Dacian and Thracian
History of the Balts
Corded Ware culture
Middle Dnieper culture
Globular Amphora Culture
The Balto-Slavic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It was formerly thought that Balto-Slavic split into two branches, Baltic and Slavic, which both developed as a single common language for some time afterwards. More recently, scholarship suggests that Baltic was not a single branch of Balto-Slavic.
A minority of Baltists maintain the view that the Slavic group of languages differs so radically from the neighboring Baltic group (Lithuanian, Latvian, and the now-extinct Old Prussian), that they could not have shared a parent language after the breakup of the Proto-Indo-European continuum about five millennia ago.
Substantial advances in Balto-Slavic accentology that occurred in the last three decades, however, make this view very hard to maintain nowadays, especially when one considers that there was most likely no “Proto-Baltic” language and that West Baltic and East Baltic differ from each other as much as each of them does from Proto-Slavic.
The traditional division into two distinct sub-branches (i.e. Slavic and Baltic) is mostly upheld by scholars who accept Balto-Slavic as a genetic branch of Indo-European. Baltic and Slavic languages share several linguistic traits not found in any other Indo-European branch, which points to a period of common development.
The degree of relationship of the Baltic and Slavic languages is indicated by a series of common innovations not shared with other Indo-European languages, and by the relative chronology of these innovations which can be established. The Baltic and Slavic languages also share some inherited words.
These are either not found at all in other Indo-European languages (except when borrowed) or are inherited from Proto-Indo-European but have undergone identical changes in meaning when compared to other Indo-European languages. This indicates that the Baltic and Slavic languages share a period of common development, the Proto-Balto-Slavic language.
Although the notion of a Balto-Slavic unity has been contested (partly due to political controversies), there is now a general consensus among specialists in Indo-European linguistics to classify Baltic and Slavic languages into a single branch, with only some details of the nature of their relationship remaining in dispute.
A Proto-Balto-Slavic language is reconstructable by the comparative method, descending from Proto-Indo-European by means of well-defined sound laws, and out of which modern Slavic and Baltic languages descended. One particularly innovative dialect separated from the Balto-Slavic dialect continuum and became ancestral to the Proto-Slavic language, from which all Slavic languages descended.
The nature of the relationship of the Balto-Slavic languages has been the subject of much discussion from the very beginning of historical Indo-European linguistics as a scientific discipline. A few are more intent on explaining the similarities between the two groups not in terms of a linguistically “genetic” relationship, but by language contact and dialectal closeness in the Proto-Indo-European period.
Baltic and Slavic share many close phonological, lexical, morphosyntactic and accentological similarities. The early Indo-Europeanist August Schleicher (1861) proposed a simple solution: From Proto-Indo-European descended Proto-Balto-Slavic, out of which Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic emerged.
Schleicher’s proposal was taken up and refined by Karl Brugmann, who listed eight innovations as evidence for a Balto-Slavic branch in the Grundriss der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen (“Outline of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-Germanic Languages”).
The Latvian linguist Jānis Endzelīns thought, however, that any similarities among Baltic and Slavic languages resulted from intensive language contact, i.e. that they were not genetically more closely related and that there was no common Proto-Balto-Slavic language.
Antoine Meillet (1905, 1908, 1922, 1925, 1934), a French linguist, in reaction to Brugmann’s hypothesis, propounded a view according to which all similarities of Baltic and Slavic occurred accidentally, by independent parallel development, and that there was no Proto-Balto-Slavic language.
In turn, the Polish linguist Rozwadowski suggests that the similarities among Baltic and Slavic languages are a result of both a genetic relationship and later language contact. Thomas Olander corroborates the claim of genetic relationship in his research in the field of comparative Balto-Slavic accentology.
Even though some linguists still reject a genetic relationship, most scholars accept that Baltic and Slavic languages experienced a period of common development. This view is also reflected in most modern standard textbooks on Indo-European linguistics.
Gray and Atkinson’s (2003) application of language-tree divergence analysis supports a genetic relationship between the Baltic and Slavic languages, dating the split of the family to about 1400 BCE.
There is a general consensus that the Baltic languages can be divided into East Baltic (Lithuanian, Latvian) and West Baltic (Old Prussian). The internal diversity of Baltic points at a much greater time-depth for the breakup of the Baltic languages in comparison to the Slavic languages.
This bipartite division into Baltic and Slavic was first challenged in the 1960s, when Vladimir Toporov and Vyacheslav Ivanov observed that the apparent difference between the “structural models” of the Baltic languages and the Slavic languages is the result of the innovative nature of Proto-Slavic, and that the latter had evolved from an earlier stage which conformed to the more archaic “structural model” of the Proto-Baltic dialect continuum.
Frederik Kortlandt (1977, 2018) has proposed that West Baltic and East Baltic are in fact not more closely related to each other than either of them is related to Slavic, and Balto-Slavic therefore can be split into three equidistant branches: East Baltic, West Baltic and Slavic.
Although supported by a number of scholars, Kordtlandt’s hypothesis is still a minority view. Some scholars accept Kordtlandt’s division into three branches as the default assumption, but nevertheless believe that there is sufficient evidence to unite East Baltic and West Baltic in an intermediate Baltic node.
The tripartite split is supported by glottochronologic studies by V. V. Kromer, whereas two computer-generated family trees (from the early 2000s) that include Old Prussian have a Baltic node parallel to the Slavic node.
The sudden expansion of Proto-Slavic in the sixth and the seventh century (around 600 CE, uniform Proto-Slavic with no detectable dialectal differentiation was spoken from Thessaloniki in Greece to Novgorod in Russia is, according to some, connected to the hypothesis that Proto-Slavic was in fact a koiné of the Avar state, i.e. the language of the administration and military rule of the Avar Khaganate in Eastern Europe.
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.
Their language—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. However, such a theory fails to explain how Slavic spread to Eastern Europe, an area that had no historical links with the Avar Khanate.
That sudden expansion of Proto-Slavic erased most of the idioms of the Balto-Slavic dialect continuum, which left us today with only two groups, Baltic and Slavic (or East Baltic, West Baltic, and Slavic in the minority view).
This secession of the Balto-Slavic dialect ancestral to Proto-Slavic is estimated on archaeological and glottochronological criteria to have occrred sometime in the period 1500–1000 BCE. Hydronymic evidence suggests that Baltic languages were once spoken in much wider territory than the one they cover today, all the way to Moscow, and were later replaced by Slavic.
Proto-Balto-Slavic (PBS) is a reconstructed proto-language descending from Proto-Indo-European (PIE). From Proto-Balto-Slavic, the later Balto-Slavic languages are thought to have developed, composed of sub-branches Baltic and Slavic, and including modern Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and Serbo-Croatian among others.
Like most other proto-languages, it is not attested by any surviving texts but has been reconstructed using the comparative method. There are several isoglosses that Baltic and Slavic languages share in phonology, morphology and accentology, which represent common innovations from Proto-Indo-European times and can be chronologically arranged.
The origins of the Slavs go back to circa 3500 BCE with the northern Yamna culture and its expansion across Central and Northeast Europe with the Corded Ware culture. The M458 and Z280 lineages spread around Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and western Russia, and would form the core of the Proto-Balto-Slavic culture.
The high prevalence of R1a in Baltic and Slavic countries nowadays is not only due to the Corded Ware expansion, but also to a long succession of later migrations from Russia, the last of which took place from the 5th to the 10th century CE.
The Baltic branch is thought to have evolved from the Fatyanovo culture (3200-2300 BCE), the northeastern extension of the Corded Ware culture. The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture ended about 1,900 BC. Its peoples were almost certainly Indo-Europeans, perhaps speaking an early form of Balto-Slavic.
The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture is generally associated with Indo-European migrations. Fatyanovo migrations correspond to regions with hydronyms of a Baltic language dialect mapped by linguists as far as the Oka river and the upper Volga.
Thus, the migrations of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo people might have established pre-Baltic populations in the upper Volga basin. The pre-Slavs probably developed among those peoples of the Middle-Dnieper culture who stayed behind. The Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture is, in turn, considered an eastern extension of the Middle Dnieper culture.
Early Bronze Age R1a nomads from the northern steppes and forest-steppes would have mixed with the Uralic-speaking inhabitants (N1c1 lineages) of the region. This is supported by a strong presence of both R1a and N1c1 haplogroups from southern Finland to Lithuania and in northwest Russia.
The Slavic branch differentiated itself when the Corded Ware culture absorbed the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture (5200-2600 BCE) of western Ukraine and north-eastern Romania, which appears to have been composed primarily of G2a-U1, descended from Neolithic farmers, and I2a1b-M423 lineages descended directly from Paleolithic Europeans, with some other Near-Eastern farmer lineages (notably E-V13, J2a and T1a).
It is surely during this period that I2a2, E-V13 and T spread (along with R1a) around Poland, Belarus and western Russia, explaining why eastern and northern Slavs (and Lithuanians) have between 10 and 20% of I2a1b lineages and about 10% of Middle Eastern lineages (18% for Ukrainians).
The Corded Ware period was followed in the steppes by the Late Bronze Age Srubna culture (1800-1200 BCE), also known as Timber-grave culture, in the eastern part of Pontic-Caspian steppe, and around Poland by the Trzciniec culture (1700-1200 BCE).
The Trzciniec culture is a Bronze-Age archaeological culture in Eastern Europe (c. 1600 – 1200 BC). It 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. It is sometimes associated with the Komariv neighbouring culture, as the Trzciniec-Komarov culture.
The Komarov culture was a Bronze Age culture which flourished along the middle Dniester from 1500 BC to 1200 BC.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.
The Komarov culture is usually associated with the evolution of the Proto-Slavs or the Thracians, a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting a large area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, who spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family.
No definite evidence has yet been found that demonstrates that Thracian or Daco-Thracian belonged on the same branch as Albanian or Baltic or Balto-Slavic or Greco-Macedonian or Phrygian or any other IE branch. Thracian is treated as its own branch of Indo-European, or as a Daco-Thracian/Thraco-Dacian branch.
The origins of the Thracians remain obscure, in the absence of written historical records. Evidence of proto-Thracians in the prehistoric period depends on artifacts of material culture. Leo Klejn identifies proto-Thracians with the multi-cordoned ware culture that was pushed away from Ukraine by the advancing timber grave culture or Srubnaya.
It is generally proposed that a proto-Thracian people developed from a mixture of indigenous peoples and Indo-Europeans from the time of Proto-Indo-European expansion in the Early Bronze Age when the latter, around 1500 BC, mixed with indigenous peoples. During the Iron Age (about 1000 BC) Dacians and Thracians began developing from proto-Thracians.
The Catacomb culture (c. 2800–1700 BC) was a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe in 2800–1700 BC. Originating on the southern steppe as an outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture came to cover a large area.
It was Indo-European-speaking, perhaps speaking an early form of Indo-Iranian or Thracian. Influences of the Catacomb culture have been detected as far as Mycenaean Greece. It spawned the Multi-cordoned ware culture, and was eventually succeeded by the Srubnaya culture.
The Srubnaya culture is a successor of the Yamna culture, Catacomb culture and Poltavka culture. It is co-ordinate and probably closely related to the Andronovo culture, its eastern neighbor. Whether the Srubnaya culture originated in the east, west, or was a local development, is disputed among archaeologists.
The Srubnaya culture occupied the area along and above the north shore of the Black Sea from the Dnieper eastwards along the northern base of the Caucasus to the area abutting the north shore of the Caspian Sea, west of the Ural Mountains.
The Srubnaya culture is generally considered to have been Iranian. It has been suggested as a staging area from which the Iranian peoples migrated across the Caucasus into the Iranian Plateau. Historical testimony indicate that the Srubnaya culture was succeeded by the Cimmerians and Scythians.
The last important Slavic migration is thought to have happened in the 6th century CE, from Ukraine to Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, filling the vacuum left by eastern Germanic tribes who invaded the Roman Empire. Both the M458 and the Z280 branches are associated with this late Slavic migration, but more particularly Z280.
