Southeast Europe: Stone and Bronze Ages

Stone age

Old Stone Age

According to Countryaah, the earliest evidence of human presence in Southeastern Europe during the Ice Ages is found in Paleolithic rubble and human bones (around 450,000 to 500,000 years old) from Vertesszőllős near Budapest and a more recent skull find from the Petralona cave near Thessaloniki. Important sites of the Middle Paleolithic (Moustérien) are the Abri (rock overhang) near Krapina (Croatia), the Betalshöhle near Postojna, the Abri Crvena Stjena (Montenegro), the La Adam cave in Romania and the outdoor stations Tata and Érd in Hungary. The Upper Paleolithic is represented in Southeastern Europe by sites of the Szeletakultur (Szeletien), the Aurignacien and the Gravettien.


The post-glacial cultural development on the Balkan Peninsula has only been researched to a limited extent; Find places with stone inventories, which are similar to the Tardenoisie in Western and Central Europe, are from Romania and the area of the former Yugoslavia. The Franchthi Cave on the Greek Mediterranean coast represents a stratigraphically important site for the exploration of the Mesolithic. Individual complexes, especially in Romania (Ceahlău) and Bosnia, seem to represent a “protoneolithic” (the Neolithic) late stage of this period, which perhaps at the same time with the beginning of the Neolithic Age, and the same may apply to the unusual finds from Lepenski Vir.


From the beginning of the Neolithic onwards, Southeast Europe played an important role as a mediator: It took up Anatolian and Near Eastern suggestions and passed them on to Central Europe, some of which were independently modified. Already around or shortly before 7000 BC BC were introduced in southern Greece – possibly by immigrants from the Anatolian area, agriculture and cattle breeding in connection with a sedentary way of life. The first village communities with houses made of adobe bricks and with references to the manufacture and use of ceramics date from around 6500 to 6000 BC. Due to the building of houses from adobe bricks and the local constancy of the settlements, the first settlement mounds (Tell, Magula) emerged.

At that time, the Protoseklokultur (Sesklo culture) was widespread in northern Greece, and further in the north (Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia) the Starčevo culture or the Karanowo -I culture. However, these are only regional variants of a fairly uniform cultural area; probably stimulated by this cultural area, originated in the western Hungarian-Slovak region around the middle of the 6th millennium BC. The band ceramic culture (band ceramics).

At the same time, a split into cultures that are only regionally widespread (Vinčakultur, Sesklokultur, Karanowo III and IV) can be seen in the south. Larger settlements, houses of different sizes, numerous idols and prestige objects reveal a differentiated social structure.

From 5000 BC The first objects made of copper come into use from 4500 BC. Copper processing sets in, with economic and social consequences for the societies of the Copper Age (Tiszapolgár group and Bodrogkeresztúr group in eastern Hungary; Cucuteni culture on the Moldau, combined with the neighboring southern Russian Tripolje culture to form the Cucuteni-Tripolje culture ; Karanowo-VI- Culture and warning culture in Bulgaria; Vinča-D culture in Serbia and Bosnia).

Around 3800 BC The further development of these tightly organized societies and cultures, which had come to prosperity through long-distance trade in the raw material copper, was interrupted; this break is associated with an immigration of southern Russian steppe nomads. This break is not noticeable in the northwest of the Balkan Peninsula and in western Hungary, so that from the Lengyel culture of the Copper Age to the Baden culture and the Kostolac culture (in the Carpathian Basin) a relatively continuous cultural development up to the beginning of the Early Bronze Age in the 3rd millennium BC. Can be assumed.

Bronze age

The Bronze Age was divided into many small-scale cultures. Macedonia and southern Bulgaria (Mihalič) belonged to the Aegean Circle, which also influenced the Bubanj Hum culture of Serbia and the Cernavodă culture. In the Northern Balkans, the cultures of Nagyrév, Kisapostag, Hatvan and Zók emerged from the traditions of the Baden and Vučedol cultures as well as elements of the bell beaker culture. In Romania, the Cotofeni, Glina, Schneckenberg and Folteşti cultures developed side by side in the early Bronze Age.

In the middle Bronze Age (from around 1800 BC) material culture, especially metallurgy, took off significantly; the ore deposits of Transylvania were opened up. Numerous regional groups made the cultural picture more diverse than before. In Hungary, the indigenous cultural development was due to the penetration of Central European groups of the tumulus culture disturbed; A first horizon of treasure finds indicates a very troubled time. The unrest gripped Hungary’s southern neighbors, which, however, were not reached by the immigration of the tumulus culture itself. The cultures of the Romanian area in particular came into ever closer interrelationships, which ultimately led to a rapid advance of the unrest zone towards south-eastern Europe. Tensions arose, which ended in the Doric migration (Dorians). To what extent the penetration of the since the 16th century BC It is uncertain that the »Cimmerian cavalry peoples who formed in southern Russia and the Ukraine influenced this event.

Prehistory of Southeast Europe

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