Europeans Are Mixed

Or in more informal terms, honkies are mutts.

The three migrations that populated Europe were:

  • Paleolithic: likely from the Middle East.
  • Neolithic: from Anatolia (Turkey) in the Middle East, by farmers.
  • Steppe: from the South European Russian part of the steppe (grassland) zone, by users of domestic horses and wheeled vehicles. These migrants took the Indo-European languages with them, spreading them over Europe and southern Asia.

Paleolithic

The first modern-human inhabitants of Europe arrived in around 45,000 BP (Before Present). They followed the rivers, like the Danube from the Black Sea to central Europe. Neanderthals were already there, and the two species coexisted for about 5,000 years before the Neanderthals went extinct.

This population had a population bottleneck around 27,000 BP, but recovered. They hunted the numerous large animals, like mammoths, horses, reindeer, and aurochsen (ancestors of domestic bovines), and they made paintings and engravings of their prey. Around 14,000 BP, the continental glaciers melted a bit, and these people moved northward, sometimes settling in “Mesolithic” villages. One of them was at Lepenski Vir, on the Danube, some 9,000 – 7,000 BP. The people there largely ate fish. Much like the Pacific Northwest people, which also lived in settled communities, and which also ate a lot of fish.

Neolithic

Then the Neolithic. Agriculture was first invented in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle east around 11,500 BP or 9,500 BCE, and early farmers spread from there westward into Anatolia (Turkey) and from there to Europe. They arrived in Greece around 6800 BCE, in Spain and central Europe around 5200 BCE, and in Britain and Scandinavia around 4000 BCE. These people created numerous ring structures in central Europe, notably the Goseck Circle for marking out the seasons, and they created passage tombs like Newgrange in Ireland.

Some surviving Neolithic-farmer genetic material has been discovered. It was preserved in a small inner-ear bone called the petrous bone, the densest bone in the body. This discovery has settled a long-argued controversy. Did agriculture spread by farmers bringing it? Did it spread from people learning it from their neighbors? Some mixture? Archeologists like to warn that pots are not people.

As they spread over Europe, they did not mix very much with the local population, a rather curious oddity.

Steppe

Some 5500 years ago, the Yamnaya or Yamna people lived in the Eastern European – Central Asian steppe belt, inhabiting western Ukraine, southern European Russia, and Kazakhstan. They spread outward from there, notably westward into Europe and founding the Corded Ware culture of central Europe.

Thriving Neolithic settlements shrank or disappeared, and when settlements reappeared some 500 years later, they were culturally very different. However, there is little evidence of violence, and a favorite hypothesis nowadays is that the steppe people were carriers of Yersinia pestis, the bubonic-plague organism.

Turning to Indo-European, it was long known that some languages are descended from others. In particular, the Romance languages of medieval and modern Europe were rather obviously descended from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. Several similar families were identified, like Germanic and Slavic, though with unrecorded ancestors, and by the early nineteenth century, a larger family that contained them was identified: Indo-European.

  • The Numbers List by Mark Rosenfelder – includes Proto-Indo-European, the reconstructed ancestor
  • Schleicher’s fable – Wikipedia – “The Sheep and the Horses” – a short-short story in Proto-Indo-European, with different linguists’ versions showing differences in opinion about various features of this reconstructed language.

Much of what is known or plausibly reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is not very culturally revealing, outside of providing clues to its history. It does not tell us much that PIE had words for body parts, common natural phenomena, common qualities, and common actions.

But PIE had words for various domestic animals: dog, cow, sheep, pig, horse, and words for wheel, axle, yoke, and to transport by vehicle. These words are consistent with the steppe people’s technology but not with previous people’s technology.

Who got what contribution?

Looking at the estimated fractions of contributions of each of these three populations, one can recognize a pattern.

  • Paleolithic populations make a small but usually nonzero contribution everywhere.
  • Southern Europeans are largely Neolithic people.
  • Northern and Eastern Europeans are largely steppe people.

Genetic work has been untangling the histories of other human populations. The people of the Indian Subcontinent have a similar mixed heritage, for instance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: