first people in Europe: 700.000 - 8.000 BC

1 Description of the migration movement
2 Causes of migration
3 Consequences of migration
4 Reactions on migration


Before 700 000 B.C. Homo sapiens resided solely in Africa as did Australopithecus afarensis, the precursor of Homo erectus, which appeared there around 3.3 million years ago. The well-known complete skeleton nicknamed "Lucy" is an example of Australopithecus afarensis. In the period from 1.5 million B.C. until about 5000 B.C. Homo erectus and Homo sapiens respectively spread to the other continents. The oldest human fossil in Europe was found near Heidelberg, Germany and dates back to 650 000 B.C. It is presumed that by that time, people had already migrated to the French Cnetral Massif, the Côte d'Azur, Italy, Germany, Austria and Bohemia.

Prehistory is usually subdivided according to the changes that took place in nature, the way of life and structure of human societies, and the development of technology. One very well known division is based on the different materials that tools were made of as time progressed: stone age (old stone-age, middle stone-age and new stone-age), copper-age, bronze-age and iron-age. Tools had a large impact on human life as people slowly developed more complicated tools made out of ever-stronger materials. Every new or improved tool changed something in everyday life; gimlets and piercers for example made it possible to fashion clothes. The ability to control fire, discovered around 350 000 B.C. was also of immense importance in this respect.

Despite these changes however, human development during this time was still very closely bound to and determined by nature. The climate for instance influenced the lives of early inhabitants of Europe in a very direct way. Although the climate in southern and middle Europe remained hospitable during the entire period, in northern Europe the occurence of several ice ages caused the temperature to drop intermittently to inhospitably cold levels, which was especially critical when clothes were not yet worn. In particular, the second to last ice age (210 000 B.C. - 140 000 B.C.) and the last (80 000 B.C. - 10 000 B.C.) caused severe cold in northern Europe as far south as the Netherlands. Between these two ice ages a warmer period in northwest Europe allowed life to exist until the cold returned with the coming of the final ice age. It was not until about 10 000 B.C. -approximately the same time that England and Ireland became separated from the continent- that an enduring liveable climate was established in northern Europe.

The changing climate in northern Europe also had an effect on the plant and animal life there; the types, distribution and abundance of both varied as cold and warm periods alternated. Living as hunters of herds of animals which themselves migrated due to the the changing climate and as gatherers of fruits and nuts meant that people were also dependant indirectly on climactic conditions.

EFFECTS OF CHARACTERISTICS ON MIGRATION

Around 700.000 B.C. the first human beings started moving into Europe from Africa. Although the exact cause of this migration is difficult to determine, the presence of many herds, food, and shelter against the cold –possibly in the form of caves found in France and Spain– most likely all played an important role in attracting people to Europe. Perhaps these essentials became scarce in Africa, forcing people to seek them out elsewhere so that their search led them into Europe. Another possibility is that, due to competition for resources between groups of humans, certain groups were chased away by others.

For many years nomads followed herds of animals as they roamed around Europe; whenever the herd moved on, so did they. In the summer the herds were able to move further north than during the icy winter. People rarely travelled further north than the woods of Belgium until after the last ice age, when clothes afforded them with adequate warmth and protection to bear the cold.

Following the last ice age, people lived in smaller groups (15 - 20 people). These groups migrated from campsite to campsite within their own territory in an annual circular pattern governed by the availability of food at different campsites throughout the year.

1. DESCRIPTION OF THE MIGRATION MOVEMENT

1.1.a Who were they, and where did they come from: ethnic origin, geographical background, religion, adults, men or women, special qualities?

* 700.000 B.C.: Homo Erectus entered southern Europe and migrated across Europe from the south to the northeast.
* 35.000 B.C. - 10.000 B.C.: A new species entered Europe from the Near East, where it already existed from 100.000 B.C. onwards, the Homo Sapiens.


1.2 How did they travel?

1.3 When?

* 700.000 B.C.: Homo Erectus entered southern Europe.
* 700.000 - 80.000 B.C.: People continued to migrate across Europe.
* 35.000 B.C. - 10.000 B.C.: A new species entered Europe from the Near East.


