Origins of Slavs: Archaeology, Linguistics, Anthropology, History

Status
Closed
Dec 2009
5,558
Poland
Various theories indicate different origins of Slavs, depending on which branch of science (listed in the thread title) they are based. A truly complex theory, encompassing and analyzing results of research of all branches of science into one logical conclusion, has yet to be developed.

==========================================

An excerpt from this book ("Anthropology about the origins of Slavs", published in 2008 in Poznań):

The book was published by scholars of the Institute of Anthropology of Poznań University:

"Dąbrowski (...) used for his research 168 male and female skulls of the Roman period, including 28 skulls classified as Przeworsk culture and 140 as Wielbark culture. Author has proven, that skulls classified as Przeworsk culture are not morphologically different from skulls classified as Wielbark culture, which means, that they are not distinguishable as two different populations. (...) In his comparative research Dąbrowski uses skulls classified as Chernyakhovsk culture (90 male skulls and 94 female skulls) and craniological materials from the Early Medieval period: Eastern Slavs - 835 male skulls and 456 female skulls, Western Slavs - 2652 male skulls and 2246 female skulls. Skulls were from various burial-grounds and represented, in case of Eastern Slavs, such ethno-tribal groups as: Dregowicze, Krywicze, Polanie, Radynicze, Siewierzanie, Słowenie, Wiatycze. In case of Western Slavs groups were distinguished basing on geographical-historical criterion: Czechs, Lesser Polans, Mazovians, Moravians, Pomeranians, Slovakians, Silesians, Greater Polans. Between 15 mentioned groups of Early Medieval Slavs Dąbrowski, thanks to data about individual sizes of skulls, counted so called D2 Mahalanobis biological distances. The analysis of this data has proven, that there exists a certain tendency that groups located closer to each other in geographical space, are more similar to each other. One such common group consists of skulls of Western Slavs, the other one of skulls of Eastern Slavs. (...) similar intergroup ties are present in case of both sexes. (...) Results of analyses published by Dąbrowski (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) have been complemented by studies with use of new statistical methods and by larger number of chronologically diversified populations. Using matrixes of biological distances, present in Dąbrowski's work from 2007, we conducted comparative analysis of same morphorogical features of skulls in diachronic approach, that is comparing populations of the Roman period to Slavic populations. We have established a very high level of similarity between populations of both Przeworsk, Wielbark and Chernyakhovsk cultures to Slavic population (ill. 5, 6). Obtained by Dąbrowski (2007) and confirmed by us with use of another method, results of analyses indicate that populations living in basins of Oder and Vistula rivers during the period of Roman influences, were no different in terms of morphology from populations living in the same area during the Early Medieval period. Moreover, results of Dąbrowski's research have been complemented by comparative analysis of Roman period populations (populations of Wielbark, Przeworsk and Chernyakhovsk cultures) with populations of basins of Oder and Vistula rivers from Medieval period as well as with Medieval populations from Scandinavia (cf. Piontek 2006, 2007, Piontek and others 2007). In our comparative analysis we used the method of counting biological distance (square Euclidean distance) and the method of arranging matrixes according to Ward's method. Dendrogram divided the examined set of populations into two subgroups: the first subgroup - Medieval populations from basins of Oder and Vistula and Roman period populations, the second subgroup - Medieval and Late Medieval populations from Scandinavia and Western Pomerania. After comparing 22 populations in terms of 6 defined morphological features of skull it has been proven, that populations of Wielbark, Przeworsk and Chernyakhovsk cultures are characterized by very high level of morphological similarity with Medieval populations from basins of Vistula and Oder rivers. On the other hand, populations of these Roman period cultures bear no morphological resemblance to populations from Scandinavia, that is to populations to whom populations of Goths who allegedly lived in basins of Vistula and Oder rivers during the Roman period should be very similar, and with whom Roman period populations are often being ethnically identified."
 
Last edited:
Dec 2009
5,558
Poland
Probable original homeland of Proto-Slavs and at the same time probable area of ethnogenesis of Slavs:



As you can see, anthropology indicates a larger area than archaeology.

Statistical differences between Medieval skull shapes of Germanic people and Slavic people were significant:



To better show differences between skull shapes of Slavic populations and Germanic ones, I marked them below:





To summ up both of my posts:

Roman era people of Vistula and Oder basins had statistically very similar skull shapes to Medieval Slavic populations of the same area.

