Overarching period: European Neolithic, 9,000 - 3,700 BP
Specific period: Corded Ware Cultures, 4,900 – 4,350 BP
Carbon dating: 3,760 - 4,625 BP
Locations:Esperstedt - 51.42° North, 11.68° East
Site location country: Germany
mtDNA haplogroups: I, J, K, T, W, X
Y haplogroups: R1a, R1b, I, P

Axe Heads Typical corded are pot and axe heads [37].
Dagger Blades Copper dagger found in Europe [38]

The Corded Ware Cultures of Germany:

The appearance of the Corded Ware Cultures of Europe have proven to be an enigmatic period in the history of the continent. This remarkably uniform culture spread relatively quickly across broad swathes of the continent, starting in the east. There has been much debate of where this culture came from but is now considered to have originated in the Pontic Steppe region of what is now Ukraine and Russia, between the Caspian and Black Seas [9-10]. The people that are believed to be source of the Corded Ware Culture were the Yamnaya, a named derived from the Russian for the pit burials that were found in present-day Ukraine and Russia [11].

Many of these cultures coexisted with earlier Neolithic societies as they spread across Europe. Chemical analyses of teeth from early Corded Ware burial sites has demonstrated that many of these people were migrants from other areas of Europe. There is also evidence for intermarriage between Corded Ware and earlier Neolithic peoples [12], as well as for conflict and resistance to these migrants [13]. Some researchers now believe that these were the people who brought Indo-European languages to Europe [14], the earliest form of most of the languages spoken in Europe today.

The Yamnaya and Early Corded Ware people were nomadic herders, and there is little evidence of settlements in the Steppe regions and during their migrations into Eastern Europe [15-16]. They lived of a diet of fish, dairy, and meat, while practicing little farming [17]. The term Corded Ware is derived from ceramic vessels made by these people that were decorated by using making impressions using ropes or ‘cords.’ These ceramic vessels have been found in burial sites throughout Europe [14]. People were often buried with a variety of other grave goods, such as battle axes, pendants, and bone plates.

This was also a period of dramatic technological change. The early Corded Ware societies were often still reliant on stone tools, but over the course of the Corded Ware period the use of copper and eventually bronze appeared and revolutionized society [18]. It was discovered that by adding tin to copper, a harder metal could be formed. Once the Bronze Age became fully underway in Europe, people started making bronze, daggers, weapons, as well as other tools [19].

The Individuals from Esperstedt:

The seventeen individuals in this sample all came from a single Bronze Age site located 25 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of the city of Halle (Salle) in present-day Germany. These individuals have been carbon-dated to between 3,760 to 4,625 years old. The site had been found when digging started for a major road-building project. These individuals were buried with Corded Ware pottery [20-21] and were buried in a specific orientation, with men having their heads to the west facing south, while women were oriented north-south and lying on their left side facing east [22].

Genetic analysis has shown that these individuals had a strong connection to Yamnaya people from the east that migrated into Europe to form the Corded Ware Culture [22-24]. These migrations brought sweeping changes to the genetic map of Europe. While it was initially debated whether the Corded Ware cultures represented a diffusion of technology rather than a movement of people, recent genetic analysis has shown that large scale migration did occur into Eastern and Central Europe from the Pontic Steppe area of present-day Eastern Ukraine and Southern Russia [22-24].

Thirteen of these individuals belonged to haplogroups I, J, K, T, W, and X, all of which are known to have origins in the West Asia and the Middle East during the Paleolithic [25-30]. These lineages are associated with the Corded Ware culture and are common in Europe today. They were likely brought to the region from the Caucuses regions during the Yamnaya migrations. Four individuals belonged to mitochondrial haplogroup U, which was the most common haplogroup among European hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic and still exists in Europe today although at lower frequencies due to the genetic contribution of incoming farmers and intermixing with Corded Ware people [31].

There were eleven males in this sample, eight of which had Y chromosome haplogroups that belonged to either R1a or R1b, which are common in Europe today. Haplogroup R1b has recent origins as early as possibly 5,800 years ago [32-33]. Haplogroup R1a has also been found in some males in Paleolithic Europe [34]. Two males belonged to haplogroup I, which is a very ancient haplogroup found in Europe and West Asia, particularly towards the Caucuses. It is thought to have Paleolithic European origins [35]. One male belonged to the Y chromosome P haplogroup, which is a very ancient haplogroup that may have had Southeast Asian Origins. It has spread across most of Central Asia and East Asia, being most common in the Phillipines. It exists in Europe today as well, and was likely brought by Yamnaya migrations [36].