The East Early Bronze Age refers specifically to the Chłopice–Veselé and Mierzanowice cultures, spanning from north-east Moravia to Lesser Poland. It represents the south-eastern periphery of the Bell Beaker culture, and is characterised by vessels and ceramic technique, including cord decoration: horizontal bands on the upper part in Proto-Mierzanowice (ca. 2350/2300–2200 BC) and with supplementary bands in the bottom half in Early Mierzanowice (ca. 2200–2050 BC). Nitra appears later, after ca. 2050 BC, with the classic phase of Mierzanowice (during its eastward expansion), probably as part of the Chłopice–Veselé culture (coincident with Proto- and Early Mierzanowice) under Únětice influence (Bertemes and Heyd 2002).
The Epi-Corded Ware Chłopice–Veselé culture represents a southern expansion of late Corded Ware groups, from Lesser Poland into the Carpathian Mountains, where they formed a border culture with influences from Pannonian cultures. The appearance of Bell Beaker communities of Silesia (ca. 2350 BC) occurred simultaneously with the transformation of the Chłopice–Veselé culture, with Bell Beaker cultural patterns influencing its transition from late CWC, evidenced by mixed materials found in Upper Silesian settlements ca. 2300–2200 BC (Furmanek et al. 2015).
Chłopice–Veselé shows flat inhumation graves with funerary ritual inherited from the Corded Ware culture and cord ornamentation, as well as copper–wire artefacts and willow–leaf ornaments, proper of the eastern regions. Bell Beaker materials disappear from Upper Silesia ca. 2150 BC. Another part of the Epi-Corded Ware complex is the Košťany culture in the north-eastern Carpathians, known from inhumation graves in flat cemeteries and similar material culture (Furmanek et al. 2015).
Proto-Mierzanowice appears with the arrival of Bell Beakers in the west part of Lesser Poland (ca. 2400–2300 BC), possibly representing an infiltration of groups rather than a massive migration. In the Proto-Mierzanowice phase, only scattered graves and short-lived settlements are found, and their distribution pattern is similar to the previous Corded Ware settlements. These small groups were very mobile, with traces found from Moravia to Volhynia. One of the important signs of change associated with BBC in this period is the position of the deceased—inverted with respect to the characteristic Corded Ware tradition—and the nature of the deposited grave goods (Bertemes and Heyd 2002).
The early phase lasts probably no more than three generations, with dynamic internal processes of indeterminate nature resulting in a stabilisation of the settlement, the establishment of large permanent settlements (like those at Mierzanowice and Iwanowice), sudden demographic development and accompanying changes in economy (animal husbandry replaced by agriculture) and society (dominant family groups replaced by local or village groups). This evolution period ca. 2300–2200 BC is coincident with the increasing advantage gained by the Únětice cultural model to the west (Włodarczak 2017), which may have triggered this reaction (Bertemes and Heyd 2002).
An adaptation to Corded Ware ideas is seen in the following period (ca. 2200–2050 BC), represented by a ‘weak’ acculturation and evolution of a local ethnic identity, marked by the increasing frequency in cord ornaments and the growing elaboration of decorative motifs made with the technique of cord impressions. The Mierzanowice culture gradually cut its contacts with the west, and after ca. 2000 BC the upper Oder and Vistula rivers became a real cultural barrier among Mierzanowice (to the south), Únětice (to the west), and the developing Trzciniec culture (to the north).
Similar to the Proto-Únětice evolution, Mierzanowice does not follow Corded Ware cultural traits directly during this development (like the usually proposed Kraków–Sandomierz Corded Ware group of Lesser Poland), but rather Epi-Corded Ware cultures from the Carpathian Basin: in the stable network of large and long-lasting head settlements, the consistency in observing strict rules of funerary rites, and organisation based on sex. Such Epi-Corded Ware groups of south-east Europe include north-western Makó/Kosihý–Čaka; south-eastern Ljubljana; central Early Nagýrev, Pitvaros(–Maros); north-eastern Ada; central and southern Transdanubian Somogyvár–Vinkovci, Vučedol; southern Balkans Belotić–Bela Crkva (Włodarczak 2017).
The Nitra culture was also formed under the influence of Chłopice–Veselé, Makó/Kosihý–Čaka, and Bell Beaker cultures, although the gradual decrease of elements of eastern origin—such as copper willow–leaf ornaments, chipped stone in the form of shouldered points, and aspect s of funeral rite—suggest a greater western EBA influence of the culture. Bodies are in the crouched bipolar position, with a basic east–west orientation. Grave pits and pot-built houses indicate social ranking, with graves of hunters, medicine men and craftsmen identified among them. The Únětice culture expands coinciding with the end of the Nitra culture, although the tradition of bipolar west–east and east–west orientation usually survives in graves of Nitra tradition (Marková and Ilon 2013).
In the three late phases of Mierzanowice (2200–1600 BC), settlements appear in certain areas that develop stable microregional structures, centred on the Lesser Poland territory, while some groups—more numerous during the older period (ca. 2300–2200 BC)—continue the mobile settlement model. At the end of the millennium, a dense network of small settlements (having just a few homesteads) was established within the fertile loess areas. The stabilisation of the settlement pattern is seen especially after 2000 BC, coinciding with the classic phase of the development of the Únětice culture; until that point, the development of groups correlated with the late phase of Bell Beaker culture, e.g. the Dobre group in Kuyavia, or the Lower Oder group in Western Pomorze (Włodarczak 2017).
