Neolithic and Chalcolithic demographics of Western and Northern Europe

10 Feb
Somehow I missed this important study on the Neolithic and Chalcolithic demographics of Europe, as inferred from the archaeological record (h/t Davidski):
Stephen Shennan et al., Regional population collapse followed initial agriculture booms in mid-Holocene Europe. Nature Communications 2013. Open accessLINK [doi:doi:10.1038/ncomms3486]


Following its initial arrival in SE Europe 8,500 years ago agriculture spread throughout the continent, changing food production and consumption patterns and increasing population densities. Here we show that, in contrast to the steady population growth usually assumed, the introduction of agriculture into Europe was followed by a boom-and-bust pattern in the density of regional populations. We demonstrate that summed calibrated radiocarbon date distributions and simulation can be used to test the significance of these demographic booms and busts in the context of uncertainty in the radiocarbon date calibration curve and archaeological sampling. We report these results for Central and Northwest Europe between 8,000 and 4,000 cal. BP and investigate the relationship between these patterns and climate. However, we find no evidence to support a relationship. Our results thus suggest that the demographic patterns may have arisen from endogenous causes, although this remains speculative.

The most interesting aspect is maybe that the (apparent) demographic changes are detailed for many regions of Europe, but first let’s see the general outlook for the whole area surveyed (Western and Northern Europe, Iberia excluded):

Figure 2: SCDPD-inferred population density change 10,000–4,000 cal. BP using all radiocarbon dates in the western Europe database.
Colored arrows and their annotations are mine.

I decided that it was important to mark the main cultural episodes for reference.
1st Neolithic refers to Impressed-Cardium and Linear Band Pottery cultures, which arrived almost simultaneously to Germany and France (of the surveyed areas), although the Rhône-Languedoc Neolithic is a few centuries earlier than the arrow, which has been standardized to 7500 BP.
Atlantic Neolithic refers to the quite belated arrival of Neolithic to Britain, Ireland and Northern Europe (standardized at 6000 BP). This process was quickly followed and tightly associated with the widespread cultural phenomenon of Dolmenic Megalithism. It is most interesting that the main deviation from the pattern of regular growth concentrates in this period and is clearly positive.
Corded Ware culture (Indoeuropean consolidation in Central and Northern Europe) affected only to Germany and Denmark-Scania within the surveyed regions. It was followed by a more widespread subcultural phenomenon known as Bell Beaker, which almost invariably cases manifests within pre-existent locally rooted cultures. Neither seems to be correlated with demographic expansions in the general overview.
Now let’s take a look at the regional graphs:

Figure 3: SCDPD-inferred population density change 8,000–4,000 cal. BP for each sub-region.
Colored arrows, excepted the blue ones (which mark the local first Neolithic), are mine and mark general pan-European initial chronologies (not local!) for Megalithism, Corded Ware and Bell Beaker in those regions where they had some clear influence.

Here we can appreciate that:
Atlantic Neolithic and its associated Megalithic phenomenon are clearly related to notable demographic expansions in Ireland, Scotland, South England, Denmark and Scania. Megalithic influence may also be associated with some more irregular growth in South and Central Germany but rather not in France nor West Germany. A contemporary weak and irregular growth in North Germany (Brandenburg, Mecklemburg and Schlewig-Holstein) may be correlated with Funnelbeaker (with roots in Denmark) and the first Kurgan development of Baalberge and successor cultures (with roots in Eastern Europe), which would eventually evolve into Corded Ware.
Corded Ware only seems related to clear demographic growth in Jutland (and less resolutely in Scania). Bell Beaker is only linked with clear demographic growth in Ireland (and much more weakly in South England and Central Germany), while elsewhere it is rather associated with decline.
For the exact extension of the various regions as defined for this study, see fig. 1 (map).
As provisional conclusion, it seems obvious to my eyes that the most important demographic growth processes were the various Neolithic cultures but that the Atlantic Neolithic (and associated Megalithism) was particularly dynamic. In contrast Indoeuropean-associated cultural phenomena had a much weaker impact, with some localized exceptions, and are generally associated with local demographic decline instead, at least judging from the archaeological record.
See also:

32 responses to “Neolithic and Chalcolithic demographics of Western and Northern Europe

  1. palamede

    February 10, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I am very sceptikal about the fall of population from about 3300BC to about 2800BC for France.
    France don't know Corded Ware phenomenon and Bell Beaker phenomenon is very local in France and don't seem demograpgically important.
    It is a time of a lot of archeolical cultures in France with building of great fortified camps :

    Aunis and Saintonge ; atignons and Peu-Richard from 3500BC to 2900BC cal . very dense archeological great sites.
    Parisian NBasin ; Seine-Oise-Marne from 3400BC to 2800BC with fortified sites, thousand of silex pits. More than three hundred known collective sepultures (an average of about one by modern village near Paris) as covered alleys and hypogées
    Jura : Horgen culture with Cortaillod-Port-Conty group, Clairvaux group , Luzerch group.

    I am fed up to give you all the archeological facts in France and probably in the remaining Europe.

    Maju, read “La prehistoire, Histoire et dictionnaire” sous la direction de Denis Vialou or French reviews, and you will be convinced this type of “scientific” articles of the anglo-saxon “new archeology” is a heap of stupidities

  2. Maju

    February 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    For what I know, SOM and Horgen are somewhat “decaying” late cultural branches of Danubian Neolithic. Peu Richard is, if I remember correctly, a key flintstone mine but, AFAIK, after the Chassey period the SE also enters into some decline.

    Whatever the case, the data is there, confirmed in many cases by independent data. Among the sources you find first of all Bocquet-Appel 2012, and he is clearly not just French but also a pioneer on this kind of statistical approximations to prehistorical demography.

  3. palamede

    February 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. palamede

    February 11, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Remove the previous post sent sooner.
    I guess you are victim of the international reputation of large cultures compared to the regional cultures of this more compartmentalized time. It is true some cultures of Late Neolitgic are decaying for the quality of pottery, more wooden toolls and works oriented.

    I think and I didn't believe to be the subject of an illusion that Ile-De-France has a lot more sites of the late neolithic (3300-2800BC than Old and Middle Neolithics and later perid. This is not in accordance with the graphic for Parisian basin;
    A period with probably an important fall of population in France is Older Bronze 2200-1700BC (with a difficult climate).
    But I 'd like to know the opinion of a renowned French specialist of Neolithic. The specialist of Neolithics in the dictionary are Roger Jousseaume and Jean-Pierre Pautreau .
    Anglo-Saxons expressed very affirmed opinions with the more often very superficial knowledge for French Neolithic.

    Peu-Richard is a fortified site with two belt of ditches, walls and fortified doors at Thenac-Charente in Center-West of France. They are dozens of fortified sites with two or three belts of fortification in Center-West in this period.

    I suppose the famous key flintstone mine you think is Grand-Pressigny in Indre-et-Loire in activity in Late Neolithic and Chalcolitic.

  5. Maju

    February 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    “Remove the previous post sent sooner.”

    Is that a command, a suggestion or a meditation? Did you think by chance that I removed your comment, when it was just waiting for approval? If so, I can't be 24 hrs. at the computer and there are still some obsessive banished trolls forcing me to keep the wall high. So please, be patient. If what you want is to delete your comments, please DIY.

  6. Maju

    February 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    “Ile-De-France has a lot more sites of the late neolithic (3300-2800BC than Old and Middle Neolithics and later perid.”

    Have you even read the study? Paris Basin is not “Ile-De-France” but all NW France.

    “Peu-Richard is a fortified site with two belt of ditches, walls and fortified doors at Thenac-Charente in Center-West of France.”

    Ah, thanks for the clarification. It's not covered by the study: only NW France (called “Paris basin”) and SE France (called Rhône-Languedoc). All the SW is out, just as Iberia, nothing from south of the Loire and West of the Massif Central.

