From both historic and archaeological perspectives migration forms a fundamental component in constituting European societies. Archaeological, as well as more recently, also genetic research shows that phases of population stasis were followed by phases of often rapid population change. In fact, since about 7000 years ago a considerable proportion of the European population stock has been of Near Eastern ancestry. These people arrived from the western Eurasian centre of origin for agriculture, the so-called Fertile Crescent, exactly the same region from which also today people strive to reach Europe.
But migration to Europe goes back much deeper into the past as the early archaic humans arrived between a million to 800.000 years ago from Africa, via the Near East. Lastly this means that we are all of African descent.
Possibly somewhat strife-ridden might have been the arrival of the anatomically modern humans about 40.000 years ago, again from Africa. These people were our direct ancestors. They came into contact with Neanderthal populations and appear to have pushed those back to the western marginal zones of the Eurasian land mass. However, occasionally these populations seem to have mixed so that about 1,5 to 2 % of the modern European DNA pool is of Neanderthal origin (Prüfer et al. 2014).
Those immigrant anatomically modern humans constituted the European population stock for the next 33.000 years, well until the Ice Age or Glacial was over. While there are indications for occasional small-scale migrations during the early post-Glacial millennia, the next great population change occurs only with the expansion of farming to Europe, 7000 years ago. Now people with an entirely new technology and economy arrive in Southern, Temperate and Western Europe. Largely, two routes have been taken, one - land-based - went from Anatolia via Greece, the Balkans, and Hungary lastly to Central Europe (Gronenborn 1999; Szécsényi-Nagy et al. 2015; Horejs et al. 2015). Interestingly enough, those are exactly the same routes as they are currently being taken by refugees from Syria and other parts of western Asia. Also, the regions of origin are more or less the same: the Fertile Crescent around the river valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris, and the surrounding landscapes. One reason for those past migrations might have been climate fluctuations as rising populations would have faced subsistence difficulties during periods of adverse climatic conditions (Weninger et al. 2014).
Apart from the way into Europe by land, across the Balkans, another route was taken by seaborne settlers along the Mediterranean coasts. Those farmers eventually made it to the Iberian Peninsula and into North-West Africa where they settled and introduced farming and animal husbandry (Paschou et al. 2014).
|Spread of agriculture in Western Eurasia. Farming as well as their cereals and husbandry originate from the Fertile Crescent (orange).|
(Graphics: D. Gronenborn/ M. Ober, RGZM)
In many regions of continental Europe, particularly in the West, did the immigrant population come into contact with indigenous hunter-gatherers. These contact situations have been examined by archaeology for many decades: farmers and indigenous hunter-gatherers seem to have benefited form each other and may have lived, side by side, in the same villages, each with their respective economies and specialisations (Gronenborn 2007). In marginal landscapes and in the coastal regions, hunting and gathering persisted, sometimes for millennia, aside farming communities settling on more fertile soils.
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LinkThis is an extended version of the German contribution:
- D. Gronenborn, Europäische Gesellschaften beruhen auf Migration – ein kurzer Blick in lange Zeiträume. Archaeologik (28.10.2015). - http://archaeologik.blogspot.de/2015/10/europaische-gesellschaften-beruhen-auf.html