A more recent, revised and updated version of this paper has been published (2019)


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Samples from late Corded Ware cultures to the east of Únětice show a continuity of R1a1a1-M417 (most likely R1a1a1b-Z645) lineages in Bronze Age and in modern population samples.

The expansion of R1a1a1b1a-Z282 lineages appears therefore to be strongly linked to the spread of the Corded Ware culture, but the original homeland of these lineages is unclear. Based only on current genetic mapping (Underhill et al. 2015), basal R1a1a1b-Z645 seems to be distributed following a westward and eastward expansion from a Pit-Comb Ware ancestral homeland; R1a1a1b1a3-Z284 seems to have expanded early to Scandinavia and expanded later from a secondary nucleus there (given its late TMRCA); R1a1a1b1a1-M458 appears in Central Europe, with diffusion to the East; whereas R1a1a1b1a2b-CTS1211 (or M558) seems to be centred on Eastern Europe.

Samples of R1a1a1-M417 and R1a1a1b-Z645 lineages from ancient populations and admixture analyses suggest an original spread of European hunter-gatherer ancestry eastward from the late Pit-Comb ware culture (Mathieson et al. 2017), a later expansion of steppe ancestry associated with Corded Ware cultures (Mathieson et al. 2015; Haak et al. 2015; Allentoft et al. 2015), probably from the Contact Zone between Globular Amphorae, eastern Baltic, Old European (especially Usatovo), and later contacts with Yamna migrants up the Prut River.

The current distribution and older TMRCA of R1a1a1b1a1-M458 compared to the other R1a1a1-M417 lineages could support its position as the original Pre-Balto-Slavic-speaking population. Some late Corded Ware groups in central Europe are thought to have smoothly transitioned to Bell Beaker cultures (Besse 2014), and some of these formed proto-Únětice and Mierzanowice/Nitra groups. Some Úněticean groups later evolved into early Lusatian Tumulus culture (ca. 1700-1400), originally located between the Elbe and Oder basins (see above Figure 16), which later expanded east (ca. 1300-500 BC) into territories of previous Trzciniec culture.

Diffusion of West Indo-European isoglosses has already been proposed to be identified with the Úněticean expansion into peoples of mixed ancestry and lineages, and continuity of such admixture from the region of Tumulus–early Lusatian into Urnfield–Lusatian cultures is supported by findings of R1a1a1b1a-Z282 lineages in the Urnfield group from Saxony-Anhalt, close to the proto-Lusatian original territory. That points to the Elbe basin as the original site of cultural breach for R1a1a1b1a-Z282 lineages, between the older Corded Ware tradition and the new Úněticean culture.

The eastern and western peaks in R1a1a1b1a1-M458 lineages might support a west-east migration, as well as an east-west migration, and indeed both in different periods, which is expected to be found if Lusatian is linked to the expansion of Pre-Balto-Slavic, and later younger subclades are linked to the West Slavic expansion to the west. The Pomeranian and related West-Baltic culture of cairns (ca. 650-150 BC) evolved from the Lusatian culture to the east, following the expansion of the Jastorf and Hallstatt/La Tène cultures (see above Figure 20). Under 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, and the subsequent absorption into the Wielbark culture – related to the East Germanic expansion – make its precise association controversial, and it is sometimes viewed as an amalgam of a series of localized cultures.

East of the Przeworsk zone was the Zarubinets culture (3rd c. BC – 2st c. AD), considered a part of the Przeworsk complex (Mallory and Douglas 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 to be identified as Proto-Slavic (Kobyliński 2005).

Zarubinets came to an end with the migration of its population, linked to the increasingly arid climate. By the 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 and forming the Chernoles culture. Central late Zarubinets sites gradually turned into the Kiev culture (ca. 3rd-5th c.), widely considered the first identifiable Slavic archaeological culture, from which Prague-Penkov-Kolochin complex of cultures – identified with the expansion of Proto-Slavic (Mallory and Douglas 1997) – descended about the 5th c.

Regarding the conflicting nature of Balto-Slavic, for which a common group with Albanian and Indo-Iranian has been proposed (Kortlandt 2016), it has been hypothesized that the North-West Indo-European language behind Pre-Balto-Slavic – called “Temematic” (Holzer 1989) – would have formed the Pre-Balto-Slavic (especially Pre-Slavic) substratum language, over which a Graeco-Aryan (specifically Indo-Iranian-related) dialect would form its superstratum. However, such differences of Balto-Slavic with North-West Indo-European languages have been disputed (Matasović 2014). The likely Proto-Slavic original territory over layers of previous Cimmerian and Scytho-Sarmatian cultures seem to support a quite recent connection of Slavic and Indo-Iranian (and more precisely Iranian) peoples and their languages.

The division of historical Slavic tribes in territories and cultures in the 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 R1a1a1b1a1-M458 lineages in modern populations.

The Kolochin material culture was a transformation of the old Kiev culture (Kobyliński 2005), but evidence of Baltic river names in the region have made some propose an original Proto-Baltic population (Mallory and Douglas 1997) before the East Slavic occupation. Indeed the Baltic populations have been found to be genetically the closest to East Slavs (Kushniarevich et al. 2015), which is compatible with Baltic-speaking R1a1a1b1a2b-CTS1211 lineages undergoing a cultural assimilation with the East Slavic expansion. A precise analysis of Finno-Ugric and Baltic populations would be necessary to discern which R1a1a1b-Z645 subclades were associated with which population migrations and expansions.

The expansion of the Penkov culture in the Danube seems related to the expansion of South Slavic. 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), which might justify a late assimilation of the language by groups of I2a2a1b-L701 lineages, which are prevalent today in South Slavic territory (Kushniarevich et al. 2015). However, apart from the main peak of haplogroup I2a2a1b-L701 in the south-east Balkan territory, a secondary peak around Bessarabia, as well as its general distribution around the same territory as the Prague-Penkov-Kolochin complex probably point to an earlier assimilation of the group, during the transition to a Proto-Slavic community and before its migration.

Antiquity.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 250-750 AD. See full high-resolution version at <https://indo-european.eu/en/maps/antiquity/>.

R1b-z284.jpgModern distribution of haplogroup R1a1a1b1a-Z282. Adapted from Underhill et al. (2015).


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