    “I suppose the famous key flintstone mine you think is Grand-Pressigny”

    True. My bad. Probably also off map.

    “But I 'd like to know the opinion of a renowned French specialist of Neolithic. The specialist of Neolithics in the dictionary are Roger Jousseaume and Jean-Pierre Pautreau .”

    There is a French study of comparable scope and is the first one listed in the bibliography. If you get a copy, please send me one.

    While your attitude may be caused by some reason, I still think you should read the study and relevant supplemental materials, and not just my synthesis, and compare with previous studies such as the one by Bocquet-Appel, before you launch such a major attack against it.

    In any case, your objections are noted.

  7. Maju

    February 11, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Just Checking the map: most of the sites you mention are not in the areas covered by the study: you're talking of Greater Aquitaine and that's absolutely out, same for Brittany and most of Low Normandy. Armorica is not in this study either.

  8. eurologist

    February 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    As I have mentioned elsewhere when this study first came out, the authors' conclusion that there is no correlation with climate is highly questionable, because:

    1. their proxy in Norway does not seem relevant to the study, at all; and:
    2. they appear agnostic of the huge impact of flooding and a generally wet climate on Central/ Northern European agriculture.

    The animals and grains introduced to Europe came from a much drier, much warmer climate with little snow cover and no need to make much hay for the winter (because grazing could largely continue). C and N Europe were different, which explains the ~500 year hiatus in the Balkans when the climate was less than cooperative. When it got warmer again, agriculture quickly spread throughout Europe – even at a quite alarming pace in C to W Europe.

    But the animals and plants were not ready for C, W, and N Europe's climate reality: every-now-and-then, temperatures drop. But more importantly, sometimes rainfalls far exceed their yearly averages. Excessive cold rain in the spring means delayed sowing and insufficient grazing, in late summer it means destroyed harvests, and in the fall it means difficulty in hay making.

    Almost all neolithic settlements were in river valleys (because of low altitude in a marginal climate, good soils, and the ease of removing brush versus old-growth forests in climates were forests don't easily burn, and before girdling was known/ practiced).

    There have been three “500-year” floods in the Danube and Elbe-Sale region in the past few decades, and a couple of such floods in England in the past few years. Such floods would have been effective in destroying the livelihood of almost all regional farmers then, and the ensuing famine would have led to yet wider-spread epidemics among both animals and farmers.

    Yet, this likely prime cause is not what the authors looked at, at all.

    In other context, a succession of such events would be a reasonable explanation for the (genetic and demographic) “revenge of the Mesolithic.”

  9. Grey

    February 11, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    I do think this is quite critical to understanding what happened.



    I am very sceptikal about the fall of population from about 3300BC to about 2800BC for France.
    France don't know Corded Ware phenomenon and Bell Beaker phenomenon is very local in France and don't seem demograpgically important.
    It is a time of a lot of archeolical cultures in France with building of great fortified camps

    The two may be connected – the building of great fortified camps not as a sign of greater population and prosperity but of conflict with the Corded Ware.

  10. Maju

    February 12, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Now that you comment this, I realize that the patterns are roughly similar for Southern and Western Germany as for the analyzed French areas.

    This may have a good explanation: in the Early Chalcolithic, the Danubian area was shattered by apparent division and decay as the cultural unity was broken (Michelsberg vs. Epi-Rössen, etc.) This period I always though as one of troubles and conflicts, and it was then when the Kurgan seed was planted in Central Europe (but too weak yet to conquer but some parts of it). This time of conflicts did not spare France for all I know: Palamede talks of fortresses and I have also read some references to violence in Chassey, leading in turn to the division of this other important and extended (proto-Ligurian?) cultural area which spanned not just SE France but also North Italy and parts of Switzerland under several local names.

    At the end of the period, Seine-Oise-Marne appears to invade the Armorican Megalithic area, what results in the Artenacian reaction (with origin in Dordogne, proto-Basque?) which reinstated a more modest Megalithism in Armorica and conquered all the SOM area up to the Rhine. Then a long peace ensued for more than one thousand years.