Main, long-lasting settlements and regions of constant occupation with stable households appear, always in higher regions, and always accompanied by cemeteries, alongside short-term settlements linked to certain economic activities. The burial rite, although remaining entrenched in the Corded Ware tradition and symbolism—like gender-differentiated burials with a predominance of males—shows a reaction against the previous beliefs in the avoidance of kurgan building and the use of communal graves. The position of the lower limbs was clearly less flexed, and at the same time more bodies appeared in a lateral position, which led to the crystallisation of a new tradition (as in cemeteries of the Strzyżów culture) of dead interred in a slightly flexed or extended position (Włodarczak 2017).
The social structure is based on the family unit, which inhabits a farmstead. Multiple farmsteads and a cemetery form a village, and a settlement microregion is formed by various local groups. Economic autarchy and cultural homogeneity of local groups point to their ethnic unity, but only in the latest stage would a common language be needed, because of the intense exchange contacts. Due to the homogeneity in decoration, female exogamy was probably restricted to the own culture. In the three earlier phases, Mierzanowice was a fully egalitarian society, but there was gender-based asymmetry (as in the previous Neolithic and Corded Ware cultures of the region), and also some interest in imitating prestige goods of western cultural centres, from local raw materials (Kadrow 2007).
Microregions had an area of few to 10 km2, and some of them existed for the whole timespan of the culture. Agriculture played an important role in its subsistence economy, as did pastures at some distance of the settlements, for relatively big herds of cattle and sheep. Each settlement had 5–20 farmsteads, each with at least 200 m2 and probably multiple buildings, including a cellar. Most settlements had less than 150–200 inhabitants, with only a few (like Mierzanowice and Wojciechowice) having more (Kadrow 2007).
Interestingly, microregions of western Lesser Poland (including the Iwanowice settlement), the Sandomierz-Opatów Upland, and the Upper Bug, appear to have suffered ca. 2050 BC a conflict and disruption of the moral order, with ‘a return to the roots’, reflected in the abandonment of cord ornamentation on ceramic vessels, and in the predominance of undecorated pots with knobs on their necks or rims. Similar forms were used at the beginning of the Mierzanowice culture, and also in Bell Beaker settlements over vast areas in Europe, e.g. in late groups from nearby Moravia. This process has been described as a likely rebellion whose leader would have acquired certain features of a traditionalistic ruler, invocating the ‘sanctioned’ Bell Beaker tradition, in order to assume power more securely, a power structure that could be maintained until ca. 1850/1800 BC (Kadrow 2017).
Before 1900 BC, there is no proof of long-distance exchange, with mostly local raw materials. The circulation of imports begins in the latest phase, and includes stone sickles, faience pearls, and rarely metal objects, at the same time as foreign influence is noticed in the local pottery production. Until then, all microregions had shown a great unity in style and typology, in spite of specific local elements. A ranked society appears in this latest phase marked by rich graves, signalling the elevated social position of some males and females, and putting an end of the gender-asymmetry (Kadrow 2007).
In the earliest phase, there were two main regions: a western one, with corded and incision ornamentation, and an eastern one, with only corded decoration. In the classic phase, the Nitra group/culture appeared in the south-west, and the Strzyżów culture in the north-east. While violence from close combat with axe–hammers is evidenced in human remains, the use of archery and related war culture proper of Bell Beaker and Únětice peoples also continue in these groups (Kaňáková, Bátora, and Nosek 2019). In the latest phase, the Mierzanowice style—initially appearing on mugs, jugs, and amphorae, and later on jars—was fragmented into four distinct local groups based on their different regional styles: Giebułtów, Szarbia, Pleszów, and Samborzec groups (Kadrow 2007).
Before 2500 BC, the Single Grave culture had reached from Jutland to Mecklenburg and to the Polish Lowlands, through a stable network of long-range contacts that had been created in the Corded Ware A-horizon, and which followed previous similar routes of Mesolithic and Neolithic expansions, facilitated by the geographical low plains connecting the coastlines of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Within that framework, the Northern European Plain was connected from Dutch Beakers in the west to Jutland and to the Polish Lowlands in the east, creating a distinct north group in the pan-European Bell Beaker network. Bell Beakers from Jutland and north-eastern Germany were the source of Pomeranian and Kuyavian Bell Beakers (Czebreszuk 2013).
The special character that distinguish them is that Bell Beaker traits are found chiefly in domestic contexts, and to a much lesser extent in burials, which manifests as secondary burials in older communal graves. Pottery shows a specific ornamentation, initially using a knurling technique for patterns, (including cord impressions or incisions), then evolving from slender beakers to shorter and squattier vases (using mainly the incision technique), and eventually developing in the latest stage barbed wire ornament, in the south-west Baltic (Czebreszuk and Szmyt 2011).
From 2400 BC, a change in the Polish Lowlands is seen with domestic sites showing signs of stabilisation towards a network of permanent territorial communities, as the result of a new system of social organisation. Larger encampments change into settlements, with occasional buildings for economic and sometimes domestic purposes, culminating in the Bronze Age. Economically, it would mean a decreased or modified role of animal husbandry (from nomadic to semi-nomadic, then to sedentary), as well as a shift to dependence on the ‘politics’ and local natural environment in respect to stable, farming communities, with a social system still marked by social differentiation (Czebreszuk and Szmyt 2011).
Cereal cultivation appears abundantly only after 2400 BC, first recorded in Kornice, the first Bell Beaker settlement in southern Poland, with settlements in Lesser Poland showing an increasingly important role of cultivation dated to the final Eneolithic or beginnings of the Bronze Age (Kośko 1979).
