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As already stated, 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;
  • R1a1a1b1a2b-CTS1211 (or M558) seems to be centred on Eastern Europe.

Investigation of ancient DNA (see Forest Zone and Corded Ware culture) suggest an original spread of EHG ancestry westward from the late Pit-Comb ware culture[Mathieson et al. 2017], and a later expansion westward expansion of steppe ancestry associated with Corded Ware cultures[Mathieson et al. 2015][Haak et al. 2015][Allentoft et al. 2015].

The current distribution and older TMRCA of R1a1a1b1a1-M458 compared to the other R1a1a1-M417 lineages could support its position as the original 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, 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 and language.

bronze_age_middle_Europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 1750-1250 BC[Anthony 2007][Kristiansen 2016][Kristiansen 2014][Fokkens and Harding 2013][Wels-Weyrauch 2011][Przybyła 2009][Makarowicz 2009].

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. 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.

iron_age_Europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 750-250 BC[Thurston 2009][Cunliffe and Koch 2012].

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 – make its precise association controversial, and it is sometimes viewed as an amalgam of a series of localised cultures.

East of the main Przeworsk zone was the Zarubinets culture (3rd c. BC – 2st c. AD), 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 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 Adams 1997] – descended about the 5th c.

antiquity_classical_Europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 250 BC – 250 AD.

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.

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 hypothesised that a North-West Indo-European language – 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 have formed 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.

antiquity_Europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 250-750 AD.

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 Adams 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]. This 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.

middle_age_Europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 750 – 1300 AD.

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 the Lusatian expansion is linked to the westward expansion of Balto-Slavic, and later younger subclades are linked to the westward expansion of West Slavic from eastern Europe.

The western origin of Balto-Slavic peoples during the Bronze Age – and thus the nature of Balto-Slavic as a North-West Indo-European dialect, and the suggested role of western R1a1a1b1a1-M458 lineages in expanding Slavic – seems to be supported by the findings of the Tollense valley, where most deceased warriors sampled cluster closely to modern northern central part of Europe, including East German and West Slavic populations[Sell 2017].

r1b-z84.jpg Modern distribution of haplogroup R1a1a1b1a-Z282. Adapted from Underhill et al. [Underhill et al. 2015].


Map rendered in psuedocolors for R-M458 frequencies, data derived from Underhill et al. Positions of boundaries (NE,NW,C,etc) are approximate. Variation of N and S. Caucasus region of Russia rendered as stripes showing range of variation in the region. Image from Wikipedia.


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