Prehistoric Europe is the designation for the period of human presence in Europe before the start of recorded history, beginning in the Lower Paleolithic. As history progresses, considerable regional irregularities of cultural development emerge and increase. The region of the eastern Mediterranean is, due to its geographic proximity, greatly influenced and inspired by the classical Middle Eastern civilizations, and adopts and develops the earliest systems of communal organization and writing. The Histories of Herodotus (from around 440 BC) is the oldest known European text that seeks to systematically record traditions, public affairs and notable events. In contrast, the European regions furthest away from the ancient centers of civilization tended to be the slowest, regarding acculturation. In Northern and Eastern Europe in particular, writing and systematic recording was only introduced in the context of Christianization, after 1000 CE.
humans emerge in Europe
|Lower Paleolithic||Homo antecessor|
|Middle Paleolithic||Homo neanderthalensis|
|Upper Paleolithic||Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens|
|Mesolithic||Homo sapiens population of all regions|
|Neolithic||Homo sapiens Proto-farmers,|
|Bronze Age||Minoan Crete, Mycenaean Greece|
|Iron Age||Greece, Rome |
Iberians, Germanic tribes
Widely dispersed, isolated finds of individual fossils of bone fragments (Atapuerca, Mauer mandible), stone artifacts or assemblages that suggest Lower Paleolithic palaeo-human presence are rare and typically separated by thousands of years. The karstic region of the Atapuerca Mountains in Spain represents the currently earliest known and reliably dated location of residence for more than a single generation and a group of individuals. Prolonged presence has been attested for Homo antecessor (or Homo erectus antecessor, Homo heidelbergensis and Neanderthals.
Homo neanderthalensis emerged in Eurasia between 350,000 and 600,000 years ago as the earliest body of European people, that left behind a substantial tradition, a set of evaluable historic data through rich fossil record in Europe's limestone caves and a patchwork of occupation sites over large areas, including Mousterian cultural assemblages. Modern humans arrived in Mediterranean Europe during the Upper Paleolithic between 45,000 and 43,000 years ago, and both species occupied a common habitat for several thousand years. Research has so far produced no universally accepted conclusive explanation as to what caused the Neanderthal's extinction between 40,000 and 28,000 years ago.
Homo sapiens subsequently proceeded to populate the entire continent during the Mesolithic and advanced north, following the retreating ice sheets of the last glacial maximum. A 2015 publication on ancient European DNA collected from Spain to Russia concluded that the original hunter-gatherer population had assimilated a wave of "farmers" who had arrived from the Near East during the Neolithic about 8,000 years ago.
The Mesolithic era site Lepenski Vir in modern day Serbia, the earliest documented sedentary community of Europe with permanent buildings as well as monumental art precedes sites previously considered to be the oldest known by many centuries. The community's year round access to a food surplus prior to the introduction of agriculture was the basis for the sedentary lifestyle However, the earliest record for the adoption of elements of farming can be found in Starčevo, a community with close cultural ties.
Belovode and Pločnik, also in Serbia, is currently the oldest reliably dated copper smelting site in Europe (around 7,000 years ago). Attributed to the Vinča culture, which on the contrary provides no links to the initiation of or a transition to the Chalcolithic or Copper age.
The process of smelting bronze is an imported technology with debated origins and history of geographic cultural profusion. It established in Europe about 3200 BC in the Aegean and production was centered around Cyprus, the primary source of copper for the Mediterranean for many centuries.
The introduction of metallurgy which initiated unprecedented technological progress has also been linked with the establishment of social stratification and distinction between rich and poor and precious metals as the means to fundamentally control the dynamics of culture and society.
The European Iron Age culture also originates in the East through the absorption of the technological principles obtained from the Hittites about 1200 BC, finally arriving in Northern Europe by 500 BC.
During the Iron Age, Central, Western and most of Eastern Europe gradually entered the historical period. Greek maritime colonization and Roman terrestrial conquest form the basis for the diffusion of literacy in large areas to this day. This tradition continued in an altered form and context for the most remote regions (Greenland and Old Prussians, 13th century) via the universal body of Christian texts, including the incorporation of Eastern European Slavic people and Russia into the Orthodox cultural sphere. Latin and ancient Greek language continued to be the primary and best way to communicate and express ideas in Liberal arts education and the sciences all over Europe until the early modern period.
|Dmanisi skull 5||Homo erectus||1.77 Mio||Dmanisi||"early Homo adult with small brains but large body mass"|
|Lézignan-la-Cèbe||Lithic Assemblage||1.57 Mio||Lézignan-la-Cébe||a 30 pebble culture, lithic tools, argon dated|
|Kozarnika||limestone cave||1.4 Mio||Kozarnika|
|Orce fossil||cranial fragment||1.3 Mio||Venta Micena||most finds are stone tools|
|Pleistocene mandibel||Homo antecessor||1.3 Mio||Atapuerca Mountains|
|Mauer 1||Homo heidelbergensis||600,000||Mauer||earliest Homo heidelbergensis|
|Boxgrove Man||Homo heidelbergensis||500,000||Boxgrove|
|Tautavel Man||Homo erectus||450,000||Tautavel||proposed subspecies|
|Swanscombe Man||Homo heidelbergensis||400,000||Swanscombe||north-western habitat maximum|
|Schöningen Spears||wooden javelins||380,000||Schoningen 1995||active hunt|
The climatic record of the Paleolithic is characterized by the Pleistocene pattern of cyclic warmer and colder periods, including eight major cycles and numerous shorter episodes. The northern maximum of human occupation fluctuated in response to these changing conditions and successful settlement required constant adaption capabilities and problem solving. Most of Scandinavia, the North European Plain and Russia remained off limits for occupation during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic.
Associated evidence, such as stone tools, artifacts and settlement localities is more numerous than fossilized remains of the hominin occupants themselves. The simplest pebble tools with a few flakes struck off to create an edge were found in Dmanisi, Georgia and in Spain at sites in the Guadix-Baza basin and near Atapuerca. These Oldowan tool discoveries, called Mode 1-type assemblages are gradually replaced by a more complex tradition, that included a range of hand axes and flake tools, the Acheulean, Mode 2-type assemblages. Both types of tool sets are attributed to Homo erectus, the earliest and for a very long time the only human in Europe and more likely to be found in the southern part of the continent. However, the Acheulean fossil record also links to the emergence of Homo heidelbergensis, and particularly its specific lithic tools and handaxes. Homo heidelbergensis presence is documented since 600,000 BP in numerous sites in Germany, Great Britain and northern France.
The fact that Homo neanderthalensis is only to be found in a contiguous range of presence in Eurasia and the general acceptance of the Out of Africa hypothesis suggests that the species has evolved locally. Again, consensus prevails on this matter, widely debated are origin and evolution patterns. Neanderthal fossil record ranges from Western Europe to the Altai Mountains in Central Asia and the Ural Mountains in the North to the Levant in the South. Unlike its predecessors they were biologically and culturally adapted to survival in cold environments and successfully extended their range to the glacial environments of central Europe and the Russian plains. The great number and in some cases exceptional state of preservation of Neanderthal fossils and cultural assemblages enables researchers to provide a detailed and accurate data on behavior and culture. Neanderthals are associated with the Mousterian culture (Mode 3), stone tools that first appeared approximately 160.000 years ago.
Homo sapiens arrived in Europe around 45,000 and 43,000 years ago via the Levant and entered the continent through the Danubian corridor as the fossils at Peștera cu Oase suggest. These fossils' genetic structure, that indicates a recent Neanderthal ancestry and the discovery of a fragment of a skull in Israel in 2008 support the notion that humans interbred with Neanderthals in the Levant.
After the slow processes of the previous hundreds of thousands of years a turbulent period of Neanderthal – Homo sapiens coexistence demonstrated, that cultural evolution had replaced biological evolution as the primary force of adaptation and change in human societies.
Generally small and widely dispersed fossil sites suggest, that Neanderthals lived in less numerous and socially more isolated groups than Homo sapiens. Tools and Levallois points are remarkably sophisticated from the outset, yet they have a slow rate of variability and general technological inertia is noticeable during the entire fossil period. Artifacts are of utilitarian nature, symbolic behavioral traits are undocumented before the arrival of modern humans. The Aurignacian culture, introduced by modern humans is characterized by cut bone or antler points, fine flint blades and bladelets struck from prepared cores rather than using crude flakes. The oldest examples and subsequent widespread tradition of prehistoric art originate from the Aurignacian.
After more than 100,000 years of uniformity, around 45,000 years BP the Neanderthal fossil record changed abruptly. The Mousterian had quickly become more versatile and was named the Chatelperronian culture and thereby signifies the diffusion of Aurignacian elements into Neanderthal culture. Although debated, this fact proved that Neanderthals had to some extent adopted the culture of modern Homo sapiens. However, the Neanderthal fossil record completely vanished after 40,000 years BP. Whether Neanderthal was also successful in diffusing his genetic heritage into Europe's future population or whether he simply went extinct and if so, what caused it cannot conclusively be answered.