Scandinavian and other Germanic people had statistically very different skull shapes from Roman era populations of Vistula and Oder basins.

Conclusion:

Goths and other Germanic people did not live in significant numbers in Vistula and Oder basins of the Roman Era.

There could be Gothic and other Germanic tribes living in this area, but they were just minority of entire population living there.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2013
5,835
Canberra, Australia
How is it possible to tell from a 2000-year-old skull what language was spoken by its owner when alive?

The similarity of skulls of the medieval population of a particular area to the skulls of a much older population living in the same region simply shows that there was no physical replacement of population in the intervening period, ie the medieval population was physically descended from the older one.

However, such similarity does not exclude the possibility of changes in the culture and language of that population between the two periods examined. That is to say, the fact that a particular language was spoken in the area where the medieval skulls were found does not mean that the same language was spoken by the physically similar population that lived in the same area in much earlier times, say Roman times.

An example is provided by the extensive germanisation of large Slavic populations in medieval times in the territory east of the Elbe. Presumably a Slav-speaker who learned to speak German and adopted a German culture would not thereby undergo a change of skull-shape.

Thus, the German-speaking population of a particular area might be substantially descended from a population that was Slavic-speaking in previous centuries, and therefore would have the same skull-shape as its physical ancestors, despite the change in language and culture.

In similar vein, a medieval Slavic-speaking population might be substantially descended from a population that spoke a Germanic language in Roman times.

Those are the sort of factors that make it very difficult to draw conclusions from the comparison of alleged "Slavic" skulls with alleged "German" skulls. If skulls from two different areas show marked differences in form, that shows a degree of genetic distance between the populations of those two areas, but those physical differences say nothing about the cultural and linguistic relationship of the two populations.

That being said, the material in Domen's post is quite interesting, and well worth discussing.
 

beorna

Ad Honoris
Jan 2010
17,473
-
sorry, I am in a hurry, so just short. skulls measuring and all this is like the nazi research before 1945 or Virchow -style.
 
Apr 2010
16,748
Slovakia
How is it possible to tell from a 2000-year-old skull what language was spoken by its owner when alive?
I agree that it can not be used on its own for reasons you have stated. However if used in conjunction with other fields of study it can have its value. If anthropology and archaeology place origin of Slavs in to approximately same area then that is probably more than coincidence. If other fields like linguistics also agree, than we might be looking at something close to truth.

Bye the way that map does not show nothing really new, Ukraine and Eastern Poland are among primary suspects for origin of Slavs for quit some time.
 
Dec 2009
5,558
Poland
How is it possible to tell from a 2000-year-old skull what language was spoken by its owner when alive?
It is not about language it is about ancestry.

It says that majority of Slavs who lived in this area in Medieval were descendants of people who lived in this area in the Roman era.

It doesn't necessarily mean that those people spoke Slavic languages already in the Roman era.

It doesn't say what language they spoke in the Roman era. But Anthropological data suggests that it is untrue that the bulk of population of this area moved somewhere else (to the West and to the South), and then was replaced by new population coming from the East.

If such a massive population replacement took place, Western Slavs would have different skulls than Roman era population of the same land.

On the other hand, the results of anthropological research show that most of Medieval population in Vistula and Oder basins were descendants of Roman era population from the same territory - not of people who came from the East after local population moved on to the West and South.

It also shows that people from Scandinavia (i.e. migrating Goths) were not a significant portion of population in Vistula and Oder basins. Not only Scandinavians, but also populations from lands of modern Germany had different anthropological features than Vistula-Oder population.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2009
5,558
Poland
skulls measuring and all this is like the nazi research before 1945 or Virchow -style.
Nazi measuring was claiming that one skull (and its owner) is inherently better than another skull (and its owner). :) And they claimed this basing on differences in skull shapes, which are completely immaterial except for purely comparative and parentage researching purposes.

It would be like claiming that people with fair hair are better because of hair colour (oh, actually that's what the Nazis also claimed! :lol:).
 
Last edited:
Dec 2009
5,558
Poland
michael mills said:
The similarity of skulls of the medieval population of a particular area to the skulls of a much older population living in the same region simply shows that there was no physical replacement of population in the intervening period, ie the medieval population was physically descended from the older one.

