(Chapter VI, section 2)

The Illyrians

In beginning our survey of Iron Age Indo-European peoples, it may be well to choose the earliest instance in which we can definitely identify a language with a culture and a racial entity. This is true of the so-called Hallstatt culture associated with the Illyrian branch of Indo-European speech. Although usually classified with Centum, Illyrian, like Tokharian B, belonged to an ancient form of Indo-European which perhaps antedated the clear segregation into Centum and Satem. 15

This culture arose in central Europe, with southern Germany and Austria as a focus, sometime shortly after the beginning of the first millennium B.C. It developed out of local Bronze Age origins carried over from the Urnfiels, and in turn from Aunjetitz. Other Middle and Late Bronze Age influences reached it, particularly that of the tumulus culture of the south German highlands; likewise both cremation and the use of iron were introduced from outside. Still, whatever the complexity of archaeological detail, the Hallstatt civilization may be considered primarily the work of the indigenous central European population, with little if any accretions.

The Hallstatt culture spread in many directions, including the southeast, where it penetrated Bosnia, and eventually Albania. It moved slowly northward, until it reached the Scandinavian and North German area, bringing iron to these regions relatively late; while to the southwest, it crossed France and penetrated Catalonia. To the immediate south, it likewise spread over the Alps into Italy, where the invading Illyrians split into a number of local tribal groups, including the Veneti. It would be foolish to claim that every site with Hallstatt cultural remains carries the bones or ashes of Illyrian speakers. This may only with certainty be asserted for the central area, and for the regions immediately adjacent, while in the west it is fairly certain that some of the peoples in a Hallstatt level of culture were actually Kelts.

The Hallstatt crania from Austria, including those from the type site itself, form a reasonably homogeneous, entirely long-headed group. 16 (See Appendix I, col. 32.) This group is the legitimate, local successor to the Aunjetitz, and like the latter it resembles the Danubian Neolithic series in many respects. In certain characters, however, it leans in a Corded direction, and these include a heightening of the orbits and a narrowing and lengthening of the nose. Certain of the individual crania are of definitely Corded type. Morphologically, as well as metrically, most of these skulls may without difficulty be designated as "Nordic"; the browridges are moderate, the foreheads moderately sloping, the occiputs protruding, the parietals flattened, the malars compressed, the mandibles deep. The stature was apparently moderately tall. 17

The Austrian Hallstatt series has close connections in two directions: first, with the local Bronze Age and Neolithic populations of central Europe, which preceded it, and second, with the Germanic "Reihengräber" people who followed it after a Keltic interruption. The similarity between Hallstatt and Germanic crania is a commonplace; and if the Reihengräber people were "Nordic", as is generally conceded, then so, in all likelihood, were the Hallstatt people.

The significance of this double continuity is great. It traces the Nordic racial type, in skeletal form, back to the Early Iron Age, and derives this with little alteration from the preceding Age of Bronze. The Bronze Age population which was thus the ancestral Nordic one was in turn derived from a mixture between the local Danubian Neolithic people, who came from the east, and the later Corded invaders. The complexity of the Middle and Late Bronze Age, therefore, and the disturbances caused by the introduction of cremation, during the latter part of the epoch, did not interrupt the racial continuity of central Europe, where racial movements, during the Late Bronze Age, seem to have been somewhat simpler than those of culture.

Let us turn to the specific problem of the Illyrian racial composition. So far, we have been dealing entirely with the Hallstatt remains from Lower Austria. The Hallstatt cemetery itself dates from the middle and later thirds of the period; but the neighboring Early Hallstatt site of Statzendorf, from which a series of five crania have been taken, contains nothing but long-headed examples, and these are the same as those from the type site itself. So the Hallstatt site is racially typical of the entire period.

When we move to southern Germany, however, which was equally involved in the development of this culture, we find no such racial uniformity. Crania from Württemburg, Bavaria, and the Bavarian Palatinate include, with the usual Austrian Hallstatt type, a large minority of brachycephals which may be considered as survivals from the Bronze Age. 18 These include both planoccipital crania of the original Bell Beaker type, and a curvoccipital brachycephalic type which shows a Borreby relationship. It would appear, then, that in southwestern Germany, Hallstatt Nordics had invaded the region and had mixed with the Bell Beaker Dinarics and the old Borreby sub-stratum.

A large series from the Spreewald, situated to the north of this area and on flat land, consists entirely of purely dolichocephalic crania of the regular Austrian Hallstatt type, 19 which was apparently at home in the lowlands of central Europe, but not in the highlands, which had already given shelter to a tenacious brachycephalic population. In Bohemia and Silesia, as one would expect, Schliz finds typical Hallstatt dolichocephalic forms in small collections from each of these regions. One out of five Bohemian crania was brachycephalic, and none in a series of four from Silesia.

The generalization announced in the preceding paragraph applies likewise to Switzerland, where the Hallstatt culture, like that of the Bronze Age, penetrated slowly, while the older economy and technique which had survived in parts from the Neolithic persisted in large measure. Both long-headed skulls and those of brachycephals are found, as is to be expected. In the available Hallstatt material, the majority of crania are brachycephalic. 20

Let us turn southeastward and follow the Dinaric Alpine chain in the direction of the Balkans. In the mountainous section of southern Austria, the Hallstatt Nordic type is in the minority. Out of six skulls from Carniola, three are round headed and one is mesocephalic. The brachycephalic types seem without question to be predominantly Dinaric. In Croatia, however, seven adult skulls are all long healded, of the usual Hallstatt type, while two infantile skulls show brachycephaly.