Around 32,000 years ago, the Gravettian culture appeared in the Crimean Mountains (southern Ukraine). By 24,000 BP the Solutrean and Gravettian cultures were present in the southwestern region of Europe. The Gravettian technology/culture has been theorized to have come with migrations of people from the Middle East, Anatolia, and the Balkans. They might be linked with the transitional cultures mentioned before, because their techniques have some similarities and are both very different from Aurignacian ones but this issue is very obscure. The Gravettian also appeared in the Caucasus and Zagros mountains. It soon disappeared from southwestern Europe, with the notable exception of the Mediterranean coasts of Iberia.
The Solutrean culture, extended from northern Spain to south-east France, includes not only a beautiful stone technology but also the first significant development of cave painting, the use of the needle and possibly that of the bow and arrow. The more widespread Gravettian culture is no less advanced, at least in artistic terms: sculpture (mainly venuses) is the most outstanding form of creative expression of these peoples.
Around 19,000 BP, Europe witnesses the appearance of a new culture, known as Magdalenian, possibly rooted in the old Aurignacian one. This culture soon supersedes the Solutrean area and also the Gravettian of Central Europe. However, in Mediterranean Iberia, Italy, the Balkans and Turkey, epi-Gravettian cultures continue evolving locally.
With the Magdalenian culture, Paleolithic development in Europe reaches its peak and this is reflected in art, owing to previous traditions of paintings and sculpture.
Around 12,500 BP, the Würm Glacial age ends. Slowly, through the following millennia, temperatures and sea levels rise, changing the environment of prehistoric people. During this time, Ireland and Great Britain become islands, and Scandinavia is separated from the main part of the European Peninsula. (They had all formerly been connected by a now-submerged region of the continental shelf known as Doggerland.) Nevertheless, Magdalenian culture persists until circa 10,000 BP, when it quickly evolves into two microlithist cultures: Azilian, in Spain and southern France, and Sauveterrian, in northern France and Central Europe. Though there are some differences, both cultures share several traits: the creation of very small stone tools called microliths and the scarcity of figurative art, which seems to have vanished almost completely, being replaced by abstract decoration of tools.
In the late phase of this epi-Paleolithic period, the Sauveterrean culture evolves into the so-called Tardenoisian and influences strongly its southern neighbour, clearly replacing it in Mediterranean Spain and Portugal. The recession of the glaciers allows human colonization in Northern Europe for the first time. The Maglemosian culture, derived from the Sauveterre-Tardenois culture but with a strong personality, colonizes Denmark and the nearby regions, including parts of Britain.
This was a transition period in the development of human technology between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The Balkan Mesolithic begins around 15,000 years ago. In Western Europe, the Early Mesolithic, or Azilian, begins about 14,000 years ago, in the Franco-Cantabrian region of northern Spain and southern France. In other parts of Europe, the Mesolithic begins by 11,500 years ago (the beginning Holocene), and it ends with the introduction of farming, depending on the region between ca. 8,500 and 5,500 years ago. In areas with limited glacial impact the term "Epipaleolithic" is sometimes preferred for the period. Regions that experienced greater environmental effects as the last glacial period ended have a much more apparent Mesolithic era, lasting millennia. In northern Europe societies were able to live well on rich food supplies from the marshlands created by the warmer climate. Such conditions produced distinctive human behaviours that are preserved in the material record, such as the Maglemosian and Azilian cultures. Such conditions delayed the coming of the Neolithic to as late as 5,500 years ago in northern Europe.
As what Vere Gordon Childe termed the "Neolithic Package" (including agriculture, herding, polished stone axes, timber long houses and pottery) spread into Europe, the Mesolithic way of life was marginalised and eventually disappeared. Controversy over the means of that dispersal is discussed below in the Neolithic section. Note that a "Ceramic Mesolithic" can be distinguished between 7,200 to 5,850 years ago that ranged from southern to northern Europe.
The European Neolithic is assumed to have arrived from the Near East, via Asia Minor, the Mediterranean waterway and also through the Caucasus. There has been a long discussion between migrationists (who claim that the Near Eastern farmers almost totally displaced the European native hunter-gatherers) and diffusionists (who claim that the process was slow enough to have occurred mostly through cultural transmission). A relationship has been suggested between the spread of agriculture and the diffusion of Indo-European languages, with several models of migrations trying to establish a relationship, like the Anatolian hypothesis, which sets the origin of Indo-European agricultural terminology in Anatolia.