However, such similarity does not exclude the possibility of changes in the culture and language of that population between the two periods examined. That is to say, the fact that a particular language was spoken in the area where the medieval skulls were found does not mean that the same language was spoken by the physically similar population that lived in the same area in much earlier times, say Roman times.

An example is provided by the extensive germanisation of large Slavic populations in medieval times in the territory east of the Elbe. Presumably a Slav-speaker who learned to speak German and adopted a German culture would not thereby undergo a change of skull-shape.

Thus, the German-speaking population of a particular area might be substantially descended from a population that was Slavic-speaking in previous centuries, and therefore would have the same skull-shape as its physical ancestors, despite the change in language and culture.

In similar vein, a medieval Slavic-speaking population might be substantially descended from a population that spoke a Germanic language in Roman times.
Exactly! All of your points are correct. But it shows that the story about great migration of entire population, who left only deserted land behind them, and then was replaced by new (Slavic-speaking) population who came from the East - is wrong. Moreover, it shows that majority of Medieval Slavic-speaking population had ancestors in the same territory in the Roman era (which of course doesn't mean that those ancestors were also Slavic-speaking, but it denies the old theory of complete switch of population, with a period of totally deserted land in between).

By the way - genetic (haplogroups) research shows the same conclusion, and we already had a discussion about this on another forum.

Those are the sort of factors that make it very difficult to draw conclusions from the comparison of alleged "Slavic" skulls with alleged "German" skulls. If skulls from two different areas show marked differences in form, that shows a degree of genetic distance between the populations of those two areas, but those physical differences say nothing about the cultural and linguistic relationship of the two populations.
Yes, the research doesn't say that those were Slavic skulls. But it says that those were skulls of descendants of Medieval Slavic population of the same territory, rather than of descendants of Medieval Germanic population of diffferent parts of Europe (where Goths and other Germanic tribes, who allegedly lived in large numbers in the area of modern Poland during the Roman era, migrated). In other words - when you want to look for Medieval descendants of people who lived at the Vistula during the reign of Emperor Augustus, you will find majority of them living in the same place (also at the Vistula) during the reign of Charlemagne - rather than somewhere else (for example in Italy and Spain, where the Goths migrated).

Thus, the German-speaking population of a particular area might be substantially descended from a population that was Slavic-speaking in previous centuries, and therefore would have the same skull-shape as its physical ancestors, despite the change in language and culture.
Yes, when you change language, the shape of your skull is not changing because of this. So there are many modern Germans who descend from Medieval Slavs of Vistula and Oder basins, who in turn descend from Ancient population of the same area (Vistula and Oder basins).

This research is not completely denying that some migrations of various ethno-linguistic groups took place.

But this research is showing that majority of population of Vistula and Oder basins was stationary between Ancient and Medieval times. This contradicts the old theory that entire population moved away to Western and Souther Europe, being replaced by new population from the East.
 
Last edited:

beorna

Ad Honoris
Jan 2010
17,473
-
Nazi measuring was claiming that one skull (and its owner) is inherently better than another skull (and its owner). :) And they claimed this basing on differences in skull shapes, which are completely immaterial except for purely comparative and parentage researching purposes.

It would be like claiming that people with fair hair are better because of hair colour (oh, actually that's what the Nazis also claimed! :lol:).
These 19th century research thought to classify people by skull features. Thas was already shown as nonsense decades ago. It is a shame, that such nonsense spreads again. people and linguistc groups can't be defined by genes or skull features. The are a result of politics, cultural relations and linguistic relations. The attempt to determine the "Urheimat" by skull features is not less stupid than nazi research. And if one compares the suppose anthropological slavic "Urheimat" acoording to your posted research with the borders of the PLC, it surprisingly matches!
 
Dec 2009
5,558
Poland
These 19th century research thought to classify people by skull features. Thas was already shown as nonsense decades ago.
Anthropology was shown as nonsense decades ago? Then why is this science still existing?

The 19th century research was thought to prove that owners of some skulls are superior to owners of other skulls because of their skulls (and such). But it is a matter of fact that various populations have - statistically - different shapes of nose, face, mouth, eyes, skull, etc.

Another thing is that shapes of skull, nose, eyes, etc., have no impact on mental abilities of its owner.
 
Last edited:
Status
Closed