Historically, no other part of Europe was invaded a higher number of times by steppe peoples than the Balkans. Chronologically, the first R1a invaders might have come with the westward expansion of the Sredny Stog culture (from 4200 BCE), which led the way to a succession of steppe migrations that lasted for over 2,000 years until the end of the Yamna culture (3500-2000 BCE).
These early invasions from the Steppe were probably conducted in majority by R1b men, accompanied by a small number of R1a. Then came the Thracians (1500 BCE), followed by the Illyrians (around 1200 BCE), and much later the Huns and the Alans (400 CE), the Avars, the Bulgars and the Serbs (all around 600 CE), and the Magyars (900 CE), among others.
These peoples originated from different parts of the Eurasian Steppe, anywhere between Eastern Europe and Central Asia, thus contributing to the relatively high diversity of R1a subclades observed in Carpathians and the Balkans today, especially in Bulgaria and Romania. Nevertheless, the vast majority of R1a in Southeast Europe today appears to be of Slavic origin.
The Balts or Baltic people (Lithuanian: baltai, Latvian: balti) are a group of Indo-European peoples primarily characterized as speakers of the Baltic languages, members of the broader branch Balto-Slavic, it self a branch of the Indo-European language family.
Balto-Slavic languages was originally spoken by tribes living in area east of Jutland peninsula, southern Baltic Sea coast in the west and Moscow, Oka and Volga rivers basins in the east, to the northwest of the eurasian steppe.
Some of the major authorities on Balts, such as Kazimieras Būga, Max Vasmer, Vladimir Toporov and Oleg Trubachyov, in conducting etymological studies of eastern European river names, were able to identify in certain regions names of specifically Baltic provenance, which most likely indicate where the Balts lived in prehistoric times.
This information is summarized and synthesized by Marija Gimbutas in The Balts (1963) to obtain a likely proto-Baltic homeland. Its borders are approximately: from a line on the Pomeranian coast eastward to include or nearly include the present-day sites of Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev, and Kursk, northward through Moscow to the River Berzha, westward in an irregular line to the coast of the Gulf of Riga, north of Riga.
Baltic archaeological cultures in the Iron Age from 600 BC to 200 BC: Sambian-Nothangian group, Western Masurian group (Galindians?), Eastern Masurian group (Yotvingians), Lower Neman and West-Latvian group (Curonians), Brushed Pottery culture, Milograd culture, Plain-Pottery culture, AKA Dnepr-Dvina culture, Pomeranian culture and Bell-shaped burials group.
The area of Baltic habitation shrank due to assimilation by other groups, and invasions. According to one of the theories which has gained considerable traction over the years, one of the western Baltic tribes, the Galindians, Galindae, or Goliad, migrated to the area around modern day Moscow, Russia around the 4th century AD.
Over time the Balts became differentiated into Western and Eastern Balts. In the 5th century AD parts of the eastern Baltic coast began to be settled by the ancestors of the Western Balts: Brus/Prūsa (“Old Prussians”), Sudovians/Jotvingians, Scalvians, Nadruvians, and Curonians. The Eastern Balts, including the hypothesised Dniepr Balts, were living in modern-day Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.
Germanic peoples lived to the west of the Baltic homelands; by the first century AD, the Goths had stabilized their kingdom from the mouth of the Vistula, south to Dacia. As Roman domination collapsed in the first half of the first millennium CE in Northern and Eastern Europe, large migrations of the Balts occurred — first, the Galindae or Galindians towards the east, and later, Eastern Balts towards the west.
In the seventh century, Slavic tribes from the Volga regions appeared. By the 13th and 14th centuries, they reached the general area that the present-day Balts and Belarusians inhabit. Many other Eastern and Southern Balts either assimilated with other Balts, or Slavs in the 4th–7th centuries and were gradually slavicized.
Among the Baltic peoples are modern Lithuanians and Latvians (including Latgalians) — all Eastern Balts — as well as the Old Prussians, Yotvingians and Galindians — the Western Balts — whose languages and cultures are now extinct. Modern descendants are the Lithuanians and Latvians (they themselves assimilated other related Baltic tribes).
In the 12th and the 13th centuries, internal struggles, as well as invasions by Ruthenians and Poles and later the expansion of the Teutonic Order resulted in an almost complete annihilation of the Galindians, Curonians, and Yotvingians.
Medieval German chronicler Adam of Bremen in the latter part of the 11th century AD was the first writer to use the term Baltic in its modern sense to mean the sea of that name. Before him were various ancient places names, such as Balcia, meaning a supposed island in the Baltic Sea.
It should not be surprising that Adam, a speaker of German, might connect Balt- with “Belt”, a word he was familiar with. However, linguistics has since established that Balt means white. Many Baltic words contain the stem balt-, “white”, which may also refer to shallow bodies of water including marshes.
In Germanic languages there was some form of “East Sea” until after about 1600, when maps in English labeled it the “Baltic Sea”. By 1840, the German nobles of the Governorate of Livonia adopted the term “Balts” to distinguish themselves from Germans of Germany. They spoke an exclusive dialect, Baltic German. For many, that was the “Baltic language” until 1919.
In 1845, Georg Heinrich Ferdinand Nesselmann proposed a distinct language group for Latvian, Lithuanian and Old Prussian—Baltic. The term became prevalent after Latvia and Lithuania gained independence in 1918. Up until the early 20th century, either “Latvian” or “Lithuanian” could be used to mean the entire language family.
The Dniepr Balts, a hypothetical subgroup of the Eastern Balts, are Baltic tribes that lived near the Dnieper River in the Bronze Age, and later were assimilated by the Slavs. The Dniepr Balts were studied by the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, Lithuanian linguist Kazimieras Būga, and by Russian scientists Vladimir Toporov, O.Trubachev, who analysed hydronyms at the higher Dnieper basin. They have found nearly 800 hydronyms of possibly Baltic origin.
The Pomeranian Balts, or Western Balts, were a branch of the Baltic people with a distinct culture during the Bronze Age to Iron Age. They may have inhabited parts of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, an area now known as Pomerania.
According to Marija Gimbutas, the Baltic culture of the Early and Middle Bronze Age covered a territory which, at its maximal extent, included “all of Pomerania almost to the mouth of the Oder, and the whole Vistula basin to Silesia in the south-west” before the spread of the Lusatian culture to the region and was inhabited by the ancestors of the later (Baltic) Old Prussians.
The Balts decorated their pots by creating “deep incisions and ridges around the neck.” Baltic graves consisted of huts made out of timber, or stone cists with floors of pavement “encircled by timber posts”.
The Moshchiny culture (400-700 AD) was an archaeological culture of the Iron Age in present-day western Russia. It is the easternmost known Baltic culture. It emerged in the 4th century from the Yukhnov culture, with influences from Zarubintsy culture due to immigration. It is related to the Dnieper-Dvina culture.
The settlement area was located in the forest areas at the upper Dnepr and the upper Oka in today’s Russian Oblast Kaluga, Tula, Oryol and Smolensk. It is named after a settlement near the village Moshchiny in the Mosalsky District in the Kaluga Oblast.
Agriculture and livestock were nutritional basis. The settlements were mostly fortified. The ceramic had a smooth surface with bronze ornaments. It was hand-molded. Bronze and iron processing were highly developed. Mortuary fire was buried in burial mounds.
For the period from the 9th century, the possibly Baltic-Slavic origin of the Vyatichi is mentioned in the western part of the area. For the 11th century on the Oka the probably Baltic tribe of Galindians (in particular Eastern Galindians).
The Kolochin culture (500-700 AD) was an Iron Age culture which flourished in western Russia. It was the eastern element of the Prague-Penkov-Kolochin cultural complex. It is attested by a hundred sites, most of whom are situated along the Dnieper drainage. These settlements were undefended and composed of small single-roomed houses. Burials were by cremation.
The culture has been identified either Balts and Slavs. The presence of Baltic river names in the area has lent support to the former theory. Peoples living to the south of the Kolochin culture are however believed to have been Slavs. The Kolochin culture appears to have had relations with these Slavs to their south, and this may have been a source for linguistic exchanges between Baltic and Slavic languages.
The Baltic languages belong to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. Baltic languages are spoken by the Balts, mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe.
The Baltic languages are generally thought to form a single family with two branches, Eastern and Western. However, these two branches are sometimes classified as independent branches of Balto-Slavic.
Western Baltic languages: Western Galindian, Old Prussian, Sudovian or Yotvingian and Skalvian. Eastern Baltic languages: Latvian, Latgalian, Lithuanian, Selonian, Semigallian, Old Curonian (sometimes considered Western Baltic), Dnieper Baltic languages and Eastern Galindian, also known by Ukraininan name Golyad.
Scholars usually regard them as a single language family divided into two groups: Western Baltic (containing only extinct languages) and Eastern Baltic (containing three living languages, Lithuanian, Latvian and Latgalian). The range of the Eastern Baltic linguistic influence once possibly reached as far as the Ural Mountains, but this hypothesis has been questioned.
It is believed that the Baltic languages are among the most archaic of the currently remaining Indo-European languages, despite their late attestation. Although the various Baltic tribes were mentioned by ancient historians as early as 98 B.C. the first attestation of a Baltic language was c. 1369, in a Basel epigram of two lines written in Old Prussian.
Lithuanian was first attested in a printed book, which is a Catechism by Martynas Mažvydas published in 1547. Latvian appeared in a printed Catechism in 1585.
One reason for the late attestation is that the Baltic peoples resisted Christianization longer than any other Europeans, which delayed the introduction of writing and isolated their languages from outside influence.
With the establishment of a German state in Prussia, and the eradication or flight of much of the Baltic Prussian population in the 13th century, the remaining Prussians began to be assimilated, and by the end of the 17th century, the Prussian language had become extinct.
During the years of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795), official documents were written in Polish, Ruthenian and Latin. After the Partitions of Commonwealth, most of the Baltic lands were under the rule of the Russian Empire, where the native languages or alphabets were sometimes prohibited from being written down or used publicly in a Russification effort.
Speakers of modern Baltic languages are generally concentrated within the borders of Lithuania and Latvia, and in emigrant communities in the United States, Canada, Australia and the countries within the former borders of the Soviet Union.
Historically the languages were spoken over a larger area: west to the mouth of the Vistula river in present-day Poland, at least as far east as the Dniepr river in present-day Belarus, perhaps even to Moscow, and perhaps as far south as Kiev.
Key evidence of Baltic language presence in these regions is found in hydronyms (names of bodies of water) that are characteristically Baltic. The use of hydronyms is generally accepted to determine the extent of a culture’s influence, but not the date of such influence.
The Mordvinic languages, spoken mainly along western tributaries of the Volga, show several dozen loanwords from one or more Baltic languages. These may have been mediated by contacts with the Eastern Balts along the river Oka.
The eventual expansion of the use of Slavic languages in the south and east, and Germanic languages in the west, reduced the geographic distribution of Baltic languages to a fraction of the area that they formerly covered.
The Russian geneticist Oleg Balanovsky speculated that there is a predominance of the assimilated pre-Slavic substrate in the genetics of East and West Slavic populations.
According to him the common genetic structure which contrasts East Slavs and Balts from other populations may suggest that the pre-Slavic substrate of the East Slavs consists most significantly of Baltic-speakers, which predated the Slavs in the cultures of the Eurasian steppe according to archaeological references he cites.
Though Estonia is geopolitically included among the Baltic states due to its location, Estonian is a Finnic language and is not related to the Baltic languages, which are Indo-European.
The Baltic languages are of particular interest to linguists because they retain many archaic features, which are believed to have been present in the early stages of the Proto-Indo-European language. However, linguists have had a hard time establishing the precise relationship of the Baltic languages to other languages in the Indo-European family.
Several of the extinct Baltic languages have a limited or nonexistent written record, their existence being known only from the records of ancient historians and personal or place names. All of the languages in the Baltic group (including the living ones) were first written down relatively late in their probable existence as distinct languages.