In contrast to the previous Corded Ware package, the Bell Beaker package in the Polish Plains and the south-west Baltic is recorded (from ca. 2500–2400 BC) mainly in materials from settlements and encampments, less often in funeral complexes, and is superimposed to the earlier elements without replacing them, such as ornamentation with typical Bell Beaker patterns (of fundamental significance is the bell beaker with zone and metopic-zone ornamentation, made with knurl technique or engraved), as well as stone archer’s wrist guards and dagger (Czebreszuk and Szmyt 2011). The main features of this north-eastern Bell Beaker border region are thus:
· Genuine Bell Beakers.
· Zone-metope decoration.
· Application of comb–stamp decoration technique.
· Zonal decoration in general.
· Bifacial flint daggers (along with copper daggers).
· A variety of small finds, such as the V-shaped buttons.
The south-eastern Baltic centre was included in the new interregional network of exchange, with amber products becoming a widespread feature of Bell Beaker graves overall in Europe, one of the determinants of the Bell Beaker package in different regions. It can be assumed that communities living in the southern shores of the Gdańsk Bay were the main producers and distributors of amber ornaments from the turn of the 4th-3rd millennium BC until the Early Bronze Age (Włodarczak 2017).
In its western area, the eastern Bell Beaker province paved the way ca. 2300/2250 BC for the earliest traces of the Únětice culture (in its Proto-Únětice phase), in Silesia, and later in the Polish Lowlands and in the Lower Oder. The latest dates of bell beakers ca. 1800 BC are characteristic of the Iwno culture, a “syncretistic culture” where the original traits had become increasingly transformed under the influence of the Únětice culture, in a region on the route between the Únětice and the rich amber deposits on the Gulf of Gdańsk.
In the final phase of the Final Eneolithic, in north-eastern Poland, Kuyavia and Greater Poland—at the settlements of Iwno and Masuria cultures—pig rearing regained importance, which had been lost with the arrival of Corded Ware settlers (Włodarczak 2017). Since the EBA, cattle were the chief livestock, whereas pig and sheep–goats were of secondary importance, and of comparable quantity until the Late Bronze Age/Hallstatt period (Włodarczak 2017).
In the eastern area of the Polish Lowlands and Greater Poland, the late Bell Beaker stage, in combination with local post-Corded Ware and Neman groups, marked the inception of a sequence of changes that led to the so-called Trzciniec horizon, from the Warta drainage as far as the middle Dnieper (Czebreszuk and Szmyt 2012). This culture may be also related to the adoption or imitation of Bell Beaker in marginal influence zones, such as the isolated finds of comb–stamp decoration or flint daggers in the eastern Baltic, Finland and Belarus (Włodarczak 2017).
The littoral zone from the Oder delta to the Vistula delta kept a particular character, distinct from the EBA and MBA cultures developing in the area related to central Europe, because of the diverse ecological niche of the coastline and the abundant deposits of amber, a commodity in Europe during the Bronze Age. It shows stable settlements and an extensive network of cultural exchanges from the Baltic shore to the North Sea in the west, with one stable seaway connecting the lower Vistula region, Pomerania, and Mecklenburg with Jutland, and further away with the North Sea, the British Isles and Atlantic Europe (Czebreszuk 2013).
At least in the Polish Lowlands, GAC groups coexisted ca. 2400–2200 BC with little cultural interaction with Bell Beakers, which suggests a significant cultural barrier between both groups. Later, clear cooperation is seen between Bell Beaker and Únětice, while isolation of GAC groups continued, despite the absence of geographical barriers among these cultures (Włodarczak 2017).
The BBC concentration of Silesia (giving rise to proto-Únětice) was more closely connected to the Bohemian Basin, and the Lesser Poland enclave more closely connected to Moravia, both communities being therefore part of the core East Bell Beaker migration, contrasting with the northern Bell Beaker groups of the Polish Lowlands, which mixed with groups heir of the Single Grave group of the CWC to form eventually the Trzciniec horizon (Włodarczak 2017).
During the EBA, para-Neolithic societies still survived in north-eastern Poland, with pottery showing contacts with north-eastern Bell Beakers, but their way of life depending on gathering and fishing, with agriculture representing only a small part of their subsistence economy. After ca. 2000 BC, the Trzciniec culture continued Bell Beaker traditions of the North-Eastern BBC province (Czebreszuk 2001), and began to spread from the west (Kuyavia and Great Poland), to the east (Masovia, Podolia, Volhynia), incorporating these para-Neolithic groups, where it eventually developed into its distinct archaeological form east of the Vistula. It expanded later—during its classic phase—to the south, into Lesser Poland.
Pottery in Pomerania, Masuria and Masovia followed a different course from those to the west and south, with less stability and inferior craftsmanship. The most characteristic trait of the culture is the pottery of the Riesenbecher type, featuring a small bottom and S-shaped profile. This specific type may have had its origin during the decline of the Neolithic, with sinuous-profile pots decorated with the so-called barbed wire ornament, also known as the ornament of “a cord wound around a flint flake” (a decorative strip running from the neck of the pot across the body), which connected together the vast territories of the Northern European Plain, from England to the mouth of the Rhine, northern Germany, Denmark, and well into east Europe (Kadrow 1998).
The first similar Riesenbecher types are found in Únětice on the lower Elbe, and in the late Bell Beaker (or Barbed Wire Beaker) groups of north-west Germany and Jutland, and from Iwno centres (with many significant ornamentation patterns), which points to its expansion through the Northern Lowlands during the Early Bronze Age. The Trzciniec pot prototypes appeared in the Kuyavia region rather early (before 2300 BC), accompanied by the kurling technique, which connects it with the Bell Beaker tradition. Its expansion with migrants is evidenced by their appearance in Lesser Poland ca. 1900 BC, expanding then to the south, into the Carpathians and Ukraine in the mid–2nd millennium BC (Czebreszuk 1998).