Apparently related with the Anatolian culture of Hacilar, the Greek region of Thessalia is the first place in Europe known to have acquired agriculture, cattle-herding and pottery. These early stages are known as pre-Sesklo culture. The Thessalian Neolithic culture soon evolves in the more coherent culture of Sesklo (c. 8000 BP), which is the origin of the main branches of Neolithic expansion in Europe. Practically all the Balkan Peninsula is colonized in the 6th millennium from there. That expansion, reaching the easternmost Tardenoisian outposts of the upper Tisza gives birth to the proto-Linear Pottery culture, a significant modification of the Balkan Neolithic that will be in the origin of one of the most important branches of European Neolithic: the Danubian group of cultures. In parallel, the coasts of the Adriatic and southern Italy witness the expansion of another Neolithic current of less clear origins. Settling initially in Dalmatia, the bearers of the Cardium Pottery culture may have come from Thessalia (some of the pre-Sesklo settlements show related traits) or even from Lebanon (Byblos). They are sailors, fishermen and sheep and goat herders, and the archaeological findings show that they mixed with natives in most places. Other early Neolithic cultures can be found in Ukraine and Southern Russia, where the epi-Gravettian locals assimilated cultural influxes from beyond the Caucasus (culture of Dniepr-Don and related) and in Andalusia (Spain), where the rare Neolithic of La Almagra Pottery appears without known origins very early (c. 7800 BP).
This phase, starting 7000 years ago is marked by the consolidation of the Neolithic expansion towards western and northern Europe, but also by the rise of a new culture that, probably through violence, occupies most of the Balkans, substituting or rather subjugating the first Neolithic settlers. This is the culture of Dimini (Thessalia) and the related ones of Vinca-Turdas (Serbia and Romania) and Karanovo III-Veselinovo (Bulgaria and nearby areas), this last one more hybrid than the other two. Meanwhile, the tiny proto-Linear Pottery culture has given birth to two very dynamic branches: the Western and Eastern Linear Pottery Cultures. The latter is basically an extension of the Balkan Neolithic, but the more original western branch expands quickly, assimilating what today is Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland and even large parts of western Ukraine, historical Moldavia, the lowlands of Romania, and regions of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. This was all achieved in less than one thousand years. With expansion comes diversification and a number of local Danubian cultures start forming at the end of the 5th millennium. In the Mediterranean, the Cardium Pottery fishermen show no less dynamism and colonize/assimilate all of Italy and the Mediterranean regions of France and Spain. Even in the Atlantic, some groups among the native hunter-gatherers start slowly incorporating the new technologies. Among those, the most noticeable regions seem to be the southwest of Iberia, influenced by the Mediterranean but specially by the Andalusian Neolithic, which soon develops the first Megalithic burials (dolmens) and the area around Denmark (culture of Ertebölle), influenced by the Danubian complex.
This period occupies the first half of the 6th millennium BP and is rather quiet. The tendencies of the previous period consolidate, so we have a fully formed Neolithic Europe with five main cultural regions:
There were also a few independent areas, including Andalusia, southern Greece and the western coasts of the Black Sea (culture of Hamangia).
Also known as Copper Age, European Chalcolithic is a time of changes and confusion. The most relevant fact is the infiltration and invasion of large parts of the territory by people originating from Central Asia, considered by mainstream scholars to be the original Indo-Europeans, although there are again several theories in dispute. Other phenomena are the expansion of Megalithism and the appearance of the first significant economic stratification and, related to this, the first known monarchies in the Balkan region.
The economy of the Chalcolithic, even in the regions where copper is not used yet, is no longer that of peasant communities and tribes: now some materials are produced in specific locations and distributed to wide regions. Mining of metal and stone is particularly developed in some areas, along with the processing of those materials into valuable goods.
From c. 5500 to 5000 BP copper starts to be used in the Balkans, and Eastern and Central Europe. However, the key factor could be the use of horses, which would increase mobility. From c. 5500 onwards, Eastern Europe is apparently infiltrated by people originating from beyond the Volga (Yamna culture), creating a plural complex known as Sredny Stog culture, that substitutes the previous Dnieper-Donets culture, pushing the natives to migrate in a NW direction to the Baltic and Denmark, where they mix with natives (TRBK A and C). This may be correlated with the linguistic fact of the spread of Indo-European languages; see Kurgan hypothesis. Near the end of the period, another branch will leave many traces in the lower Danube area (culture of Cernavodă I), in what seems to be another invasion.