These two factors combined with others have obscured the history of the Baltic languages, leading to a number of theories regarding their position in the Indo-European family.
The Baltic languages show a close relationship with the Slavic languages, and are grouped with them in a Balto-Slavic family by most scholars. This family is considered to have developed from a common ancestor, Proto-Balto-Slavic.
Linguists agree that Slavic languages evolved in close proximity with the Baltic languages. The two language families probably evolved from a common ancestor, a phylogenetic Proto-Balto/Slavic language continuum.
The earliest origins of Slavs seem to lie in the area between the Middle Dnieper and the Bug rivers, where the most archaic Slavic hydronyms have been established. The vocabulary of Proto-Slavic had a heterogenous character and there is evidence that in the early stages of its evolution it adopted some loanwords from centum-type Indo-European languages. It has been proposed that contacts of Proto-Slavs with the Veneti may have been one of the sources for these borrowings.
The aforementioned area of proto-Slavic hydronyms roughly corresponds with the Zarubintsy archeological culture which has been interpreted as the most likely locus of the ethnogenesis of Slavs. According to Polish archaeologist Michał Parczewski, Slavs began to settle in southeastern Poland no earlier than the late 5th century AD, the Prague culture being their recognizable expression.
Later on, several lexical, phonological and morphological dialectisms developed, separating the various Balto-Slavic languages from each other. Although it is generally agreed that the Slavic languages developed from a single more-or-less unified dialect (Proto-Slavic) that split off from common Balto-Slavic, there is more disagreement about the relationship between the Baltic languages.
The traditional view is that the Balto-Slavic languages split into two branches, Baltic and Slavic, with each branch developing as a single common language (Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic) for some time afterwards. Proto-Baltic is then thought to have split into East Baltic and West Baltic branches.
However, more recent scholarship has suggested that there was no unified Proto-Baltic stage, but that Proto-Balto-Slavic split directly into three groups: Slavic, East Baltic and West Baltic.
Under this view, the Baltic family is paraphyletic, and consists of all Balto-Slavic languages that are not Slavic. This would imply that Proto-Baltic, the last common ancestor of all Baltic languages, would be identical to Proto-Balto-Slavic itself, rather than distinct from it.
In the 1960s Vladimir Toporov and Vyacheslav Ivanov made the following conclusions about the relationship between the Baltic and Slavic languages: a) Proto-Slavic language formed from the peripheral-type Baltic dialects; b) Slavic linguistic type formed later from the Baltic languages structural model; c) the Slavic structural model is a result of the Baltic languages structural model transformation. These scholars’ theses do not contradict the Baltic and Slavic languages closeness and from a historical perspective specify the Baltic-Slavic languages evolution.
Finally, there is a minority of scholars who argue that Baltic descended directly from Proto-Indo-European, without an intermediate common Balto-Slavic stage. They argue that the many similarities and shared innovations between Baltic and Slavic are due to several millennia of contact between the groups, rather than shared heritage.
The Baltic-speaking peoples likely encompassed an area in Eastern Europe much larger than their modern range: as in the case of the Celtic languages of Western Europe, they were reduced with invasions, exterminations and assimilations.
Old Prussian was spoken by the Old Prussians, the Baltic peoples of the Prussian region. It is called Old Prussian to avoid confusion with the German dialects of Low Prussian and High Prussian and with the adjective Prussian as it relates to the later German state.
It ranks as the most archaic of the Baltic languages, but became extinct in the 18th century. It was closely related to the other extinct Western Baltic languages, namely Curonian, Galindian and Sudovian. It is more distantly related to the surviving Eastern Baltic languages, such as Lithuanian and Latvian, and more distantly related to Slavic.
Old Prussian contained loanwords from Slavic languages (e.g., Old Prussian curtis “hound”, like Lithuanian kùrtas and Latvian kur̃ts, comes from Slavic (compare Ukrainian: khort; Polish: chart; Czech: chrt), as well as a few borrowings from Germanic, including from Gothic (e.g., Old Prussian ylo “awl” as with Lithuanian ýla, Latvian īlens) and from Scandinavian languages.
Although morphologically related, the Lithuanian, Latvian and, particularly, Old Prussian vocabularies differ substantially from one another, and as such they are not mutually intelligible, mainly due to a substantial number of false friends, and foreign words, borrowed from surrounding language families, which are used differently.
Gradually Old Prussians became Germanized or some Lithuanized during period from the 15th to the 17th centuries, especially after the Reformation in Prussia. The cultures of the Lithuanians and Latgalians/Latvians survived and became the ancestors of the populations of the modern countries of Latvia and Lithuania.
Dacian and Thracian
Studies in comparative linguistics point to genetic relationship between the languages of the Baltic family and the extinct languages Dacian and Thracian. This classification has been proposed by the Lithuanian scientist Jonas Basanavičius, who insisted this is the most important work of his life and listed 600 identical words of Balts and Thracians.
His theory included Phrygian in the related group, but this did not find support and was disapproved among other authors, such as Ivan Duridanov, whose own analysis found Phrygian completely lacking parallels in either Thracian or Baltic languages.
The Bulgarian linguist Ivan Duridanov, who improved the most extensive list of toponyms, in his first publication claimed that Thracian is genetically linked to the Baltic languages and in the next one he made the following classification: “The Thracian language formed a close group with the Baltic (resp. Balto-Slavic), the Dacian and the “Pelasgian” languages.
More distant were its relations with the other Indo-European languages, and especially with Greek, the Italic and Celtic languages, which exhibit only isolated phonetic similarities with Thracian; the Tokharian and the Hittite were also distant.”
Of about 200 reconstructed Thracian words by Duridanov most cognates (138) appear in the Baltic languages, mostly in Lithuanian, followed by Germanic (61), Indo-Aryan (41), Greek (36), Bulgarian (23), Latin (10) and Albanian (8).
The cognates of the reconstructed Dacian words in his publication are found mostly in the Baltic languages, followed by Albanian. Parallels have enabled linguists, using the techniques of comparative linguistics, to decipher the meanings of several Dacian and Thracian placenames with, they claim, a high degree of probability.
Of 74 Dacian placenames attested in primary sources and considered by Duridanov, a total of 62 have Baltic cognates, most of which were rated “certain” by Duridanov. For a big number of 300 Thracian geographic names most parallels were found between Thracian and Baltic geographic names in the study of Duridanov.
According to him the most important impression make the geographic cognates of Baltic and Thracian “the similarity of these parallels stretching frequently on the main element and the suffix simultaneously, which makes a strong impression”.
There is significant evidence of at least a long-term proximity link, and possibly a genetic link, between Dacian and the modern Baltic languages. The Bulgarian linguist Ivan Duridanov, in his first publication claimed that Thracian and Dacian are genetically linked to the Baltic languages and in the next one he made the following classification: “The Thracian language formed a close group with the Baltic (resp. Balto-Slavic), the Dacian and the “Pelasgian” languages.
More distant were its relations with the other Indo-European languages, and especially with Greek, the Italic and Celtic languages, which exhibit only isolated phonetic similarities with Thracian; the Tokharian and the Hittite were also distant. “
Duridanov’s cognates of the reconstructed Dacian words are found mostly in the Baltic languages, followed by Albanian without considering Thracian. Parallels have enabled linguists, using the techniques of comparative linguistics, to decipher the meanings of several Dacian and Thracian placenames with, they claim, a high degree of probability. Of 74 Dacian placenames attested in primary sources and considered by Duridanov, a total of 62 have Baltic cognates, most of which were rated “certain” by Duridanov.
Polomé considers that these parallels are unlikely to be coincidence. Duridanov’s explanation is that proto-Dacian and proto-Thracian speakers were in close geographical proximity with proto-Baltic speakers for a prolonged period, perhaps during the period 3000–2000 BC.
A number of scholars such as the Russian Topоrov have pointed to the many close parallels between Dacian and Thracian placenames and those of the Baltic language-zone – Lithuania, Latvia and in East Prussia (where an extinct but well-documented Baltic language, Old Prussian, was spoken until it was displaced by German during the Middle Ages).
After creating a list of names of rivers and personal names with a high number of parallels, the Romanian linguist Mircea M. Radulescu classified the Daco-Moesian and Thracian as Baltic languages of the south and also proposed such classification for Illyrian. The German linguist Schall also attributed a southern Baltic classification to Dacian.
The American linguist Harvey Mayer refers to both Dacian and Thracian as Baltic languages. He claims to have sufficient evidence for classifying them as Baltoidic or at least “Baltic-like,” if not exactly, Baltic dialects or languages and classifies Dacians and Thracians as “Balts by extension”.
According to him, Albanian, the descendant of Illyrian, escaped any heavy Baltic influence of Daco-Thracian. Mayer claims that he extracted an unambiguous evidence for regarding Dacian and Thracian as more tied to Lithuanian than to Latvian.
The Czech archaeologist Kristian Turnvvald classified Dacian as Danubian Baltic. The Venezuelan-Lithuanian historian Jurate de Rosales classifies Dacian and Thracian as Baltic languages.
It appears from the study of hydronyms (river and lake names) that Baltic languages once predominated much farther eastwards and southwards than their modern confinement to the southeastern shores of the Baltic sea, and included regions that later became predominantly Slavic-speaking.
The zone of Baltic hydronyms extends along the Baltic coast from the mouth of the Oder as far as Riga, eastwards as far as the line Yaroslavl–Moscow–Kursk and southwards as far as the line Oder mouth–Warsaw–Kiev–Kursk: it thus includes much of northern and eastern Poland, Belarus and central European Russia.
History of the Balts
Following the recession of the Scandinavian ice sheet, which covered most of northern Europe, from Great Britain to Moscow, around 8000 BC, people began arriving in what is today Finland, presumably mainly from the south and east although recent archaeological finds reveal a presence of the north-western Komsa culture in north Finland equally old to the earliest finds on the Norwegian coast.
The Balts or Baltic peoples, defined as speakers of one of the Baltic languages, a branch of the Indo-European language family, are descended from a group of Indo-European tribes who settled the area between the lower Vistula and southeast shore of the Baltic Sea and upper Daugava and Dnieper rivers.
Because the thousands of lakes and swamps in this area contributed to the Balts’ geographical isolation, the Baltic languages retain a number of conservative or archaic features. One of the features of Baltic languages is the number of conservative or archaic features retained.
The Balts originally practiced Baltic religion. They were gradually Christianized as a result of the Northern Crusades of the Middle Ages. Baltic peoples such as the Latvians, Lithuanians and Old Prussians had their distinct mythologies.
The Lithuanians have close historic ties to Poland, and many of them are therefore Roman Catholic. The Latvians have close historic ties of Northern Germany and Scandinavia, and many of them are therefore Lutherans. Irreligion is widespread. In recent times, the Baltic religion has been revived in Baltic neopaganism.
Baltic mythology is the body of mythology of the Baltic people stemming from Baltic paganism and continuing after Christianization and into Baltic folklore. Baltic mythology ultimately stems from Proto-Indo-European mythology.
The Baltic region was one of the last regions of Europe to be Christianized, a process that occurred from the 15th century and into at least a century after. While no native texts survive detailing the mythology of the Baltic peoples during the pagan period, knowledge of the mythology may be gained from Russian and German chronicles, later folklore, by way of etymology, and comparative mythology.
While the early chronicles (14th and 15th century) were largely the product of missionaries who sought to eradicate the native paganism of the Baltic peoples, rich material survives into Baltic folklore.
This material has been of particular value in Indo-European studies as, like the Baltic languages, it is considered by scholars to be notably conservative, reflecting elements of Proto-Indo-European religion. The Indo-European Divine Twins are particularly well represented as the Dieva dēli (Latvian ‘sons of god’) and Dievo sūneliai (Lithuanian ‘sons of god’).
According to folklore, they are the children of Dievas (Lithuanian and Latvia; see Proto-Indo-European *Dyeus). Associated with the brothers and their father are two goddesses; the personified Sun, Saule (Latvian ‘sun’) and Saules meita (Latvian ‘Sun’s daughter’).
