical low plains connecting the coastlines of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Within that framework, the Northern European Plain was connected from Dutch Beakers in the west to Jutland and to the Polish Lowlands in the east, creating a distinct north group in the pan-European Bell Beaker network. Bell Beakers from Jutland and north-eastern Germany were the source of Pomeranian and Kuyavian Bell Beakers.

The special character that distinguish them is that Bell Beaker traits are found chiefly in domestic contexts, and to a much lesser extent in burials, which manifests as secondary burials in older communal graves.

Pottery shows a specific ornamentation, initially using a knurling technique for patterns,  (including cord impressions or incisions), then evolving from slender beakers to shorter and squattier vases (using mainly the incision technique), and eventually developing in the latest stage barbed wire ornament, in the south-west Baltic.

From 2400 BC, a change in the Polish Lowlands is seen with domestic sites showing signs of stabilisation towards a network of permanent territorial communities, as the result of a new system of social organisation. Larger encampments change into settlements, with occasional buildings for economic and sometimes domestic purposes, culminating in the Bronze Age.

Economically, it would mean a decreased or modified role of animal husbandry (from nomadic to semi-nomadic, then to sedentary), as well as a shift to dependence on the ‘politics’ and local natural environment in respect to stable, farming communities, with a social system still marked by social differentiation.

Cereal cultivation appears abundantly only after 2400 BC, first recorded in Kornice, the first Bell Beaker settlement in southern Poland, with settlements in Lesser Poland showing an increasingly important role of cultivation dated to the final Eneolithic or beginnings of the Bronze Age.

In contrast to the previous Corded Ware package, the Bell Beaker package in the Polish Plains and the south-west Baltic is recorded (from ca. 2500–2400 BC) mainly in materials from settlements and encampments, less often in funeral complexes, and is superimposed to the earlier elements without replacing them, such as ornamentation with typical Bell Beaker patterns (of fundamental significance is the bell beaker with zone and metopic-zone ornamentation, made with knurl technique or engraved), as well as stone archer’s wrist guards and dagger.

The main features of this north-eastern Bell Beaker border region are thus: Genuine Bell Beakers, zone-metope decoration, application of comb–stamp decoration technique, zonal decoration in general, wristguards, bifacial flint daggers (along with copper daggers), and a variety of small finds, such as the V-shaped buttons.

The south-eastern Baltic centre was included in the new interregional network of exchange, with amber products becoming a widespread feature of Bell Beaker graves overall in Europe, one of the determinants of the Bell Beaker package in different regions. It can be assumed that communities living in the southern shores of the Gdańsk Bay were the main producers and distributors of amber ornaments from the turn of the 4th-3rd millennium BC until the Early Bronze Age.

In its western area, the eastern Bell Beaker province paved the way ca. 2300/2250 BC for the earliest traces of the Únětice culture (in its Proto-Únětice phase), in Silesia, and later in the Polish Lowlands and in the Lower Oder.

The latest dates of bell beakers ca. 1800 BC are characteristic of the Iwno culture, a “syncretistic culture” where the original traits had become increasingly transformed under the influence of the Únětice culture, in a region on the route between the Únětice and the rich amber deposits on the Gulf of Gdańsk.

In the final phase of the Final Eneolithic, in north-eastern Poland, Kuyavia and Greater Poland—at the settlements of Iwno and Masuria cultures—pig rearing regained importance, which had been lost with the arrival of Corded Ware settlers. Since the EBA, cattle were the chief livestock, whereas pig and sheep–goats were of secondary importance, and of comparable quantity until the Late Bronze Age/Hallstatt period.

In the eastern area of the Polish Lowlands and Greater Poland, the late Bell Beaker stage, in combination with local post-Corded Ware and Neman groups, marked the inception of a sequence of changes that led to the so-called Trzciniec horizon, from the Warta drainage as far as the middle Dnieper.

This culture may be also related to the adoption or imitation of Bell Beaker in marginal influence zones, such as the isolated finds of comb–stamp decoration or flint daggers in the eastern Baltic, Finland and Belarus.

The littoral zone from the Oder delta to the Vistula delta kept a particular character, distinct from the EBA and MBA cultures developing in the area related to central Europe, because of the diverse ecological niche of the coastline and the abundant deposits of amber, a commodity in Europe during the Bronze Age.

It shows stable settlements and an extensive network of cultural exchanges from the Baltic shore to the North Sea in the west, with one stable seaway connecting the lower Vistula region, Pomerania, and Mecklenburg with Jutland, and further away with the North Sea, the British Isles and Atlantic Europe.

At least in the Polish Lowlands, GAC groups coexisted ca. 2400–2200 BC with little cultural interaction with Bell Beakers, which suggests a significant cultural barrier between both groups. Later, clear cooperation is seen between Bell Beaker and Únětice, while isolation of GAC groups continued, despite the absence of geographical barriers among these cultures.

The BBC concentration of Silesia (giving rise to proto-Únětice) was more closely connected to the Bohemian Basin, and the Lesser Poland enclave more closely connected to Moravia, both communities being therefore part of the core East Bell Beaker migration, contrasting with the northern Bell Beaker groups of the Polish Lowlands, which mixed with groups heir of the Single Grave group of the CWC to form eventually the Trzciniec horizon.

Ottomány culture

During the Copper and Bronze Ages, the Baden (3600–2800 BC), the Makó and the Ottomány (2100–1600 BC) cultures existed in the Carpatian. The major improvement was obviously metalworking, but the Baden culture also brought about cremation and even long-distance trade with remote areas such as the Baltic or Iran flourished during the Makó and Ottomány periods.

Highly advanced Otomani-Füzesabony culture people arrived in Trzcinica area around 1650 BC, coming from the regions south of the Carpathian Mountains, and took over the settlement developed earlier by the Pleszów group, as they were settling the Wisłoka River drainage area.

They assimilated the local population and created a more powerful stronghold by rebuilding and expanding with remarkable engineering ingenuity the existing structure. The Otomani people left over 60,000 identified relics (including, unlike those of the Mierzanowice people, numerous luxury bronze items), many of which are a manifestation of their close ties with the Mediterranean area cultures – whence the “Troy connection”.

The Trzcinica fortress was burned, rebuilt and expanded again (to 2 hectares), and after 1350 BC abandoned for over two thousand years. The settlement was repopulated by the Slavs who around 770–780 CE built a massive gord here.

The Ottomány culture is a local Bronze Age culture getting its name from eponymous site near the village of Ottomány located in modern-day Bihor County, Romania. It is located in eastern Hungary, eastern Slovakia, Crișana in western Romania, western Ukraine – Transcarpatia (Zakarpattia Oblast – within a stretch of the Carpathian mountains) and southeast Poland (stretch of Carpathian mountains and nearby areas).

Thus, people of the Ottomány culture secured a middle stretch of what will be later known as “Amber route”, and indeed, amber is often found in Ottomány sites. People belonging to this vast culture settled along river banks and in valleys but also on strategic places like mountain passes and hills used for mighty fortified settlements. Some places like caves and natural springs were used like for cult activities.

This culture was contemporary with Wietenberg culture in Romania, Unetice-Madarovce-Veterov-Boheimkirchen cultural complex in Moravia, Austria and western Slovakia, Mierzanowice culture in Poland and Makó culture in Hungary.

The high cultural level is illustrated most by fortified settlements with highly advanced defensive architecture that includes ditches, stone walls, ramparts, towers and complicated gates protected by bastions, as well as by urbanistically organized houses (1, 2 or three rooms), and tell disposition at lowland sites (consequent use of houses made of clay, creating and artificial hill with many stratigraphic levels).

It had a high level of metal working (bronze, gold, silver), a high level of bone and antler working (including elements of horse harness made of antler), and a sophisticated pottery often considered one of the most exquisite ceramic cultures of prehistoric Europe.

The pottery consisted of beautifully adorned amphorae, jugs, broad bowls, small cups, pottery of milk processing, and piraunoi – transportable ceramic ovens, richly decorated, often interpreted as being used not only for profane, but also cult activities (burning incense).

Some distinctive features of Ottomány ceramics are decoration with spiral or circular motifs, rich plastic ornamentation, use of a wave pattern or pattern of “running spirals”, polishing of pottery to reach “metallic effect” and high firing temperatures.

Metalworking is illustrated by gold jewelry, mainly earrings, small bronze objects (pins, personal ornaments, small tools – needles, awls), military items include battle axes, spear-heads, daggers, knives, and arrowheads. Although stone was still widely used for sickles and working axes.

Burials were typically inhumations with the body in a flexed position in large flat cemeteries in direct vicinity of settlements, with different sides for men and women, at the final stages shifting towards bi-ritual rites, with more cremations, using urns.

Graves are equipped with rich grave goods, including personal adornments like beads (in male graves often made of animal teeth and boar tusks) and metal jewelry, tools, arms and ceramics. In a child grave at Nizna Mysla cemetery (Eastern Slovakia), a ceramic model of a four-wheel wagon was found and has been interpreted either as child’s toy or a cult object.

The end of the Ottomány culture is connected with turbulent events at the end of Old Bronze Age in Central Europe, where there was a collapse of the whole “Old Bronze Age world” with its highly advanced culture of mighty hill-forts, rich burials, and trade over vast distances.

The gradual decline in the number of fortified settlements, change of burial rites, and the decision of people to desert fortified settlements could have had several reasons, including the collapse of trade and exchange networks, the attacks of enemies, the internal collapse of society or environmental causes.