    Is this what we are seeing in those graphs: the “Danubian Wars” that facilitated the Indoeuropean expansion and their own end as ethno-cultural reality? This period is roughly coincident with the Megalithic Era (East of the Rhine) but, excepted SE France, all the areas showing decline in this period are Danubian. Other Megalithic areas show prosperity instead, at least initially.

    “The two may be connected – the building of great fortified camps not as a sign of greater population and prosperity but of conflict with the Corded Ware”.

    More of conflict among pre-Indoeuropeans I'd say. The Kurgan groups almost certainly benefited of this period of division and conflict but it was initially limited to East Germany and Poland in essence, West of the Elbe-Saale, their influence was weak to nil before the Corded Ware explosion. It'd seem to me that Corded Ware is rather another product, just as those fortresses, of intestine conflict mainly among Western Danubian peoples. It's difficult to interpret but I'd say that the Michelsberg vs. Epi-Rössen division was central to Western Danubian decay and eventual conquest by foreigners.

    It is notable that when the Eastern Danubians of the Mid-Danube basin managed to regroup after the first IE incursions in the Baden culture (surely a political union of some sort, which lasted some five centuries), the Western Indoeuropeans North of the Carpathians had to bow and adapt to them. They could well even have allied with Baden against other Indoeuropeans at some point (what explains their expansion eastwards into the area of Kiev as Luboń and/or Globular Amphorae culture, prior to their expansion Westwards as CW). But they eventually turned back, Baden collapsed (replaced by Vucedol) and the divided Western Danubians were surely no match after so many conflicts and the complementary Western threat of Artenac culture's many arrows (and maybe even the backing of the Zambujal civilization).

    That's how “revolutions” (generic sense) happen: first comes decay and intestine conflict, then someone kicks the rotten building down and starts anew.

  11. Maju

    February 12, 2014 at 1:47 am


    When I said:

    “It'd seem to me that Corded Ware is rather another product, just as those fortresses, of intestine conflict”…

    I meant their expansion West of the Elbe particularly. Although I guess it can even be tracked to their much more ancient origins as Baalberge culture on top of a Danubian subgroup (but less clear maybe).

  12. Grey

    February 13, 2014 at 3:47 am

    “More of conflict among pre-Indoeuropeans I'd say…That's how “revolutions” (generic sense) happen: first comes decay and intestine conflict, then someone kicks the rotten building down and starts anew.”

    Yes that seems most likely to me too. There's a Chinese proverb about two herons (?) fighting over a fish and while they're fighting a third sneaks in and takes it. If i could remember the proverb properly it might fit well here.

  13. Maju

    February 13, 2014 at 11:35 am

    I don't know the Chinese proverb but there is a Castilian one which comes to be the same: “a río revuelto, ganacia de pescadores”, i.e. “turbulent river, fisher's gain”.

  14. palamede

    February 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    First counter-example : The feodality times from 10e to 13e showed a lot of conflicting internal armed struggles and building of forteresses, This doesn't prevent from great demographic and cultural progresses and development of strong military forces in Occident.
    There is no rule a priori.

    I am not able t odemonstrate the demography graphics are wrong but I am convince. I think to the famous Disraley quote “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”,

    I is also the received impression of demographical when you visit the prehistory museums.

    The dictionary-2004 directed by Denis Vialou described the until now general impression for late Neolithic (Before Chalcolithic in France by “L'essor demographique semble général” The demographical expansion seems general.

    Bocquet-Appel is an anthropologist, he has speaken about the change in maternal fecondity with the arrival of Neolithic, I don't know is he wrote of the demograohy of Late Neolithic and what is his opinion..