Recent genetic research show that the eastern Baltic in the Mesolithic was inhabited primarily by Western Hunter-Gatherers (WHGs). Their paternal haplogroups were mostly types of I2a and R1b, while their maternal haplogroups were mostly types of U5, U4 and U2. These people carried a high frequency of the derived HERC2 allele which codes for light eye color, and increased frequency of the derived alleles for SLC45A2 and SLC24A5, which codes for light skin.
During the Neolithic, increasing admixture from Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) is detected. The paternal haplogroups of EHGs was mostly types of R1b and R1a, while their maternal haplogroups appears to have been almost exclusively types of U5, U4, and U2.
Baltic hunter-gatherers still displayed a slightly larger amount of WHG ancestry than Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers (SHGs). WHG ancestry in the Baltic was particularly high among hunter-gatherers in Latvia and Lithuania. Unlike other parts of Europe, the hunter-gatherers of the eastern Baltic do not appear to have mixed much with Early European Farmers (EEFs) arriving from Anatolia.
The rise of the Corded Ware culture in the eastern Baltic in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age is accompanied by a significant infusion of steppe ancestry and EEF ancestry into the eastern Baltic gene pool. In the aftermath of the Corded Ware expansion, local hunter-gatherer ancestry experienced a resurgence. Modern Balts have a lower amount of EEF ancestry, and a higher amount of WHG ancestry, than any other population in Europe.
The area of Finland belonged to the northeastern Kunda culture until around 5000 BC and Comb Ceramic culture from about 4200–2000 BC. The Kiukainen culture on the southwestern coast of Finland showed around 1200 BC.
In a genetic study published in Current Biology in February 2017, it was determined that peoples of the Kunda culture and the succeeding Narva culture showed closer genetic affinity with Western Hunter-Gatherers (WHGs) than Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs).
In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in January 2018, the remains of a male and female ascribed to the Kunda culture was analyzed. The male was found to be carrying haplogroup I and U5b2c1, while the female carried U4a2.
They were found to have “a very close affinity” with WHGs, although with “a significant contribution” from Ancient North Eurasians (ANE). Their ANE ancestry was lower than that of Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers, indicating that ANE ancestry entered Scandinavia without traversing the Baltic.
A genetic study published in Nature in February 2018 included an analysis of a large number of individuals buried at the Zvejnieki burial ground, most of whom were affiliated with the Kunda culture and the succeeding Narva culture.
The mtDNA extracted belonged exclusively to haplotypes of U5, U4 and U2. With regards to Y-DNA, the vast majority of samples belonged to R1b1a1a haplotypes and I2a1 haplotypes. The results affirmed that the Kunda and Narva cultures were about 70% WHG and 30% EHG. The nearby contemporary Pit–Comb Ware culture was on the contrary found to be about 65% EHG.
Haplogroup N did not appear in the eastern Baltic until the late Bronze Age, perhaps as part of a westward migration of Uralic peoples. Haplogroup N1* and N1c were both found at high frequency (26 out of 70 samples, or 37%) in Neolithic and Bronze Age remains (4500-700 BCE) from the West Liao River valley in Northeast China (Manchuria).
Among the Neolithic samples, haplogroup N1 made up two thirds of the samples from the Hongshan culture (4700-2900 BCE) and all the samples from the Xiaoheyan culture (3000-2200 BCE), hinting that N1 people played a major role in the diffusion of the Neolithic lifestyle around Northeast China, and probably also to Mongolia and Siberia.
Ye Zhang et al. 2016 found 100% of Y-DNA N out of 17 samples from the Xueshan culture (Jiangjialiang site) dating from 3600–2900 BCE, and among those 41% belonged to N1c1-Tat. It is therefore extremely likely that the N1c1 subclade found in Europe today has its roots in the Chinese Neolithic.
It would have progressively spread across Siberia until north-eastern Europe, possibly reaching the Volga-Ural region around 5500 to 4500 BCE with the Kama culture (5300-3300 BCE), and the eastern Baltic with the Comb Ceramic culture (4200-2000 BCE), the presumed ancestral culture of Proto-Finnic and pre-Baltic people.
The Bronze Age Indo-European Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture (3200-2300 BCE) progressively took over the Baltic region and southern Finland from 2,500 BCE. The merger of the two groups, Indo-European R1a and Proto-Uralic N1c1, gave rise to the hybrid Kiukainen culture (2300-1500 BCE).
Kiukainen culture (2000–1500/1300 BC) was the last Stone Age culture of the southwestern coast of Finland. Its material culture combined elements from Pit–Comb Ware and Corded Ware cultures. The area of Kiukainen culture ranged from the shore of Kvarken to Vyborg Bay.
The Balts or Baltic peoples, or their Indo-European predecessors, have settled (at different times different parts of) the territory of today’s northeast Poland as well as the lands located further north and east, generally east of the lower Vistula River, the Baltic seashore north of there including and past the Sambian peninsula, and the inland area east of the above regions (some of their ancestors came from as far east as the upper Oka River), from the early Iron Age.
The analysis of the Baltic historic range has been aided by the studies of their characteristic toponyms and hydronyms, in addition to the examination of the archeological record and the few ancient written sources.
Herodotus wrote of the Neuri tribe, who lived beyond the Scythians and to the north of whom the land was uninhabited as far as he knew. Of the Baltic tribes may have written Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy when they spoke of the Veneti, Venedi or Venedai people.
Pliny in Natural History locates them in the mouth of the Vistula region, while Ptolemy in Geographia just east of the lower Vistula along the Bay of Gdańsk. The Western Baltic Veneti’s territory may have reached east all the way to Sambia.
Tacitus in Germania, describing (possibly the same) inhabitants of the south-eastern Baltic shores, mentioned the Aesti people, involved in collecting amber not for their own use but for long distance trade in a raw state.
Jordanes in Getica speaks of the “Aesti, who dwell on the farthest shore of the German Ocean” (beyond the Germanic-named Vidivarii people, who occupied the mouth of the Vistula area). This “Ocean” he defines as where the floods of the Vistula empty, the Baltic Sea. Various versions of the Aesti name were used later for various purposes; in particular that’s what in the 9th century the Baltic Old Prussian people were called and their country was then referred to as Aestland.
Ptolemy in Geographia gives the names of two Baltic tribes: “Galindai” and “Soudinoi”, which he localized east of the lower Vistula, some distance from the sea, just about where the Baltic Galindians (in Masuria), and the Sudovians or Yotvingians east of the Galindians lived a thousand years later.
According to linguistic sources, the Baltic tribes precursors appeared first inland, in the forest zone regions far from the sea, and only later settled the near Baltic Sea areas, extending from the northeastern part of the Vistula basin to the Daugava River basin. This westbound expansion resulted in the establishment of the two main Baltic branches: The Western Balts, represented by the extinct Old Prussians and Yotvingians, and the Eastern Balts including the modern nations of Lithuanians and Latvians.
The |Western Baltic Kurgans culture, which resulted from the interaction between groups arriving from the east and the people living in the Masuria-Sambia region (mid-1st millennium BCE) is discussed in the Bronze and Iron Age Poland article, within its time frame.
The process of separation and differentiation of the eastern and western Baltic tribes deepened during the period of Roman influence, when the economy, culture, and customs of the Western Balts became increasingly influenced by the more highly developed Przeworsk and Wielbark cultures.
From the beginning of the Common Era we can speak of the Western Balt culture, which included several distinct groups of the Western Baltic cultural circle and can definitely be connected with the Baltic peoples.
Beginning in the 1st century CE, the Western Balts experienced their “golden” period — times of economic expansion and increased affluence of their societies, all of which was based on the amber trade, resulting in active and long-term contacts with the lands of the Roman Empire.
As late as the early 6th century CE, an Aesti mission arrived in Italy at the court of King Theodoric the Great of the Ostrogoths with gifts of amber. As elsewhere, with wealth came imported and locally manufactured luxury items, social stratification, and an emergence of the “princely” class, whose status was reflected in their burials.
The Balts grew various grains, beans, and peas, but despite the advent of iron-reinforced plows and other new agricultural technologies, the regional environmental conditions set limits on the practicality and extent of land tillage.
By contrast, the dense forest coverage facilitated gathering and was more amenable to the raising of livestock. The latter included all of the major species of farm animals, including in particular the small |forest horse (‘Equus caballus germanicus’). The horses constituted an important element of the Baltic tribes’ culture: men of high socioeconomic status were often buried with their horses, and even with costly equestrian gear.
Baltic settlements were mainly small, family-based communities, often forming small clusters separated by uninhabited areas. However, some settlements were larger and remained in use over many generations. While they lacked artificial fortifications, they were often raised in natural settings that were easily defended.
One rather large dwelling place, which was in use from the 2nd to the 4th century, was discovered and investigated in Osowo, Gołdap County (near Suwałki). The living quarters were pillar-supported houses, while the farming infrastructure included 80 grain storage caves. Small fortified refuges were built to a limited extent beginning at the end of the 4th century, but Western Balts did not build larger-scale fortified settlements until the Middle Ages.
The dominant funereal custom was cremation, with ashes placed in urns that were either ceramic or made from organic materials such as textiles or leather. In the large cemeteries built along the seashore and covered by stone pavement, graves were flat. However, there were also single graves accompanied by stone structures/kurgans, as in the skeletal burials from the 1st and 2nd centuries CE that have been found in Sambia and the later ones (3rd–4th centuries) in Sudovia. From about 400 CE onward, cremation became the only means of corpse disposition, and the more familiar type of kurgan emerged, with each grave holding the remains of several persons.
Samples of mature ancient-Baltic craftsmanship (2nd–4th century) have been found in places such as Żywa Woda and Szwajcaria, both in Suwałki County; and in Augustów County. The princely graves, as is typical, also contain many imports from southern and western Europe. Baltic fine bronze ornamental items, such as thin, open-worked plates for necklace clasps, were typically coated with colored, often red enamel.
Foreign influence can also be seen in the designs of clay urns, such as the 3rd- or 4th-century Greek kernos-type vessel with additional miniature urns attached, or the 5th-century “window” container with a square opening from Olsztyn County, similar to the urns found in Denmark and northwestern Germany.
The last-mentioned specimen comes from the Olsztyn group burial ground in Tumiany. The Olsztyn group represents the late phase of the Western Baltic cultural circle, originating in the second half of the 5th century and reaching its height in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was located in Masuria, partially in areas vacated by the Wielbark culture people.
This group is believed to have been established by branches of the Galindian tribe, including a part that migrated to southern Europe and then returned to the Baltic area. Its cemeteries contain horse burials and many plate clasps, buckles, connectors, and other objects made of bronze, silver, and gold, studded with semi-precious stones and decorated with engravings.
These sophisticated artifacts demonstrate the Olsztyn group people’s extensive interregional and far-reaching trade and other relationships and contacts with the peoples of Scandinavia and western, southern, and southeastern Europe.
In the 5th century, due to Migration Period population shifts and the pressure from the westbound movement of the Slavic peoples, patterns of Baltic settlement began to change. The Western Balts took over the lands left by the Wielbark culture people and reached the eastern part of the mouth of the Vistula.
A major trade route connecting the southeastern Baltic areas with the Black Sea shores went now through the regions controlled by the Balts. Expansion of the Old Prussian tribes, such as the previously mentioned Galindians and Yotvingians, encompassed today’s northeast Poland and the adjacent territories further north.
Galindia (today’s western Masuria), whose new inhabitants included the Olsztyn group, became in the 6th and 7th centuries the most affluent of the lands settled by Balts, with highly developed local craftsmanship supplementing the wealth of items brought from distant countries.
This westbound expansion was accompanied by retreat at the southeastern bounds of the Baltic range caused by the advance of the Slavs, the Balts’ closest ethnolinguistic relatives. A majority of the Baltic peoples, whose population at the end of the first millennium CE is estimated at about 480,000, became extinct during the later Middle Ages due to attempts at forced Christianization, conquest and extermination, or assimilation (Slavicisation), the Old Prussians being the primary example. Lithuanians and Latvians are the sole surviving Baltic peoples.