The following Middle Bronze Age/Late Bronze Age cultures are very different in their burial rites (cremation, erecting of barrows) as well as in their handling of bronze – there is an “explosion” in bronze working, and many bronze hoards found across all of Europe illustrate this change in quantity and quality of produced bronze objects.

We see not only bronze ornaments and arms (including first examples of swords), but also bronze tools (sickles, axes, adzes), which changed the everyday life of prehistoric man. The turbulent changes during the late Bronze Age gave an end to the native, relatively advanced civilization and the beginning of the Iron Age saw mass immigration of Indo-European nomads believed to be of ancient Iranian ancestry.

However, as the time went on, the Carpathian Basin attracted immigration from all directions: the Halstatt Celts from the West were the first and most influential at around 750 BC, the mysterious Sigynnae around 500 BC, the Pannonians – an Illyrian tribe gave the future Roman province its name while the very East became occupied by other Thracian, Iranian and later Celtic tribes.

Before 100 BC, most of the area was occupied by various Celtic or celticized people, such as the successor of the Halstatt culture, the Celtic tribes of Taurisci and the Boii, and the Pannonian, who inhabited the southern part of what was later known as Roman province of Pannonia, south of the river Drava (Dravus), and the northern part of the future Roman province of Dalmatia. The Pannonians appear to have been Celticized. Later, a number of Pannonians settled in Dacia.

The Boii were a Gallic tribe of the later Iron Age, attested at various times in Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), Pannonia (Hungary), parts of Bavaria, in and around Bohemia (after whom the region is named in most languages; comprising the bulk of Czechia), parts of Poland, and Gallia Narbonensis. In addition the archaeological evidence indicates that in the 2nd century BC Celts expanded from Bohemia through the Kłodzko Valley into Silesia, now part of Poland and Czechia.

Trzciniec culture

The Trzciniec culture (1600-1200 BC) is a Bronze-Age archaeological culture in Eastern Europe. It is sometimes associated with the Komariv neighbouring culture, as the Trzciniec-Komariv culture. The Trzciniec culture developed from three Corded Ware-related cultures: Mierzanowicka, Strzyżowska and Iwieńska. These were succeeded by the Lusatian culture, which developed around Łódź.

The areal of the Trzciniec culture corresponds to parts of today’s Poland (including Kujawy, Małopolska, Mazowsze, South Podlasie) and western Ukraine. Some of these sites include important treasures containing materials such as ornamental gold and silver like in Stawiszyce and Rawa Mazowiecka. The best known settlements of the Trzciniec culture were in Złota Pińczowskia, Więcławice Świętokrzyskie, Goszyce, and west Bondyrz, close to the kurgans of Guciow.

Inhumation and cremation in a flat grave were important features of Trzciniec culture. Cases of inhumation were discovered in Wolica Nowa, in the form of kurgans. Evidence of kurgan inhumation have been found at Łubna-Jakusy, whereas kurgan cremation has been found at Guciów.

Throughout their range and beyond, the Mierzanowice and Strzyżów cultures (and the more southern part of the Iwno culture) were replaced by the Trzciniec culture. It was named after Trzciniec near Puławy and lasted from 1700 to 1100 BC, that is throughout the second and third periods of the Bronze Age.

It was probably made up of diverse post-Neolithic populations, whose common characteristic was the type of pottery – large vessels with a thickened upper edge and a horizontal decorative protrusion around the neck, first found around northern Germany at the beginning of the millennium. Their own production of bronze objects came late and only in the western part of this culture’s range.

A kurgan burial site of the Trzciniec culture, in use from the 15th to the early 12th century BC was preserved in Dacharzów near Sandomierz. The central bottom part of the structure consists of two adjacent rectangular stone burial chambers with wooden floors. The larger one contains the bones of several women and children, the smaller one the cremated remains of one older man.

Clay pots and copper decorations were also present. The chambers were covered by wooden construction supporting stone slanting walls/roofs, the whole structure being covered by a large (12–13 meters in diameter) earth mound.

In addition to this oldest part – the main burial of an apparent tribal chief and his family, there are newer peripheral graves at the edge of the kurgan and items indicating a prolonged cemetery and local cult use of this burial complex.

Small scale and sparse settlement areas with more primitive crafts were thought to be characteristic of the Trzciniec culture period and distribution. However a comprehensive, long-functioning a well-developed complex has been found near Polesie, Łowicz County, with objects carbon-dated from 1530 to 1210 BC.

The utilized living space, a complete “microcosm”, had the area of 17 hectares, bordered by two streams, with fields, animal quarters and workshops. Cattle and pigs were kept, while the farmers cultivated oats, wheat and barley and caused devastation of the natural environment surroundings. Skeletons examined indicate that many residents suffered from tooth decay.

Among the many thousand stone remnants discovered there are ceremonial staffs (maces) with a wooden handle, indicating influence from the distant Mesopotamia and the East in general. Melting and processing of bronze took place and salt was imported from regions further south. The main identified burial site was actively and repeatedly utilized for generations, bodies rearranged, the grave dug in the ground being covered by a mound five meters in diameter.

Tumulus culture

The Tumulus culture (1600-1200 BC) dominated Central Europe during the Middle Bronze Age. It was the descendant of the Unetice culture. As the name implies, the Tumulus culture is distinguished by the practice of burying the dead beneath burial mounds (tumuli or kurgans). Its heartland was the area previously occupied by the Unetice culture besides Bavaria and Württemberg.

Proto-Lusatian Tumulus or Burial Mound culture of Danubian origin thrived in western Polish lands during the 1700–1400 BC period, and contributed to the birth and rise of the Urnfield cultures. Around 1400 BC it was replaced by the most important of them – the Lusatian culture.

Burial Mound culture again was a complex of cultures, which replaced the Unetice culture and had an earth and stone mound grave as their common trait. The burials are skeletal, as opposed to the cremation practices of the later Urnfield cultures. There are no substantial settlements left by the Burial Mound people, whose agricultural practices were apparently limited mostly to animal husbandry.

They developed bronze metallurgy to a large extent, satisfying their own needs for weapons and richly designed and executed decorations. Their dominant social class were the warriors, who were equal and were the only men entitled to a tumulus burial.

In 1902, Paul Reinecke distinguished a number of cultural horizons based on research of Bronze Age hoards and tumuli in periods covered by these cultural horizons are shown in the table below. The Tumulus culture was prevalent during the Bronze Age periods B, C1, and C2. It was succeeded by the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture.

Tumuli have been used elsewhere in Europe from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. The term “Tumulus culture” specifically refers to the South German variant of the Bronze Age. In the table, Ha designates Hallstatt. Archaeological horizons Hallstatt A–B are part of the Bronze Age Urnfield culture, while horizons Hallstatt C–D are the type site for the Iron Age Hallstatt culture.

The Tumulus culture was eminently a warrior society, which expanded with new chiefdoms eastward into the Carpathian Basin (up to the river Tisza), and northward into Polish and Central European Únětice territories. The culture’s dispersed settlements centred in fortified structures.

Some scholars see Tumulus groups from southern Germany in this context as corresponding to a community that shared an extinct Indo-European linguistic entity, such as the hypothetical Italo-Celtic group that was ancestral to Italic and Celtic.

This particular hypothesis, however, conflicts with suggestions by other Indo-Europeanists. For instance, David W. Anthony suggests that Proto-Italic (and perhaps also Proto-Celtic) speakers could have entered Northern Italy at an earlier stage, from the east (e.g., the Balkan/Adriatic region).

Komarov culture

The Komarov culture (1500-1200 BC) was a Bronze Age culture which flourished along the middle Dniester. Few settlements from the Komarov culture have been found. One settlement at Komarov, from which the culture is named, contained twenty small single-roomed houses.

The Komarov culture is best known for its inhumation burials. These are set into a stone- or timber-covered grave covered with a tumulus. Cremations and flat grave burials are also known. Decorations found on ceramics, and the presence of stone rings and cromlechs around the base of the tumuli, indicate that a sun cult existed among the Komarov people.

The Komarov culture is believed to have originated within the Corded Ware horizon, with which is shares numerous similarites, including burial rites, ceramics and metallurgical traditions. It is closely related to the Trzciniec culture. The Komarov culture is usually associated with the evolution of the Proto-Slavs or the Thracians.

Lusatian culture

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300-500 BC) in most of today’s Poland and parts of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, eastern Germany, and western Ukraine. It forms part of the Urnfield tradition, but continues into the Iron Age without a notable break.

The Piliny culture in northern Hungary and Slovakia grew from the Tumulus culture, but used urn burials as well. The pottery shows strong links to the Gáva culture, but in the later phases, a strong influence of the Lusatian culture is found.

It covers the Periods Montelius III (early Lusatian culture) to V of the Northern-European chronological scheme. There were close contacts with the Nordic Bronze Age. Hallstatt and La Tène influences can also be seen particularly in ornaments (fibulae, pins) and weapons.

The Lusatian culture developed as the preceding Trzciniec culture experienced influences from the Tumulus culture of the Middle Bronze Age, essentially incorporating the local communities into the socio-political network of Iron Age Europe. It forms part of the Urnfield systems found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia.

It is followed by the Billendorf culture of the Early Iron Age in the West. In Poland, the Lusatian culture is taken to span part of the Iron Age as well (there is only a terminological difference) and is succeeded in Montelius VIIbc in northern ranges around the mouth of Vistula by the Pomeranian culture spreading south.