The emergence of Trzciniece in Mierzanowice territory has been described by Jacek Górski and Sławomir Kadrow as follows (Czebreszuk 1998):
1. Migration of “Trzciniec” population from the Lowlands.
2. Initially the migrants occupy in the south only those ecological niches which they know from the Lowlands, i.e. the sandy oecumene.
3. The migrants come into contact with local settled farmers, represented by the Mierzanowice culture, which was then in a crisis; they adopt traits that will enable them to exploit loess niches.
4. Finally, the Trzciniec package is shared also by the communities of settled farmers of loess areas.
The Trzciniec culture is divided in an early phase (2000–1600 BC, coincident with the Mierzanowice culture), a classic phase (1600–1400 BC, coincident with the Tumulus culture), and a late phase (1400–1200 BC, coincident with the Lusatian culture).
The borderland nature of the stabilised Trzciniec culture from ca. 1900 BC makes it difficult to know the exact rates and directions of the Early Bronze Age transformations that affected its emergence. Apparently, these societies adopted more stable cultural standards only after their migration from their northern lowland enclave, when they encountered the EBA traditions of the Circum-Carpathian zone. Among ‘eastern’ traditions, they show cremation, proper of the Sofievka–Middle Dnieper cremation centre (Klochko and Kośko 1998).
The traditional “expansive” view holds that the Trzciniec Cultural circle (TCC), also “Trzciniec–Komarów”, was a borderline community that formed a great cultural–historical province, comprising different cultural groups like Pre-Lusatian in the west, Abashevo in the east, and probably cultures of the eastern Baltic to the north. This would have been a ‘phenomenon’ or a ‘process of cultural integration’ (under a “Trzciniec package”) of a society centred around the potential deposits of copper in Volhynia, and located among three large culture-making Early Bronze Age centres: Únětice–South German (related to Pre-Lusatian), Carpathian–Danube (related to the Multi-Cordoned Ware or Babino culture in the borderland), and Volga–Ural (related to Abashevo and Srubna cultures). This phenomenon would have been made up of different relatively highly autonomous groups, connecting the Carpathians to the Balkans, Anatolia and the Mediterranean. This wide TCC community would have developed into the Noua–Sabatinovka and eastern Trzciniec in the west, and Late Srubna and Sosnytsa in the east (Klochko and Kośko 1998).
Nevertheless, the Trzciniec culture proper (ca. 1700–1200 BC) formed its core area apparently on the drainages of the Lower and Middle Vistula, the Neman, and the Upper Pripyat, and in the taiga in the western part of the Dnieper’s drainage, and expanded to the south-west and south, generating the loess groups and the Komarow culture. This area was apparently inhabited by sub-Neolithic forest or East European groups, characterised by Comb-like and Stroked Pottery culture represented by Linin-type pottery. A high density of settlement sites on the lowlands may indicate that the main reason for the population movement to the south was the increasing overpopulation of areas of poor soil between the middle Vistula, the Upper Pripyat and the Middle Neman rivers, and a resultant ecological crisis (Makarowicz 2010).
The Trzciniec culture connected the amber trade between the Baltic coast and the Carpathian Basin. The first amber route (first half of the 2nd millennium BC) ran from the Bay of Gdańsk through Kuyavia, Great Poland, Silesia, and the Carpathian Mountains through the Moravian gate, connecting with representatives of the Ottomány-Füzesabony and Mad’arovce cultures, as well as (slightly later) Piliny, Suciu de Sus, as well as Middle Danubian and Carpathian groups of the Tumulus culture. This route was further connected to the Adriatic and to the Peloponnese (Czebreszuk 2013).
A significant permeation of artefacts of southern features is observed in this area, starting only with the emergence of the Trzciniec culture. While many non-ceramic objects may be attributed to imports, due to the formation of local elites in western Lesser Poland acting as intermediaries, the imitation of vessels points to an admixture of population with that of Krakow and the Carpathian zone (and to the south), which has been suggested as the product of exogamy from around 1650/1600 BC (Górski 2012).
These increased population movements happened at roughly the same time as other European expansions, namely the Nordic culture in western Pomerania (after ca. 1700 BC), and the Tumulus culture in Lower Silesia and Lesser Poland, probably after ca. 1600 BC, both maintaining strong cultural contacts and remaining part of a unitary cultural sphere that included kurgans and hoards of metal objects (Czebreszuk 2013).
Kurgans were only one among a great variety of elements of the burial rite found in different Trzciniec communities. A common misconception is that Trzciniec continues the Corded Ware tradition of building kurgans over graves, because Bell Beaker and Corded Ware cultural patterns can be seen e.g. in Mazovia and in north-eastern Poland as late as the 2nd millennium BC (Włodarczak 2017). However, the appearance of a general burial rite including barrows took place only in the classic phase (ca. 1800 BC at the earliest), in the upland belt of its central and eastern European territory, between the Upper Vistula and the Upper Dniester, and on the Podolia and Volhynia uplands.
Before this period, there was a clear decline in the number of settlement sites, both in the upland and in the lowland zones, and small-sized, short-term ‘campsites’ in the valleys of large rivers seem to represent most settlements, evidencing a mobile economy with a pastoral or nomadic way of life since ca. 2200 BC. Only at the beginning of the 2nd millennium appear the first (rare) kurgans in the Strzyżów culture, which usually continues flat necropolis similar to the late-stage Mierzanowice tradition. These first kurgans have a different form than earlier ones, with ca. 12 m in diameter, and ca. 1.5 m. in height, containing as many as four individual graves, arranged as three graves surrounding one in the centre. This suggests a custom of honouring some people with a special type of burial that required a substantial effort in the erection of a mound (Włodarczak 2017).
