European Holocene During the Post-LGM Expansion

Note: This page currently contains only a stub. I will revisit and more fully research it when time permits.

Author’s Prolog

This is a one of a set of essays tracing peoples with my specific paleo-European kinship from their origins in Africa ~70ka to their destination in England in the current era. This chapter explores the early Holocene period after the LGM.

For motivation, technical background, and links to all chapters, refer to the Preface.


The ice sheets gradually started a continuous recession from Europe ~19.5ka, permitting paleolithic populations to advance north out of their refugia. For several millennia afterward, Europe remained a steppe environment. The toolkits of these people do not reveal any woodworking tools, at least in the west.

By the Epipaleolithic following the LGM, nomadic hunter-gatherer societies had invented the bow and arrow, domesticated the dog, and become sustainably proficient at game hunting and fishing. Their big challenge would be adapting as tundra and steppe gave way to the arboreal landscapes of the Mesolithic.

The change of landscape would lead to a concomitant loss of traditional megafauna and rise of deer and smaller animals. Fishing would increase as well, as ever more impenetrable forests would crowd populations closer to waterways. Also more permanent settlements would continue to proliferate as migratory pathways diminished and populations learned to subsist on local resources.

There is depressingly little information to build a story line here, particularly for the I1-M253 people. The paucity of data places storyline probability entirely out of reach; even the fallback of plausible inference is a stretch. Until the archaic DNA is successfully mined, we have to do with what might have been. This is one version, but many other versions would fit the scant data as well.

Population Discussion

The IJ* people (putative Cro-Magnons) left no descendants. They were associated with the production of Venus figurines for nearly 30 millennia. Perhaps the disappearance of the original style of Venus figurines from the archaeological record after 11ka corresponds to the last male IJ* line going extinct during the harsh conditions of the Younger Dryas. This also coincides with the end of the European megafauna that had maintained these peoples since their arrival in Europe. Their descendants include the I and J peoples, where the I-M170 descendants expanded to re-populate Europe after the LGM, the same area that had been the province of the IJ people for nearly 20 millennia before the LGM.


We cannot yet know the I1 re-expansion. Until archaic M253 bones yield DNA information, there is no genetic trace of this clade prior to relatively recent times. They would end up in the same general vicinity as their I2 cousins, but where their LGM refugia were is currently unknowable. But someone was in the western Mediterranean refugia who spread north after the LGM. One possibility is that these are our early I1 people, which we assume in the following.

The western contingent of M170 peoples, the M253 clade, gradually spread north across France and probably across Doggerland. Then as the sea levels rose, submerging Doggerland and re-separating England and Scandinavia from the continent, they clung onto southern Scandinavia where the greatest percentage of I1 population now survives. These I1 people were destined to become the Nordic type we associate with the Vikings. The major flooding events that would have preceded the submersion of Doggerland coincide roughly in time with what appears to have been a population bottleneck for these I1 peoples. It is thought that all I1 lines today originate from a single male who lived at this time.

Across France, we can perhaps track the progress of the I1 people through the Sauveterrian and Tardenosian cultures, to the Maglemosian culture associated with the Norse peoples in northern continental Europe and Scandinavia. Archeaologists identify a continuity between these successive Epipaleolithic industries.

Some of this group came to be co-located in the Denmark area in the eventual I2-M223 continental homeland, where both clades probably comprise a component of the original Anglo/Saxon population. This may give the appearance that these two groups traveled together in time, but the story that best fits the few facts seems to be that they were largely separated for more than 10k years before reuniting in the Mesolithic.


The I2-M436 people are thought to have emerged from the area of the Balkans and Black Sea once more into the Danube basin and NW along the Rhine and Elbe into Germany, where they survived the Big Freeze that likely kept their numbers small for around 1,300 years. They were peoples of the water now, locating along rivers and around lakes and the North Sea. Fishing and local hunting provided significant food sources. In these rich lands, they became ever more settled, domesticating animals, cultivating wild crops, and living a resource-rich life afforded by the rivers, lakes, and sea.

Proceed to Northern Europe: Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition.

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