Lusatian-type burials were first described by the German pathologist and archaeologist Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902). The name refers to the Lusatia area in eastern Germany (Brandenburg and Saxony) and western Poland. Virchow identified the pottery artifacts as pre-Germanic, but refused to speculate on the ethnic identity of their makers.

The Polish archeologist Józef Kostrzewski, who starting in 1934 conducted extensive excavations of a Lusatian settlement of Biskupin, hypothesized that the Lusatian culture was a predecessor of later cultures which belonged to the early Slavs.

Modern archeologists, such as Kazimierz Godłowski and Piotr Kaczanowski, hold the view that at that time, the ethnic geography of Bronze Age central-Europe included peoples whose languages and ethnic identity we simply do not know.

Urnfield culture

The Urnfield culture (c. 1300 BC – 750 BC) was a late Bronze Age culture of central Europe, often divided into several local cultures within a broader Urnfield tradition. The name comes from the custom of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns which were then buried in fields.

Over much of Europe, the Urnfield culture followed the Tumulus culture and was succeeded by the Hallstatt culture. Linguistic evidence and continuity with the following Hallstatt culture suggests that the people of this area spoke an early form of Celtic, perhaps originally proto-Celtic.

Sorothaptic (Spanish: sorotáptico, Catalan: sorotàptic, from Greek sorós (“funerary urn”) and thaptós (“‘buried”) is a name coined by Catalan scholar Joan Coromines for the hypothetical language of the presumably Indo-European, but pre-Celtic, 1000 BC people of the Urnfield culture in the Iberian Peninsula.

Coromines used the concept of Sorothaptic to explain problematic words in the Iberian Romance languages. He identified the language with inscriptions on lead tablets, ca. 2nd century CE, found at Amélie-les-Bains on the Catalan–French border; these include some Latin but also a non-Latin and non-Celtic component that Coromines believed to be Sorothaptic.

It is believed that in some areas, such as in southwestern Germany, the Urnfield culture was in existence around 1200 BC (beginning of Hallstatt A or Ha A), but the Bronze D Riegsee-phase already contains cremations. As the transition from the middle Bronze Age to the Urnfield culture was gradual, there are questions regarding how to define it.

The Urnfield culture covers the phases Hallstatt A and B (Ha A and B) in Paul Reinecke’s chronological system, not to be confused with the Hallstatt culture (Ha C and D) of the following Iron Age. This corresponds to the Phases Montelius III-IV of the Northern Bronze Age. Whether Reinecke’s Bronze D is included varies according to author and region.

The Urnfield culture is divided into the following sub-phases (based on Müller-Karpe sen.): BzD (1300–1200 BC), Ha A1 (1200–1100 BC), Ha A2 (1100–1000 BC), HaB1 (1000–800 BC), HaB2 (900–800 BC), and Ha B3 (800–750 BC)

The existence of the Ha B3-phase is contested, as the material consists of female burials only. As can be seen by the arbitrary 100-year ranges, the dating of the phases is highly schematic. The phases are based on typological changes, which means that they do not have to be strictly contemporaneous across the whole distribution. All in all, more radiocarbon and dendro-dates would be highly desirable.

The Urnfield culture grew from the preceding Tumulus culture. The transition is gradual, in the pottery as well as the burial rites. In some parts of Germany, cremation and inhumation existed simultaneously (facies Wölfersheim).

Some graves contain a combination of Tumulus-culture pottery and Urnfield swords (Kressbronn, Bodenseekreis) or Tumulus culture incised pottery together with early Urnfield types (Mengen).

In the North, the Urnfield culture was only adopted in the HaA2 period. 16 pins deposited in a swamp in Ellmoosen (Kr. Bad Aibling, Germany) cover the whole chronological range from Bronze B to the early Urnfield period (Ha A). This demonstrates a considerable ritual continuity. In the Loire, Seine and Rhône, certain fords contain deposits from the late Neolithic onwards up to the Urnfield period.

The origins of the cremation rite are commonly believed to be in Hungary, where it was widespread since the first half of the second millennium BC. The neolithic Cucuteni–Trypillia culture of moern-day northeastern Romania and Ukraine were also practicing cremation rituals as early as approximately 5500 BC. Some cremations begin to be found in the Proto-Lusatian and Trzciniec culture.

The Urnfield culture was located in an area stretching from western Hungary to eastern France, from the Alps to near the North Sea. Local groups, mainly differentiated by pottery, include: Knovíz culture (in western and Northern Bohemia, southern Thuringia and North-eastern Bavaria), Milavce culture (in southeastern Bohemia), Unstrut culture (in Thuringia, a mixture between Knovíz-culture and the South-German Urnfield culture), Lusatian culture (in northern Bohemia, Lusatia and Poland).

The South-German Urnfield culture developed in the regions of Southern Germany in the Bronze Age. The culture existed as early as 1000 BC. The culture made Late Bronze Age pottery, including storage pots with “bulging body, more or less everted rim, and constricted neck”. It was a largely male-dominated warrior culture.

It included the Northeast-Bavarian Group, divided into a lower Bavarian and an upper Palatinate group, the Lower-Main-Swabian group (in southern Hesse and Baden-Württemberg, including the Marburger, Hanauer, lower Main and Friedberger facies) and the Rhenish-Swiss group (in Rhineland-Palatinate, Switzerland and eastern France).

The Lower-Rhine urnfield culture originated in the area of the Rhine river in the late Bronze Age. It included the Lower Hessian Group, the North-Netherlands-Westphalian group and the Northwest-Group in the Dutch Delta region.

The Middle-Danube Urnfield culture (1300-800 BC) was a late Bronze Age culture of the middle Danube region. It included the Velatice-Baierdorf (in Moravia and Austria), the the Čaka (in western Slovakia), the Gáva culture (in Eastern Slovakia, Western Ukraine (Zakarpats’ka Oblast and Dnister river basin), Northwestern Romania and Northeastern Hungary), the Piliny culture (in northern Hungary and Slovakia), the Kyjatice culture (in Slovakia) and the Makó culture (in Hungary).

Sometimes the distribution of artifacts belonging to these groups shows sharp and consistent borders, which might indicate some political structures, like tribes. Metalwork is commonly of a much more widespread distribution than pottery and does not conform to these borders. It may have been produced at specialised workshops catering for the elite of a large area.

In Italy the late Bronze Age Canegrate and Proto-Villanovan cultures and the early Iron Age Villanovan culture show similarities with the urnfields of central Europe. Urnfields are found in the French Languedoc and Catalonia from the 9th to 8th centuries. The change in burial custom was most probably influenced by developments further east.

The Golasecca culture in northern Italy developed with continuity from the Canegrate culture. Canegrate represented a completely new cultural dynamic to the area expressed in pottery and bronzework, making it a typical western example of the Urnfield culture, in particular the Rhine-Switzerland-Eastern France (RSFO) Urnfield culture.

The study of the so-called Lepontic inscriptions, written in the alphabet of Lugano utilized by Golaseccans of the 6th and 5th centuries BC, led Michel Lejeune (1971) to establish definitively the membership of the language conveyed by this writing to the family of Celtic languages.

It is then proved the existence of a pre-Gallic celticity in the North-Western Italy, preceding the 400 BC, whose origin must be sought long before the 600 BC, date of the invasion of Bellovesus, that is, at least at the time of Canegrate culture (1300 BC), which presents in the pottery and bronze artifacts many points in common with the most western groups of the Urnfield culture (Rhine-Switzerland-eastern France, 1300-800 BC).

Or perhaps, a more likely hypothesis, is that a more ancient proto-Celtic presence can be traced back to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (1600-1500 BC), when North Western Italy appears closely linked regarding the production of bronze artifacts, including ornaments, to the western groups of the Tumulus culture.

The Lepontic Celtic language inscriptions of the area show the language of the Golasecca culture was clearly Celtic making it probable that the 13th-century BC language of at least the RSEF area of the western urnfields was also Celtic or a precursor to it.

Placename evidence has also been used to point to an association of the Urnfield materials with a Proto-Celtic language group in central Europe, and it has been argued that it was the ancestral culture of the Celts.

The Urnfield layers of the Hallstatt culture, Ha A and Ha B, are succeeded by the Iron Age “Hallstatt period” proper (Ha C and Ha D, 8th-6th centuries BC), associated with the early Celts; Ha D is in turn succeeded by the La Tène culture, the archaeological culture associated with the Continental Celts of antiquity.

The influence of the Urnfield culture spread widely and found its way to the northeastern Iberian coast, where the nearby Celtiberians of the interior adapted it for use in their cemeteries.

Evidence for east-to-west early Urnfield (Bronze D-Hallstatt A) elite contacts such as rilled-ware, swords and crested helmets has been found in the southwest of the Iberian peninsula. The appearance of such elite status markers provides the simplest explanation for the spread of Celtic languages in this area from prestigious, proto-Celtic, early-Urnfield metalworkers.

The numerous hoards of the Urnfield culture and the existence of fortified settlements (hill forts) were taken as evidence for widespread warfare and upheaval by some scholars. Written sources describe several collapses and upheavals in the Eastern Mediterranean, Anatolia and the Levant around the time of the Urnfield origins:

End of the Mycenean culture with a conventional (1200 BC), Destruction of Troy VI (1200 BC), Battles of Ramses III against the Sea Peoples (1195–1190 BC), End of the Hittite empire (1180 BC), and Settlement of the Philistines in Canaan (1170 BC). The so-called Dorian invasion of Greece was placed in this context as well (although more recent evidence suggests that the Dorians moved in 1100 BC into a post Mycenaean vacuum, rather than precipitating the collapse).

Some scholars, among them Wolfgang Kimmig and P. Bosch-Gimpera have postulated a Europe-wide wave of migrations. Better methods of dating have shown that these events are not as closely connected as once thought. 

More recently Robert Drews, after having reviewed and dismissed the migration hypothesis, has suggested that the observed cultural associations may be in fact partly explained as the result of a new kind of warfare based upon the slashing Naue II sword, and with bands of infantry replacing chariots in warfare. Drews suggests that the political instability that this brought to centralised states based upon maryannu chariotry caused the breakdown of these polities.

About a dozen wagon-burials of four wheeled wagons with bronze fittings are known from the early Urnfield period. They include Hart an der Altz (Kr. Altötting), Mengen (Kr. Sigmaringen), Poing (Kr. Ebersberg), Königsbronn (Kr. Heidenheim) from Germany and St. Sulpice (Vaud), Switzerland.

In Alz, the chariot had been placed on the pyre, pieces of bone are attached to the partially melted metal of the axles. Bronze (one-part) bits appear at the same time. Two-part horse bits are only known from late Urnfield contexts and may be due to eastern influence.

Wood- and bronze spoked wheels are known from Stade (Germany), a wooden spoked wheel from Mercurago, Italy. Wooden dish-wheels have been excavated at Corcelettes, Switzerland and the Wasserburg Buchau, Germany (diameter 80 cm).

In Milavče near Domažlice, Bohemia, a four-wheeled miniature bronze wagon bearing a large cauldron (diameter 30 cm) contained a cremation. This exceptionally rich burial was covered by a barrow. The wagon from Acholshausen [de] (Bavaria) comes from a male burial.

Such wagons are known from the Nordic Bronze Age as well. The Skallerup wagon, Denmark, contained a cremation as well. At Pekatel (Kr. Schwerin) in Mecklenburg a cauldron-wagon and other rich grave goods accompanied an inhumation under a barrow (Montelius III/IV). Another example comes from Ystad in Sweden.

South-eastern European examples include Kanya in Hungary and Orăştie in Romania. Clay miniature wagons, sometimes with waterfowl were known there since the middle Bronze Age (Dupljaja, Vojvodina, Serbia).

The Lusatian chariot from Burg (Brandenburg, Germany) has three wheels on a single axle, on which waterfowl perch. The grave of Gammertingen (Kr. Sigmaringen, Germany) contained two socketed horned applications that probably belonged to a miniature wagon comparable to the Burg example, together with six miniature spoked wheels.

Naue II Swords

An exceptionally well-preserved early sword was discovered in 2017 in the Venetian Monastery of Lazarus, and subsequently verified to possibly be the oldest preserved sword in the world. It came from eastern Turkey and was contained in a cabinet as part of a medieval collection.

Before bronze, stone (such as flint and obsidian) was used as the primary material for edged cutting tools and weapons. Stone, however, is too brittle for long, thin implements such as swords. With the introduction of copper, and subsequently bronze, knives could be made longer, leading to the sword.

Thus, the development of the sword from the dagger was gradual, and in 2004 the first “swords” were claimed for the Early Bronze Age (c. 33rd to 31st centuries), based on finds at Arslantepe. A cache of nine swords and daggers was found; they are made of arsenic-copper alloy. Among them, three swords were beautifully inlaid with silver.

These are the weapons of a total length of 45 to 60 cm which could be described as either short swords or long daggers. Some other similar swords have been found in Turkey, and are described by Thomas Zimmermann. The sword remained extremely rare for another millennium, and became more widespread only with the closing of the 3rd millennium.

The “swords” of this later period can still readily be interpreted as daggers, as with the copper specimen from Naxos (dated roughly 2800 to 2300 BC), with a length of just below 36 cm, but individual specimens of the Cycladic “copper swords” of the period around 2300 reach a length up to 60 cm. The first weapons that can unambiguously be classified as swords are those found in Minoan Crete, dated to about 1700 BC, which reach lengths of more than 100 cm. These are the “type A” swords of the Aegean Bronze Age.

The Minoan and Mycenaean (Middle to Late Aegean Bronze Age) swords are classified in types labeled A to H following Sandars (1961, 1963), the “Sandars typology”. Types A and B (Tab-tang) are the earliest from about the 17th to 16th centuries, types C (Horned swords) and D (Cross swords) from the 15th century, types E and F (T-hilt swords) from the 13th and 12th.

The 13th to 12th centuries also see a revival of the “Horned” type, classified as types G and H. Type H swords are associated with the Sea Peoples and were found in Anatolia (Pergamon) and Greece. Contemporary with types E to H is the so-called Naue II type, imported from south-eastern Europe.

One of the most important, and longest-lasting, types of prehistoric European swords was the Naue II type, named for Julius Naue who first described them and also known as Griffzungenschwert or “grip-tongue sword”. It first appears in c. the 13th century BC in Northern Italy (or a general Urnfield background), and survived well into the Iron Age, with a life-span of about seven centuries, until the 6th century BC.

The leaf-shaped Urnfield sword could be used for slashing, in contrast to the stabbing-swords of the preceding Tumulus culture. The hilt was normally made from bronze as well. It was cast separately and consisted of a different alloy.

It commonly possessed a ricasso, an unsharpened length of blade just above the guard or handle on a knife, dagger, sword, or bayonet. Blades designed this way appear at many periods in history in many parts of the world and date back to at least the Bronze Age— essentially, as long as humans have shaped cutting tools from metals.

These solid hilted swords were known since Bronze D (Rixheim swords). Other swords have tanged blades and probably had a wood, bone, or antler hilt. Flange-hilted swords had organic inlays in the hilt. Swords include Auvernier, Kressborn-Hemigkofen, Erbenheim, Möhringen, Weltenburg, Hemigkofen and Tachlovice-types.

During its lifetime the basic design was maintained, although the material changed from bronze to iron. Naue II swords were exported from Europe to the Aegean, and as far afield as Ugarit, beginning about 1200 BC, i.e. just a few decades before the final collapse of the palace cultures in the Bronze Age collapse. Naue II swords could be as long as 85 cm, but most specimens fall into the 60 to 70 cm range.

Swords from the Nordic Bronze Age appear from ca. the 13th century BC, often showing characteristic spiral patterns. The early Nordic swords are also comparatively short; a specimen discovered in 1912 near Bragby, Uppland, Sweden, dated to about 1800 to 1500 BC, was just over 60 cm long.

This sword was, however, classified as of the Hajdúsámson-Apa type, and was presumably imported. The Vreta Kloster sword discovered in 1897 (dated 1600 to 1500 BC) has a blade length (the hilt is missing) of 46 cm.

A typical variant for European swords is the leaf shaped blade, which was most common in North-West Europe at the end of the Bronze Age, on the British Isles in particular. The carp’s tongue sword is a type of bronze sword that was common to Western Europe during ca. the 9th to 8th centuries BC.

The blade of the carp’s tongue sword was wide and parallel for most of its length but the final third narrowed into a thin tip intended for thrusting. The design was probably developed in north-western France, and combined the broad blade useful for slashing with a thinner, elongated tip suitable for thrusting.

Its advantages saw its adoption across Atlantic Europe. In Britain, the metalwork in the south east derived its name from this sword: the Carp’s Tongue complex. Notable examples of this type were part of the Isleham Hoard, a hoard of more than 6500 pieces of worked and unworked bronze, dating from the Bronze Age, found near Ely, in the English county of Cambridgeshire.

The Isleham Hoard is the largest Bronze Age hoard ever discovered in England and one of the finest. It consists in particular of swords, spear-heads, arrows, axes, palstaves, knives, daggers, armour, decorative equipment (in particular for horses) and many fragments of sheet bronze, all dating from the late Bronze Age (about 1000 BCE). The swords show holes where rivets or studs held the wooden hilts in place.

Swords made of iron (as opposed to bronze) appear from the Early Iron Age (c. 12th century BC), but do not become widespread before the 8th century BC. The Celtic Hallstatt culture – 8th century BC – figured among the early users of iron.

During the Hallstatt period, the same swords were made both in bronze and in iron. At the end of the Hallstatt period, around 600–500BC, swords were replaced with short daggers. The La Tene culture reintroduced the sword, which was very different from the traditional shape and construction of the Bronze Age and early Iron Age, and much more like the later swords that developed from them.

The iron version of the Scythian/Persian Acinaces appears from ca. the 6th century BC. In Classical Antiquity and the Parthian and Sassanid Empires in Iran, iron swords were common. The Greek xiphos and the Roman gladius are typical examples of the type, measuring some 60 to 70 cm. The late Roman Empire introduced the longer spatha (the term for its wielder, spatharius, became a court rank in Constantinople).

With the spread of the La Tene culture at the 5th century BC, iron swords had completely replaced bronze all over Europe. These swords eventually evolved into, among others, the Roman gladius and spatha, and the Greek xiphos and the Germanic sword of the Roman Iron Age, which evolved into the Viking sword in the 8th century.