There is, therefore, a gap of 200–400 years between the complete demise of late Corded Ware groups and the emergence of early Trzciniec societies in the area, and still more until their appearance in the eastern Komarow territory, so no direct borrowing or continuation was possible (Czebreszuk 1998; Włodarczak 2017). It is thus more likely that they adopted the tradition from autochthonous groups at the core of the culture’s origin in Lesser Poland (such as Strzyżów), or from contacts with neighbouring western Bronze Age communities during their origin and expansion, such as late Bell Beaker, Únětice, Iwno, or even expanding Nordic and Tumulus cultures.
During the first half of the 2nd millennium BC, a further transition in burial customs is seen, to a less contracted burial position. A change of the Corded Ware (and ‘reversed’ Bell Beaker) tradition in body positioning is seen, with bodies placed supine with the legs slightly flexed. Strzyżów also continues the Kraków–Sandomierz group tradition of egalitarian necropolis (Włodarczak 2017).
A compelling argument against this adoption from neighbouring cultures is the lack of interest of the immediate predecessor of Trzciniec in the region, the Mierzanowice culture (which they replaced), in raising mounds. On the other hand, Mierzanowice was an egalitarian society organised along territorial patterns, living in large settlements and using communal cemeteries, whereas Trzciniec communities were organised in kinship groups or lineages and mobile settlements, which may have favoured the adoption of this single grave symbolism, with functions related to the identity, integrity, funerary rites, and spatial behaviour of human groups. Especially important was then the role of grave fields as stable points for the new microregional structures, in contrast to the settlements of the previous period (Makarowicz 2010).
It has been suggested that Trzciniec colonisers adopted the custom of raising barrows—usually bigger than those of the Corded Ware culture, and on the highest elevations of any given area—by imitating those seen in the landscape, as the material embodiment of a new foundation myth. This would have allowed the newcomers to take root in the new environment, among Mierzanowice populations organised in territorial communities, in an attempt to incorporate the “pre-Mierzanowice past” by legitimising their own claims to the occupied territories (Makarowicz 2010).
The colonisers would have thus won arguments sanctioned by tradition, which carried more weight with illiterate societies, while possibly Mierzanowice peoples had not raised barrows precisely to distinguish themselves from the previous Corded Ware communities. The fact that barrows were built in linear arrangements on deforested watershed hilltops may indicate communication trails following watersheds, conducive to the movement of people, animals, goods, and possibly wagons (Makarowicz 2010).
Trzciniec settlements were often inhabited by a single family, and settlers of a microregion—using common lands for burials—were probably related by kinship and organised into clans. Subsistence strategies depended upon the specific territory, and the later phase shows also metallurgy with its own style, in contrast to previous periods of scarce imports from the west (Tumulus culture) or the south (Kadrow 2007).
Eventually, the different autonomous regions of the Central European Plain or the eastern European taiga adapted to different technical, utility and ideological patterns generated by elitist societies of the south, as well as to the expanding groups from the west and east, and the so-called Trzciniec Cultural circle gradually disappeared ca. 1300–1200 BC (Klochko and Kośko 1998).
The Proto-Lusatian culture emerges as a fringe group of the central European Urnfield culture, acquiring cultural independence at the start of the LBA (ca. 1400 BC), and showing a period of uninterrupted prosperity lasting for almost a thousand years. It spans the great river systems from the Elbe, Oder, and Vistula, and acts as a mediator between south and north. Different regional groups show influences from their neighbours, but there is a strong ideological or political structure that unifies them (Jockenhövel 2013).
The Pre-Lusatian period (ca. 1700–1400 BC) represents an evolution of Úněticean groups originally located between the Elbe and Oder basins, under the strong influence of the Tumulus culture. The area around Bruszczewo, from the Bruszczewo-Łęki Małe group (ca. 2100–1600 BC), may serve as an example of the various local disasters that could have led to this cultural division in eastern Europe: steady and intensive occupation of the land caused the depletion of trees; farming and cattle grazing which led to the degradation of the top humus layer and intensified erosion; changes in water composition including algae, eggs of human and animal parasites, and coprophilous fungi. It is very likely that the destruction of the environment ended with the demise of the group and the abandonment of the Bruszczewo settlement (Czebreszuk 2013).
Nevertheless, continuity is seen in pottery and cemeteries from the oldest period, supporting the long-term stability of the Lusatian culture in the western region. So, for example, the Kietrz cemetery, featuring approximately four thousand excavated graves in Upper Silesia, is among the largest in the entire Urnfield zone, and was used continuously from the Tumulus period up to the later stages of La Tène. Similarly, the high technological standard and specific ornamentation of knobbed ware—with knobs applied to the surface or shaped as protrusions from inside the body of the vessel—emerges during the late Tumulus and early Lusatian period. Similarities to the Eastern EBA province include the Lusatian pottery, greatly divergent from western technological standards and stylistic patterns (Czebreszuk 2013).
The western Lusatian group, between the Elbe and the Oder, can be divided into subgroups—Saale Mouth, Unstrut, and Elmsdorf or Elb–Havel groups—based on differences in burial features, pot styles and costume habits, potentially showing impediments to the spread of material culture. Urnfield groups in contact with Lusatian groups include the Middle Danubian group and the Knovíz culture to the south (in the Upper Danube) which belonged to the sphere of influence of southern Urnfield territory; whereas the Lusatian tradition belonged to the cultural orbit of northern Urnfield groups (Jiráň, Salaš, and Krenn-Leeb 2013).