Meanwhile, the Danubian Lengyel culture absorbs its northern neighbours of the Czech Republic and Poland for some centuries, only to recede in the second half of the period. In Bulgaria and Wallachia (Southern Romania), the culture of Boian-Marica evolves into a monarchy with a clearly royal cemetery near the coast of the Black Sea. This model seems to have been copied later in the Tiszan region with the culture of Bodrogkeresztur. Labour specialization, economic stratification and possibly the risk of invasion may have been the reasons behind this development. The influx of early Troy (Troy I) is clear in both the expansion of metallurgy and social organization.
In the western Danubian region (the Rhine and Seine basins) the culture of Michelsberg displaces its predecessor, Rössen. Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean basin, several cultures (most notably Chassey in SE France and La Lagozza in northern Italy) converge into a functional union, of which the most significant characteristic is the distribution network of honey-coloured silex. Despite this unity, the signs of conflicts are clear, as many skeletons show violent injuries. This is the time and area where Ötzi, the famous man found in the Alps, lived. Another significant development of this period is that the Megalithic phenomenon starts spreading to most places of the Atlantic region, bringing agriculture with it to some underdeveloped regions there.
This period extends along the first half of the 3rd millennium BC. Most significant is the reorganization of the Danubians in the powerful Baden culture, that extends more or less to what would be the Austro-Hungarian empire in recent times. The rest of the Balkans is profoundly restructured after the invasions of the previous period but, with the exception of the culture of Coțofeni in a mountainous region, none of them show any eastern (or presumably Indo-European) traits. The new Ezero culture, in Bulgaria, shows the first traits of pseudo-bronze (an alloy of copper with arsenic). So does the first significant Aegean group: the Cycladic culture after 2800 BC.
In the North, for some time the supposedly Indo-European groups seem to recede temporarily, suffering a strong cultural Danubianization. In the East, the peoples of beyond the Volga (Yamna culture), surely eastern Indo-Europeans, ancestors of the Iranian Scythians, take over southern Russia and Ukraine. In the Western world the only sign of unity comes from the Megalithic super-culture, which extends now from southern Sweden to southern Spain, including large parts of southern Germany as well. But the Mediterranean and Danubian groupings of the previous period appear fragmented into many smaller pieces, some of them apparently backward in technological matters. From c. 2800 BC, the Danubian Seine-Oise-Marne culture pushes directly or indirectly southwards, destroying most of the rich Megalithic culture of western France. After c. 2600 BC, several phenomena will prefigure the changes of the upcoming period:
Large towns with stone walls appear in two different areas of the Iberian Peninsula: one in the Portuguese region of Estremadura (culture of Vila Nova de Sao Pedro), strongly embedded in the Atlantic Megalithic culture; the other near Almería (SE Spain), centred around the large town of Los Millares, of Mediterranean character, probably affected by eastern cultural influxes (tholoi). Despite the many differences the two civilizations seem to be in friendly contact and to have productive exchanges. In the area of Dordogne (Aquitaine, France), a new unexpected culture of bowmen appears: it is the culture of Artenac, that soon takes control of western and even northern France and Belgium. In Poland and nearby regions, the putative Indo-Europeans reorganize and consolidate again with the culture of the Globular Amphoras. Nevertheless, the influence of many centuries in direct contact with the still-powerful Danubian peoples has greatly modified their culture.
This period extends from c. 2500 BC to c. 1800 or 1700 BC (depending on the region). The dates are general for the whole of Europe, and the Aegean area is already fully in the Bronze Age. c. 2500 BC the new Catacomb culture (proto-Cimmerians?), whose origins are obscure but who are also Indo-Europeans, displaces the Yamna peoples in the regions north and east of the Black Sea, confining them to their original area east of the Volga. The Catacomb culture is the first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East. Some of these infiltrate Poland and may have played a significant but unclear role in the transformation of the culture of the Globular Amphorae into the new Corded Ware culture.
Whatever happened, the fact is that c. 2400 BC this people of the Corded Ware replace their predecessors and expand to Danubian and Nordic areas of western Germany. One related branch invades Denmark and southern Sweden (Scandinavian culture of Individual Sepultures), while the mid-Danubian basin, though showing more continuity, shows also clear traits of new Indo-European elites (Vučedol culture). Simultaneously, in the west, the Artenac peoples reach Belgium. With the partial exception of Vučedol, the Danubian cultures, so buoyant just a few centuries ago, are wiped off the map of Europe. The rest of the period is the story of a mysterious phenomenon: the Beaker people. This group seems to be of mercantile character and to like being buried according to a very specific, almost invariable, ritual. Nevertheless, out of their original area of western Central Europe, they appear only inside local cultures, so they never invaded and assimilated but rather went to live among those peoples, keeping their way of life. This is why they are believed to be merchants.
