The cycle of topography, migration, and cultural development in Europe


The Neolithic Migrations
The history of Europe is defined he movements and settlements of peoples into this rich continent and the ensuing phenomena of population stratification. These phenomena occur when larger single population groups diversify, becoming smaller individual communities as they adapt to their different geographical locations, developing more distinct cultures.

The geographical locations of Europe, with a plethora of river valleys , mountain barriers, , and coastlines which defined the ideal conditions for the development of many cities. The resulting networks within these cities generated advancements in society and the imposition of State law and bureaucracy. Most importantly, the civil nature of these new countries relied heavily on the local cultures, whether they be just recently introduced, outright native, or a mix of both. The analysis over cultural development is that it stems from the mélange of cultures that form a national identity and the settlements within these.

In order for cities to be created, however, a period of increasing demand, be it for food, shelter, or protection, has to arise . This is when population changes are occur, where a migration of a select few results in a domino effect which ripples throughout the surrounding inhabitable areas. In the European context, such anthropological studies resulting from these changes are analysed for the continuous innovation of culture in an increasingly globalised world. Such social meanderings are at full steam today, but it began with distinct population groups some several thousand years ago.

The Making of Europe’s DNA

Figure 1: Post hunter-gatherer migrations of Europe (source: Population Genomic Analysis of Ancient and Modern Genomes)

The images above depicts how European Hunter-Gatherers, a mix of homo sapiens and homo neanderthalensis entered Europe from the Caucasus some 45,000 years ago. By 5,000 BCE, however, the homo neanderthalensis were extinct, and the pre-Celtic populations (in teal) were joined by proto-Illyrians from Anatolia (in green) and pre-Germanics from the Russian plains (in blue). These were deemed as the three tribes that formed Europe.

The pre-Celtic and Germanic populations cannot be considered proto (prefix belonging to a more primitive, rather than absolute form) as their genealogic composition was not yet complete. This is because recent discoveries revealed that a fourth tribe entered Europe Europe by 7,000 BCE] from the North of the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas (as indicated by the maps below). Dubbed by anthropologists and geneticists the Yamna steppe people, this group introduced the R1b genome that, while vague to this day, consists of DNA coding which defines the bulk of the Western European population. This is most likely a result of their posterior integration with the proto-Celtic and proto-Germanic tribes aforementioned.

Figure 2: Origins of Yamna Steppe Peoples (source: Indo European).
Figure 3: Indo-European Culture Groups (source: Indo European).

As portrayed in figure 2, the Yamna steppe peoples evolved and highly influenced the language of Western Europeans, as a result of the genetic and cultural hybridisations that took place following their westward migration. As suggested by the colour scheme in the map, the Celtic languages were distinct in the fact that while following into the Yamna-introduced Indo-European language group, it upheld the linguistic traits from the societies that inhabited the area before. The introduction of Indo-European language groups is the proof and legacy of the Yamna peoples from which the vast majority of Europeans claim descent. Genetically, the Yamna descent is stronger in Celtic populations as opposed to Germanics, most likely due to the prevalence of the Hallstatt culture emerging from Yamna fusion with the earlier Alpine-based form of Urnfield culture (teal in figure 3).

Formation of Ancient Rome
Fast forward some cities in Europe were formed by Roman settlements and garrisons during the Republic and Empire periods. However, many cities emerged, or re-emerged from the post-Roman power vacuum, at an age where Europe became the focal point for many migrations.

The Ancient European anthropological field is one of populational stratification. In this phase of development, a basis was formed for the culture and society Europeans live by today. The proto-European society has been influenced by ongoing phases of migration. The first one, however, was the demise of the Iron Age by 100 B.C.E and the development of outreaching societies such as that of Rome.

The case study of Proto-European peoples and the emergence of singular civil codes resulting from it is analysed through a variety of questions; how did such changes form the modern societies in Europe? Were the barbarians responsible for breaking Rome? Or did such a process occur from the inside out? How was it a combination of external forces with a weakening of Roman administration? Each of these questions, which arise every time a solution is found to the discussion that precedes it, are still highlights in academic research. The approach to them, however, is more about bureaucracy than sociology and anthropology. It is but a mere fraction of the series of events which moulded the European stage for the establishment of law, livelihood, and culture that make Europe so diverse, yet so united.