During the MBA, the Lusatian tradition expanded (ca. 1400/300–500 BC) to the south-east into territories of the late Věteřov culture (heir of Únětice in Moravia and Bohemia) forming the Moravian group. It also spread to the east into territories of previous Trzciniec culture, with a more complex expansion: in Lesser Poland, a gradual migration from Silesia is seen from ca. 1300 BC, breaking the traditional cultural barrier between the Upper Oder and Upper Vistula. In north-eastern Poland, the expansion of the culture differed from the more standard groups of Lower Silesia, Great Poland, Kuyavia, and Lesser Poland; whereas bronze objects are more abundant, population density is lower. In south-eastern Poland, the Tarnobrzeg group constituted a distinct cultural sphere, with influences from Carpathian Ruthenia to the south and the steppes to the east (Czebreszuk 2013).
The Lusatian tradition features typically large urnfields, containing thousands of graves, occupied over many generations. In contrast to Knovíz and the Middle Danubian Urnfield, where inhumation is occasionally seen, in Lusatian and Silesia–Platěnice cultures cremation is universal, and vessels are especially numerous in burial assemblages. Grave goods comprise almost exclusively large numbers of pots, with few and small metal objects. There are no graves with weapons and rich ornaments, except for the Elbe–Saale region, which functions as corridor between the Danube and the western Baltic, so the social hierarchy remains obscure (Jockenhövel 2013).
Pottery shows strong similarities in shape, typology, and ornamentation with the Urnfield culture, but differences in the evolutionary pattern can be observed, also internally among regions (Jiráň, Salaš, and Krenn-Leeb 2013):
· Initially they used decorative plastic knobs outlined with channels or grooves (heir of Tumulus culture traditions, see §VIII.6.3. Tumulus period (MBA)).
· In later periods, it shows continuous vertical striation, and later still these are broken into ‘bundles’. There is a clear division of cooking ware and table ware, with a high technological level. In terms of shape, vessels evolve from sharply contoured forms toward soft, flowing profiles and a reduction in the height of certain forms. The great variety of pot types include zoomorphic and miniature vessels, rattles, and shoe-shaped containers.
· During the FBA, the Silesian phase of Lusatian and the Silesia–Platěnice culture show vessels with well-smoothed surfaces and finely polished or graphited, as well as richly ornamented rattles and so-called drinking horns.
The Lusatian culture brought the stabilisation of settlement, with societies inhabiting particular microregions permanently. A dense network of fortified settlements appeared, as in central Europe, preferentially on high ground and hilly terrain, on marshlands and islands, apparently avoiding flat open country. Settlements concentrated on brown soils and their variants, and provided probably a safe haven to guard communication routes and important microregions. In the FBA, settlements moved to chernozems, which had a steppe character during this warmer and drier period, and were thus more suitable for stockbreeding, the main activity of the culture (Marková and Ilon 2013).
Fortifications likely represented for the surrounding microregions the centres of political, social, economic and religious life of the local community, with special emphasis on metallurgy, where bronzeworkers enjoyed high standing. They were probably adjacent to unfortified agrarian settlements that belonged to their sphere of influence. Unlike in the neighbouring Urnfield culture, where fortified settlements are limited to certain regions (adjacent to different cultures) and early periods, Lusatian forts continue into the earlier Iron Age, with many being built during this period. (Jockenhövel 2013).
A possible origin of its characteristic fortified settlements—potentially in common with the Urnfield culture—can be found during the early 2nd millennium BC in Bruszczewo in Great Poland, and in the Carpathian foreland strongholds of the Ottomány-Füzesabony culture. The regions of Kuyavia and Greater Poland show a complex of fortified settlements—formed by compact groups of a dozen rows of houses, each row containing a dozen houses—while Silesia shows some isolated fortified settlements (Czebreszuk 2013), all probably pointing to a western fortified zone in the border regions with Nordic and Urnfield cultures. After a formative phase, the Lusatian culture shows an increase in settlement density and in production of bronzes.
The Lusatian culture came to an end ca. 500–400 BC, coinciding with an increase in fortified settlements suggesting intertribal conflict, probably because of worsening climatic conditions, soil erosion, indigenous and exogenous factors, and the emergence of iron technology. After 800 BC, traces of the Hallstatt culture are felt in the west, mainly in Lower Silesia, but also scattered from Greater Poland to Kuyavia. From the east, expanding Scythians or other mounted nomads, whose evidence is found as far away as the Oder, also contributed to the Lusatian culture’s demise (Jockenhövel 2013).
In the Baltic region, low population density at the turn of the 2nd/1st millennium BC changes after ca. 900 BC, evidenced by the substantial deforestation that happened over the next 500 years, and by the new necropolises and settlements, as well as numerous hoards, associated with the Pomeranian culture in its Władysławowo phase. Settlements appear in previously uninhabited territories, such as the coastal areas in Kashubia and the Gdańsk Bay, and a dense network of new villages and burial grounds grow in microregions, located at the edges of river and lake valleys, usually on level sections of slopes, but also on hilltops. Settlements feature a dense layout of structures, suggesting an intensification of food production, especially concentrated in several clusters. The majority of dwellings were, similar to Lusatian, aboveground structures with a log-frame construction, attesting a certain degree of carpentry skill (Dzięgielewski 2017).