The Kunda culture, originating from the Swiderian culture, comprised mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities of the Baltic forest zone extending eastwards through Latvia into northern Russia, dating to the period 8500–5000 BC according to calibrated radiocarbon dating.
It is named after the Estonian town of Kunda, about 110 kilometres (70 mi) east of Tallinn along the Gulf of Finland, near where the first extensively studied settlement was discovered on Lammasmäe Hill and in the surrounding peat bog.
The oldest known settlement of the Kunda culture in Estonia is Pulli. The Kunda culture was succeeded by the Narva culture, who used pottery and showed some traces of food production.
Most Kunda settlements are located near the edge of the forests beside rivers, lakes, or marshes. Elk were extensively hunted, perhaps helped by trained domestic hunting-dogs. On the coast seal hunting is represented. Pike and other fish were taken from the rivers.
There is a rich bone and antler industry, especially in relation to fishing gear. Tools were decorated with simple geometric designs, lacking the complexity of the contemporary Maglemosian Culture communities to the southwest.
The Kunda culture appears to have undergone a transition from the Palaeolithic Swiderian culture located previously over much of the same range. One such transition settlement, Pasieniai 1C in Lithuania, features stone tools of both Late Swiderian and early Kunda. One shape manufactured in both cultures is the retouched tanged point.
The final Swiderian is dated 7800–7600 BC by calibrated radiocarbon dating, which is in the Preboreal period, at the end of which time with no gap the early Kunda begins. Evidently the descendants of the Swiderians were the first to settle Estonia when it became habitable. Other post-Swiderian groups extended as far east as the Ural mountains.
Corded Ware culture
The Corded Ware culture comprises a broad archaeological horizon of Europe between c. 2900 BCE – circa 2350 BCE, thus from the late Neolithic, through the Copper Age, and ending in the early Bronze Age. Corded Ware culture encompassed a vast area, from the Rhine on the west to the Volga in the east, occupying parts of Northern Europe, Central Europe and Eastern Europe.
According to Haak et al. (2017), the Corded Ware people carried mostly Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and were closely related to the people of the Yamna culture (or Yamnaya), “documenting a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery,” the Eurasiatic steppes.
The Corded Ware culture may have played a central role in the spread of the Indo-European languages in Europe during the Copper and Bronze Ages. It may have disseminated the Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic Indo-European languages. The Corded Ware Culture also shows genetic affinity with the later Sintashta culture, where the Proto-Indo-Iranian language may have originated.
According to Mallory, the Corded Ware culture may have been “the common prehistoric ancestor of the later Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, and possibly some of the Indo-European languages of Italy.” Yet, Mallory also notes that the Corded Ware can not account for Greek, Illyrian, Thracian and East Italic, which may be derived from Southeast Europe. According to Anthony, the Corded Ware horizon may have introduced Germanic, Baltic and Slavic into northern Europe.
According to Anthony, the Pre-Germanic dialects may have developed in the Usatovo culture in south-eastern Central Europe between the Dniestr and the Vistula between c. 3,100 and 2,800 BCE, and spread with the Corded Ware culture.
Between 3100 and 2800/2600 BCE, a real folk migration of Proto-Indo-European speakers from the Yamna-culture took place into the Danube Valley, which eventually reached as far as Hungary, where pre-Celtic and pre-Italic may have developed. Slavic and Baltic developed at the middle Dniepr (present-day Ukraine).
Haak et al. (2015) note that German Corded Ware “trace ~75% of their ancestry to the Yamna,” envisioning a west-north-west migration from the Yamna culture into Germany.
Allentoft et al. (2015) envision a migration from the Yamna culture towards north-western Europe via Central Europe, and towards the Baltic area and the eastern periphery of the Corded Ware culture via the territory of present-day Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
The eastern outposts of the Corded Ware culture are the Middle Dnieper culture and on the upper Volga, the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture. The Middle Dnieper culture has very scant remains, but occupies the easiest route into Central and Northern Europe from the steppe.
If the association of Battle Axe cultures with Indo-European languages is correct, then Fatyanovo might be a culture with an Indo-European superstratum over a Uralic substratum, and may account for some of the linguistic borrowings identified in the Indo-Uralic thesis.
However, according to Häkkinen, the Uralic–Indo-European contacts only start in the Corded Ware period and the Uralic expansion into the Upper Volga region postdates it. Häkkinen accepts Fatyanovo-Balanovo as an early Indo-European culture, but maintains that their substratum (identified with the Volosovo culture) was neither Uralic nor Indo-European. Genetics seems to support Häkkinen.
The Rzucewo culture (also Rutzau or Bay Coast culture, 2700 BC) was a local archaeological culture of late Neolithic. It centered at the coast of the Bay of Gdansk (Danzig) and Vistula Lagoon (Frisches Haff) and extended north to the Curonian Lagoon and up to Šventoji settlement in Lithuania. It is either named after the adjacent bays, or after an archeological site in the village of Rzucewo (Rutzau) near Puck.
The Rzucewo culture was a hybrid of pre-Indo-European Narva culture, Globular Amphora culture and Corded Ware culture. Traditionally Rzucewo was identified as a variation of Corded Ware culture; however newest research suggests that the culture formed before Corded Ware.
This culture specialized in exploitation of marine resources, and existed in parallel to its mother culture for some time. Rzucewo settlements, consisting of characteristic houses reinforced against sea erosion, were located along the coast and further east.
The Rzucewo people had domesticated cattle, pigs, some goats, but did little cultivation and engaged in fishery and hunting, especially of seals, then numerous along the Baltic coast. The Rzucewo culture people produced and widely traded amber decorative items in specialist shops. A large number of amber artifacts was found in Juodkrantė.
Formerly, this culture was interpreted as the earliest detection of the Balts. Tracing formation of the Balts to Rzucewo culture could explain differences between Western and Eastern Balts and their languages (and possibly a stage of West Baltic–Pre-Slavic unity; see Balto-Slavic languages), though linguistic conclusions based on this methodology are controversial and tentative at best, ad hoc at worst.
Typically Polish and German archeologists place the culture just on the coast, while Lithuanian and Latvian scientists extend it much further inland describing coastal settlements as a cultural and economic center and inland villages as a periphery.
Middle Dnieper culture
The Middle Dnieper culture (3200-2300 BC) is an eastern extension of the Corded Ware culture of northern Ukraine and Belarus. As the name indicates, it was centered on the middle reach of the Dnieper River and is contemporaneous with the latter phase and then a successor to the Indo-European Yamnaya culture, as well as to the latter phase of the Tripolye culture.
Geographically, the Middle Dnieper culture is directly behind the area occupied by the Globular Amphora culture (south and east), and while commencing a little later and lasting a little longer, it is otherwise contemporaneous with it. The Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture is, in turn, considered an eastern extension of the Middle Dnieper culture.
More than 200 sites are attested to, mostly as barrow inhumations under tumuli; some of these burials are secondary depositions into Yamnaya-era kurgans. Grave goods included pottery and stone battle-axes. There is some evidence of cremation in the northerly area. Settlements seem difficult to define; the economy was much like that of the Yamnaya and Corded Ware cultures, semi-to-fully-nomadic pastoralism.
Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, this culture is a major center for migrations (or invasions, if one prefers) from the Yamnaya culture and its immediate successors into Northern and Central Europe.
It has been argued that the area where the Middle Dnieper culture is situated would have provided a better migration route for steppe tribes along the Pripyat tributary of the Dnieper and perhaps provided the cultural bridge between Yamnaya and Corded Ware cultures.
This area has also been a classic invasion route as seen historically with the armies of the Mongol Golden Horde (moving east to west from the steppes) and Napoleon Bonaparte (moving west to east from Europe).
On the other hand, the Middle-Dnieper culture has been viewed as a contact zone between Yamnaya steppe tribes and occupants of the forest steppe zone possibly signaling communications between pre-Indo-Iranian speakers and pre-Balto-Slavs as interpreted by an exchange of material goods evident in the archaeological record sans migration.
The Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture (2800-1900 BC) was a Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age culture which flourished in the forests of Russia from ca. 2800 BC to 1900 BC. It developed on the northeastern edge of the Middle Dnieper culture around 2,800 BC, probably as a result of a mass migration of Corded Ware peoples from Central Europe.
Its peoples were almost certainly Indo-Europeans, perhaps speaking an early form of Balto-Slavic. Expanding eastwards at the expense of the Volosovo culture, the Fatyanovo people developed copper mines in the western Urals. They established settlements engaged in Bronze metallurgy, giving rise to the Balanovo culture from 2300 BC.
Although belonging to the southeastern part of the Fatyanovo horizon, the Balanovo culture is quite distinct from the rest. The Balanovo culture contributed to the formation of the Abashevo culture, which in turn contributed to the formation of the Sintashta culture.
The Fatyanovo culture emerged at the northeastern edge of the Middle Dnieper culture around 2,800 BC, and was probably derived from an early variant of this culture. It is the chronologically latest and most northeastern culture of the wider Corded Ware horizon. It traces its origins from the west and southwest.
The Fatyanovo culture has been described as a “genuine folk movement” from Central Europe in the Russian forests. Unlike other cultures of the Corded Ware horizon, the Fatyanovo culture is found beyond to borders of the earlier Funnelbeaker culture.
The theory of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture being an intrusive one is based upon the physical type of the population (physical anthropology), flexed burial under barrows, the presence of battle-axes and ceramics.
Some have argued that this culture represents the acculturation of Pit-Comb Ware culture people of this area from contacts with Corded Ware agriculturists in the West. Others have noted similarities between Fatyanovo and Catacomb culture stone battle-axes.
The Fatyanovo culture runs from Lake Pskov in the west to the middle Volga in the east, with its northern reach in the valley of the upper Volga. The Volosovo culture of indigenous forest foragers was different in from the Fatyanovo culture its ceramics, economy, and mortuary practices. It disappeared when the Fatyanovo people pushed into the Upper and Middle Volga basin.
Spreading eastward down the Volga the Fatyanovo people discovered the copper ores of the western Ural foothills, and started long term settlements in lower Kama river region. They occupied the region of the Kama–Vyatka–Vetluga interfluves where metal resources (local copper sandstone deposits) of the region were exploited. The metallurgy-based Fatyanovo settlements in this area gave rise to the Balanovo culture around 2300 BC.
Although being part of the Fatyanovo horizon, the Balanovo culture is quite distinct from it. Ceramic finds indicate Balanovo coexisted with the Volosovo people (mixed Balanovo-Volosovo sites), and also displaced them. The Balanovo culture became the metallurgical heartland of the wider Fatyanovo horizon.
The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture ends around 1900 BC. On its southeastern fringes, the Balanovo culture had contributed to the formation of the Abashevo culture. This culture would play an important role in the emergence of the Sintashta culture.
Fatyanovo ceramics show mixed Corded Ware/Globular Amphorae traits. The later Abashevo culture pottery looked somewhat like Fatyanovo-Balanovo Corded Ware.
Settlements of the Fatyanovo culture are scant, and bear evidence of a degree of fortification. The villages were usually situated on the high hills of the riverbanks, consisting of several above-ground houses built from wooden logs with saddle roofs, and also joined by passages.
Hundreds of sites, including both settlements and cemeteries, have been found from the Balanovo culture. In Balanovo settlements, rectangular semi-subterranean houses are known. The absence of settlements are typical of the Corded Ware horizon, and are indicative of the mobile economy of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo people.
The economy seems to be quite mobile, but then we are cautioned that domestic swine are found, which suggests something other than a mobile society. The Fatyanovo culture is viewed as introducing an economy based on domestic livestock (sheep, cattle, horse & dog) into the forest zone of Russia. The Balanovo also used draught cattle and two wheeled wagons.
As is usual with ancient cultures, our main knowledge of the Fayanovo-Balanovo culture comes from their inhumations. Shaft graves were evident, which might be lined with wood. Some three hundred cemeteries have been uncovered from the Fatyanovo culture. The largest of these contain more than a hundred burials. Some shaft graves are more than 2 m deep.