The rest of the continent remains mostly unchanged and in apparent peace. From c. 2300 BC the first Beaker Pottery appears in Bohemia and expands in many directions but particularly westward, along the Rhone and the sea shores, reaching the culture of Vila Nova (Portugal) and Catalonia (Spain) as their limits. Simultaneously but unrelatedly, c. 2200 BC in the Aegean region, the Cycladic culture decays, being substituted by the new palatine phase of the Minoan culture of Crete.
The second phase of Beaker Pottery, from c. 2100 BC onwards, is marked by the displacement of the centre of this phenomenon to Portugal, inside the culture of Vila Nova. This new centre's influence reaches to all southern and western France but is absent in southern and western Iberia, with the notable exception of Los Millares. After c. 1900 BC, the centre of the Beaker Pottery returns to Bohemia, while in Iberia we see a decentralization of the phenomenon, with centres in Portugal but also in Los Millares and Ciempozuelos.
Though the use of bronze started much earlier in the Aegean area, the date of 2000 BC can be considered typical for the start of this stage in Europe in general.
Derivations of this sudden expansion are the Sea Peoples that attacked Egypt unsuccessfully for some time, including the Philistines (Pelasgians?) and the Dorians, most likely hellenized members of this group that ended invading Greek itself and destroying the might of Mycene and, later, Troy.
Simultaneously, around this date, the culture of Vila Nova de Sao Pedro (that lasted 13 centuries in its urban form) vanishes into a less spectacular one but finally with bronze. The centre of gravity of the Atlantic cultures (Atlantic Bronze complex) is now displaced towards Great Britain. Also about this date, the culture of Villanova, possible precursor of the Etruscan civilization, appears in central Italy (possibly with an Aegean origin).
Around that time the Phoenicians, benefitting from the disappearance of the Greek maritime power (Greek Dark Ages) founded their first colony at the entrance of the Atlantic Ocean: in Gadir (modern Cádiz), most likely as a merchant outpost to convey the many mineral resources of the Iberian Peninsula and the British Isles.
Nevertheless, from the 7th century BC onwards, the Greek nation recovers its power and starts its own colonial expansion, founding Massalia (modern Marseilles) and its Iberian outpost of Emporion (modern Empúries). This last thing wasn't done before the Iberians could reconquer Catalonia and the Ebro valley from the Celts, separating physically the Iberian Celts from their continental neighbours.
The second phase of the European Iron Age is defined particularly by the Celtic La Tène culture, that starts near 400 BC, followed by a large expansion of this people into the Balkans, the British Isles (where they assimilated druidism) and other regions of France and Italy.
The decline of Celtic power under the expansive pressure of Germanic tribes (originally from Scandinavia and Lower Germany) and the forming Roman Empire, in the last century BC, is also that of the end of prehistory properly speaking; though many regions of Europe remained yet illiterate and therefore out of written history for many centuries yet, we must place the boundary somewhere and this date, near the start of our calendar, seems quite convenient. The remaining is regional prehistory (or in most cases protohistory) but no longer European prehistory as a whole.
The genetic history of Europe has been inferred by observing the patterns of genetic diversity across the continent and in the surrounding areas. Use has been made of both classical genetics and molecular genetics. Analysis of the DNA of the modern population of Europe has mainly been used but use has also been made of ancient DNA.
This analysis has shown that modern man entered Europe from the Near East before the Last Glacial Maximum but retreated to refuges in southern Europe in this cold period. Subsequently, people spread out over the whole continent, with subsequent limited immigration from the Near East and Asia.
The written linguistic record in Europe first begins with the Mycenaean record of early Greek in the Late Bronze Age. Unattested languages spoken in Europe in the Bronze and Iron Ages are the object of reconstruction in the field of historical linguistics, in the case of Europe predominantly Indo-European linguistics.
Various pre-Indo-European substrates have been postulated, but remain speculative; the "Pelasgian" and "Tyrsenian" substrates of the Mediterranean world, an "Old European" (which may itself have been an early form of Indo-European), a "Vasconic" substrate ancestral to the modern Basque language, or a more widespread presence of early Finno-Ugric languages in northern Europe. An early presence of Indo-European throughout Europe has also been suggested ("Paleolithic Continuity Theory").