    After the feodality, A second counter with the Gallic sequence. I read a remarkable demonstration in the montly “Dossiers d'archéologie” dedicated to the Gallic Brittany

    6e century BC and first half of 5e : favourable climatic phase and first agricultural and demographical takeoff.
    second half of 5e century and 4e century : bad climatic phase, warrior expansions thru Europe and Minor Asia until the first half of the 3e organized by intertribal “warrior leagues” (“sociétés de guerriers”) according to some historians..
    3e, 2e, 1e century BC : favorable climatic phase (Roman climatic phase) and second agricultural, and demographical very imprtant takeoff, then urban development in 2e and 1e centuries. Consequence: very weak level of internal wars and a mass of peaceful peasants without warrior experience monopolized by a vey small aristocraty of horsemen . Result : powerlessness face to Roman legions.
    The second takeoff was not ruined by the Roman control and has continued until the second century AD.

  15. Maju

    February 13, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Bocquet-Appel is one of the pioneers of this methodology, which he used in 2005 to estimate Paleolithic demography in Europe and more recently to suggest that Neanderthal densities were much lower than those of Homo sapiens in adjacent periods. See:

    In 2012 he wrote a study on Neolithic demography as well but I just got a copy this week and have not enjoyed enough free time yet to read in depth.

    What you say about conflicts, I may agree with anyhow, because my emphasis was not in the fortresses but in the signs of cultural division and decay among Western Danubians and, in the Chassey case at least, violent deaths. In some cases we can also see displacement of one culture by another, what may be signature of conflict again. It's possible that in SW France and Iberia the conflict was much more moderate if any, even if it is in these areas where we see the fortifications. What I suspect rather resembles the Dark Ages than the High Middle Ages.

    But of course it is arguable. Statistics may sometimes be deceitful but they are also very useful tools. I can't agree with Disraeli in too general terms.

  16. Maju

    February 13, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Oops, the second link does not refer to BA, he's just mentioned for his 2005 work, the Neanderthal demographics paper is from Mellars & French.

  17. Maju

    February 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    In relation to the issue of violence among Western Danubians, someone at Eurogenes commented with this link:

    Actually the article includes three different instances (the other two at bottom) of Western Danubian mass violence between 5300 and 4500 BCE. Western Danubians are characterized by other suspicious traits suggesting a violent society: weapons in burials (unheard of among their predecessors) and cultivation of opium (a powerful drug that dulls pain, both physical and emotional, and as result decreases empathy, still massively used by the Romans in Antiquity).

    I can't discern why Western Danubians were so prone to violence but a guess could be that they began in conflict with their hunter-gatherer predecessors (who survived at the margins for at least some time) and that soon that conflict spread among themselves, or maybe they had reached the margins of “the known world” (at least where their agriculture could work) and faced major economical pressures, which they “solved” via war. In any case, all this plus what I mentioned before, supports my hypothesis of Western Danubians being particularly violent, at least enough to cause widespread trouble among themselves and spill some of it to neighboring regions in modern France (SE, West), as well as maybe other areas.

    Naturally they would not be the only ones having these kind of processes of increased violence: in SE Europe we can appreciate c. 5000 BCE a secondary invasion from Asia (Halaf-related) leading to the Vinca-Dimini culture, in Eastern Europe we soon see also similar developments leading to the expansive Kurgan culture and is very possible that if we look carefully we see similar things elsewhere. But it seems clear that one of the prominent hotspots of Neolithic warfare and violence was the Western LBK.

  18. Maju

    February 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Maju

    February 15, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    PS- Two corrections:

    1. Slecht-Asparn is near Vienna, so one of the three examples of mass violence or genocide actually belongs to the Eastern or core area of LBK at the mid-Danube. It is dated to c. 5500 BCE.

    2. The date of Herxheim mass grave, with maybe more than 1000 intentionally destroyed corpses, is from the last 50 years of that site, what would actually be 5000-4950 BCE (approx.). This produces the following timeline for the three “genocide” sites:

    → c. 5500 BCE: Slecht-Asparn (core LBK, at about the time of its genesis)
    → c. 5000 BCE: Talheim & Herxheim (Western LBK, at about the time of the beginning of regionalization, → Rössen in this area).

  20. Maju

    February 16, 2014 at 4:45 am

    Sorry, Eurologist, your comment was sitting in the pre-moderation queue without me getting notice. It was the only one not duplicated.

