A Summary of European Pre-History

If we look at Europe at around 6000 bc, we find several cultural groupings. Although we will never know what languages they spoke, we might make a few guesses:

By 5000 bc, the PIE people of the Balkans, benefiting from the farming techniques learned from the people of Greece and Anatolia, began to expand their range. Farming permitted larger collections of people in villages, and in turn could support larger populations overall. The hunter-gatherers of Europe were probably both pushed further east, west, and north, or absorbed by the PIE  farmers. Conflicts between bands and tribes are also likely.
Around 4000 bc, we see the following cultures:
Around 3000 bc, we see the following cultures develop:
Following 2000 bc, the following cultures evolve:

And beyond:


The relationships among culture, language, and genetics are not terribly strong. I believe that groups of people picked up technologies from other groups without reservations, and probably weren't too hesitant to try out new stylistic changes either. Language is not so easily shared, but the constant exchange of spouses (predominantly women) among bands and tribes probably lead at least to changes in language, if not straight-forward adoption. And genetics is susceptible to a variety of influences such as the founder effect, bottlenecks, genetic drift, and sexual selection, that can easily lead to a detachment of genetic heritage from cultural or linguistic heritage.

There are many theories about the evolution of language in Europe:

My theory (admittedly that of an amateur!) is that all of these are, in part, correct. I suggest that there were actually five linguistic areas at the end of the ice age: the Atlantic area (Spain, Portugal, France), the area of the Cardial pottery (Italy and the east coast of the Adriatic), the Aegean area (Greece, Crete, Cyprus), the Proto-Uralic area (Finland, the Baltic area, and northern Russia), and the PIE area (central Europe, from the Balkans to Denmark, and the Ukraine - but not yet Anatolia).

The PIE people were among the earliest to domesticate the horse, adopt farming from the Middle-East, and adopt metal-working. The combination of these probably allowed them to expand, demographically and culturally, at the expense of the other groups.

As far as genetics is concerned, there is some overlap between these linguistic and cultural areas and modern yDNA: The Atlantic area is predominantly R1b; the Cardial area may have begun with the E haplogroup in northern Greece, southern Albania, and may have originated in the area around Lebanon; the Aegean area is J2 (common in much of the Middle East, including the Caucasus and Anatolia); the proto-Uralic is mostly N; and the PIE area is composed of I2 in the Balkans, I1 in Scandinavia, and R1a in eastern Europe. mtDNA in Europe shows rather little in the way of clustering. Unfortunately, what little is known about ancient DNA suggests that early Europeans didn't really have that much in common with modern Europeans!

Turning to general physical characteristics, the ancient people of the Mediterranean, who represented themselves as having predominantly light brown skin, dark hair, and dark eyes, repeatedly comment on the pale skin, blond and red hair, and blue eyes of their northern neighbors. But before anyone is tempted by theories of an "Aryan" people, these qualities are common among R1b, I2, I1, N, and R1a yDNA, i.e. go well beyond any hypothetical range of PIE tribes. None are carried by the Y chromosome (nor in the mitochondria).

© 2013, C. George Boeree