Archeologists have discovered evidence of early human types with knowledge of fire, living in what is now Europe, one million years ago. The famous Neanderthals were there possibly half a million years ago, and only died out about 15,000 years ago – in time to interbreed with ‘modern’ humans – us.
‘Modern’ humans left Africa about 100,000 years ago, walking across the mouth of the Red Sea, hugging the shores of the Indian Ocean, colonizing South East Asia and Australia at least 55,000 years ago. Meanwhile, back in Europe, an ice age was making life extremely difficult, and immigration from the outside impossible.
The human maternal gene tree suggests a 50,000-year-old origin for the oldest European ancestors, starting from the Pakistani Gulf region. Co-incidentally, about 50,00 years ago, a corridor between the Tigris & Euphrates Rivers warmed enough to allow migration into Anatolia, then Europe. Nearly 50,000-year-old distinctive stone tools have been found in Bulgaria – tools whose makers likely came from the Zagros Mountains dividing Iran & Iraq. From Bulgaria, these people moved up the Danube to Hungary, then west to Austria, Italy, France, Spain, ending in Portugal about 38,000 years ago. About 10% of European genetic endowment derives from these ‘Iranians’.
Well over 50% of Europe’s genetic endowment derives from the second wave of immigration; this time from big game hunters in Ukraine’s Don River basin – known as the Gravettian culture. About 29,000 years ago, they were established in central Europe.
Another 20% of Europe’s genetic endowment comes from the migration of Anatolians about 8000 years ago.
They brought with them early forms of the Indo-European language family, and knowledge of agriculture – the key to social and technical advance.
Shortly after the development of agriculture came the evolution of the written language. About 4,000 years ago, Greeks (from Anatolia) became the first Europeans to write about themselves and their neighbours. Our understanding of the diverse cultures of Europe is filtered through this Greek perspective. European history begins.