First ever Indo-European settlement discovered on Czech Territory

Photo: Karelj, public domain

For the first time ever archaeologists have uncovered a settlement belonging to the Corded Ware culture on Czech territory. This type of pottery is believed to have been typical for the Indo-European settlers whose language is the ancestor of modern Romance, Germanic and Slavic languages.

Domašín,  photo: Karelj,  public domain
Documents show that the North-East Bohemian village of Domašín has been around since at least the 15 century, but, as a new series of archaeological discoveries suggests that its suroundings had been sought out by settlers for much longer than that, including those that left a particularly deep imprint on the European continent.

Dr Martina Beková from the Rychnov Museum is one of those working on the dig.

“We have found a series of five wells and around them some circular holes, which probably attest either to housing or fences. The wells themselves are quite deep. They are simply dug, lacking any sort of reinforcement, for example with wood.“

The Corded Ware culture carries its name from the tendency of its people to bury men with cups bearing the imprints of strings. It is associated with the first Indo-European settlers in the Central European region, who moved into large parts of Europe during third millennium BCE.

Martina Beková,  photo: Milan Baják,  Czech Radio
Dr Beková reveals more.

"We believe that this was a mobile culture of herders. They are supposed to be the first of the Indo-Europeans, which makes it terribly interesting. This group likely came from the steppes of South East Europe. In East Bohemia, we have already found two small burials from the earliest phase when there is little pottery. Such groupings of similarly constructed wells have been found in Germany and dated to the corded ware culture, which is why we believe that they belong to this group."

A genetic study published in the journal Nature in 2015 found that around three-quarters of the Corded Ware populations trace their ancestry to the Yamna culture, which lived in the steppe regions north of the Caucasus and whose people are believed to have been the ancestors of the Indo-Europeans.

The Corded Ware culture,  illustrative photo: Einsamer Schütze,  CC BY-SA 3.0
In fact, the same study claimed a 38.8–50.4 percent ancestral contribution of the Yamnaya in the DNA of modern Western, Central, and Northern Europeans and 18.5–32.6 percent contribution in modern Southern Europeans. The tongue these people spoke is also believed to be the proto-Indo-European that has evolved into many of the world’s most common languages.

The settlement is not the only exciting find in the area. Dr Beková says that the dig also uncovered objects belonging to the Bronze Age Únětice culture dating to around 1,800 BCE.

“We found a grain silo from the late-Bronze Age, which is quite a bomb, because there haven’t been any finds from that period here until now. We have found this silo accompanied by quite rich ceramic findings, which give us the ability to date the building.”

Research around Domašín began in the spring and is still ongoing. Present findings suggest it is poly-cultural, with the Únětice culture being strewn with graves from the later Urnfield culture era dated to the turn of the Bronze and Iron Ages.