    What you say about climatology, on which I remained agnostic, makes some sense I guess but the central issue is not just whichever delays were in farmer advance because of climate or whatever reason but actually later declines. Without active climate change as we have now (and this was apparently mild in the Neolithic period, although there were some fluctuations) it's harder that any such successions of floods would take place and affect the overall demographics beyond a punctual setback.

    I did look at the matter years ago and there was no any such climatic change like the one we have today. Climate may have been an influence but nothing of the kind of “three 500 year floods” in a row almost for sure: this kind of stuff is caused by the massive destabilization of climate from our industrial era activities: in the last (half?) century alone avg. temperatures have changed more than in all the time since the end of the Ice Age (until a few decades ago). There may be some help from climatic fluctuations in specific moments but it hardly seems the main driver here.

    As for the “revenge of the Mesolithic”, I have growing problems with such concept. It would seem that the populations involved in it were either admixed peoples with notable Neolithic ancestry from the West or a very specific kind of peoples of aboriginal Epipaleolithic ancestry: Eastern Europeans. This is very apparent in MA-1 (ANE) affinities at the Lazaridis study: only two European populations can be described as a raw WHG-EEF mix: Basques and Sardinians, all the rest have increased WHG only by proxy from Eastern Europe, i.e. via Indoeuropean genetic influence (and possibly some Dniepr-Don/Pitted Ware one in the Baltic).

    The other source of Chalcolithic genetic change (and probably the main one) was of mixed WHG-EEF origin, showing Basque-like characteristics, and is almost certainly tightly associated with Megalithism.

  21. Chad Rohlfsen

    February 16, 2014 at 4:50 am

    I don't believe that Baalberge has a proto-IE element. I'd say it would be more likely a hybrid between the local Neolithic and Mesolithic with ANE related to IE. There are no kurgans, pottery resembles several others, the body position of burial and the lack of ochre are pretty telling to me. The anatomy of the Baalberge also says it is locally derived, and not from the east. Plus this is 1000 years before Corded hits the region.

  22. Chad Rohlfsen

    February 16, 2014 at 5:16 am

    I don't know about Baalberge being proto-IE. This is 1000 years before R1a is in the area, to our knowledge. Plus the fact that the pottery and burials are not IE like and there are no kurgans in this period. The people resemble the natives, and other funnelbeaker. There is no 'eastern' element detected in the remains.

  23. Chad Rohlfsen

    February 16, 2014 at 5:17 am

    I don't know about Baalberge being proto-IE. This is 1000 years before R1a is in the area, to our knowledge. Plus the fact that the pottery and burials are not IE like and there are no kurgans in this period. The people resemble the natives, and other funnelbeaker. There is no 'eastern' element detected in the remains.

  24. Grey

    February 16, 2014 at 11:34 am

    I wonder if the population expansion associated with Atlantic megalithism has anything to do with the development of LP and that population expansion led to conflict with LBK.

  25. Maju

    February 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I do: their tumuli (kurgans) are clearly not of local roots (“single graves in stone-lined and stone-covered pits under round kurgans” → graph) and become dominant along time (sign of indoeuropanization of the substrate). They had a clear fortified settlement (Halle-Donauer-Heide) with signs of rural aristocracy living in it (better pottery and probably other less archaeologically obvious privileges), they were clearly expansive and we can trace their ethno-cultural continuity very precisely right to Corded Ware (although this one also has a secondary Catacombs' element in its core area of Cuyavia, which transformed some aspects and may be behind the Balto-Slavic “satem” leaning, but apparently did not affect the Western areas so much).

    Their appearance at the Elbe is a bit odd, geographically discontinuous with other synchornous Kurgan expansions in Eastern and SE Europe, but I tend to imagine them as a band of mercenaries or exiles who found their power niche by ruling and “protecting” an isolated Danubian group from the Northern frontier (Gatersleben). They could well have arrived from the Kurgan raids in the Balcans and Hungary of about those same dates or maybe directly from Ukraine.