The interments are otherwise in accord with Corded Ware practices, with males resting on their right side with their heads oriented towards the southwest, and females resting on their left side with their heads oriented towards the northeast. Grave goods included ornaments of animal teeth, pottery, polished stone battle-axes, and on some occasions stone mace-heads.
Fatyanovo burials have been found to include bear claws and pendants of bear teeth. Similar founds have been made in the earlier Sredny Stog culture, Yamnaya culture and Catacomb culture. Some have interpreted this as a sign that the bear had a ritual-symbolic function in the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture.
Balanovo burials (like the Middle Dnieper culture) were both of the flat and kurgan type, containing individual and also mass graves. The deceased were wrapped in animal skins or birch bark and placed into wooden burial chambers in subterranean rectangular pits. Burial goods depended on sex, age, and social position.
Copper axes primarily accompanied persons of high social position, stone axe-hammers were given to men, flint axes to children and women. Amulets are frequently found in the graves. Abashevo kurgans are unlike Fatyanovo flat cemeteries, although flat graves were a recognizable component of the Abashevo burial rite.
Numerous skeletons from Fatyanovo-Balanovo cemeteries show evidence of injury, including broken bones and smashed skulls. They were certainly a warlike people. It appears that they at one point were in serious conflict with people of the Abashevo culture.
Local metal objects of a Central European provenance type were present in the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture. That these metal objects were produced locally suggests the presence of skilled craftsmen. Copper ornaments and tools have been found in Balanovo burials (Chalcolithic). The Fatyanovo-Balanovo people exploited metal resources from the western Urals. Spearheads of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture are similar to those of the later Sintashta culture, although the Sintashta ones were larger.
Physical remains of people of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture have revealed that they were Europoids with dolichocephalic skulls. They were powerfully built. Fatyanovo–Balanovo skulls are very similar to those of the succeeding Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and Andronovo culture. Skulls of the Yamnaya culture and their direct descendants on the southern steppe are less dolichocephalic.
The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture is generally associated with Indo-European migrations. Fatyanovo migrations correspond to regions with hydronyms of a Baltic language dialect mapped by linguists as far as the Oka river and the upper Volga.
Thus, the migrations of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo people might have established pre-Baltic populations in the upper Volga basin. The pre-Slavs probably developed among those peoples of the Middle-Dnieper culture who stayed behind.
The Abashevo culture is an early Bronze Age (ca. 2500–1900 BCE) archaeological culture found in the valleys of the Volga and Kama River north of the Samara bend and into the southern Ural Mountains. It receives its name from the village of Abashevo in Chuvashia.
The Abashevo people are generally thought to the been Pre-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Indo-Iranian-speaking, and has been suggested as the source of Indo-Iranian loan-words into Uralic. It probably witnessed a bilingual population undergo a process of assimilation.
Tracing its origins in the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture, an eastern offshoot of the Corded Ware culture of Central Europe, the Abashevo culture is notable for its metallurgical activity and early use of the chariot. It eventually came to absorb the Volosovo culture.
The Abashevo culture is generally identified as pre-Indo-Iranian-speaking or Proto-Indo-Iranian-speaking. It played a major role in the development of the Sintashta culture and the Srubnaya culture.
The Abashevo culture is believed to have formed on the northern Don in the early 3rd millennium BC. It occupied part of the area of the earlier Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture, the eastern variant of the earlier Corded Ware culture.
Influences from further west played a decisive role in the formation of the Abashevo culture. It belongs to a circle of Central European cultures deriving from the Corded Ware culture. The peoples of this environment would eventually develop into Balts, Celts, Italic peoples, Germanic peoples and Slavs. It is from Central Europe that the Abashevo peoples ultimately originated.
Influences from the Yamnaya culture and Catacomb culture on the Abashevo culture are detected. The pre-eminent expert on the Abashevo culture, Anatoly Pryakhin, concluded that it originated from contacts between Fatyanovo-Balanovo, Catacomb and Poltavka peoples in the southern forest-steppe.
The Abashevo culture represents an extension of steppe culture into the forest zone. The Abashevo culture flourished in the forest steppe areas of the middle Volga and upper Don. The Abashevo culture appears to have absorbed parts of the Volosovo culture. Contacts with the Volosovo culture appears to have facilitated the spread pastoralism and metallurgy into northern forest cultures.
The easternmost sites of the Abashevo culture are located along the southern Urals. Those sites are associated with the origins of the Sintashta culture. The Abashevo culture is divided into a Don-Volga variant, a middle Volga variant and a southern Ural variant. On the northern Don, the Abashevo culture replaced the Catacomb culture. Along the middle Volga, it co-existed with the Poltavka culture.
Elena E. Kuzmina suggests that the Seima-Turbino phenomenon emerged as a result of interaction between the Abashevo culture, the Catacomb culture and the early Andronovo culture (2000–900 BC), a collection of similar local Bronze Age cultures that flourished c. in western Siberia and the central Eurasian Steppe.
Some researchers have preferred to term the Andronovo culture an archaeological complex or archaeological horizon. Most researchers associate the Andronovo horizon with early Indo-Iranian languages, though it may have overlapped the early Uralic-speaking area at its northern fringe.
The older Sintashta culture (2200–1800 BC), formerly included within the Andronovo culture, is now considered separately within Early Andronovo cultures. According to genetic study conducted by Allentoft et al. (2015), the Andronovo culture and the preceding Sintashta culture are partially derived from the Corded Ware culture, given the higher proportion of ancestry matching the earlier farmers of Europe, similar to the admixture found in the genomes of the Corded Ware population.
The type site of the Abashevo culture is at Abashevo, Chuvash Republic. More than two hundred settlements have been found. Some of them appear to have been occupied only briefly, and just two of them appear to have been fortified.
The Abashevo culture is primarily represented by various kurgan cemeteries. Kurgans were surrounded by a circular ditch, and the grave pit had ledges at its edges. The body was either contracted on the side, or supine with raised knees, with legs flexed.
Its funerary customs appear to have been derived from the Poltavka culture. Its inhumation practices in tumuli are similar to the Yamnaya culture and Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture.
Flat graves are a component of the Abashevo culture burial rite, as in the earlier Fatyanovo culture. The kurgans of the Abashevo culture are to be distinguished from the flat graves of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture. A well-known Abashevo kurgan in Pepkino contained the remains of twenty-eight males who appear to have died violent deaths.
Grave offerings are scant, little more than a pot or two usually a made with crushed-shell temper. Some graves show evidence of a birch bark floor and a timber construction forming walls and roof. High-status Abashevo graves contain silver and copper ornaments, and weapons. Crucibles for smelting copper and moulds for casting were found in some graves, most likely funerals reserved to bronzesmiths.
High-status Abashevo women are notable for wearing a distinctive type of headband with pendants made of copper and silver. These headbands are unique to the Abashevo culture, and are probably an ethnic marker and symbol of political status.
The diadems of the Abashevo women are very similar to those of elite women in Mycenaean Greece. Elena Efimovna Kuzmina cites this as evidence of cultural synchronization between these ancient cultures. Abashevo ceramics display influences from the Catacomb culture, which was located further south. Its ceramics in turn influence those of the Sintashta culture.
The Abashevo culture was an important center of metallurgy, as the southern Urals provided a major source of local copper. There is evidence of copper smelting, and the culture engaged in copper mining activities, which stimulated the formation of Sintashta metallurgy.
About half off Abashevo metal objects are of copper, while the other half is of bronze. Silver-bearing ores were also extracted, from which silver ornaments were made. Abashevo metal types, such as knives were very similar to those of the Catacomb culture and the Poltavka culture.
The economy of the Abashevo culture was mixed agriculture. Cattle, sheep, pig and goats, as well as other domestic animals were kept. Horses were evidently used, inferred by cheek pieces typical of neighboring steppe cultures and Mycenaean Greece. Stone grinders and metal sickles are evidences of agriculture.
The population of Sintashta derived their stock-breeding from Abashevo. Abashevo cattle was of the Ukrainian Grey type, and this cattle had previously been raised among earlier Neolithic cultures of the Pontic steppe and along the Danube. This type of cattle was later adopted by the Sintashta culture and the Srubnaya culture.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Abashevo society was intensely warlike. Mass graves reveal that inter-tribal battles involved hundreds of warriors of both sides, which indicates a significant degree of inter-regional political integration. Warfare appears to have been more frequent in the late Abashevo period, and it was in this turbulent environment in which the Sintashta culture emerged.
Physical remains of the Abashevo people has revealed that they were Europoids with dolichocephalic skulls. Abashevo skulls are very similar to those of the preceding Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, and the succeeding Sintashta culture, Andronovo culture and Srubnaya culture, while differing from those of the Yamnaya culture, Poltavka culture, Catacomb culture and Potapovka culture, which although being of a similar robust Europoid type, are less dolichocephalic. The physical type of Abashevo, Sintashta, Andronovo and Srubnaya is later observed among the Scythians.
The Abashevo culture is closely associated with the Sintashta culture, and must have played a role in its origin. The Sintashta culture however differs from the Abashevo culture through having fortified settlements, conducting large-scale animal sacrifices, and in its metal types and ornaments.
Continuity between the Abashevo culture and the later Srubnaya culture have been pointed out. Along with the Potapovka culture, the Abashevo culture is considered an ancestor of the Srubnaya culture. The Potapovka culture itself emerged from the Poltavka culture with influences from the Abashevo culture.
Volosovo culture is an archaeological culture that followed the Neolithic Pit-marked pottery culture (Balakhna). The archaeological assemblage identified with this culture is related to the finds from the middle Volga and Kama basin, indicating that they originated from the east.
Volosovo culture emerged sometime between the third and fourth millennium B.C. and lasted until the second millennium BC. A more specific estimate was the period between 1800 and 1500 BC, overlapping with the Early Bronze Age Fatyanovo culture. The people of the Volosovo culture has been described as forest foragers.
The Volosovo culture was discovered in the 1900s. Like other groups with forest origin such as the Garin-Bor and other northern cultures, the Volosovo lived in the forest steppes of the Volga-Ural region, particularly the area of the present-day Samara oblast.
The habitations of the Volosovo culture were often found within the vicinity of lakes and rivers such as the Oka River. Specific sites include those in central Russia, the Middle and Lower Oka, Lower Kama, and Middle Volga. The culture also inhabited the Veletma River area adjacent to Murom, a city that is part of Vladimir Oblast.
Since the discovery of the Volosovo culture, it has been investigated extensively but it remains controversial due to some unresolved aspects, particularly the chronology of its history, cultural attributes, origin, and ethnic affiliations. For example, it was believed that Volosovo was a separate cultural entity but other studies show that it is related to cultures associated with the Volga and Kama basin.
The stone and ceramic artifacts that are used to describe the Volosovo culture were from the semisubterranean dwellings, which are often situated in river floors and within the area of lakes. These dwellings have lower and upper cultural layers.
The artifacts found in the lower layer indicates a cultural affinity with the Russian Pit-marked Pottery culture called Balakhna. The upper level, which is considered the actual Volosovo phase, included ceramics that were distinct from the pit-marked pottery as well as those attributed to contemporaneous cultures such as the Fatyanovo culture.
Based on excavated artifacts, the Volosovo culture first used stones and bone tools and were particularly adept at bone carving and sculpture. A small art emerged, one that has been considered rich and diverse as demonstrated by the varied flaked flint sculptures that represented the human form. This phenomenon was distinguished from what manifested in the Tokareva culture.
The culture transitioned out of the Neolithic Age and abandoned its stone and bone technologies after learning early metal working. Later in its development, an early form of agriculture emerged with evidence of domestic animals.
Discovered cranial and long bones of a primitive turbary dog, for example, showed improved animal breeding. However, the culture still favored foraging, hunting, and fishing. It is suggested that there emerged an animal cult among the Volosovo population after 1500 BCE as evidenced by the use of animal teeth and bones on ornaments such as necklaces.
