(Chapter IV, section 8)


The Danubian Culture Bearers

One of the most striking events of the Neolithic period in Europe was the gradual migration of farmers up the Danube Valley into central Europe. These new settlers stayed fairly close to the banks of the river and its tributaries, farming on patches of loess where the land would not need to be cleared by the axe. Southern Hungary, Moravia, Bohemia, and Silesia were areas which they found especially favorable, and in which they settled in greatest numbers. As they moved to the west, they finally reached southern Bavaria, Baden, and the north of France, especially the Paris basin. From southern Germany onward, they encountered the descendants of the Neolithic people who had entered by way of Gibraltar.

The river valleys which the Danubians occupied must have been relatively free of people; Mesolithic remains in the eastern and middle Danube Valley are very scarce, if not entirely absent.46 We may therefore expect the remains of the Danubian immigrants to exhibit, without particular alteration, the physical characteristics of the population or populations from which they originated.

Danubian chronology is based on pottery types, particularly on techniques of decoration; the earliest Danubian, Period I, is typified by incised pottery with banded decoration, while the second and third periods mark the common use of painted pottery. The agriculture of the Danubians was a hoe-culture, for the characteristic tool is a hoe blade of flint, called a "shoe-last celt." Their domestic animals included the ox, sheep, and pig.

It is one of the problems which face the archaeologist in the future to discover the point of origin of Danubian pottery. Incised black ware, of the banded variety, undoubtedly came from somewhere to the east; from the country north of the Black Sea, or from Anatolia, whence it may have been influenced by the same source which produced the Merimdian of the Egyptian Delta. In this case, the two movements, the Danubian and that which passed over the Gibraltar, may have come from a single original source in western Asia, and have moved into Europe from two different directions, converging in Switzerland, southern Germany, and France.

The painted pottery, on the other hand, shows definite Asiatic similarities; there was painted pottery in Iraq in the earliest known cultures; Anatolia contains some varieties of it; the Iranian plateau is said to be full of it; there is painted pottery at Anau in Turkestan; and painted pottery penetrated early into Kansu in China. Despite these occurrences, we do not yet know by which route or routes it entered Europe from the east. It may have come across the Bosporus, around the Black Sea, or from both quarters. Again, it may have travelled, farther east, either north or south of the Caspian.

The physical evidence at hand will hardly settle the problem of Danubian origins, although it will, in a fragmentary manner, dispel a number of unfounded hypotheses. In the material used in the present survey, seventeen male crania associated with banded pottery,47 and seven associated with painted,48 are all that can without doubt be attributed to the Danubian Neolithic. These may be supplemented by a smaller female series.

The two series, Banded and Painted, are so close to each other anthropometrically that they may readily be pooled (see Appendix I, col. 11). Their type is a familiar one - a small Mediterranean, with cephalic indices ranging from 68 to 81, and a mean of 73.6. The mean cranial length is 185.5 mm., but individually they go as high as 196 mm. The vault height, 139 mm. is elevated in comparison to the other dimensions. The faces are short (116 mm.) and moderately narrow (130 mm.); both foreheads and jaws (minimum frontal 96 mm., bigonial 94 mm.) are also of moderate breadth. The orbits are low, with an orbital index mean of 80, the noses chamaerrhine, with a nasal index mean of 55. The highest orbitted skull has an orbital index of 91, the most leptorrhine a nasal index of 45.

Although this Danubian group is reasonably homogeneous, even with the small numbers available it is seen to include more than one type in the strictest sense. For example, the stature is low; Reche found a mean of 153 cm. for eight Banded male skeletons from Jordansmühl, and in this small series four mesocephalic crania are associated with higher statures than are the purely dolichocephalic ones. Some of the skulls with higher orbits and longer vaults differ again from the majority. On the whole, however, the group is definitely dolicho- to mesocephalic, and definitely Mediterranean. As far as the criteria studied may be invoked, this series is very similar to Sergi's Kurgan group from southern Russia, and may be considered to contain the same racial elements, although the Russian material as a whole is less homogeneous.

If we carry the comparison further, we find, again, strong resemblances in the Spanish Neolithic, and with all of the smaller Mediterranean groups. The Danubians undoubtedly represent anothern branch of the same racial group which entered Europe from North Africa through the southwestern avenue. Where they came from immediately before their arrival in Europe, however, it is impossible at the moment to tell. The Russian evidence, including that from Mariupol and Anau, leans heavily in favor of a trans-Euxine origin, but at the same time they might have come from Anatolia, from which we have as yet no Neolithic skeletal evidence. It is again possible that related elements from more than one geographical source made up the Danubian migrations.

We do not know what language the Danubians spoke, nor what was the coloring of their skin, hair, and eyes. But we may surmise from the small evidence which has been assembled that the successive waves represented did not come from racially different parent groups.

Although we cannot, from this evidence, state what racial elements were lacking in the Danubian countries during the Neolithic, we know that the culture bearers from the east belonged to, or included members of, the wider Mediterranean stock, which sems everywhere to be associated with the earliest food production; and the most important element seems to have been a small, light boned, rather infantile Mediterranean.


46. Fewkes, V. J., Goldman, H., Ehrich, R. W., BASP, #9, 1933, pp. 17-32. Also, personal communication of Dr. V. J. Fewkes.

47. Bayer, J., MAGW, vol. 51, 1921, pp. 46-47.
Lebzelter, V., MAGW, vol. 66, 1936, pp. 14-15; ibid., "Sitzungberichte," p. 16.
Reche, O., AFA, vol. 35, 1908, pp. 232-237.

48. Donici, A., ACAP, 1931, pp. 114-115.
Lebzelter, V., WPZ, vol. 15, 1928, pp. 35-41.
Nestor, I., BRGK, #119, 1933, p. 37.
Schürer von Waldheim, Hella, MAGW, vols. 48-49, 1919, pp. 247-263.
Virchow, R., ZFE, vol. 22, 1890, p. 97.
Zimmerman, G., AJKS, vol. 10, 1935, pp. 227-236.