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Dark Skins to White Skins in Europe

They made music with flutes carved from bones, to be discovered by archeologists in what today is Germany, the flutes dating back 40,000 years.

PBS's "The Great Human Odessey" (NOVA) describes Neanderthals (also classified as human) in Europe at least 160,000 years ago. The earliest bones of homo-sapiens discovered in Europe date to about 45,000 years ago. Judging from what was found in their graves, these were hunter-gatherers with dark skins. Genetics tell us their descendants were from Africa. According to Scientific American (20 Aug 2014) it was around 40,000 years ago that Neanderthals "disappeared" from Europe. Speculation describes the Neanderthals as having failed to compete with modern humans for space and resources, which may have included the violent warfare that was common among hunter-gatherers. According to the historian Yuval Harari (Sapiens), this might have involved home-sapiens being more ideologically cohesive, capable of larger societies and better organized at warfare. And others have suggested the possibility that homo-sapiens had contaminated the Neanderthals with pathogens or parasites against which the Neanderthals had a limited immunity.

The religious impulse common to hunter-gathers appears to include those who migrated into Europe. A small figurine discovered in what today in Germany dates between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago and is believed to have had religious significance. What are called Venus figurines (with the goddess Venus in mind) have been found across much of Europe, and they date to 21,000 years ago.

Meanwhile, by 27,000 years ago, climate change has produced ice that covered two-thirds of Europe. Apparently some of the homo-sapien societies died out and some survived. It was the last Ice Age and reached its peak 25,000 years ago.

Around 17,300 ago in what today is southwestern France, at Lascaux, there were cave paintings described today as Upper Paleolithic art connected to spiritual ritual. This was another impulse common to homo-sapiens: an artistic impulse involving symbolism (described in NOVA's "The Great Human Odessey").

The cave at Lascaux is considered to have been a religious sanctuary used for initiation ceremonies, a theory supported by footprint studies. Virtually all of the footprints in the cave were left by adolescents: a typical category of initiates.

New Migrations

Around 12,000 years ago the last ice age was coming to an end. Vast ice sheets that had covered much of Asia, North America and Europe were retreating northward. It was about 9,000 years ago that people with a lighter shade of skin began invading Europe from Anatolia – today Turkey. They brought farming with them to southern and eastern Europe. Anthropologists now see agriculture coming to Europe as the result of migration rather than an` invention by local hunter-gatherers. The migrants were taller than the hunter-gatherers. (Some anthropologists deny that lighter skins in Europe were connected to capturing more vitamin D from sunlight. The hunter-gatherers, it is believed, managed well enough acquiring vitamin D in the meat they caught.)

Indo-European migrations

Indo-European migrations from around 4000 to 1000 BCE (according to the Kurgan hypothesis).

Another migration of light-skinned people arrived in Europe around 4,500 years ago, from what today is Ukraine and the southern Don and Volga River regions of what today is Russia. These were taller homo-sapiens than the migrants from Anatolia. Their language was Proto-Indo-European and their migrations are today identified as Indo-European (like the Aryans who invaded India.)

They were a mix of people who had been hunter-gatherers. They were predominantly nomadic, with some agriculture practiced near rivers. Some were horse-riding herders and, like the Aryans who invaded India, with wheeled carts.


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