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In Scandinavia, farming communities had already abandoned their subsistence strategy for the development of transhumance[Jensen 2003]. A migration of Bell Beaker groups to Jutland (ca. 2300-1700 BC) seems to have brought skills in mining and sailing, introducing mass production of flint daggers, as well as the first metal daggers (an imitation of copper and bronze prototypes). This Dagger Period of the late Nordic Neolithic also represents the introduction of a more ranked social organization, and large chiefly houses similar to Únětice appeared in south Scandinavia, with a growth in interregional contacts. All these changes are interpreted as “a radical reorganization of economy and social organization which wiped out or integrated the diverse cultural traditions of the previous period into a single south Scandinavian cultural sphere”, which suggests “the formation of a shared Nordic language based upon the frequent interaction that followed from the distribution of flint daggers”[Kristiansen 2009].

The best candidate for an expansion of the Pre-Germanic dialect of North-West Indo-European into Scandinavia is the Barbed Wire Beaker culture of the Low Countries and Northern Lowland[Kristiansen 2009], which would later show a period of change starting ca. 1850 BC until its complete cultural change evident after ca. 1500 BC[Fokkens and Harding 2013], into the Elp culture (ca. 1800-800 BC). Samples of haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106 are found quite late, in the Nordic Late Neolithic at Lilla Beddinge ca. 2150 BC[Allentoft et al. 2015], and in Oostwoud ca. 1881-1646 BC[Olalde et al. 2017], suggesting a connection of lineages between Jutland and the Low Countries. Modern population analysis supports this connection, showing that R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106 distribution peaks today precisely around the Netherlands.

Haplogroup I2-M438 was formed ca. 25500 BC, and the modern European population has a TMRCA ca. 19900 BC. Many ancient DNA samples are found since the Palaeolithic, and two main branches seem to have divided early: I2a1b2-L621 lineages are found mainly in the Balkans, and I2a2a-M223 – distributed through central Europe – seems to have followed the expansion of Italo-Celtic and Germanic, and were therefore possibly integrated with R1b1a1a2a1a-L151 lineages since the Bell Beaker complex. Samples from Sweden since the Mesolithic show exclusively I2-M438 lineages before the Bronze Age.

It has been asserted, based on all samples studied from the Palaeolithic, that western hunter-gatherers (as defined in admixture analysis) represent a population that expanded from a south-eastern European refugium following the last Ice Age around 15000 years ago – displacing or admixing with the existing population of western Europe[Mathieson et al. 2017].

Haplogroup I1-M253 split from the common stem at approximately the same time as I2-M438. The first example is found in Neolithic Linear Pottery culture in Hungary[Szecsenyi-Nagy et al. 2015], which suggests its distribution in central Europe before the Corded Ware and Yamna expansions. The next sample found in aDNA records is from the Nordic Bronze Age in Angmollan, ca. 1400 BC[Allentoft et al. 2015].

R1b1a1a2-M269 lineages are found in early (Sebber Skole[1], ca. 1410 BC) and late Nordic Bronze Age (Angmollan, ca. 670 BC), while haplogroup I1-M253 is found in Angmollan (ca. 1400 BC), and haplogroup I-M170 in Angmollan (ca. 1360 BC) and Abekas (ca. 1255 BC), suggesting a south-north cline in culture and population in Scandinavia during these times of ethnolinguistic change.

The modern population with I1-M253 lineages is centred in northern Scandinavia near Skagerrak strait and Kattegat sea area, and shows a TMRCA ca. 2600 BC. On the other hand, R1a1a1b1a3-Z284/S221 lineage (formed ca. 2700 BC, TMRCA ca. 2300 BC) – probably associated with the expansion of the Corded Ware cultures in Scandinavia – shows a distribution in modern Scandinavian populations located further to the north and west of that zone. If invasions from southern to northern Scandinavia are supposed to have happened in a south-to-north route, through the Øresund strait into the Skåne region, peoples of I1-M253 lineages should be assumed to have migrated from northern Europe during the proposed expansion of Beaker peoples into Scandinavia, and thrived after that, both populations pushing back the previous Corded-Ware-associated R1a1a1b1a3-Z284 lineages, which in turn had probably displaced or replaced the earlier Neolithic I2-M438 lineages.

It is difficult to ascertain whether both lineages, R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106 and I1-M253, were already mixed in northern Germany before their northward migration into Jutland, or remained separated until forming a Pre-Germanic community later. If an early mixed R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106–I1-M253 society with a common language is to be supported, it seems to need further explanations as to the clear late differentiation into territorially-divided lineages, with late founder effects having simplified to a greater extent the situation east and west of the Øresund strait.

After an obscure period of internal development, the situation in Northern Germany and Scandinavia before the Iron Age would have probably corresponded loosely to the present situation, with the R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106 / I1-M253 divide possibly located to the east of the current cline, at the Øresund strait, given the quite late invasion of Jutland by Danes.

The irruption of Germanic peoples in central, east, and west Europe including the Roman Empire – the Barbarian Invasions from Classical sources, renamed the Migration Period since the Romantic era – suggests a R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106-dominated West Germanic area, and Viking migrations point to different clans belonging to R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106, I1-M253, and R1a1a1b1a3-Z284 lineages in the North Germanic area.

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].


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

Antiquity-classical-europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations in Europe ca. 250 BC – 250 AD.

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

Medieval-europe.jpg Diachronic map of migrations ca. 750 – 1300 AD.

The modern distribution of R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106 is roughly coincident with the expansion of West Germanic with the medieval Ostsiedlung, showing a west-east cline compatible with the Germanization of Slavs to the east of the Elbe. Although modern population samples are difficult to assess without genealogical information – due to the expulsion of Germans after World War II –, medieval samples from Podlažice (ca. 1180 AD) in Czech lands and Nicolaus Copernicus’ family origin from Koperniki near Nysa in Silesia before the 14th century[Bogdanowicz et al. 2009] seem to support the expansion of R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106 lineages associated with German settlers of the Holy Roman Empire east of the Elbe.

The question of the dialectal nature of East Germanic remains a purely linguistic one, but I1-M253 and R1a1a1b1a3-Z284 lineages scattered throughout Europe seem to support the classical description of East Germanic tribes migrating from Scandinavia to the east of the Elbe, and thus its connection with the Nordic branch.

R1b-U106.jpg Modern distribution of haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a1-U106. Adapted from Myres et al.[Myres et al. 2011].


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  1. Additional information xP312, xA2150 from Vince Tilroe.