    Soon after their establishment they consolidate their unstable position with conquests in Cuyavia (stable) and Northern Bohemia (soon lost) but also by promoting the colonization of the Brandenburg forest, effectively uninhabited before them.

    However they were not strong enough to face the regrouped Danubian league of Baden culture and they probably just managed to perpetuate their status quo (as two separated groups), possibly even becoming their collaborators. In this transitional period between Baalberge and CW we see them adopting some Danubian cultural elements but also, especially in the late phase (Luboń, GA) expanding into Poland, parts of Eastern Europe and reunifying both centers (Elbe and Wistula) and even spreading some influence to the Western Danubian cultures (Bavaria, Wesser basin). Then came the Catacombs culture element in Cuyavia (which may well be responsible of some Balto-Slavic specifics like the satemization or maybe some R1a sublineages) which operated the transformation into Corded Ware, which expanded up to the Rhine and into Scandinavia.

    This whole process is quite seamless (Halle elite pottery is nearly identical to Globular Amphorae, just a tad more “funnelbeaker” → comparison), although it does imply some degree of substrate (and adstrate) cultural influence, of course. There is no mass replacement probably but rather acculturation via elite domination. The case is a very clear one of aristocratic rule, at least initially.

  26. Maju

    February 16, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    “This is 1000 years before R1a is in the area”…

    Before we have found R1a in the area, what is not the same thing. This R1a (Eulau, CW) is the first Y-DNA extracted from any remains from Germany and Poland, so it can only provide an 'ante quam' date and never the absolute reference. As it is very clear, I understand, that Corded Ware is direct descendant from Baalberge, it is very possible that the R1a was already there in Baalberge times, although it has yet to be positively demonstrated, of course. Whatever the case, “lack of evidence is not evidence of lack”.

    Also R1a in Germany is not that important anyhow. I am in fact a bit surprised that 100% (2/2) Eulau sequences are R1a; but the chronologically similar and geographically nearby Kromsdorf site (of CW and BB chronology but culturally not specific, rather looking post-Danubian if anything) has 100% R1b (2/2 again), so I guess that it compensates, with some support for the hypothesis of R1a being the main yDNA Kurgan input, whose influence is obviously more limited West of the Oder.

  27. Grey

    February 17, 2014 at 2:42 am

    “I don't believe that Baalberge has a proto-IE element.”

    I wonder if proto-IE languages had a bit wider range than currently assumed i.e. was there a range of IE speaking peoples north, northwest and west of the black sea and only the steppe part developed the full horse-culture so it ended up with the horse IE becoming the elite element in neighboring non-steppe IE.

  28. Maju

    February 17, 2014 at 4:02 am

    From an archaeological viewpoint (and within the Kurgan model, which I consider the only one making sense), the origin seems limited to the steppary area of the Volga where the Samara and Khvalynsk cultures existed. Their possible earlier origins are obscured by lack of research on possible pre-Neolithic levels, although they may have some affinity with Dniepr-Don peoples, which in turn have local (epi-)Gravettian origins.

    It is possible, I guess, that Epipaleolithic Balcanic cultures had some relationship with them, although this has become less likely now that Central European and Scandinavian pre-Neolithic peoples have been shown to carry mostly yDNA I2, which is the one I imagined original from the Dniepr area. If so the Eastern European Epipaleolithics may only have spilled to the area of Rumania and not further West.

    Whatever the case all the Balcanic and Central European area was overrun by the Neolithic with roots in Thessaly so there must have been a marked cultural difference between these areas and Eastern Europe. Some of that was probably blurred by the Pitted Ware flow in NW direction, which is rooted in Dniepr-Don but this one affected only the Baltic.

    So the main flow westward (as attested for example in increased ANE affinity) is clearly Kurgan.

