Early Settlement

Understanding the population of Europe in prehistoric times relies on our knowledge of early human migrations. These movements can be tracked via specific genes that are transmitted from, a mother to all her offspring, the Maternal Line and, a father to all his sons, the Paternal Line.
Before the end of the ice age, various Maternal Lines can be traced to refuges around the perimeter, or the edge of the limits, of glaciation. The Seven Gardens of Eden Map Once the ice-cap melted these groups spread out and migrated in all directions populating as far as the far northern (Scandinavia) and western (British Isles) areas.
These Maternal Lines were closely related, they were female relatives and they descended mainly from the third known major Maternal Line, R as can be seen on this ‘tree’ diagram below:
File:MtDNA tree.jpg
The tree below shows the European Maternal Line ‘haplogroups’ in more detail:
Full-size image (23 K)
Figure 2. Schematic phylogeny of basal European mtDNA haplogroups.
This diagram shows how the different groups are distributed globally. Although the macro groups R and N are not shown they are represented by the two branching nodes on the left.
Fig. 3. Phylogenetic tree of human mtDNA haplogroups
Around 40-50% of European women are descended from H, called Helena, as can be seen shaded in blue on this map from the University of Illinois. Except for in the far north, Finland, where about 40% of Maternal Lines are U and 40% are V (an offshoot from H).
According to the movements of Paternal Lines, Europe was first populated by people from the Caucasus region. These cultures settled the Mediterranean and became highly advanced whilst elsewhere in west and central Europe the cultures were less advanced but nevertheless created some awe-inspiring megalithic structures, the largest of which is Stonehenge. Eupedia maps are a colourful way of understanding how these people spread into south Europe:
Map of early Neolithic cultures in Europe - Eupedia

Over time, a culture developed in east Europe, around the Balkans and Danube regions, that reached the very edge of ‘civilisation’ with advanced artistic skills, including gold and copper working, and pictographic symbols. These were the Cucuteni people whose culture lasted 1,500 years. Moving north from Turkey, they settled the south of Romania on the Danube River.

Map of late Neolithic cultures in Europe - Eupedia

Map of early Bronze Age cultures in Europe - Eupedia

During the Bronze Age, a second group of people who had come from Central Asia and settled on the Delta of the Danube river on the west coast of the Black Sea, and started to expand and gradually came to dominate the whole of Europe dividing into two groups in the west and east. Only Scandinavia and the Balkans retain today a significant proportion of descendants of the earlier groups. Whilst in the extreme west, the British Isles, the proportion of Bronze Age migrants reaches over 75% of men.

Tribes of Europe

The Bronze Age migrants formed a large culture in the centre of Europe from where they split into various groups or tribes – Celts in the west, Nordics in the north, Germans in the centre, Slavs in the east, and Italics in the south. More maps of the period from 2,500BCE to 1,000 BCE can be seen on this page, which also shows the spread of cultural groups on the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean, such as the Minoans, Mycenaeans, and Thracians that are familiar from Classical literature, and the Hittites in Asia Minor, and on the western edge of Mesopotamia the Assyrians and Egyptians. These cultures tend to be smaller than those of Europe where large scale homogeneous groups developed sharing many social customs.

The European tribes are distinguishable by their related langauges:


As the tree shows, Iranian and Indic languages are part of the same ‘family’ and the authors go on to say that, “One major view is that it was on the steppes of southern Russia north of the Caspian Sea, that successive migrations to the west brought speakers into Europe, others south into Anatolia, and south or southeast into Iran and India.” A more in-depth pre-history and history of these people in Iran is given by Dr Oric Basirov on the site of Kaveh Farrokh (and his site is a wealth of information also about distortions in contemporary historical-anthropological writings).

To the far northeast of Europe there was a third wave of migrants from north Asia who settled and are called the Ceramic Comb culture. These people came from a different ‘language group’ and spoke Uralic languages, that is languages that are spoken around the Ural mountains of north Asia. Finnish and Estonian are modern European Uralic languages, as is Hungarian (resulting from a much later migration from north Asia into Europe).

Much of what we know about the history of Europe tells the story of these tribes moving around and taking over each others’ territories. The Romans as we know were the best at this and managed to create an organised ‘state’ or ’empire’ stretching from Asia Minor to the British Isles. By the time of the Romans, the populations of southeast Europe were a mixture of the migration from the Caucasus and the migration from the Russian Steppe. Even today, south Europeans have an identity separate from north Europeans. North Europeans however tend to see themselves as either west European (Spanish, British, French, German), ‘nordic’ (Scandinavian and Baltic), or east European (Polish, Czech).  Southeast Europeans in the Balkans also increasingly identify as smaller ethnic groups such as Romanian or Balkan, and of course Hungarian.

Despite ethno-cultural differences, Europeans are a surprisingly homogeneous group, especially in the British Isles, and this is not difficult to understand when the world map is shown as a geographical plan rather than as a means to best see all countries – the Atlantic edge of Europe was a remote location to migrate to and unlike areas such as Asia Minor and Central Asia there was little to and fro migration, except within Europe itself, for many thousands of years:


And the pattern of European occupation also shows in the similarity of Paternal Line distribution in different countries.

Lastly, through all this flurry of genomic analysis, it has come to light that most members of the Royal Houses of Europe descended from the same Maternal and Paternal Lines that are dominant in the British Isles, R1b for men and H for women. In Scandinavia the royal men were also sometimes I, from the Caucasus migration. These families were in a quite literal sense, the tribal elders of Europe. A few European royal men were from a rare Paternal Line, T, which is also found in the Egyptian Pharaohs, and a few royal women were Z Maternal Line, also very rare but by coincidence I came across a blog written by a young Chinese man researching Evolutionary Biology and Comparative Genomics, who discovered that his mother was Z, and this rather inspiring photo from his blog seemed a fitting way to end this page!


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