There are two kinds of Celtic sword. The most common is the “long” sword, which usually has a stylised anthropomorphic hilt made from organic material, such as wood, bone, or horn. These swords also usually had an iron plate in front of the guard that was shaped to match the scabbard mouth. The second type is a “short” sword with either an abstract or a true anthropomorphic hilt of copper alloy.

Scabbards were generally made from two plates of iron, and suspended from a belt made of iron links. Some scabbards had front plates of bronze rather than iron. This was more common on Insular examples than elsewhere; only a very few Continental examples are known.

The Bronze Age style sword and construction methods died out at the end of the early Iron Age (Hallstatt D), around 600-500 BC, when swords are once again replaced by daggers in most of Europe. An exception is the Xiphos from Greece, the development of which continued for several more centuries. The antenna sword, named for the pair of ornaments suggesting antennae on its hilt, is a type of the Late Bronze Age, continued in early iron swords of the East Hallstatt and Italy region.

Swords with ring-shaped pommels were popular among the Sarmatians from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD. They were about 50–60 cm in length, with a rarer “long” type in excess of 70 cm, in exceptional cases as long as 130 cm. A semi-precious stone was sometimes set in the pommel ring.

These swords are found in great quantities in the Black Sea region and the Hungarian plain. They are similar to the akinakes used by the Persians and other Iranian peoples. The pommel ring probably evolves by closing the earlier arc-shaped pommel hilt which evolves out of the antenna type around the 4th century BC.

Swords have been recovered in archaeological findings of the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture throughout the Ganges-Yamuna Doab region of India, commonly made of copper, but in some instances made of bronze. Diverse specimens have been discovered in Fatehgarh, where there are several varieties of hilt. These swords have been variously dated to periods between 1700-1400 BC, but were probably used more extensively during 1200-600 BC (Painted Grey Ware culture, Iron Age India).

Sword production in China is attested from the Bronze Age Shang Dynasty, from roughly 1200 BC. The technology for bronze swords reached its high point during the Warring States period and Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 207 BC).

Amongst the Warring States period swords, some unique technologies were used, such as casting high-tin edges over softer, lower-tin cores, or the application of diamond shaped patterns on the blade (see the sword of Gou Jian).

Also unique for Chinese bronzes is the consistent use of high-tin bronze (17-21% tin), which is very hard and breaks under excess stress, whereas other cultures preferred lower tin bronze (usually 10%), which bends instead. China continued to make both iron and bronze swords longer than any other region; iron completely replaced bronze only in the early Han Dynasty.

Chinese steel swords make their appearance from the 5th century BC Warring States period, although earlier iron swords are also known from the Zhou dynasty. The Chinese Dao is single-edged, sometimes translated as sabre or broadsword, and the Jian double edged.

Hallstatt culture

The Hallstatt culture was the predominant Western and Central European culture of Late Bronze Age (Hallstatt A, Hallstatt B) from the 12th to 8th centuries BC and Early Iron Age Europe (Hallstatt C, Hallstatt D) from the 8th to 6th centuries BC.

It developed out of the Urnfield culture of the 12th century BC (Late Bronze Age) and followed in much of its area by the La Tène culture. It is commonly associated with Proto-Celtic and Celtic populations in the Western Hallstatt zone and with (pre-)Illyrians in the eastern Hallstatt zone.

It is named for its type site, Hallstatt, a lakeside village in the Austrian Salzkammergut southeast of Salzburg, where there was a rich salt mine, and some 1,300 burials are known, many with fine artifacts.

Material from Hallstatt has been classified into 4 periods, designated “Hallstatt A” to “D”. Hallstatt A and B are regarded as Late Bronze Age and the terms used for wider areas, such as “Hallstatt culture”, or “period”, “style” and so on, relate to the Iron Age Hallstatt C and D.

By the 6th century BC, it had expanded to include wide territories, falling into two zones, east and west, between them covering much of western and central Europe down to the Alps, and extending into northern Italy. Parts of Britain and Iberia are included in the ultimate expansion of the culture.

The culture was based on farming, but metal-working was considerably advanced, and by the end of the period long-range trade within the area and with Mediterranean cultures was economically significant.

Social distinctions became increasingly important, with emerging elite classes of chieftains and warriors, and perhaps those with other skills. Society was organized on a tribal basis, though very little is known about this. 

La Tène culture

The La Tène culture was a European Iron Age culture. It developed and flourished during the late Iron Age , succeeding the early Iron Age Hallstatt culture without any definite cultural break, under the impetus of considerable Mediterranean influence from the Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul, the Etruscans, and Golasecca culture.

It is named after the type site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where thousands of objects had been deposited in the lake, as was discovered after the water level dropped in 1857.

La Tène is the type site and the term archaeologists use for the later period of the culture and art of the ancient Celts, a term that is firmly entrenched in the popular understanding, but presents numerous problems for historians and archaeologists.

Centered on ancient Gaul, the culture became very widespread, and encompasses a wide variety of local differences. It is often distinguished from earlier and neighbouring cultures mainly by the La Tène style of Celtic art, characterized by curving “swirly” decoration, especially of metalwork.

The bearers of the La Téne culture were the people known as Celts or Gauls to ancient ethnographers. Ancient Celtic culture had no written literature of its own, but rare examples of epigraphy in the Greek or Latin alphabets exist allowing the fragmentary reconstruction of Continental Celtic.

Our knowledge of this cultural area derives from three sources: from archaeological evidence, from Greek and Latin literary evidence, and from ethnographical evidence suggesting some La Tène artistic and cultural survivals in traditionally Celtic regions of far western Europe.

Some of the societies that are archaeologically identified with La Tène material culture were identified by Greek and Roman authors from the 5th century onwards as Keltoi (“Celts”) and Galli (“Gauls”). Herodotus correctly placed Keltoi at the source of the Ister/Danube, in the heartland of La Tène material culture: “The Ister flows right across Europe, rising in the country of the Celts”.

Whether the usage of classical sources means that the whole of La Tène culture can be attributed to a unified Celtic people is difficult to assess; archaeologists have repeatedly concluded that language, material culture, and political affiliation do not necessarily run parallel. In the 5th century, burial customs in the Celtic world were not uniform; rather, localised groups had their own beliefs, which, in consequence, also gave rise to distinct artistic expressions.

Milograd culture

The Milograd culture (700 BC until 100 AD), also known as Pidhirtsi culture, existed on Ukrainian territory. Geographically, it corresponds to present day southern Belarus and northern Ukraine, in the area of the confluence of the Dnieper and the Pripyat, north of Kiev. Their ethnic origin is uncertain. The town of Milograd, after which the culture is named, is located in the Homiel Province of the Belarus republic.

Zarubintsy culture

The Zarubintsy (300 BC until 100 AD) was a culture that flourished in the area north of the Black Sea along the upper and middle Dnieper and Pripyat Rivers, stretching west towards the Southern Bug river. Zarubintsy sites were particularly dense between the Rivers Desna and Ros as well as along the Pripyat river.

It was identified around 1899 by the Czech-Ukrainian archaeologist Vikentiy Khvoyka and is now attested by about 500 sites. The culture was named after finds cremated remains in the village of Zarubintsy, on the Dnieper.

The Zarubintsy culture is possibly connected to the pre-Slavic ancestors of early Slavs (proto-Slavs), with possible links to the peoples of the Vistula basin. The culture was influenced by the La Tène culture and the nomads of the steppes (the Scythians and the Sarmatians). The Scythian and Sarmatian influence is evident, especially in pottery, weaponry and domestic and personal objects.

The bearers of the culture engaged in agriculture, documented by numerous finds of sickles. Pobol suggested that the culture experienced a transition from swidden (‘slash-and-burn’) to plough-type cultivation. In addition, they raised animals. Remains included sheep, goat, cattle, horses and swine. There is evidence they also traded wild animal skins with Black Sea towns.

Some sites were defended by ditches and banks, structures thought to have been built to defend against nomadic tribes from the steppe. Dwellings were either of surface or semi-subterranean types, with posts supporting the walls, a hearth in the middle, and large conic pits located nearby.

Inhabitants practiced cremation. Cremated remains were either placed in large, hand-made ceramic urns, or were placed in a large pit and surrounded by food and ornaments such as spiral bracelets and Middle to Late La-Tene type fibulae.

The disintegration of the Zarubintsy culture has been linked with the emigration of its population in several directions. Density of settlements in the central region decrease, as late Zarubintsy groups appear radially, especially southward into the forest-steppe regions of the middle Dnieper, Desna and southern Donets rivers.

Influences upon local cultures in the east Carpathian/ Podolia region, as well as, to a lesser extent, north into the forest zone are also evident. The movement of Zarubintsy groups has been linked to an increasingly arid climate, whereby the population left the hillforts on high promontories and moved southward into river valleys.

This mostly southern movement brought them closer to westward moving Sarmatian groups (from the Don region) and Thracian-Celtic elements. By the 3rd century AD, central late Zarubintsy sites ‘re-arranged’ into the so-called Kiev culture, whilst the westernmost areas were integrated into the Wielbark culture.

Lipitsa culture

Lipitsa culture (100 BC until 300 AD) is the archaeological material culture supposedly representative of a Dacian tribe. It took its name from the Ukrainian village of Verkhnya Lypytsya, Rohatyn Raion, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.

It is located on the Upper Dniester and Middle Dniester, Upper Prut, in the Carpathians and Subcarpathians of today’s Bukovina, Pokuttya, Galicia, Transcarpathia and Maramureş. 