...Neanderthals inhabited Eurasia from the Atlantic regions…
Comparison of Neanderthal and modern human DNA suggests that the two lineages diverged from a common ancestor, most likely Homo heidelbergensis
...The Mousterian stone tool industry of Neanderthals is characterized by…
Fragment suggests two species may have interbred 55,000 years ago – 10,000 years BEFORE we thought they first met
One of the earliest dates for an Aurignacian assemblage is greater than 43,000 BP from Bacho Kiro cave in Bulgaria ...
Paleolithic sanctuaries:Ancient Estonia
Ancient Estonia refers to a period covering History of Estonia from the middle of the 8th millennium BC until the conquest and subjugation of the local Finnic tribes in the first quarter of the 13th century during the Danish Northern Crusades.Ancylus Lake
Ancylus Lake is a name given by geologists to a large freshwater lake that existed in northern Europe approximately from 9500 to 8000 years B.P. being in effect one of various predecessors to the modern Baltic Sea.Cardium pottery
Cardium pottery or Cardial ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the cockle, an edible marine mollusk formerly known as Cardium edulis (now Cerastoderma edule). These forms of pottery are in turn used to define the Neolithic culture which produced and spread them, mostly commonly called the "Cardial culture".
The alternative name impressed ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than cockle shell, such as a nail or comb. Impressed pottery is much more widespread than the Cardial. Impressed ware is found in the zone "covering Italy to the Ligurian coast" as distinct from the more western Cardial extending from Provence to western Portugal. The sequence in prehistoric Europe has traditionally been supposed to start with widespread Cardial ware, and then to develop other methods of impression locally, termed "epi-Cardial". However the widespread Cardial and Impressed pattern types overlap and are now considered more likely to be contemporary.Chalcolithic Europe
Chalcolithic Europe, the Chalcolithic (also Aeneolithic, Copper Age) period of Prehistoric Europe, lasted roughly from 3500 to 1700 BC.
It was a period of Megalithic culture, the appearance of the first significant economic stratification, and probably the earliest presence of Indo-European speakers.
The economy of the Chalcolithic, even in the regions where copper was not yet used, was no longer that of peasant communities and tribes: some materials began to be produced in specific locations and distributed to wide regions. Mining of metal and stone was particularly developed in some areas, along with the processing of those materials into valuable goods.Franco-Cantabrian region
The Franco-Cantabrian region (also Franco-Cantabric region) is a term applied in archaeology and history to refer to an area that stretches from Asturias, in northern Spain, to Aquitaine and Provence in southern France. It includes the southern half of France and the northern strip of Spain looking at the Bay of Biscay (known as Cantabrian Sea in Spanish, hence the name).
This region shows intense homogeneity in the prehistorical record and possibly was the region of Europe with the densest population of humans during the Late Paleolithic. Vasco-Cantabria is part of the region, on the northern coast of Spain, covering similar areas to the adjacent modern regions of the Basque country and Cantabria.History of Croatia before the Croats
The area known as Croatia today has been inhabited throughout the prehistoric period, ever since the Stone Age, up to the Migrations Period and the arrival of the Croats.Horned helmet
Horned helmets were worn by many people around the world. Headpieces mounted with animal horns or replicas were also worn, as in the Mesolithic Star Carr. These were probably used for religious ceremonial or ritual purposes. Horns tend to be impractical on a combat helmet. Much of the evidence for these helmets and headpieces comes from depictions rather than the items themselves.Last Glacial Maximum refugia
Last Glacial Maximum refugia were places where humans, and also other species, survived during the last glacial period in the northern hemisphere, around 25,000 to 20,000 years ago.
Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia were not affected by the glaciation (although vast areas of those continents were then too dry for human habitation of any sort, even by the most specialised and well-adapted foragers), and the Americas and New Zealand had no humans at that time. Therefore, the shelters are located mainly in Eurasia. Several of them have been studied.Mairtine
The Mairtine (Martini, Marthene, Muirtine, Maidirdine, Mhairtine) were an important people of late prehistoric Munster, Ireland who by early historical times appear to have completely vanished from the Irish political landscape. They are notable for their former capital, Medón Mairtine, becoming the chief church of the later Eóganachta, namely Emly.Megalithic art
Megalithic art refers to the use of large stones as an artistic medium. Although some modern artists and sculptors make use of large stones in their work, the term is more generally used to describe art carved onto megaliths in prehistoric Europe.
