(Chapter IV, section 10)


Neolithic Inhabitants of the Northern Forests

From the Baltic to the Urals stretches a belt of forests and swamps, crossed by many rivers, which long formed a shelter for primitive hunters and fishers, while the steppes to the south were overrun by successive groups of farmers and pastoral nomads from the earliest Neolithic until modern historical times. This northern cultural backwater forms environmentally a westward extension of the vast Siberian expanse of tundra and taiga; since early pre-Slavic days it has been the home of various tribes of Finns, some of whom once led, on European soil, a life much like that of the Siberian Ostiaks and Voguls of recent centuries.

In the Neolithic time-expanse, in the general European sense, the inhabitants of these forests lived by hunting and stream-fishing, in a manner reminiscent of their Maglemose predecessors. A few cultural innovations filtered northward from the agricultural lands, and among these was pottery, decorated by comb-impressions and other characteristic marks which render it easy to identify. Within the last few years there has been much discussion about this combed pottery, for it has been found in a more or less continuous band from Finalnd across Russia into Siberia, and then again at various points across the northern forest region of North America to the Atlantic. A school is rapidly forming which believes that this type is circumpolar and boreal, non-agricultural and associated with the hunting and fishing peoples of the entire north. An impressive roster of archaeological authorities, including Kossina, Ailio, and Childe, believes that in Europe it was associated with an early Finno-Ugrian forest people, the direct ancestors of the various Finnish groups of today.92

The skeletal evidence from the Neolithic of this forest belt, while not abundant, is sufficient to show that racial uniformity did not characterize this widespread cultural province. Fifteen crania from the Neolithic of the shores of Lake Ladoga93 are almost equally divided into two types; a normal South Russian dolichocephal, presumably of the extreme long-headed type, with narrow face and nose; and a mesocephal which does indeed have a Finnish appearance in the modern sense. Skulls of the latter type are characterized by low orbits, short, broad noses, and wide faces, which as individual examples exceed the accompanying brain case in width. The face and head form bears a certain Crô-Magnon-like implication, and may indeed indicate descent from some eastern Upper Palaeolithic form as yet undiscovered.

At Salis Roje, in Livonia on the Gulf of Riga, another collection of thirty-one Neolithic crania is even more varied.94 This includes not only the types present at Lake Ladoga, but also a short-statured, brachycephalic form, with a long face, slight prognathism, high orbits, and a broad nose. Morphologically, there is said to be a mongoloid appearance to these crania. This adds, therefore, a third element to the northern forest population during the Neolithic.

Farther to the east, at Volosovo on the bank of the Oka River, a sub-brachycephalic skull from the same cultural horizon would apparently fit into the Finn-like Ladogan category.95 Across the Urals in Siberia, the essentially European character of the Comb-Pottery people comes gradually to an end. A female skull from Bazaiha96 in the Krasnoyarsk district resembles the Salis Roje brachycephalic type, but has a narrow, prominent nose. This specimen has been likened to a form typical of modern Turko-Tartar women. Farther to the east, one encounters a hyperbrachycephalic, fully mongoloid skull from Kokui on the Transbaikal railroad,97 and beyond that the extensive and carefully studied Neolithic series from Lake Baikal, the main type of which Debetz finds identical with the crania of modern Tungus.98

In summarizing this material, we shall not dispute the opinion of the archaeologists who have concerned themselves with this special field that the participants in the comb-ceramic hunting and fishing culture of northern Russia and the forests to either side were the cultural ancestors of some, at least, of the modern Finno-Ugrian-speaking peoples. But the racial aspect of the problem is far from simple; at least three elements were present; an extremely long-headed Mediterranean form with southern connections; a Crô-Magnon-like broad-faced, low-orbitted mesocephal, filling most closely the requirements of an ideal modern Finnish type; and a small-statured brachycephal with a long face and high orbits, which in some instances is at least partly mongoloid. As will be seen later, the sub-brachycephalic element in the Danubian population was probably related to these non-Mediterranean forest types.


92. Childe, V. G., "Adaptions to the Postglacial forest on the North Eurasiatic Plain," in McCurdy, G. G., Early Man.

93. Bogdanov, A. P., 1882; from Saller, K., AAnz, 1925.

94. Virchow, R., ZFE, vol. 9, 1877, p. 412. Also, Saller, K., AAnz, 1925.

95. Pavlov, A., RAJ, vol. 16, 1927, p. 56. See also Ouvarov, A. S., Archaeologie de la Russie.

96. Dus, AF, vol. 1, 1923, pp. 72-78. Also, Saller, K., AAnz, 1925.

97. Dus, ibid.
Saller, ibid.

98. Debetz, G., RAJ, vol. 19, 1930, pp. 7-50.