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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Early Eastern Europe

The pre-history of Europe is a long and largely uncertain period in which small windows of opportunity to view events can be gained through archaeology. Masses of material are found each year by archaeologists, and a system was long ago needed to help organise all these findings.

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right). Archaeological cultures remain the framework for global prehistory.

Europe's earliest cultures which came out of Africa via the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue. These early cultures include transitional ones such as the Bohunician, which covers part of the earliest occupation of modern humans in Europe.

Once the ice had retreated and Europe had become a much more hospitable place, human cultures became increasingly regionalised, or at least confined to areas less expansive than the entirety of Europe. The Magdalenian culture of circa 17,000 to 12,000 BC includes the well-known cave art of Lescaux (in France) and Altamira (in Spain), with the earliest dated sites being in France.

Subsequently, cultural complexity appears and increases as human populations increased. What had been a single human culture across Europe eventually divided in two which - at least at first - can be equated to Northern Europe and Southern Europe.

In the south the late Palaeolithic Epigravettian culture emerged across much of Italy, the Balkans, and western Ukraine. When this entered the Mesolithic period regional variations had already begun to appear, sparking the start of a series of local cultures. These began with the Iron Gates culture in the Balkans and the Shan Koba culture in Crimea, but soon extended into the Caucasus as individual cultures also appeared in Western Europe and Central Europe.

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by David Reich (Harvard Medical School), from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds), from The Magdalenian Settlement of Europe, Quaternary International Volumes 272-273 (2012), and from External Links: The Genetic History of Ice Age Europe (Nature 2016), and Dietary Change from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages in the Iron Gates, C Bonsall (Lead Author, Cambridge University Press, 18 July 2016).)


King list Iron Gates Culture
(c.13,000 - 6000 BC)

The Iron Gates culture appeared at the very start of the Mesolithic period in Eastern Europe, in the Iron Gates region of today's Romania and Serbia.

King list Shan Koba Culture
(c.13,000 - 5700? BC)

The Shan Koba culture appeared in the Epi-Palaeolithic as it was transitioning into the early Mesolithic, located in the Crimean part of the Black Sea steppe zone.

King list Anetivka Tradition
(c.11,700? - 8000? BC)

Human groups along the centre of the southern Ukrainian coast were part of the Epigravettian-led Anetivka flint-knapping technology of the late Palaeolithic.

King list Caucasus Cultures
(c.11,200 BC)

Just as Eastern Europe blosomed in terms of localised Mesolithic cultures, the Caucasus mountain range also experienced its own wave of cultures.

King list Ienevo Culture
(c.11,000? - 7000? BC)

The Ienevo emerged alongside its sister Resseta culture in the upper Volga basin in eastern areas of European Russia which were populated by Swiderian people.

King list Resseta Culture
(c.11,000? - 7000? BC)

The upper Volga region is characterised by a limited number of archaeological remains thanks to natural conditions here being poor for preservation.

King list Shpan Culture
(c.10,000 - 6000 BC)

Human groups of the Shpan hunter-gatherer culture survived in Mesolithic southern Ukraine alongside a large array of similar specialised cultures.

King list Sursko-Dnieper Culture
(c.10,000 - 5000 BC)

The prevailing opinion is that the Sursko-Dnieper may have developed under the influence of Neolithic migrants from the Near East.

King list Tash-Air Culture
(c.10,000 - 5000 BC)

The Tash-Air emerged in Crimea, proceeding from Mesolithic to early Neolithic forager groups before eventually giving way to true Neolithic farming cultures.

King list Butovo Culture
(c.9600 - 6000 BC)

The wide-ranging Butovo culture was part of the North-Eastern Technocomplex, emerging in a Swiderian-dominated Europe as the post-glacial ice retreated.

King list Molodova-Kichkine Culture
(c.9500 - 4500 BC)

Its traditional hunting and gathering economy probably caused the transmigration of part of the Molodova culture from the Middle Dniester to the Crimean foothills.

King list Yangelka Culture
(c.9500 - 6000 BC)

This was a unique culture in its own right, with stone tools which were characterised by obliquely blunted points, but also with several linked cultures to the west.

King list Bilolissya Culture
(c.9000? - 6900? BC)

The Bilolissya appears to have left no serious impact on later cultures, instead being viewed as an infiltration into the Ukrainian steppe.

King list Kizil-Koba (I) Culture
(c.9000 - 6000 BC)

The Kizil-Koba population engaged in a subsistence economy which was based on hunting, fishing, gathering, and very early forms of agriculture.

King list Seroglazovka Culture
(c.8800? - 5000? BC)

Seroglazovka sites are dispersed across the lower Volga's Caspian depression, between the River Kama near Kazan, and the river delta near the Caspian Sea.

King list Dnieper-Desna Culture
(c.8500 - 5000 BC)

The Dnieper-Desna emerged across the middle Russian upland and upper Dnieper, being differentiated into the Grensk, Pesotchniy Rov, and Sozh cultures.

King list Central European Cultures
(c.8200 BC)

With the break-up of the Swiderian culture, various daughter cultures began to appear across Central Europe, signifying the formation of a true melting pot of cultures.

King list Janislavice Culture
(c.8200 - 2800 BC)

The Janislavice is believed to have emerged in early Poland during the early to mid-Holocene period, roughly around 8300-7200 BC, before extending into Ukraine.

King list Bug-Dniester Culture
(c.6500 - 5000 BC)

Early Bug-Dniester flint tools showed similarities with, and a degree of descent from, coastal steppe cultures such as the Grebeniki and Kukrek.

King list Dnieper-Donets I Culture
(c.6500 - 5000 BC)

The Swiderian-derived Dnieper-Donets I culture succeeded the Kunda and Butovo cultures to herald the emergence of Neolithic foragers in favour of the Mesolithic.

King list Mariupol Culture
(c.6500 - 3250 BC)

Upon initial discovery by archaeologists in the 1960s, and prior to detailed analysis, Mariupol finds were also assigned to the Dnieper-Donets.

King list Azov-Dnieper Culture
(c.6050 - 3225 BC)

Over six hundred skeletons from numerous Neolithic cemeteries are known from the Pontic steppe, a portion of them from the Azov-Dnieper.

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