The oecumene appears to have gradually expanded from the Oder to the east during the Warzenko and Siemirowice phases (ca. 1300–900 BC), concentrating on the upland and strips of land along the Baltic coast and the Gdańsk Bay, with severe deforestation starting only at the end of this phase. In the Władysławowo phase (ca. 900–600 BC) there is a a settlement expansion towards the coast, especially the Gdańsk Bay, and into the great river valleys, with strong internal colonisation of moraine uplands, with development of exchange relationships and long-range trade routes and bronze metallurgy (Dzięgielewski 2017).
A metallurgical centre in the lower Vistula basin produced many original forms, despite remaining under the influence of bronze-casting workshops of the Nordic circle. Imports from the north are common, while less numerous artefacts from south-central Europe are also found, with Rhine or western European findings being the least numerous. Intense contacts with Baltic cultures continues from the Bronze Age, at the same time as the western Baltic area becomes increasingly homogeneous in style of pottery and bronze metallurgy. Regions around the Baltic sea constituted a kind of communicative community, but symbols and imagery demonstrate they remained different worlds: the Nordic world, with motif of boats in bronze decoration and on rock carvings, and the Pomeranian world, with Urnfield ornitomorphic motifs (Dzięgielewski 2017).
Fortified settlements appear usually marking micro- and mesoregional clusters, without a clear defensive role, given their location outside of densely populated areas and far from the borders of the culture. They reflected thus the emergence of social differentiation, signalling the start of a strictly kinship-based chiefdom system in the area. There are no ‘centres’ of regional power similar to those of southern Scandinavia, though. Burial practices in certain regions also point to limited practices of polygyny and extended exogamy (sign of increasing social stratification), probably continuing from the Bronze Age Lusatian culture based on indirect data such as votive hoards. This could have eventually led to increased mobility of young males without prospects, especially in the later, Karczemki phase, which justifies in part the culture’s progressive colonisation of the northern area and eventual expansion to the south, possibly also triggered by the desire to control trade routes, like those developed by the Pomeranian amber exports, e.g. along the Vistula and Warta rivers (Dzięgielewski 2017).
The old tumulus necropolises disappear ca. 1000–900 BC, and ‘flat’ burial ground emerge ca. 900 BC at the earliest, most of them appearing only after ca. 800/750 BC. Nevertheless, ‘Tumulus’ communities appear to have been at the foundation of the demographic growth observable during the Władysławowo phase. Flat graves included some construction elements (cobbles and linings), and contained rectangular or polygonal stone cists, each containing one, two, or rarely several units. Deposited vessels found in funerary and settlement contexts were all produced in accordance with the ‘Urnfield canon’, and included middle-sized pots or, less frequently, large pots with two handles or vases with a round body and a narrowing neck used as urns (Dzięgielewski 2017).
The Karczemki phase of the Pomeranian culture (ca. 650–400 BC) represents the latest expansion phase, and the eventual change to alternative economic strategies, such as transhumance based on sheep–goat herds and cattle, because of dwindling resources. There is a decrease in the number of large agricultural settlements, and settlements became smaller and more scattered, with the establishment of small, clan cemeteries. Amber trade probably allowed for certain groups to survive, leading to concentration of assets in some regions, and to the increase polygyny and thus the chance for the reproductive success of some clans (Dzięgielewski 2017).
Culturally, this phase is characterised by the presence of Hallstatt-style items alongside local forms of pottery and ornaments. Remarkable is the sudden appearance of face urns only in funerary contexts, geographically limited to the west, and with a likely origin in simpler Władysławowo phase depictions, with similar anthropomorphic models of urn decoration found in Jutland and Germany by the end of the 2nd millennium BC, and in Etruscan Canopic jars in Italy. Pomeranian culture expanded to the south ca. 500–400 BC, to almost all regions of the Polish Lowland, during a period corresponding to the La Tène period north of the Alps (Dzięgielewski 2017).
At the same time as the Pomeranian culture retreated and expanded east and south following the expansion of the Jastorf and Hallstatt/La Tène cultures, the West Baltic culture of cairns (ca. 650–150 BC) also expanded in the east, evolving from the previous Lusatian culture. Further complex population movements were caused by the pressure from Germanic migrations to the south and east from Scandinavia and the German lowlands, represented by Oksywie (2nd c. BC – 1st c. AD) and later Wielbark (1st c. AD – 4th c. AD) cultures in eastern Pomerania.
The Przeworsk culture (3rd c. BC – 5th c. AD) shows continuity in its roots with the preceding Pomeranian culture, but its extension north from the Vistula to the Oder, and south toward the middle Danube from the Dniester to the Tisza valley was accompanied by significant influences from La Tène and Jastorf cultures. The subsequent absorption into the Wielbark culture—related to the East Germanic expansion—makes its precise ethnolinguistic association difficult, and it is sometimes viewed as an amalgam of a series of localised cultures (Mallory and Adams 1997), although it was likely an East Germanic-dominated culture.
East of the main Przeworsk zone was the Zarubinets culture (3rd c. BC – 2st c. AD), traditionally considered a part of the Przeworsk complex (Mallory and Adams 1997), located between the upper and middle Dnieper and Pripyat rivers. Early Slavic hydronyms are found in the area, and the prototypical examples of Prague-type pottery later originated there (Curta 2001). It is therefore the most likely culture to be identified as ancestral to Proto-Slavic (Kobyliński 2005).