According to this theory, bears were worshiped for their power while dogs and pigs were revered for their economic value. A late Volosovo culture emerged later on and this phase was associated with the sites located in the upper Volodary and Panfilovo.
There is evidence that the Volosovo culture had extensive contacts with other cultures such as the Balanovo culture, a group considered to be the metal-working aspect of the eastern Fatyanovo. This is also demonstrated by the existence of Fatyanovo ceramics in Volosovo sites as well as the discovery of Volosovo ceramics in Fatyanovo graves.
Evidence showed that the late Volosovo phase also had extensive contact with the Abashevo population, helping spread cattle-breeding economies as well as metallurgy among the northern forest cultures. There were also Volosovo populations that were absorbed into the Abashevo culture before 2500 BCE while others were moving north.
The Volosovo people also maintained contacts with linguistic relatives who settled in Finland and Russian Karelia as well as Proto-Baltic speakers, who were later absorbed into the culture.
Globular Amphora Culture
The Globular Amphora Culture (GAC) (German: Kugelamphoren-Kultur (KAK); Russian: Культура шаровидных амфор, romanized: Kultura sharovidnykh amfor), c. 3400–2800 BC, is an archaeological culture in Central Europe.
Marija Gimbutas assumed an Indo-European origin, though this is contradicted by newer genetic studies which clearly show a connection to the earlier wave of Neolithic farmers rather than to invaders from the southern Russian steppes.
The GAC preceded the Corded Ware culture in its central area. Somewhat to the south and west, it was bordered by the Baden culture. To the northeast was the Narva culture. It occupied much of the same area as the earlier Funnelbeaker culture. The name was coined by Gustaf Kossinna because of the characteristic pottery, globular-shaped pots with two to four handles.
The Globular Amphora Culture was located in an area defined by the Elbe catchment on the west and that of the Vistula on the east, extending southwards to the middle Dniester and eastwards to reach the Dnieper.
West of the Elbe, some globular amphorae are found in megalithic graves. The GAC finds in the steppe area are normally attributed to a rather late expansion between 2950 and 2350 cal. BC from a centre in Wolhynia and Podolia.
The economy was based on raising a variety of livestock, pigs particularly in its earlier phase, in distinction to the Funnelbeaker culture’s preference for cattle. Settlements are sparse, and these normally just contain small clusters pits. No convincing house-plans have yet been excavated. It is suggested that some of these settlements were not year-round, or may have been temporary.
The GAC is primarily known from its burials. Inhumation was in a pit or cist. A variety of grave offerings were left, including animal parts (such as a pig’s jaw) or even whole animals, e.g., oxen. Grave gifts include the typical globular amphorae and stone axes. There are also cattle-burials, often in pairs, accompanied by grave gifts. There are also secondary burials in Megalithic graves.
The inclusion of animals in the grave is seen as an intrusive cultural element by Marija Gimbutas. The practice of suttee, hypothesized by Gimbutas is also seen as a highly intrusive cultural element.
The supporters of the Kurgan hypothesis point to these distinctive burial practices and state this may represent one of the earliest migrations of Indo-Europeans into Central Europe. In this context and given its area of occupation, this culture has been claimed as the underlying culture of a Germanic-Baltic-Slavic continuum.
In a 2017 genetic study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the fifteen samples of mtDNA was extracted. The majority of the samples belonged to subclades of U and Haplogroup H (mtDNA), while J, W and K was also detected.
The remains were found to closely related to Neolithic European farmers and Western Hunter-Gatherers, with little genetic relations to the Yamnaya culture in the east. The authors of the study suggested that the Globulara Amphora culture was non-Indo-European-speaking, but with cultural influences from Yamnaya.
A February 2018 study published in Nature included an analysis of eight males of the Globular Amphora culture. Three of them carried haplogroup I2a2a1b and a subclade of it; two carried I2a2; one carried I2; one carried BT and one carried CT.
In a 2019 genetic study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 15 skeletons from the Koszyce mass grave in southern Poland, which is ascribed to the Globular Amphora culture.
The individuals were all shown to be members of an extended family, and to have been buried with great care by someone who knew them very well. Most of them were female and children. All had been executed by a violent blow to the head, perhaps by invading Corded Ware groups.
The older males of the family are missing from the grave, suggesting that they were away or had fled. Of the eight samples of Y-DNA extracted, all were found to belong to I2a-L801. The fifteen samples of mtDNA extracted belonged to various subclades of T, H, J, K, HV.
The skeletons were determined to have about 70% Neolithic farmer ancestry and 30% Western Hunter-Gatherer ancestry, meaning they had no steppe ancestry. The archaeological and genetic evidence collected from the grave indicated that the Globular Amphora culture was patriarchal and kinship-oriented, which appears to have been the norm for Late Neolithic communities in Central Europe.
The phylogeny of N1c1 shows that the split between Balto-Finnic and Uralic (including Ugric) peoples took place around 4400 years ago, downstream of the L1026 mutation, almost exactly at the start of the Kiukainen culture. Modern Baltic people have a roughly equal proportion of haplogroup N1c1 and R1a, resulting from this merger of Proto-Uralic and Northeast Indo-European populations.
The Uralic branch (Z1934) formed first, around 4200 years ago, followed by the Ugric branch (Y13850) and eventually the Balto-Finnic branch (VL29) 3600 years ago. The latter immediately split between the Chudes (CTS9976), to the east, and the Balto-Finns (L550) to the west. The Fennoscandians (Y4706) and Balts (M2783) bifurcated around 2600 years ago.
Lamnidis et al. 2018 tested six 3500 year-old individuals from the Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia and identified the two male samples as members of N1c-L392. They were all autosomally close to modern Uralic people from the Volga-Ural region and possessed typically Uralic mtDNA lineages (C4b, D4e4, T2d1b1, U4a1, U5a1d, Z1a1a).
A small percentage of N1c1 is found among all Slavic, Scandinavian populations, as well as in most of Germany (except the north-west). Its origin is uncertain at present, but it most probably spread with the Iron Age and early Medieval (Proto-)Slavic tribes from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine toward East Germany.
The Baltic Finnic branch appears to have evolved from the migration of the N1c1a1a1 (VL29) subclade from the Volga-Ural region to Karelia, Finland and Estonia. VL29 and its subclades are also the variety of N1c1 found in Balto-Slavic populations, confirming that the R1a branch of Indo-Europeans absorbed and later spread N1c1 lineages around central and eastern Europe.
Sampled Bell Beakers of the Silesian group (ca. 2450–2050 BC) show a mean of ca. 43% Steppe ancestry: two samples from Kornice, one of hg. R1b1a1b-M269; one from Jordanów Śląski, of hg. R1b1a1b1a1a2b-U152; one from Żerniki Wielkie; and one of Strachów.
Three Bell Beakers of the Vistula group from Samborzec (ca. 2450–2150 BC) have ca. 46% Steppe ancestry, all showing hg. R1b1a1b-M269, one of them R1b1a1b1a1a-L151, and one R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 subclade (Olalde et al. 2018).
The influence of Mierzanowice–Nitra (with strong Carpathian influence) in the later formation of Trzciniec and Lusatian groups may justify the existence of stronger Balkan-related influences in Proto-Balto-Slavic compared to other North-West Indo-European dialects. The presence of hg. R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 in the area before the emergence of the likely Proto-Balto-Slavic community further attests to such interaction around the Carpathians.
This period of dominance of R1b1a1b-M269 lineages with Bell Beakers was partially interrupted by the resurgence of previous lineages and Steppe ancestry (ca. 57%) during the Bronze Age in Upper Silesia (ca. 2290–2040 BC), in the previous area of the Bell Beaker Silesian groups: one sample from Dzielnica, of hg. R1a1a-M198, corresponds to the cultural transformation from Bell Beaker into the Chłopice–Veselé culture; one sample of the Chłopice–Veselé culture from Racibórz-Stara Wieś, near Kornice, of hg. R1b1a1b1a-L51; and a female from Iwiny (Olalde et al. 2018).
An EBA sample from Gustorzyn in the Kuyavian area (ca. 2015–1775 BC), belonging to the Iwno or Proto-Trzciniec stage, clusters closely with previous late Corded Ware samples from the area (Fernandes et al. 2018), and shows haplogroup R1a1a1b1a2-Z280, subclade R1a1a1b1a2c-S24902+ (formed ca. 2600 BC, TMRCA ca. 2400 BC). The wide distribution of this subclade from west to east Europe points to its expansion earlier with Corded Ware groups, as suggested by its early split.
Samples from the Turlojiškė complex in south-west Lithuania, tentatively attributed to the late Trzciniec culture (common range ca. 1200–500 BC), show admixture of Baltic Late Neolithic population with WHG and Baltic hunter-gatherers, clustering closely to Latvian samples from Kivutkalns and to modern Lithuanians and Estonians, slightly to the north of modern eastern Europeans.
Samples include three of hg. R1a1a1b-Z645, including one subclade of hg. R1a1a1b1a2a-Z92 (YP617+)+ (formed ca. 1400 BC, TMRCA ca. 1400 BC). The distribution of R1a1a1b1a2a-Z92 (formed ca. 2600 BC, TMRCA ca. 2500 BC) mainly among modern Fennoscandian peoples and northern Russians, and the ancient cluster formed with other Baltic peoples, points to the relationship of this haplogroup with the eastern Baltic rather than with the Trzciniec culture.
Since both territories of the Trzciniec culture sampled lie each at one edge of its east–west territory, and no sample can be clearly attributed to the culture (one is too early, the other too late), the overall genetic picture of the culture remains unclear.
However, the presence of one clear outlier in Baltic Bronze Age samples from Turlojiškė (ca. 1075 BC) supports the close contacts of this area with central Europe, most likely facilitated by the Trzciniec culture, which can then be classified as genetically central European rather than Baltic-like, consistent with its cultural influences.
These and later interactions with peoples of the Battle Axe culture reveal the origin of long-term Balto-Slavic–Finno-Permic contacts, including the likely evolution of North-West Indo-European-like Pre-Balto-Slavic phonology derived from Finno-Permic bilingual speakers becoming eventually Balto-Slavic speakers.
It is therefore likely that the central European-like ancestry of Iwno–Trzciniec became even more western European with the expansion of the Lusatian culture, under the influence of the Tumulus and Urnfield cultures.
Even though there is no sampling of the Lusatian culture yet, the Urnfield samples from the Lichtenstein Cave in Saxony-Anhalt (ca. 1000– 00 BC) lie close to the culture’s border, and they show a mixed society including probably ten individuals of hg. I2a1b2-L621, one R1a1a1b-Z645, and one R1b1a1b1a-L23, as is expected from a developing Balto-Slavic community in the east, based on findings among early Slavs.
Chemical traces suggest that warriors from Tollense close to the Lusatian culture territory, came from far away, with only a few showing values typical of the northern European plain. While the majority of sampled individuals fall within the variation of contemporary northern central European, but slightly shifted to EHG populations, there are some outliers closer to Neolithic LBK and modern Basques, suggesting that central and western European EBA cultures were still at that time closely interconnected.
The renewed contacts of the Late Bronze age between the British Isles, Iberia, Sardinia, and Scandinavia, apparent in the pan-European warrior symbolism—such as bi-horned warriors and their presence in rock art panels—likely relied on close and direct human interaction, continuing thus the connections created during the Bell Beaker expansion a thousand years earlier.
The east-central European origin of Balto-Slavic peoples during the Bronze Age seems thus to be supported by the findings of the Tollense valley, where most sampled warriors cluster closely to modern northern-central Europeans, including East Germans, Austrians, and West Slavic populations.
The prehistorical regions of interaction formed by Únětice–Mierzanowice, Tumulus–Trzciniec, and Urnfield–Lusatian cultures are thus the best candidates for the ancestral Balto-Slavic community, as is the partial continuity in lineages under I2a1b2-L621 and R1a1a1b1a1a-M458 in early Slavs.
