Ardu, Kunila, and Sope

Overarching period: European Neolithic, 9,000 - 3,700 BP
Specific period: Corded Ware Culture 4,900 - 4,350 BP
Carbon dating: 4,000 - 4,871 years old
Ardu - 59.10° North, 25.37° East
Kunila - 58.33° North, 26.15° East
Sope - 59.41° North, 27.03° East
Site location country: Estonia
mtDNA haplogroups: H, J, U, T
Y haplogroups: R1a

Comb Ware Pot An example of corded ware [25]

The Corded Ware Culture of Estonia:

The adoption of farming in the Eastern Baltic was a far more gradual process than in the rest of Europe. Owing to long harsh winters and short summers, hunting and gathering persisted with only small-scale adoption of domesticated plants and animals [9-12]. Many of the late hunter-gatherer societies developed sophisticated fishing and hunting technology, being heavily reliant on marine and forest resources. The last peoples that still practiced this mixed lifestyle of farming and gathering were the Narva, who by 5,000 years ago had become the dominant culture of the region at a time when farming was firmly entrenched in the rest of Europe.

Starting around this time new ceramic vessels began to appear that were connected to the Corded Ware Culture of Central and Eastern Europe. These vessels had elaborate patterns marked on them using twisted string, or cords [13]. The Corded Ware Culture have started somewhere in Southeastern Europe. Archaeological sites with finds of corded ware have been found over a large area of Eastern and Central Europe, and have been associated with the spread of Indo-European languages [14]. Many archaeologists believe that these vessels may have represented a commonly shared cultural object by many different peoples across the broad region in which these pots were found. Debate has historically existed over whether there were mass migrations of people.

In present-day Estonia and the present-day Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania there is evidence of overlapping of cultures including Comb Ware ceramics from hunter-gatherers and Corded Ware vessels from agriculturalists [15]. Some researchers have interpreted this pattern to mean that there was coexistence of these cultures. Archaeological evidence suggests that there was continuity of cultural change as agriculture was slowly adopted [16].

The Individuals from Ardu, Kunila, and Sope:

The five individuals in this sample were founded at Corded Ware sites at several different locations across Estonia. All individuals were radio-carbon dated to between 4,000 and 4,871 years old, meaning that they lived at a time when hunter-gathering Narva people also lived in the region. The three sites were Ardu, which is located 58 kilometres (36 miles) south of the capital Tallinn, Kunila, which is 58 kilometres (36 miles) northwest of the city of Parnu, and Sope, which is 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the town of Rakvere. These sites represented cemeteries with small numbers of individuals. Most of these people were buried with grave goods including bone awls, stone blades and axe heads, as well as some clothing and other stone objects [17].

Genetic analysis has shown that these individuals had Steppe ancestry, which likely arrived with the Corded Ware culture. Steppe ancestry also included some Eastern Hunter-Gatherer genes, as well as a minor contribution from Anatolian farmers [18-19]. This was in contrast to the analysis of Narva peoples who had been a mixture of local hunter-gatherers and incoming farmers from Central Europe.

Mixing of peoples can be seen in the mitochondrial and Y chromosome haplogroups of these individuals. One individual belonged to the H mitochondrial haplogroup which is also commonly found in Europe today and is known to have Middle Eastern origins. It has also been found in Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, and exist in Europe prior to the arrival of agriculture. Common in Europe, Middle Eastern Origin, tracked out of Franco-Cantabrian region, so around in Europe during the Paleolithic [20]. One individual belonged to the mitochondrial haplogroup J, which makes up around 12% of Europeans today and is also found in the Middle East and North Africa. It is thought to have origins in the Paleolithic and came from the Caucuses [21]. One individual was from the T haplogroup, which is not a common haplogroup but exists at low frequencies throughout Europe, having likely come from the Middle East. It is also found in Central Asia [21]. Two individuals were from the U lineage, 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 European farmers [22]. All of the males in this sample belonged to Y chromosome haplogroup R1a, which has recently origins of around 5,800 years and is associated with the spread of Indo-European languages and Steppe peoples. It is common in Eastern and Central Europe today [23-24].