(Chapter V, section 7)

The Copper Age in Europe North of the Mediterranean Lands: Danubian Movements and Bell Beakers

While the earliest Metal Age culture was being carried westward through the Mediterranean by sea, other agencies conveyed it overland into central Europe. As before, the main highroad was the Danube Valley, but this time the center of earliest diffusion was not Bohemia, but Hungary. A series of crania from Bodrogkeresztür in that country56 are uniformly dolichocephalic, with the highest individual cranial index, out of more than fifty examples, only 76. This is too low for Danubians of the usual Neolithic type, and one suspects a movement from the northeast of peoples of Corded origin. The common presence of copper battle-axes, red ochre, tumulus burials, and other south Russian cultural traits in Copper Age sites in Hungary57 would tend to confirm this deduction. In the west Corded people brought the first metal to Switzerland, and in this case crania of definitely Corded type are involved.sup>58

The inhabitants of Yugoslavia during the Copper Age were, like those of Hungary, also uniformly dolichocephalic.59 Unfortunately, here also we have no further information of racial significance. As one approaches the mouth of the Danube, however, this dolichocephalic uniformity disappears. Four skulls from Russe in Bulgaria, include one male of Corded type, a mesocephalic male, and two brachycephalic females.60

From this evidence, such as it is, we may deduce that the people who brought copper into the Danube Valley at the close of the Neolithic period came from two centers, southern Russia and the Caucasus, and Anatolia, by way of Troy. The chief carriers were the Corded people or some others equally dolichocephalic, while brachycephals from Asia Minor were of little importance from the racial standpoint.

While Copper Age civilization was thus spreading westward along the Danube and the lands to the north, a countermovement in the form of the Bell Beaker invasion travelled eastward from the Rhine to the Danube, and as far as Poland and Hungary. The remains of these Bell Beaker people occupy single graves or groups of graves, rather than whole cemeteries; they were apparently wandering traders, trafficking in metals, for their gold spirals have been found in Danish graves of the corridor-tomb period. They were thus in all likelihood rivals of the Battle-Axe people in their search for amber.

It is not known how they went from Spain to central Europe. Sporadic finds in France and northern Italy suggest the Rhône-Rhine and the Brenner Pass routes as alternatives.61 In neither case is the evidence very satisfactory, and neither excludes the other. From the Rhine Valley as a center, Bell Beaker expeditions moved eastward into Bohemia, Austria, Poland, and Hungary; those who took part in these movements were eventually absorbed into the local populations. The Bell Beaker people who remained in the Rhinelands, however, came into intimate contact with the Corded people, who had invaded from the east and northeast, and with the corridor-tomb megalithic population to the north, whose domain extended down into the Netherlands. These three, of which the Bell Beaker element formed perhaps the dominant one, amalgamated to form an Early Bronze Age cultural unit, the so-called Zoned Beaker people, who invaded England and Scotland as the first important carriers of metal.

The Bell Beaker physical type is known to us from sixty or more skulls from scattered burials in Germany, Austria, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, and Hungary.62 Of these, about one-third are truly brachycephalic, while the others are, almost without exception, mesocephals. In the Rhine country around Wörms, three-fourths or more of the Bell Beaker crania are brachycephalic; in Austria, one finds an equally high ratio; but in Bohemia and Poland the high brachycephaly becomes less frequent, and at Tököl in Hungary, in a series of ten crania, four are mesocephalic and six are dolichocephalic.63

So high is the mesocephalic ratio, and except for Hungary, so infrequent the truly long-headed crania associated with this type, that the mesocephals are clearly one branch of the main type, and not the product of local mixture with long heads. Morphologieally, the mesocephals are essentially Bell Beaker.

The series of skulls from the Rhineland, including nine adult males, is the most suitable for comparison (see Appendix I, col. 21). It is identical in the cranial index mean with that of Furst's forty-four male Bronze Age skulls from Cyprus, which have already been studied, and which have been called Dinaric. The Rhenish crania are a little larger in vault dimensions, and particularly in height; hut are almost identical facially. Morphologically, the two groups are also similar, but the Bell Beaker group is more extreme in many ways; the browridges are often heavy, the general ruggedness frequently greater. The faces are characteristically narrow, the orbits medium to high, the nasal skeleton high and aquiline; the occiput frequently flat. The stature for six males reached the high mean of 177 cm.

The deviation of the Rhenish Bell Beaker skulls, such as it is, from the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean Dinaric form, lies in a Borreby direction. It is, therefore, more than likely that the invaders mixed with the descendants of the earlier Neolithic brachycephals, whose territory stretched along the North Sea coast from southern Sweden to Belgium. On the whole, however, at the period represented by the Wörms crania, the eastern or Dinaric element was the more important.

The Spanish Bell Beaker problem now stands in a somewhat clearer light than before. The Dinaric type, with which the Rhenish Bell beakers are associated, is one which entered the western Mediterranean by sea from the east, and eventually moved, by some route yet to be determined in an accurate manner, to the north, and eventually to central Europe. The paucity of brachycephals in Spain may be due to the paucity of remains of this culture in general. It is still possible, one might add, that certain North African elements became involved in the Bell Beaker racial type, but such an accretion is unnecessary and hardly likely.

The Bell Beaker people were probably the first intrusive brachycephals to enter the Austrian Alps, and the mountains of northeastern Bohemia, for the push of Lake Dwelling Alpines southeastward toward the Balkans happened later in the Bronze Age. It is, therefore, possible that the present Dinaric populations of the Dinaric Alps and the Carpathians may be derived in part from this eastward irvasion. The small numbers and scattered burial habits of the Bell Beaker people on the more densely populated plains of Europe must have made them of much less ethnic importance there than in the mountains.

In their Rhineland center, the more numerous Bell Beaker people had constant relationships with the inhabitants of Denmark, who were still burying in corridor tombs. Furthermore, the Corded people, one branch of whom invaded Jutland and introduced the single-grave type of burial, also migrated to the Rhine Valley, and here amalgamated themselves with the Bell Beaker people, who were already in process of mixing with their Borreby type neighbors. The result of this triple fusion was a great expansion, and a population overflow down the Rhine, in the direction of Britain.


56 Bartucz, L., MAGW, vol. 57, 1927, pp. 126-130.

57 Hillebrand, J., AH, vol. 4, 1929, pp. 1-51.

58 Virchow, R., ZFE, vol. 17, 1885, p. 288. (2 adult female, and 1 juvenile, skulls from Vinelz).

59 Zupanic, N., RA, vol. 29, 1919, p. 28.

60 Drontschilow, K., Mitt. Arch. Inst. Sofia, 1924, pp. 187-201, quoted by Sailer, K., ZFAE, vol. 77, #5/6, 1925, pp. 515-571.

61 Childe, The Danube in Prehistory, p. 196.

62 Bartels, P., PZ, vol. 5, 1912, pp. 67-82.
Jankowsky, W., AAnz, vol. 8, 1932, pp. 104-115.
Palliardi, J., WPZ, vol. 6, 1919, pp. 41-56.
Sailer, K., ZFAE, vol. 77, #516, 1925, pp. 515-571.
Schliz, A., AFA, vol. 35, 1908, pp. 239-267.
Sedlaczek-Komorowski, L., BAPS, ser. B, vol. 2,1932, pp. 253-257.
Stocky, A., and Matiegka, J., AnthPr, vol. 3, #2, 1925, pp. 138-155.
Trauwitz-Hellwig, J. von, MAGW, vol. 53, 1923, pp. 251-265.

63 Bartucz, L., MAGW, vol. 57, 1927, p. 128.