It is assigned a Dacian / North Thracian origin. It is considered by the majority of scholars as representing the Dacian tribe of Costoboci. However, still in the early Roman period, this Thracian population was dominated by strong Celtic influences or had simply absorbed Celtic ethnic components.

“Flat” cremation cemeteries are typical of this culture. And, along these a few graves have been discovered which differ markedly i.e. richly furnished inhumation burials in ancient mounds with equipment consisting of imported Roman vases and other goods, with a few articles typical of the Celtic culture. The pottery from these burials was a typical Lipitsa ware. Buried in the graves were evidently members of the ruling class of the Lipitsa culture, presumably of Celtic origin.

Like other pagan Dacians and Thracians, the Lipitsa people cremated their deceased. The remains were buried in a plane or tumular tomb. Only children were inhumed; as they hadn’t passed a come of age passage ritual, due of their age, they couldn’t be incinerated. These burial customs lasted from the late La Tène and were best preserved in the Upper Tisza basin, a region with a major Dacian cultural perpetuation throughout the ages.

The presence in Kolokolin (Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast) and Chizhikovo (Ukraine, (Chyzhykove)) of Dacian pottery made some scholars to include also these memorials of those sites in the Lipitsa culture of the upper Dniester, which was as linked to it by the Dacian tribe of the Costoboci.

Benadik and Kolnik sensing the similarity of these burials to the Zemplin burial ground, included the latter in the Lipitsa culture. However, these burials date from a slightly earlier period, and possess typological difference which makes their inclusion into the Lipitsa culture unlikely.

Roman influences are also visible in the material culture. Likewise, Germanic people from the Przeworsk culture, but also Celts and Sarmatians, came in contact with the Lipitsa people. It seems that no Early Slavs made contact with this area yet, as the first Slavic artifacts in today’s Moldavia and Bukovina are not dated earlier than the 5th and 6th centuries AD.

In the first decades of the 3rd century, Lipitsa culture of the Costoboci restricted its territory and gave birth to a new archaeological culture, that of the Carpathian Tumuli culture. A part of the Costoboci inhabiting the Subcarpathian hills withdrew southwards into the mountains, while a small part migrated in Moldavia, joining the Carpi, another Dacian tribe. In any case, some did remain in the northern area of the Lipitsa culture, despite the pressure of the newly arrived East Germanic tribes.

The largest part of the territory of Lipitsa and Carpathian Tumuli archaeological cultures is now inhabited by the Hutsuls, both in Ukraine and in Romania. While they often have been officially designated as a subgroup of Ukrainians, Hutsuls mostly regard themselves as a part of a broader Rusyn ethnicity, alongside two other groups from the cross-border region of Transcarpathia: the Boykos and Lemkos.

Rusyns, sometimes referred to as Rusnaks, also known as Ruthenians, Carpatho-Ruthenians or Carpatho-Russians, are an East Slavic people who speak the Rusyn language. They descend from an East Slavic population which inhabited the northern regions of the Eastern Carpathians from the Early Middle Ages.

Together with other East Slavs from neighboring regions, they were often labeled by the common exonym Ruthenians, or by the regionally more specific designation Carpathian Ruthenians. Unlike their neighbors to the east, who adopted the use of the ethnonym Ukrainians in the early 20th century, Rusyns kept and preserved their original name.

As residents of northeastern regions of the Carpathian Mountains, Rusyns are closely connected to, and also sometimes associated with, other Slavic communities in the region, like the West Slavic highlander community of Gorals (literally ‘Highlanders’).

Carpathian Tumuli

The Carpathian Tumuli, or Carpathian Kurgan, culture (200-400 AD) is the name given to an archaeological culture which evolved in the parts of the Carpathian Mountains. It was less vast than the area occupied by the Lipiţa culture, encompassing today’s Pokuttya, Maramureş, Bucovina and to a lesser extent, Northwest Moldova.

The arrival of East Germanic tribes in the Upper Dniester region forced the Costoboci to withdraw or crowd into the Carpathians at the end of the 2nd century AD and the beginning of the 3rd, where a part of them were already living. Other groups migrated to the area of the Carpi people (Moldova) or remained to live together with the newly arrived peoples of the Przeworsk culture.

Most of the material evidence of the culture suggests it was Dacian. Tumuli tomb building disappeared from Roman Dacia with the coming of Imperial administration, but it continued to exist in the unconquered north of Dacia, a sign that the local population kept its ancestral traditions. The demarcation line is fairly clear, since the neighbour Przeworsk peoples did not have tumular tombs.

As in the Lipiţa culture, the dead were cremated and their ashes were put in urns which were buried in the tumuli. The difference with the Carpathian Tumuli culture is that plane tombs are no longer found, but only (or almost only) tumular tombs.

After Roman emperor Theodosius I defeated the neighbouring Carpi people in 381 AD, the people of the Carpathian Tumuli culture lost an important ally and this archaeological culture dissipates soon after, its place being taken by another one, the Sântana de Mureș–Chernyakhov culture, which also replaces the Poieneşti – Lucaşevca culture in the Northwestern Moldavian Subcarpathians, formed by the Bastarnae between the Costoboci and the Carpi.

We can follow the Costoboci even after the beginning of the 5th century, the newly formed Prague-Korchak culture being linked to the Carpathian Tumuli. There was no chronological break between the two cultures; the Costoboci remained on their territories, but now start to receive not only Slavic-type material culture elements, but also some Slavic population.

Ipotesti–Candesti culture

The Ipotesti–Candesti culture (600 AD) was an archaeological culture in Eastern Europe. It developed in the mid-6th century by the merger of elements of the Prague-Penkovka and Prague-Korchak cultures and local cultures (including Germanic) in the area between Prut and Lower Danube.

It stretched in the Lower Danube over territory in Romania and Moldavia. The population of the area was made up of Romanized descendants of Daco-Getic, Germanic and Slavic tribes.

There are views that it derived from the Chernyakhov culture and represented a group of the Antes. The houses were identical to the Slavic huts of the Prague-Korchak and Penkovka areas. The sites in Romania are known as Ipotești-Candești-Ciurel or Ipotești-Ciurel-Cândești.

Korchak culture

The Korchak culture (600-700 AD) is an archaeological culture of East Slavs who settled along the southern tributaries of the Pripyat River and from the Dnieper River to the Southern Bug and Dniester rivers, throughout modern-day northwestern Ukraine and southern Belarus.

It forms the eastern part of the so-called Prague-Korchak cultural horizon, a term used to encompass the entirety of postulated early Slavic cultures from the Elbe to the Dniester, as opposed to the eastern Penkovka culture.

Open settlements consisted of ten to twenty rectangular, semi-subterranean dwellings with a stone furnace placed in one corner. Each dwelling held up to five people, with less than 100 people per settlement.

They performed cremation burial in kurgan burial mounds and in flat-grave cemeteries with cremations in urns. The culture is characterized by the specific shapes of modeled unadorned vessels, which represent the first stage in the development of Slavic pottery.

Prague-Korchak culture

The Prague-Korchak culture (500-600 AD) was an archaeological culture attributed to the Early Slavs. The other contemporary main Early Slavic culture was the Prague-Penkovka culture situated further south, with which it makes up the “Prague-type pottery” group.

The largest part of sites dates to the  according to Late Roman iron fibulae. Settlements were as a rule placed at rivers, near water sources, and were typically unfortified, with 8–20 households with courtyards. Burial sites were both flat graves and barrows (kurgans), and cremation was dominant.

Scholar M. Kazanski identified the 6th-century Prague (Prague-Korchak) culture and Sukow-Dziedzice group as Sclaveni archaeological cultures, and the Penkovka culture (Prague-Penkovka) was identified as Antes.

Penkovka culture

The Penkovka culture (600-700 AD) is an archaeological culture in Ukraine spanning Moldova and reaching into Romania. Its western boundary is usually taken to at the middle Prut and Dniester rivers, where contact with the Korchak culture occurs. Its bearers are commonly identified as the Antes people of 6th-century Byzantine historiography.

The core of the culture seems to be in Left-bank Ukraine, especially along the Sula, Seim, Psel, Donets and Oril rivers, but its territory extends to Right-bank Ukraine, and Penkovka pottery is also found in eastern and southern Romania, where it co-exists with wheel-made pottery of late Roman derivation; and is referred to as the Ipotesti–Candesti culture by Romanian archaeologists.

Penkovka-type pottery has even been found in Byzantine forts in the north-eastern Balkans. “Nomadic” style wheel-made pottery (called Pastyrske or Saltovo ware) also occurs in the Ukrainian Penkovka sites as well as in the lower Danube and Bulgaria, but is most commonly found within the Saltovo-Mayaki culture, associated with Bulgars, Khazars and Alans.

Hand-made Penkovka pottery is distinguished from Prague-Korchak types on the basis of its biconical profile and tendency for out-turned rims. However, Florin Curta has argued that there can be no simple relationship between the type of ceramic vessel and the ethnicity of groups which consumed them.

E. Teodor performed a detailed analysis of ceramic vessels in 6th century southeastern Europe, and discovered a complex picture which cannot be reduced to 2 or 3 broad ‘archaeological cultures’, as each microregion and even individual site shows idiosyncrasies in their ceramic profile and degree of connectivity to other regions of ‘Slavic Europe’.

Penkovka settlements tended to be located on the terraces of rivers- usually arranged in a linear fashion. Buildings were usually square-shaped, post-hole constructs dug into the ground, and were equipped with an oven in the corners.