Megalithic art is found in many places in Western Europe although the main concentrations are in Malta, Ireland, Brittany and Iberia. Megalithic art started in the Neolithic and continued into the Bronze Age. Although many monument types received this form of art the majority is carved on Neolithic passage graves. Megalithic art tends to be highly abstract and contains relatively few representations of recognisable real objects. Megalithic art is often similar to prehistoric rock art and contains many similar motifs such as the 'cup and ring mark', although the two forms of rock carving also have large stylistic differences. The meaning of megalithic art is the subject of much debate.
Weathering and vandalism have affected many examples of the art and little of it remains to day.Paleolithic Europe
Paleolithic Europe, the Lower or Old Stone Age in Europe encompasses the era from the arrival of the first archaic humans, about 1.4 million years ago until the beginning of the Mesolithic (also Epipaleolithic) around 10,000 years ago. This period thus covers over 99% of the total human presence on the European continent. The early arrival and disappearance of Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis, the appearance, complete evolution and eventual demise of Homo neanderthalensis and the immigration and successful settlement of Homo sapiens all have taken place during the European Paleolithic.Palloza
A palloza (also known as pallouza or pallaza) is a traditional dwelling of the Serra dos Ancares of northwest Spain.Pannonian Sea
The Pannonian Sea was a shallow ancient sea, where the Pannonian Basin in Central Europe is now. The Pannonian Sea existed during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, when a 3–4 km (1.9–2.5 mi) depth of marine sediments were deposited in the Pannonian Basin.Pre-Indo-European languages
Pre-Indo-European languages are any of several ancient languages, not necessarily related to one another, that existed in prehistoric Europe and South Asia before the arrival of speakers of Indo-European languages. The oldest Indo-European language texts date from 19th century BCE in Kültepe in modern-day Turkey, and while estimates vary widely, spoken Indo-European languages are believed to have developed at the latest by the third millennium BCE (see Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses). Thus the Pre-Indo-European languages must have developed earlier than, or in some cases alongside, the Indo-European languages that ultimately displaced them.A handful of these languages still survive; in Europe Basque retains a localized strength with fewer than a million native speakers, while the Dravidian languages of South Asia remain very widespread there, with over 200 million native speakers. Some of the pre-Indo-European languages are attested only as linguistic substrates in Indo-European languages. A few others (such as Etruscan, Minoan, Iberian, etc.) are also attested from inscriptions.Prehistoric Italy
The prehistory of Italy began in the Paleolithic period, when the Homo species colonized the Italian territory for the first time, and ended in the Iron Age, when the first written records appeared in the Insular Italy.Prehistoric sites in Serbia
The best known cultural archaeological discoveries from the prehistoric period on the territory of modern-day Serbia are the Starčevo and Vinča cultures dating back to 6400–6200 BC.
Serbia's strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many nations.Prehistory and protohistory of Poland
The prehistory and protohistory of Poland can be traced from the first appearance of Homo species on the territory of modern-day Poland, to the establishment of the Polish state in the 10th century AD, a span of roughly 500,000 years.
The area of present-day Poland went through the stages of socio-technical development known as the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages after experiencing the climatic shifts of the glacial periods. The best known archeological discovery from the prehistoric period is the Lusatian-culture Biskupin fortified settlement. As ancient civilizations began to appear in southern and western Europe, the cultures of the area of present-day Poland were influenced by them to various degrees.
Among the peoples that inhabited various parts of Poland up to the Iron Age stage of development were Scythian, Celtic, Germanic, and Baltic tribes. In the Early Middle Ages, the area came to be dominated by Slavic tribes and finally became home to a number of West Slavic Polish tribes that formed small states in the region beginning in the 8th century.Prehistory of Southeastern Europe
The prehistory of Southeastern Europe, defined roughly as the territory of the wider Balkan peninsula (including the territories of the modern countries of Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, and European Turkey) covers the period from the Upper Paleolithic, beginning with the presence of Homo sapiens in the area some 44,000 years ago, until the appearance of the first written records in Classical Antiquity, in Greece as early as the 8th century BC.
Human prehistory in Southeastern Europe is conventionally divided into smaller periods, such as Upper Paleolithic, Holocene Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic, Neolithic Revolution, expansion of Proto-Indo-Europeans, and Protohistory. The changes between these are gradual. For example, depending on interpretation, protohistory might or might not include Bronze Age Greece (2800–1200 BC), Minoan, Mycenaean, Thracian and Venetic cultures. By one interpretation of the historiography criterion, Southeastern Europe enters protohistory only with Homer (See also Historicity of the Iliad, and Geography of the Odyssey). At any rate, the period ends before Herodotus in the 5th century BC.
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Periods of the history of Europe