In Bosnia, we come to the famous site of Glasinac, 21 where a comparatively large series of relatively late Illyrian remains contains again a mixture of types. The majority of the skulls are long headed and these show the same mixture of Danubian and Corded elements which we have already seen at Hallstatt itself. A few of the individual crania are very large, and reproduce the Corded prototype quite accurately. The brachycephalic skulls, although in the minority, are numerous enough to permit one to determine their racial affiliation with some accuracy. Almost all belong to what might be called a modern Dinaric racial type. The skulls are moderately large with flattened occiputs, straight side walls, rather broad foreheads, and a very prominent nose, in the one instance in which the nasal bones were preserved. 22 The jaws are very broad with an excessive bigonial diameter, but not noted for their depth.

Metrically, these brachycephalic crania resemble the Bronze Age series from Cyprus, but are, on the whole, a little larger. They fall, as a matter of fact, into an intermediate position between the Cyprus series and the Bell Beaker group from the upper Rhineland, but in morphology are identical with both. There is no doubt that we are dealing in this instance with a form of Dinaric which anticipates the modern population of Bosnia.

This is the first occurrence of crania of this type in the Dinaric Alpine region in any considerable numbers. We have already seen, however, that this same type had entered these mountains by the beginning of the Bronze Age, in connection with the eastward movement of the Bell Beaker peoples. The round-heads at Glasinac and in Carniola may have been the descendants of these Bell Beaker refugees. It is also possible that this racial type may have been reënforced by migrations from the southeast, but there is no archaeological evidence to favor such a theory.

As the Illyrians spread southwestward along the Dinaric Alps into Montenegro and Albania, they apparently blended with an indigenous brachycephalic mountain population which may have been more numerous than the invaders; for, with some additions and modifications, it persists as a predominant element today. In a small series of early Christian crania from a site near Split on the Dalmatian coast, 23 both Dinaric brachycephals and a few long-headed crania are represented. In Albania, a country which is almost completely unknown archaeologically, a single skull which belonged to a Romanized Illyrian group has been found in an Iron Age site in the tribe of Puka. 24 This skull is mesocephalic, and seems, insofar as we may judge, intermediate between the Illyrians of the old type and Dinarics.

The significance of our study of the Illyrian peoples is as follows: on the plains of south central Germany and Lower Austria, where the Hallstatt culture arose, the racial type involved was skeletally a Nordic one. By this term we must understand that the Illyrian central type was similar in cranial dimensions, proportions, and general form to that of the Germans of the Völkerwanderung period. Historical evidence as to the pigmentation of the Illyrians is conflicting, 25 and insufficient to warrant the formation of an opinion on this matter. This "Nordic" type is no special or separate race, but merely a variant of the larger Mediterranean family, of an intermediate metrical position.

It finds a ready prototype in the Bronze Age population which stretched from Austria to Siberia, and which was in turn the product of mixture between Danubian peasants and Corded invaders. It seems most likely that the Illyrians were largely the descendants, more specifically, of the Aunjetitz people, through an Urnfields medium, or of some similar physical blend composed of identical racial ingredients.


15. Whatmough, J., The Foundations of Roman Italy, p. 177.

16. Through combining several series, 24 adult male crania may be assembled.

Hochstetter, F. von, MAGW, vol. 7, 1878, pp. 297-318.
Rosendprung, L., M., MAGW, vol. 66, 1936, pp. 338-344.
Schliz, A., AFA, vol. 37, 1910, pp. 201-251.
Schurer von Waldheim, Hella, MAGW, vols. 48-49, 1919, pp. 247-263.
Weisbach, A., MAGW, vol. 18, 1888, pp. 51-52.
Zuckerkandl, E., MAGW, vol. 13, 1883, pp 89-118.

17. Matiegka, H. (MAGW, col 41, 1911, pp. 348-387), fails to segregate Hallstatt from Aunjetitz long bones, implies that both are the same, with a mean stature of 168 cm.

18. Schliz, A., AFA, vol. 37, 1910, pp. 202-251.
Schultz, B., K., VGPA, vol. 3, 1929, pp. 5-12.

19. Götze, A., PZ, vol. 4, 1912, pp. 264-350. This cemetery, unfortunately, was used at two periods; from 1000 to 500 B.C. when it was a Hallstatt graveyard, and from 500 A.D. on, when it was occupied by Slavic Wends. It is impossible to state how many of the crania belong to the Hallstatt people, and how many, if any, to the Slavs, but in either case the series represents one unified physical type of Hallstatt affinity.

20. Schlaginhaufen, O., VNGZ, vol. 79, 1934, pp. 220-270.

21. Weisbach, A., WMBH, vol. 5, 1897, pp. 562-576.

22. In all of the Glasinac crania the facial bones are missing.

23. Horvath, A., MAGW, vol. 36, 1906, pp. 239-248.

24. Lebzelter, V., AFA, vol. 45, 1919, pp. 143-146.

25. Lebzelter, V., MAGW, 1929, vol. 59, pp. 61-126.