There are also rounded buildings, otherwise not found in other Slavic territories, which have been associated with a nomadic influence. However, they are different from traditional tent-like nomadic yurts.

Settlements tended to be abandoned after a period of habitation and were often re-occupied years later, reflective of the itinerant form of agriculture practiced by the populace. Two fortified sites are known from the Penkovka region – Seliste and Pastyrske. The latter has been excavated in detail, and appears to have been an Iron Age fortification which was also occupied in early Medieval times.

Measuring 25 ha, it included numerous settlement buildings as well as evidence of specialised industrial activity. Szmoniewski argues that “Pastyrs’ke may have also been a political power center, the seat of a ruler with territorial authority”.

Two forms of burials are found north of the Black Sea in the 6th and 7th centuries. Poorly furnished cremation burials, either inside urns or into shallow pits, are concentrated in the forest-steppe zone; whilst more elaborately equipped inhumations are found in the open steppe.

Traditionally, the latter are attributed to “Turkic” nomads whilst the cremation burials were a typically Slavic rite. However, a straightforward ethnic attribution has been questioned – as the pottery and metalwork found in the ‘nomadic’ inhumations shows clear analogies to that found in ‘Slavic’ settlements in the forest-zone. Thus Curta has argued that the inhumation burials represented a marker of social distinction of chiefs and ‘big men’ from the forest-zone settlements.

Another set of cultural elements often attributed to the Antes are numerous hoards of silver and gold ornaments dated to the 7th century, and are variously called “Antian antiquites” or the Martynovka culture.

Scholars have debated to whom the Martynovka elements belonged to since the late 19th century; as A. Spitsyn attributed them to the Slavic Antes, whilst J. Harmatta rather attributed them to Turkic groups, specifically the Kutrigurs.

The situation was clarified when Curta’s analysis revealed that early in the 7th century, such metalwork appears in hoards deposited in the forest-steppe, whilst later assemblages appear as interment gifts in ‘nomadic burials’.

Thus, again, rather than simplistic ethnic explanations, Curta’s analysis suggests that the pattern of ornament consumption varied with time and was related to social status and gender: i.e. earlier in the 6th century, elites displayed status by burying hoards of silver in the forest-steppe, whilst later there was more aggressive posturing and status display in the form of richly furnished male warrior graves, no doubt related to the competition for supremacy on the north Black Sea region between Pannonian Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Western Gokturks.

The metalwork betrays a variety of influences – especially the world of the steppe nomad which in turn showed Caucasian, Byzantine, and Sassanian inspiration. Yet other elements showed affinities with the ‘Balto-Slavic’ world of the forests of Eastern Europe.

Overall, the equation of the Penkovka culture and Martynovka hoards with the Antes is problematic, as such cultural features exist into the 8th century, long after the Antes were defeated by the Avars in 602 AD and ceased to exist as an independent tribal polity.

Such diffuse styles cannot be directly linked to any single people, but rather reflect a myriad of peoples who existed in the Black Sea region from 450–750 AD, including Antes, Kutrigurs and Bulgars. Early Volyntsevo culture, as well as the Saltovo-Mayaki culture developed on the basis of Kolochin and Penkovka cultures.

Sukow-Dziedzice group

The Sukow-Dziedzice group (700-800 AD), also known as Szeligi culture, was an archaeological culture attributed to the Early Slavs. Scholar M. Kazanski identified the 6th-century Prague (Prague-Korchak) culture and Sukow-Dziedzice group as Sclaveni archaeological cultures, and the Penkovka culture (Prague-Penkovka) was identified as Antes.

Saltovo-Mayaki culture

Saltovo-Mayaki or Saltovo-Majaki (700-950 AD) is the name given by archaeologists to the early medieval culture of the Pontic steppe region roughly between the Don and the Dnieper Rivers. Their culture was a melting pot of Onogur, Khazar, Pecheneg, Magyar, Alan, and Slavic influences.

Saltovo-Mayaki influence was strong in the area of the Volyntsevo culture to the northwest of the main Saltovo-Mayaki territory. The Saltovo-Mayaki material culture was “fairly uniform” across the various tribes. 

During the ninth century the Saltovo-Mayaki culture was closely associated with the Khazar Khaganate, and archaeological sites from this period are one way that historians track the geographic scope of Khazar influence.

A genetic study published in Nature in May 2018 examined three males of the Saltovo-Mayaki culture buried in Belgorod Oblast, Russia between ca. 700 AD and 900 AD. The sample of Y-DNA extracted belonged to haplogroup R1. The three samples of mtDNA extracted belonged to the haplogroups I, J1b4 and U1a1c1.

Volyntsevo culture

Volyntsevo culture (800-900 AD) is the archaeological culture of the early Middle Ages, located between the Dnieper and the Don River rivers. The type-site of Volyntsevo, itself, is an open settlement and cemetery situated in a valley and surrounded by bogs.

The early Volyntsevo culture developed on the basis of Kolochin and Penkovka cultures. It has been related to the Slavic tributaries of the Khazar Qaghanate, described in the ancient Russian chronicle as Polyane, Severa, Vyatichi, and Radimichi.

In the west, the territory of the Volyntsevo monuments reaches the right bank of Dnieper in the Kiev area. D. T. Berezovets identified the culture, and named it after the village of Volyntsevo in Sumy Oblast of Central Ukraine, which he excavated in 1948-1950.

The best known archaeological monuments of Volyntsevo culture are: Bititskoe and Novotroitskoye settlements on the Psel River, the burial from Rylsk, Russia (Kursk Oblast), the settlement of Volyntsevo, the Aleksandrovka settlement near Chernihiv, Obukhovo, and Khodosovka near Kiev.

In Kiev, layers of the Volyntsevo culture of the middle of the 8th to early 9th century were found on Starokievsky Hill and under the northern gallery of the Church of the Tithes. The culture is identified with the ancestors of the Severians. It replaces the Kolochino culture, and starting from the end of the VIII century, is replaced by the Romny culture

Some scholars argue that Volyntsevo culture was formed as a result of the advancement of the Slavic tribes belonging to the Prague culture (carriers of antiquities of the Sakhnovka type) from the west to the left (eastern) Bank of Dnieper.

Due to the similarity of Volyntsevo antiquities with those of the Dnieper’s right bank, sometimes they are referred to as “monuments of Sakhnovka – Volyntsevo type” or “Luka Raykovetskaya – Sakhnovka – Volyntsevo type”.

Both the Luka Raykovetskaya type of antiquities, and the Sakhnovka type of antiquities are generally found on the right (western) bank of Dnieper, while the Volyntsevo type is generally found on the opposite bank. Some scholars associate Volyntsevo culture with the Khazar influence in the 8th to the first third of the 9th centuries.

Volyntsevo populations built unfortified settlements and lived in semi-dugout type of houses equipped with mud-baked kilns. The dead were cremated, and the ashes were placed in an urn. The population grew millet, wheat, rye, and peas. They used plows to till the land.

Researchers have noted the presence of a significant amount of artifacts of the Saltovo-Mayaki culture, associated with the Khazar Khaganate. The main marker of Volyntsevo culture is the wheel-made black-glazed ceramics with a high straight upper rim.

A particular feature of the Volyntsevo culture is the amount of Islamic silver which is found, typically as coin hoards. The sites also often produce large amounts of silver jewellery, more than in other Slavic lands.

In the first third of the 9th century, many Volyntsevo settlements, such as Khodosivka, Obukhov, the Bititskoe, and the Volyntsevo, suffered a period of destruction; signs of fires abound. The most vivid picture of destruction was noted at the Bititskoe site, and at the Andriyashevka settlement. These events can be dated quite accurately by the finds of Arabic dirhem silver coins from the Lower Syrovatka site; the youngest of them dated in 813 AD.

Archaeologist A.V. Komar put forward a hypothesis that the destruction may have been connected with the invasion of the early Rus’ people from the left bank of the Dnieper. This was based on the dating of arrowheads, and of the special type of ax found at the Bititskoe settlement, but this was disputed by other scholars.

On the other hand, A.Schavelev and A.A. Fetisov identify these artifacts as belonging to the cultures of the Volga steppes to the east, or to those of the Southern Ural mountains. Slavic Romny culture developed in these areas subsequently. But the Romny-Borshevo ceramics spread over a much wider area, such as into the basins of the Upper Don and the Oka.

Pannonian Avars

The Pannonian Avars, also known as the Obri in chronicles of Rus, the Abaroi or Varchonitai or Pseudo-Avars in Byzantine sources, the Apar to the Göktürks) were an alliance of several groups of Eurasian nomads of unknown origins. They are probably best known for their invasions and destruction in the Avar–Byzantine wars from 568 to 626.

The name Pannonian Avars (after the area in which they eventually settled) is used to distinguish them from the Avars of the Caucasus, a separate people with whom the Pannonian Avars might or might not have had links. 

Although the name Avar first appeared in the mid-5th century, the Pannonian Avars entered the historical scene in the mid-6th century, on the Pontic-Caspian steppe as a people who wished to escape the rule of the Göktürks.

In 626, the Slavs, Persians and Avars jointly attacked the Byzantine Empire and participated in the Siege of Constantinople. In that campaign, the Slavs fought under Avar officers. There is an ongoing controversy over whether the Slavs might then have been a military caste under the khaganate rather than an ethnicity.