    Focusing on your linguistic question now: based on all I know, I'd say that Danubian peoples and in general all branches derived from Thessaly Neolithic probably spoke some sort of Vasconic languages. Otherwise it's most hard to explain the substrate. While Vasconic may be remotely related to Indoeuropean, considering it a “proto-Indoeuropean” language is quite extreme. Upon the time of arrival of Kurgans to East Germany the two linguistic groups were for sure mutually unintelligible, except maybe a handful of words like harktos (bear) or ash, clearly not enough for communication. We are talking of thousands of years, millennia, piling one upon another and we don't even know when and where the two linguistic groups began diverging. So in each once bilingual society one language would become dominant after a while, displacing the other. Even if these languages would have been closer to IE than I imagine, they would have been displaced as well, exactly as Celtic was by Latin and both in some areas by Germanic or Slavic.

    Finally horses alone were surely not enough for success. It seems pretty clear by now that Iberians had domesticated horses (and many of them) at the time of the first Kurgan expansion or soon after it (certainly before Corded Ware). Horse is the most common animal remain in many South Iberian Chalcolithic sites and genetic diversity confirms a secondary origin for modern horses in this area.

    Instead I tend to follow I. Hartsuaga in his comparative analysis of religion, Basque vs. Indoeuropean religion specifically. Basque ancient religion which was probably a remnant of ancient Neolithic beliefs is built on communitarian values, instead Indoeuropean religion is based on victory and success, being a warrior religion, a religion for winners. This may be the actual drive: an ideology of war and success, not of mutual respect and support.

    Of course there are many blanks in our knowledge of the ancient and now forgotten peoples of Europe, who nevertheless are our ancestors at least to some extent.

  29. Xacobe Freire

    February 18, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Excuse me for the silly question but which are the density units?

  30. Maju

    February 19, 2014 at 1:06 am

    Something I learned at school is that there are no silly questions, only silly answers.

    From the Methods section I understand that it is density of archaeological calibrated radiocarbon dates, I guess that by square km (but not explicit, so I may be wrong). They mention details on the process of selection and sorting but I did not understand well everything. They used a database of 13,658 such dates.

    I guess it'd be better if they counted artifacts relative to such dates and so on but that would be a too gigantic endeavor and anyhow many layers and objects may lack an specific date, so the whole process seems to rely on the semi-randomness of the overall archaeological discovery and dating process over the decades in an area (Europe) which is extremely well surveyed. This high quality of the archaeological survey process is necessary in order to be able to even conceive such statistical approach (see the Bocquet-Appel 2005 paper mentioned in previous comments for the logic behind this kind of statistical approximation). Other regions of the World may well not be fit for it yet: many decades of intense research are needed for it first of all.

  31. Maju

    February 19, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Sorry to answer your question with another one but this is my central question: how to understand Michelsberg culture? I used to consider it Danubian because of its area of origin and continuity in the use of henges (rondels, camps, ditched earthworks) but I don't know what to think anymore. They expanded in this period and displaced Epi-Rössen, later often adopting dolmenism or other forms of collective burial (Hörgen and such). Later these also vanished, squeezed between the vigorous Corded Ware expansion and the Artenacian (reactive?) one.

    If Michelsberg would be (partly?) intrusive, it could be a major agent of genetic change, even if their offshoots were later conquered by the Indoeuropeans.

    After reviewing the data at my reach in an attempt to answer your wonder, I'm now willing to give a chance to the Funnelbeaker hypothesis of genetic change in Central Europe, always from the understanding that it included several cultures with various roots and is not at all an homogeneous phenomenon.

    If we could understand Funnelbeaker in its multifaceted complexity, maybe we could understand better the genesis of modern populations of Central Europe.

    A simple sketch could be that Western Funnelbeaker had or rather adopted Megalithism (dolmenism and other forms of collective burial from the SW), while Eastern Funnelbeaker is rather of Kurgan roots. If this is correct, it could explain a lot.

  32. Grey

    February 22, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Yes that is my view – some kind of population expansion or niche expansion that put pressure on the western edges of LBK at the same time and/or in the period before pressure came on them from the east as well but a population who mostly succumbed to the IE later.


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