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The distribution of the western cultural tradition during the Early and Middle Bronze Age

2000/1750 - 900 BC
  • Culture
    Bronze Age
  • Population
    2000-4000
  • Genes
    21% European hunter-gatherers, 19% early agriculturalists, 60% steppe nomads
  • Language
    The first north-western Indo-European, paleogermanic
  • Climate
    Slightly warmer than nowadays
  • Flora
    Mixed forests, birch forests, pine forests, semi-natural grasslands, cultivated plants.
  • Fauna
    Same wild animals as today, along with bison, tarvas, goats, sheep, domestic pigs and cattle.

The distribution of the cultural tradition emanating from the west, i.e. Scandinavia and Northern Central Europe in contemporary Estonia, Finland and Latvia began already during the Neolithic and continued during the Early Bronze Age and is archaeologically identifiable with ever increasing imported goods (flint daggers, bronze axes, etc.). Permanent monuments of a western origin began to be built in the countries of the east coast of the Baltic sea, however, from the Middle Bronze Age. In Finland, these were usually monumental stone graves or burial cairns (Finnish: hiidenkiuas) located atop higher hilltops, whereas in Estonia, somewhat smaller stone-cist graves and early Celtic fields were spread. On the lower course of River Daugava in Latvia, Reznes-type barrows and in Northern Latvia stone-cist graves similar to those found in Estonia are known. In addition, stone ships of Gotland origin are known on the east coast of the Baltic sea and the islands, and also cup stones especially from Estonia, less from Finland and the least from Latvia.

 

 
Rebala stone-cist grave. Circle made of stones with graves in the centre.
Figure 1. Rebala stone-cist grave.

The appearance of such permanent monuments likely indicates the arrival of new groups of peoples from the south and west coasts of the Baltic sea. Taking into account historical linguistic comparisons, the newcomers must have been pre-Germanic peoples speaking pre-Proto-Germanic. At least in North and West Estonia the immigrants practised agriculture and pastoralism, such information is lacking from Finland and Latvia. The newcomers on the coasts of Estonia, Finland and Latvia encountered a sparse populace practising more a fishing economy, who were presumably assimilated quickly.

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References

Lang, V. 2007. The Bronze and Early Iron Ages in Estonia. – Estonian Archaeology, 3. Tartu University Press.

Lang, V. 2018. Läänemeresoome tulemised. – Muinasaja teadus, 28. Tartu Ülikooli kirjastus.

Lavento, M. 2015. Pronssi- ja varhaismetallikausi. – Haggrén, G. et al. Muinaisuutemme jäljet. Suomen esi- ja varhaishistoria kivikaudelta keskiajalle. Gaudeamus, Helsinki, 125–212.

Vasks, A. 2010. Latvia as part of a sphere of contacts in the Bronze Age. – Archaeologia Baltica, 13, 153–161.

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