 They established the Avar Khaganate, which spanned the Pannonian Basin and considerable areas of Central and Eastern Europe from the late 6th to the early 9th century. The Khaganate in the Middle and Late periods was a product of cultural symbiosis between Slavic and original Avar elements with a Slavic language as a lingua franca or the most common language.

Slavic – at first possibly only one local speech – once koinéized, became a lingua franca of the Avar state. This might explain how Proto-Slavic spread to the Balkans and the areas of the Danube basin, and would also explain why the Avars were assimilated so fast, leaving practically no linguistic traces, and that Proto-Slavic was so unusually uniform.

In contemporary art, Avars were sometimes depicted as mounted archers, riding backwards on their horses. According to mid-20th Century physical anthropologists such as Pál Lipták, human remains from the early Avar (7th century) period had mostly “Europoid” features, while grave goods indicated cultural links to the Eurasian steppe.

Cemeteries dated to the late Avar period (8th century) included many human remains with physical features typical of East Asian people or Eurasians (i.e., people with both East Asian and European ancestry). Remains with East Asian or Eurasian features were found in about one third of the Avar graves from the 8th Century.

According to Lipták, 79% of the population of the Danube-Tisza region during the Avar period showed Europoid characteristics. Lipták used racial terms later deprecated or regarded as obsolete, such as “Mongoloid” for North East Asian and “Turanid” for individuals of mixed ancestry. Several theories suggest that the ruling class of the Avars were of Tungusic East Asian origin or of partially Tungusic origin.

The language or languages spoken by the Avars are unknown. Classical philologist Samuel Szadeczky-Kardoss states that most of the Avar words used in contemporaneous Latin or Greek texts appear to have their origins in possibly Mongolian or Turkic languages. Other theories propose a Tungusic origin.

According to Szadeczky-Kardoss, many of the titles and ranks used by the Pannonian Avars were also used by the Turks, Proto-Bulgars, Uighurs and/or Mongols, including khagan (or kagan), khan, kapkhan, tudun, tarkhan, and khatun.

There is also evidence, however, that ruling and subject clans spoke a variety of languages. Proposals by scholars include Caucasian, Iranian, Tungusic, Hungarian and Turkic. A few scholars speculated that Proto-Slavic became the lingua franca of the Avar Khaganate.

Historian Gyula László has suggested that the late 9th century Pannonian Avars spoke a variety of Old Hungarian, thereby forming an Avar-Hungarian continuity with then-newly arrived Hungarians.

A genetic study published in Scientific Reports in November 2019 examined the remains of fourteen Avar males. Eleven of them were dated to the early Avar period and three were dated to the middle and late Avar period.

Of the eleven early Avar males examined, six carried haplotypes of N1a1a (including four carriers of N1a1a1a1a3), two carried R1a1a1b2a, one carried C2, one carried G2a, and one carried I1. The three males dated to the middle and late Avar period carried C2, N1a1a1a1a3 and E1b1b1a1b1a.

N1a1a probably originated in Siberia. Its subclade N1a1a1a1a3 is today most common among Chukchi people, Buryats, Eskimos and Koryaks, and to a lesser extent among Tuvans and Mongols. C2 is today most common in Central Asia and East Siberia.

R1a1a1b2a was common in Bronze Age cultures of Central Asia such as the Sintashta culture, and is today widespread in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. E1b1b1a1b1a is of Middle Eastern origin and entered Europe through the Balkans during the Bronze Age.

G2a originated in Anatolia and Iran, spread into Europe through Early European Farmers (EEFs) and is today most common in the Caucasus. I1 probably originated in Northern Europe during the Mesolithic and is strongly associated with Germanic peoples.

A genetic study published in Scientific Reports in January 2020 examined the remains of twenty-six individuals buried at various elite Avar cemeteries in the Pannonian Basin dated to the 7th century AD.

The mtDNA of these Avars belonged mostly to East Asian haplogroups and the Y-DNA belonged exclusively to haplogroups N-M231 and Q-M242, commonly found in East and North Asia, as well as in Siberia. The Avar males examined were found to be “strikingly homogeneous”.

The Avars studied were all determined to have had dark eyes and dark hair. The majority of them were found to be primarily of East Asian origin. They were found to be most closely related to Koryaks, Khanty people, Komi peoples, Dolgans, Chukchi people, Yukaghir people, Eskimos and Buryats.

The Avars were found to be particularly closely related to Yakuts, Buryats, Oroqens and other populations of the eastern steppe. The evidence suggested that the Avars were a patriarchal people organized along biological lines who avoided intermarriage with non-Avar populations. They probably entered the Pannonian Basin through a mass migration from East Asia involving both men, women and children.

Several historians, including Peter Benjamin Golden, suggest that the Avars are of Turkic origin, likely from the Oghur branch. Another theory suggests that some of the Avars were of Tungusic origin. A study by Emil Heršak and Ana Silić suggests that the Avars were of heterogeneous origin, including mostly Turkic (Oghuric) and Mongolic groups.

Later in Europe some Germanic and Slavic groups were assimilated into the Avars. They concluded that their exact origin is unknown but state that it is likely that the Avars were originally mainly composed of Turkic (Oghuric) tribes.

If one is to assume that the Avars were descended from the Rouran, the genetic evidence implied that Central Asia was dominated by a Siberian ruling class before the Turkic migrations. The Rouran Khaganate was a tribal confederation and later state founded by a people of possible Donghu-Xianbei origin.

The Xianbei were an ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Northeastern China. They originated from the Donghu people (lit: “Eastern foreigners” or “Eastern barbarians”), who splintered into the Wuhuan and Xianbei when they were defeated by the Xiongnu at the end of the 3rd century BC.

Donghu was a tribal confederation of nomadic people that was first recorded from the 7th century BCE and was destroyed by the Xiongnu in 150 BCE. They lived in northern Hebei, southeastern Inner Mongolia and the western part of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang along the Yan Mountains and Greater Khingan Range.

Among the northern ethnic groups, the Donghu was the earliest to evolve into a state of civilization and first developed bronze technology. They spoke proto-Mongolian language and their culture was associated with the Upper Xiajiadian culture, characterized by the practice of agriculture and animal husbandry supplemented by handicrafts and bronze art.

Through the use of cavalry and bronze weaponry in warfare, they dominated over the Xiongnu on their west. The Dōnghú later divided into the Wuhuan in the Yan Mountains and Xianbei in the Greater Khingan Range, the latter of which are the origin of the Khitan and Mongols.

The Rouran supreme rulers are noted for being the first to use the title of “khagan”, having borrowing this popular title from the Xianbei. The Rouran Khaganate lasted from the late 4th century until the middle 6th century, when they were defeated by a Göktürk rebellion which subsequently led to the rise of the Turks in world history.

Some of the Rouran may have migrated west subsequently and became the Pannonian Avars (who are also known by names such as Varchonites and “Pseudo Avars”), who settled in Pannonia (centred on modern Hungary) during the 6th century.

However, this remains a controversial theory. The Avars were pursued into the Byzantine Empire by the Göktürks, who referred to the Avars as an slave or vassal people, and requested that the Byzantines expel them.

Other theories instead link the origins of the Pannonian Avars to a confederation formed in the Aral Sea region, by the Uar, also known as the Var or Warr (who were probably a Uralic people) and the Xūn or Xionites (also known as the Chionitae, Chunni, Hunni, Yun and similar names); the Xionites were maybe Iranian or Turkic-speaking or both.

A third tribe affiliated previously to the Uar and Xionites, the Hephthalites, had remained in Central and northern South Asia. In some transliterations, the term Var is rendered Hua, which is an alternate Chinese term for the Hephthalites.

The Hephthalites (or Ephthalites), sometimes called the White Huns, a people who lived in Central Asia during the 5th to 8th centuries. Militarily important during 450 to 560, they were based in Bactria and expanded east to the Tarim Basin, west to Sogdia and south through Afghanistan to northern India.

The Hephthalites were a tribal confederation and included both nomadic and settled urban communities. They were part of the four major states known collectively as Xyon (Xionites) or Huna, being preceded by the Kidarites, and succeeded by the Alkhon and lastly the Nezak. All of these peoples have often been linked to the Huns who invaded Eastern Europe during the same period, and/or have been referred to as “Huns”, but there is no consensus among scholars about such a connection.

The stronghold of the Hephthalites was Tokharistan on the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush, in what is present-day northeastern Afghanistan. By 479, the Hephthalites had conquered Sogdia and driven the Kidarites westwards, and by 493 they had captured parts of present-day Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin in what is now Northwest China. They expanded into northwestern India as well.

The sources for Hephthalite history are poor and historians’ opinions differ. There is no king-list and historians are not sure how they arose or what language they spoke. The Sveta Huna who invaded northern India are probably the Hephthalites, but the exact relation is not clear.

They seem to have called themselves Ebodalo (hence Hephthal), often abbreviated Eb, a name they wrote in the Bactrian script on some of their coins. The origin of the name “Hephthalites” is unknown, possibly from either a Khotanese word *Hitala meaning “Strong” or from postulated Middle Persian *haft āl “the Seven”.

There are several theories regarding the origins of the Hephthalites, with the Iranian and Turkic theories being the most prominent. According to most specialist scholars, the spoken language of the Hephthalites was an Eastern Iranian language, but different from the Bactrian language written in the Greek alphabet that was used as their “official language” and minted on coins, as was done under the preceding Kushan Empire.

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