1.4 How many?

1.5 Permanent or temporary?

* 700.000 - 80.000 B.C.: People continued to migrate across Europe.
* 700.000 B.C.: People came to Europe permanently as well as temporarily.
* 350.000 - 80.000 B.C.: People were still travelling across Europe. At this time, homes became more permanent because of the use of fire and tools, and yet they still pursued the herds.
** 35.000 - 8.000 B.C.: Depending on the climate in the area, people lived in either permanent or temporary huts.


1.6 Where did they go and where did they stay?

* At the beginning of the last ice-age (80.000 B.C), people lived in Europe from Gibraltar to Belgium and from western France to the Crimea. They traversed the woods in the Mediterranean area and the moss-tundra between Brittany and the Ural. They also lived along the North Sea coast and Baltic coast. This particular group of descendants of Homo Erectus (Neantherthalers) slowly became extinct.
* 700.000: People left Africa permanently, migrating to Europe. Within Europe, these people continued to move, not finding a permanent home. The shelters people used in Europe between 700.000 and 350.000 B.C. were only temporary homes for hunters.
* 700.000 B.C.: Homo Erectus entered southern Europe and migrated across Europe from the south to the northeast. There were most likely more and more places were pre-Neanderthalers lived; from Spain to Azerbajdzjan through Roussilion and Germany.
* 35.000 B.C. - 10.000 B.C.: A new species entered Europe from the Near East, where it already existed from 100.000 B.C. onwards, the Homo Sapiens. It settled in southern and central Europe and slowly moved into the areas of northern Europe that became free of glaciers. Denmark, for instance, was free of ice in about 15.000 B.C., and Sweden in about 8.000 B.C. Around 10.000 B.C., people moved into England and Ireland. New settlements also appeared in northern Germany, Scandinavia, Poland and Russia.


2. CAUSES OF MIGRATION

2.1 Circumstances that favoured migration

* 35.000 - 8.000 B.C.: The climate favoured migration. The new group (Homo Sapiens) moved slowly north into the areas that became ice-free after the last ice-age (80.000 B.C. - 35.000 B.C.). It had been impossible to live in these areas, but now it was possible again.


2.2 Circumstances that hindered migration

2.3 Direct causes of migration

* 700.000 - 80.000 B.C.: The groups continued to move across Europe because their food (the herds) also moved. People pursued herds and had to move every now and then to find new sources.
* ... - 80.000 B.C.: In the years previous to the last ice age (80.000 B.C.- 35.000 B.C.) people moved southward to stay away from the cold.


3. CONSEQUENCES OF MIGRATION

3.1 Short term consequences

Positive consequences
- for the migrants (first generation): - for their new environment/ the native born:

* Between 700.000 B.C. and 200.000 B.C.: A large part of Europe became inhabited.

- for the country they left:

Negative consequences
- for the migrants (first generation):
- for their new environment/ the native born:
- for the country they left:

3.2 Long term consequences

Positive consequences

- for the migrants (second and third generation):
- for their new environment/ the native born:
- for the country they left:

Negative consequences
- for the migrants (second and third generation):
- for their new environment/ the native born:
- for the country they left:

4. REACTIONS ON MIGRATION

4.1 Reactions of the receiving society on the immigrants
- Official reaction

* Before 700.000 B.C.: As far as we know, there were no natives in Europe.
- Reaction of the common people
* Before 700.000 B.C.: As far as we know, there were no natives in Europe.


4.2 Reactions of the immigrants in their new environment

- integration/assimilation
- maintaining their own identity
- differences between first, second and third generation

IN SHORT

The first people to inhabit Europe originated in Africa. The exact reason of their migration to Europe remains unclear, but they were most likely attracted by the availability of herds, food and shelter. A repulsive force may have been the competition between groups in the sense that groups who migrated to Europe did so because they had been chased away. There appear to have been no forms of government or other regulating institutions to interfere with migration, so that people made their own decisions about where to move. Though unfortunately we know nothing about social organisation in this period, it is likely that each group had a leader who decided on the course of action. Any decision however was heavily influenced by factors such as climate and the availability of food, limiting the freedom of choice.

 

 

Dr. Marlou Schrover