Zarubinets came to an end with the migration of its population, linked to the increasingly arid climate. By the AD 3rd century, western parts of Zarubinets had been integrated into the Wielbark culture, and some Zarubinets groups had moved southward into river valleys, moving closer to Sarmatian and Thracian-Celtic groups of the Don region, forming the Chernoles culture. Central late Zarubinets sites gradually turned into the Kyiv culture (ca. 3rd-5th c.), widely considered the first identifiable Slavic archaeological culture, from which the Prague–Korchak culture—traditionally identified with the expansion of Common Slavic (Mallory and Adams 1997)—descended about the 5th c.
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, Brace, 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 (see §viii.11. Thracians and Albanians). 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, Brace, 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 (Mittnik, Wang, et al. 2018). 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 (Suppl. Graph. 11).
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 (Koivulehto 2006; Kallio 2008), 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 Saxony-Anhalt lie close to the culture’s border, and they show a mixed society including probably haplogroups I2a1b1-M223, R1a1a1b-Z645, and R1b1a1b1a-L23, as is expected from a developing Balto-Slavic community in the east (Schilz 2006; Lipson et al. 2017).
Chemical traces suggest that warriors from Tollense (see §VIII.6.3. Tumulus period (MBA)) 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 (Suppl. Graph. 12), suggesting that central and western European EBA cultures were still at that time closely interconnected (Sell 2017). 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 (Melheim et al. 2018), continuing thus the connections created during the Bell Beaker expansion a thousand years earlier.
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 (Ojārs 2014). 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 Finno-Permic in nature, the proto-historical Chudes (Figure 43), 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 (Rahkonen 2011).
Figure 43. Boundary of Finno-Permic and Baltic tribes in the Age of Migrations according to Kriiska & Tvauri (2007:148). Image modified from Rahkonen (2011).
The division of historical Slavic tribes in territories and cultures of the AD 5th–7th centuries remains a hotly debated topic (Curta 2001). Nevertheless, the expansion of the Prague–Korchak culture from its nucleus in the older Przeworsk–Zarubinets contact zone to the west—including its expansion as the Sukow-Dziedzice group to the Baltic Sea—can be identified with the West Slavic expansion, and (at least part of) the western peak of R1a1a1b1a1a-M458 lineages in modern populations.
Two females of the Avar culture in Szólád (AD 540–640) are genetically similar to modern eastern Europeans: one clusters closely to Poles (consistent with the presence of Slavs in the area), and one between modern Russians, Ukrainians and Latvians (consistent with the eastern origin and contacts of Avars); both suggest a rapid population turnover after the Migration Period (Amorim et al. 2018). Two West Slavic females from Bohemia (ca. AD 600–900) cluster with modern Czechs, western Poles, and eastern Germans, suggesting a great degree of continuity between Slavic populations since then (Allentoft et al. 2015). Two likely Slavic individuals from Usedom, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (AD 1200) show hg. E1b1b-M215 and R1a1a1b1a1a-M458.
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 Proto-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 (Kushniarevich et al. 2015), 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 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 (Curta 2001). This might justify a late assimilation of the South Slavic language by local groups of I2a1a-P37.2 (in particular I2a1b2-L621) lineages, which are prevalent today in South Slavic territory (Kushniarevich et al. 2015). These lineages were found in Carpathian EBA cultures, which may explain an easy acculturation of their related Indo-European languages.
The eastern and western peaks in 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), which might support west–east migrations coinciding with the Late Bronze / Iron Age, while its subclades R1a1a1b1a1a1a1-YP256 (TMRCA ca. 200 BC) and R1a1a1b1a1a1a2-YP1337 (TMRCA ca. AD 450 BC), seem to support Slavic migrations with these lineages during the Iron Age / Early Middle Ages (Horváth 2014), which is expected to be found if the Lusatian expansion is linked to the eastward expansion of Balto-Slavic, and later younger subclades are linked to the westward expansion of Common Slavic, probably related to the Zarubinets culture (Suppl. Fig. 16), and later to the south from Pannonia (Curta 2001).
This is suggested also by the presence of basal hg. R1a1a1b1a1a-M458* and early 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. Nevertheless, subclades of hg. R1a1a1b1a2-Z280 (xR1a1a1b1a2a-Z92) seem to have also been involved in early Slavic expansions, like R1a1a1b1a2b3a-CTS3402 (formed ca. 2200 BC, TMRCA ca. 2200 BC), found among modern West, South, and East Slavic populations and in Fennoscandia, prevalent e.g. among modern Slovenians which points to a northern origin of its expansion (Maisano Delser et al. 2018).
The central-east European origin of Balto-Slavic peoples during the Bronze Age, and thus the suggested role of western R1a1a1b1a1a-M458 and R1a1a1b1a2-Z280 (xR1a1a1b1a2a-Z92) lineages in their expansion, seems 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 (Sell 2017). 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. This is supported by the resurgence of R1a1a1b1a-Z282 lineages in those cultures, which are nevertheless heirs of Bell Beaker and related EBA cultures in their respective territories, consistent with the nature of Balto-Slavic as a North-West Indo-European dialect.
The nature of Balto-Slavic peoples as stemming from a central-east European population, not related to steppe peoples, is more clearly seen in the genetic shift from Corded Ware peoples—which spread their main modern R1a1a1b1a-Z282 subclades, originally linked to Finno-Ugric populations (see §vii.1. Western and Eastern Uralians)—towards a central European cluster in Early Slavs (continued in modern West Slavs), away from Steppe MLBA samples, and close to a late Corded Ware/Proto-Únětice and to the Iwno/Proto-Trzciniec samples. The multiple documented migrations of steppe-related peoples to the west (see §viii.18. Iranians), and the hypothesised origin of the Slavic expansion near the north Pontic area should have shifted early Slavs genetically to the east, and not—as these samples show—to the west.