The nature of Balto-Slavic peoples as stemming from an east-central European population, initially not related to Corded Ware-related ancestry, is more clearly seen in the genetic shift from the Corded Ware population—originally linked to Uralic-speaking peoples—towards a central European cluster in the late Trzciniec outlier and early Slavs (see below), continued today in modern West Slavs.
This cluster is also close to the only available samples from ancient east-central Europe: a late Corded Ware/Proto-Únětice sample and the two Iwno/Proto-Trzciniec samples. The multiple documented migrations of steppe-related peoples to the west, and the hypothesised alternative origin of the Slavic expansion near the north Pontic area should have shifted early Slavs genetically from a Corded Ware cluster to the east, and not—as these ancient samples and Modern Slavs show—to the west.
This east-central European origin stemming ultimately from the Bell Beaker expansion is also supported by the sizeable presence of varied R1b1a1b1-L23 subclades (ca. 10-30%) in Slavs of east-central Europe and among Balts, in contrast to the bottlenecks seen in some East Slavic (under typically Finno-Ugric R1a1a1b1a2a-Z92 subclades) and South Slavic groups (under typically Balkan subclades). The simplistic attribution of these varied R1b1a1b1-L23 lineages to recently acculturated “Germanic” or “Celtic” peoples must be, therefore, rejected.
There is a great degree of genetic continuity in modern Baltic-speaking peoples with the Bronze Age population of the area (Mittnik, Wang, et al. 2018), which suggests either an infiltration of peoples of Lusatian origin in the Pomeranian and related West-Baltic culture of cairns and admixture with locals, or rather an earlier infiltration through the Trzciniec culture, as evidenced by the Bronze Age outlier.
In fact, we could tentatively identify the infiltration of Proto-East Baltic peoples among Baltic populations—hence retaining mainly their ‘eastern’ male R1a1a1b1a2-Z280 lines—with late Trzciniec, and a slightly later arrival of Proto-West Baltic peoples with the West-Baltic culture of cairns and possibly more R1a1a1b1a1a-M458 lineages, which would fit their ancestral split.
Before the migration period, Baltic peoples probably bordered Finno-Permic tribes around the Upper Daugava and the Upper Dnieper, even though studied hydronyms show that Finno-Permic names reached the Lower Daugava, too.
The Late Dyakovo culture (ca. AD 3rd–7th c.) and the Long Barrow culture (ca. AD 5th–10th c.) probably represent the continuation of the previous Dnieper–Dvina culture as West Uralic in nature, the proto-historical Chudes, at the same time as the Scratched Surface Ceramics typical of Baltic countries influenced the western areas, likely representing incoming Eastern Balts. The Long Barrow culture was also influenced in a later period by East Slavs from the south.
The Kolochin material culture was a transformation of the old Kyiv culture (Kobyliński 2005), but evidence of Baltic river names in the region has made some propose an original Baltic occupation (Mallory and Adams 1997) before the East Slavic migration.
Indeed, Baltic peoples have been found to be genetically the closest to East Slavs, which is compatible with Baltic- and Finno-Permic speaking peoples undergoing a cultural assimilation (‘Slavicisation’) with the East Slavic expansion, evidenced by a stronger influence of Finno-Permic on Slavic than on Proto-East Baltic or Proto-West Baltic.
A precise analysis of a temporal transect of Finno-Ugric and Baltic populations would be necessary to discern which R1a1a1b-Z645 (and N1a1a1a1a-L392) subclades may have been associated with which migrations and expansions in north-eastern Europe.
The division of historical Slavic tribes in territories and cultures of the AD 5th–7th centuries remains a hotly debated topic (Curta 2001), and the adoption or introduction of Slavic in east-central and eastern Europe is impossible to pinpoint with precision, despite commonly accepted views such as the link to the Prague-Korchak culture.
Nevertheless, this culture is believed by German archaeologists to have come to east-central Europe from the south, not from the east, while archaeological influences seen in the east seem to have come from the Middle Danube to the Middle Dnieper, and not in the opposite direction (Curta 2019).
For the expansion of Slavonic, some have proposed the model of a koiné, others that of a lingua franca, the latter most likely used within the Avar polity during the last century of its existence.
The most acceptable model today is that Proto-Slavic movements may have been initially triggered by Germanic migrations, spreading thus from a tiny region close to the West Baltic (based on its connection with Baltic languages).
Common Slavic must have spread closer to the Carpathians in the second half of the first millennium, with the first unequivocal historic attestations appearing around the Middle Danube.
Early Slavic is known to have spread differently in the different regions: the sparsely populated area in the north-west was probably subjected to migration; the east shows mainly assimilation and language shift among Finno-Ugric groups; and the south-east might show a more complex scenario, involving both phenomena, migration and language shift.
Two females of the Avar culture in Szólád (AD 540–640) are genetically similar to modern eastern Europeans: one clusters between modern Russians, Ukrainians and Latvians (consistent with the contacts of Avars in their migrations through eastern Europe), and one closer to Poles (consistent with the admixture of Slavs, of a more western cluster); both suggest thus a rapid population turnover after the Migration Period.
Two Early West Slavic females from Bohemia (ca. AD 600–900) cluster with modern Czechs, western Poles, and eastern Germans, suggesting a great degree of continuity among West Slavic populations since the Middle Ages.
The complex nature of early Slavonic ethnicity is also reflected in the varied haplogroups among early Slavs: Two West Slavs from Niemcza, Silesia (AD 900–1000) show hg. I2a1b2-L621 and J2a1a-L26; one from Markowice, Greater Poland (AD 1000–1200) shows hg. I1a2a2a5-Y5384 (Stolarek et al. 2018); two from Usedom, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (AD 1200), show hg. R1a1a1b1a1a-M458 and E1b1b-M215 (Freder 2010), and another one from Hrádek nad Nisou, in Northern Bohemia (ca. AD 1330), also shows E1b1b-M215 (Vanek et al. 2015).
An early East Slavic individual from Sunghir (ca. AD 1100-1200), probably from the Vladimir-Suzdalian Rus’, shows hg. I2a1a2b1a1-CTS10228+ (formed ca. 3100 BC, TMRCA ca. 1800 BC), while the paternal lineage of Yaroslav Osmomysl, the Prince of Halych, has been reported to be E1b1b1a1b1a-V13.
The high variability in haplogroups, and the common finding of I2a1b2-L621 (likely I2a1a2b1a1-CTS10228) and E1b1b-M215 (likely E1b1b1a1b1a-V13) lineages in independent early Slavic samplings, apart from the prevalence of I2a1a2b1a1-CTS10228 among modern South Slavs, and their sizeable presence among West Slavs, supports that the current distribution of R1a1a1b1a-Z282 lineages in Slavic populations is mainly the product of recent bottlenecks. Individuals of hg. E1b1b1a1b1a-V13 and I2a1b2-L621 among Hungarian Conquerors and Early Hungarians support that these were originally paternal lines associated with early Slavs from the Carpathian Basin.
The shared E1b1b1a1b1a-V13 lineages from the West Baltic to the Balkans during the Iron Age would support an origin of the expansion around the Carpathians. The prevalence of this subclade among Rusyns (ca. 35%)—East Slavs from the Carpathians not associated with the Kievan Rus’ expansion—coupled with studies of Slavic toponymy, place the East Slavic homeland white accurately north of the Carpathians.
An individual of European admixture of the Golden Horde Mongol State, from Karasuyr, Kazakhstan (AD mid–13th c.)—buried together with a high status individual of East Asian ancestry and hg. C2-M217, both with buddhist customs (de Barros Damgaard, Marchi, et al. 2018)—clusters close to Baltic Bronze Age and Iron Age samples.
His haplogroup, R1a1a1b1a2a1a1a1-YP575 (formed ca. AD 250, TMRCA ca. AD 250), a subclade of hg. R1a1a1b1a2a-Z92, is also related to ancient north-eastern Europeans, and is present in modern populations from Fennoscandia and Eastern Europe.
This individual was probably related to early East Slavs from the region, hence a paternal line corresponding to acculturated Baltic Finns or Volga Finns, since it is generally accepted that Russians assimilated many Finno-Ugric groups of East Europe before the Slavonic migration to the area. Alternatively, he may have been himself the product of the eastern European slave trade that connected eastern Europe with Fennoscandia, although the features of the burial do not seem proper of a recent slave.
Both interpretations may explain the high Finno-Ugrian admixture found in the modern East Slavic populations, reflected in their eastern cluster in the PCA and in their prevalent R1a1a1b1a2a-Z92 subclades, which further supports the origin of early Slavs to the west. This Finno-Ugric origin of East Slavs, especially among the Kievan Rus’, is also supported in whole genomic studies of modern Russians.
The expansion of the Penkov culture in the Danube has been related to the expansion of South Slavic, although it was a culture most likely related to steppe nomads. Confusing accounts of the Byzantine Empire of the raids and migrations of a federation of tribes (the Antes and the Sklavenes) in their frontiers give a general idea of the complex interaction of different groups in the Balkans.
The prevalent distribution of hg. I2a1b2-L621 among modern South Slavic populations suggests a relevant role of Slavic migrations to the area, apart from recent bottlenecks.
The western Baltic and eastern European peaks in the modern distribution of R1a1a1b1a1a-M458 lineages (Underhill et al. 2015), especially R1a1a1b1a1a1-Y2604 (formed ca. 2700 BC, TMRCA ca. 2500 BC) with its main subclades R1a1a1b1a1a1c-CTS11962 (TMRCA ca. 1100 BC) and especially R1a1a1b1a1a1a-L260 (TMRCA ca. 500 BC), support west–east migrations of this lineage coinciding with the Late Bronze / Iron Age, potentially associated (at least in part) with Balto-Slavic movements.
On the other hand, subclades R1a1a1b1a1a1a1-YP256 (TMRCA ca. 200 BC) and R1a1a1b1a1a1a2-YP1337 (TMRCA ca. AD 450 BC) could be linked to Proto-Slavic migrations under these lineages during the Iron Age / Early Middle Ages.
This is also suggested by the presence of rare R1a1a1b1a1a-M458 subclades in modern Poles, and by the lack of this haplogroup to date in sampled north-eastern European (i.e. Finno-Ugric) and steppe (i.e. Indo-Iranian) peoples, contrasting with R1a1a1b1a2-Z280 lineages, which are found widespread in eastern Europe and Asia.
Certain R1a1a1b1a2-Z280 (xR1a1a1b1a2a-Z92) subclades have been proposed to be involved in early Slavic expansions; for example, R1a1a1b1a2b3a-CTS3402 (formed ca. 2200 BC, TMRCA ca. 2200 BC) is prevalent among R1a1a1b1a-Z282 subclades in modern Slovenians (Maisano Delser et al. 2018), and other subclades are also found among modern West, South, and East Slavic populations, as well as some modern central European peoples.
However, the widespread presence of R1a1a1b1a2b-CTS1211 and shared haplotypes in modern Finno-Ugrians on both sides of the Urals—including its presence among Hungarian Conquerors—suggest that this haplogroup was originally a Finno-Ugric paternal line, and many modern (especially East) Slavic R1a1a1b1a2b-CTS1211 lines are from recently acculturated Finno-Ugric populations in the past 1,000 years.
Nevertheless, some early subclades seem to have formed part of ancient east-central European populations, likely including Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic peoples close to the Baltic, before their expansions to the east and south, respectively.
Stone Age Poland
Bronze- and Iron-Age Poland
Poland in Antiquity
Poland in the Early Middle Ages
Eastern EEBA province
Main events in Lithuania’s history
Marija Gimbutas — The Balts
Marija Gimbutas. “A Survey Study of the Ancient Balts
Corded Ware Culture
Distribution of Haplogroup R1a
Distribution of Haplogroup R1a
Balto Slavic Language Region with Related Balto Slavic Bronze Age Cultures
The Red Spots Are Ancient Slavic Hydronyms
Eastern Europe – 750 BC
Ancient Baltic River Hydronyms
Baltic Tribes 1200 AD
Baltic tribes and Provinces 1200 AD
Grand Duchy of Lithuania 1300-1400 AD