Living Within a Network

Figure 4: Ancient Rome in 125 A.D (source: Adrian N.).

Before the Roman Empire became an established society within their network system, there was the phase of subjugation of their respective neighbours. In Western Europe, by the advent of the first century, the local societies were genetically similar- these were either the already established Celts, spreading from the Atlantic fringes to the Carpathian mountain range, or the more nomadic Germanic tribes, centred around Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. The more disperse Celtic culture developed at a much quicker pace. This was mostly due to its concentration around more fertile, temperate climates, and easy accessibility from river valleys. Its peninsular societies, because of this more rapid development, were the ones that attracted the most outsiders, which altered their cultural and genetic makeup. The Hellenes (or Greeks), for examples were in constant touch with the Celtic peoples in Italy, forming the Italic identity from its more Celtic predecessor. One well-known example of this form of socio-cultural stratification is the Etruscan people inhabiting the area from the Tiber to the Po river valley.

The Etruscans themselves laid the foundation for the Roman cultural and technological front by appropriating and redeveloping Greek technology and mannerisms borrowed from the Greek colonies south of the Tiber[1] [2] . Though there are further examples of cultures affected by the Greeks, this genetically distinct group managed to become a power through the external network it had over much of the Eastern Mediterranean. Other than the Italics across the Adriatic, they had involved themselves with the Semitics in the East, the Scythians to the North and the Egyptians to the South. The Greek system, however, focused on the individual powers and cultures of cities, in a Polis-structured society. While the Romans adopted this society, they couldn’t cope with the decentralisation that followed suit as their empire expanded. In contrast, the Hellenic Empire of Alexander the Great disintegrated into individual Hellenic Kingdoms with cultural elements of the local peoples.

Power and Subjugation in Migratory Patterns

Figure 5: Haplogroups Europe (source: Robert Gebel).
Figure 5: Hallstatt culture in the Bronze Age (source: D. Bachmann).

As a formerly Celtic population, the then stratified Italic Romans were akin to the Celtic customs of their genetic counterparts. This made the subjugation of Celts, relatively easier. Although the conquest of their territories was done through warfare and the quelling of rebellions, the decentralisation of Rome after the transition to an Empire led to a breakthrough in stability and the formation of a pax romana. Today, the Romance languages of Spain and France provide this example. While the Britons did eventually submit themselves to Roman rule, the introduction of a Germanic diaspora into Great Britain made the possible formation of a Romance-based language improbable. While English is a Germanic language, it still holds a larger compatibility to Latin than most other Germanic languages. This, however, is the consequence of the reintroduction of Latin-based French through the 1066 Norman Conquest.

The linguistic transformations are proof of the cultural and societal pluralism of Europe today, and how such traits are the result of a gradual process. The idea that Rome managed to unify most of Europe under one banner was no mean feat. The imposition of Latin as a lingua franca, the assimilation of their religion into that of their submitted peoples (and vice-versa), and the complex, yet centralised network that made Rome the Mediterranean powerhouse made it, arguably, the most successful Empire in History. The decline of Rome, however, was an implosion. In truth, the external threats mattered little by the time the Crisis of the Third Century struck. The Roman socio-economic-political crisis ironically emerged from the aptitude Rome had in building networks, and the resulting dependence on the external forces that fed the city and Empire with power and prestige. The city of Rome ultimately was highly reliant on these networks; and as the alpha city, it was, up until the formation of an Eastern administration from Constantinople, the focal point of the Empire. This meant any crisis in Rome would be detrimental to the Empire; and any logistical fault in the system of networks would highly hinder the city and threaten the Empire. In Rome’s case, the overinvestment in military force for guaranteed power led to inflation and destabilisation of such a network and the society that established upon it. This internal factor, however, was propelled by a new Age of Migration that marked the end of the Ancient Age in Europe.

Top picture: Adrian N.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.