In 1939, archeologists and prehistorians seem to have thought that agriculture was brought to Europe by a gracile Mediterranean people, and was in large part spread by their expansion. They thought that the Corded Ware culture was Indo-European and probably originated in South Russia. Here’s an example, from Carleton Coon’s The Races of Europe (1939):
“We shall see, in our survey of prehistoric European racial movements, 8 that the Danubian agriculturalists of the Early Neolithic brought a food producing economy into central Europe from the East. They perpetuated in the new European setting a physical type which was later supplanted in their original home. Several centuries later the Corded people, in the same way, came from southern Russia (i.e.Ukraine) ”
“There has been much discussion over the origin of the Corded people, and many cradle areas have been proposed. Childe, despite several objections which he himself raises, prefers to derive them from southern Russia , where the typical cultural elements of the Corded people are found mixed with other factors. The so-called boat-axe, the typical battleaxe form which they used, has relatives all the way to the Caucasus and beyond. And the horse, their use of which in the domestic form is not fully confirmed, since the grave examples might conceivably have been wild ones, was first tamed in Asia or in southern Russia.”
A lot of this stems from Gordon Childe’s work – for example The Aryans, published in 1926. Understand that this was all before carbon dating, and before a tremendous amount of modern archaeological work, including much of the work in the Balkans.
Archaeology took a different path in the 1960s and later. Archaeologists became very uncomfortable with the idea of migration, colonization, conquest, and prehistoric violence. I say this without really understanding its inner nature: I personally am made quite uncomfortable by the thought of dinosaur-killing asteroids or Yellowstone-scale megavolcanoes showing up in my neighborhood, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking that they occurred. I don’t get it.
The low point in acceptance of the reality of prehistoric violence seems to have occurred in the 1970s, according to Lawrence Keeley (War before Civilization). In those days, a log palisade with a 9-foot-deep ditch surrounding a frontier Neolithic village was explained as expressing the “symbolism of exclusion.”
Theories that disallowed migration (let alone conquest) became more and more popular with time. I can find examples of grown human beings suggesting that the Anglo-Saxonization of England need not have required any actual Anglo-Saxon immigrants at all. Grahame Clark didn’t rule out all migrations, but he and his immediate followers were definitely against the idea of a “vast Kulturkreise covering large portions of the Continent which gave rise to entirely hypothetical‘ethnic groups’ such as the Kurgans and the Beaker People, often identified, on the flimsiest of grounds, with the large ethno-linguistic groups observable a millennium or more later such as the Hellenes or the Celts.”
Pots not people rules OK!
Colin Renfrew seems to have been motivated in part by an aversion to migrationism. That’s too bad. I had thought (not knowing much about it) that he was primarily motivated by a realization that agriculture is often spread by a demographic expansion, a most powerful mechanism. And in fact his model would have been perfectly correct for Europe around 4000 BC. But to the extent that he subscribes to the ideological prejudice against population movements, he’s a loon. I understand that an article in British Archaeology claimed that this prejudice had gotten to the point where some graduate student “would soon come up with a paper ‘proving’ that the first humans in Britain weren’t immigrants at all, but purely indigenous, symbolically transformed reindeer.”
The Indo-European linguists seem to have been immune to this nonsense. All honor to them – although they really should start making use of the flood of new genetic results. The archaeologists behind the Iron Curtain also successfully resisted this crap – but then, they were pretty far from Harvard!
I was noting something from Mario Alinei (an advocate of a model in which nobody ever invaded Europe, probably including Omaha Beach). He blames ideology:
” Surprisingly, although the archaeological research of the last few decennnia has
provided more and more evidence that no large-scale invasion took place in
Europe in the Calcholithic, Indoeuropean linguistics has stubbornly held to its
strong invasionist assumption, and has continued to produce more and more
variations on the old theme.
Clearly, the answer is ideological. For the invasion model was first advanced in the nineteenth century, when archaeology and related sciences were dominated by the ideology of colonialism, as recent historical research has shown. The successive generations of linguists and archaeologists have been strongly inspired by the racist views that stemmed out of colonialism. Historians of archaeology (e.g. Daniel 1962, Trigger 1989) have repeatedly shown the importance of ideology in shaping archaeological theories as well as theories of human origins, while, unfortunately, linguistics has not followed the same course, and thus strongly believes in its own innocence.”
You know, he may have a point.
With a very limited set of clues, smart guys managed to get key facts about European prehistory roughly correct almost 90 years ago . With tremendously better tools, better methods, vastly more money, more data, etc, archaeologists (most of them) drifted farther and farther from the truth.