<<< LAST        ORIGIN &.EXPANSION         NEXT >>>




By about 12,000 years ago, the climate warming was accelerating and the glaciers melting at an every accelerated rate, so that the lands were being flooded faster than they could drain back to the oceans. In this environment, humans could no longer walk from place to place because it was all bogs, marshes, lakes and rivers except for islands of higher land where they could camp and find dry land; but without watercraft they were stuck in those places, and that was not sufficient for survival in the wilderness. They had to develop not just any kind of watercraft like a raft, but sleek, light, boats/canoes that they could use to go large distances. Moving in family groups, there might be several canoes to a family,  travelling from one hunting-fishing-gathering area to the next in the manner of the Canadian Algonquians of recent history. Every year several such families living in the same water basin would gather to socialize and affirm their tribe. But this way of life without effective canoes was impossible in the waterlogged landscape, the UIRALA, left behind by the glaciers. It may have taken centuries for this new way of life and the canoes to be perfected, but once it was perfected, suddenly these people had water highways everywhere and could move some five times further or faster than previously walking on open tundra. This is obvious from simply comparing a group of people moving past in several canoes, versus walking on open ground. Thus the water that originally threatened their existence, suddenly water facilitated their accessing all the food resources available in the wetlands - being able to access the best locations, and move great distances in doing so. This success along with the warming climate and flourishing wildlife caused a population explosion that promoted expansion from the Baltic Sea origins in every direction that was available, not just taking the Volga close to the Ural Mountains and beyond, but also via Lake Onega to the White Sea and east to arctic Norway. This chapter describes this expansion, The expansion is a certainty not just because the evidence is in the archeology, but obvious from common sense: a new successful way of life WILL expand.

The Emergence and Expansion of Water People


    At the peak of the Ice Age, the glaciers descended to the central part of continental Europe. Geologists tell us that as the glaciers developed they drew water out of the oceans and lowered the sea level. When the climate began to warm, when the Ice Age receded, when the glaciers melted, the sea level did not rise immediately because the glacial meltwater first spilled into the land and inland seas and it would take some time for the water to flow to the sea and raise its level back up. Thus there was a period of time during which the lands below the glaciers were inundated, and any hunters found there would have no choice but to develop ways to travel on water.
Part 1. described how the warming climate had brought many millenia of reindeer hunters of the tundra to an end, when the world climate rapidly became as warm as today, and reindeer tundra disappeared.
    While humans could devise a raft of some kind probably even 50,000 years ago, humans were basically land-people and the development of the design of the boat, the manner in which one travelled and hunted, etc had to be a slow process accompanied by continuous environmental pressures. Eventually the crossing of marshes, and then travelling in open sea, became second nature, and was passed down to children at a young age. In prehistoric times there were no schools. Young people did what their elders did, and the way of life, its customs, language, and wisdom was passed down.


     Paleoclimatologists  tell us additionally that the Ice Age receded initially slowly, and then accelerated. For 10,000 years climatic change was barely perceptible, but then around 10,000-6000BC the warming was very fast. The reason for this is that when most of Europe was covered with glaciers, its white color reflected the sun's rays back into space. But as the melting progressed and the dark colors of the earth were exposed, less sunlight was reflected back into space, and the heat gain of the earth accelerated, causing the glaciers to melt faster and faster until in the very last stages everywhere the land was warming and the glaciers were depositing their water. Water was being dumped far more quickly than it could drain to the oceans. It was a very wet land, but the boat-using hunter-fisher-gatherers flourished, probably more than any other people. It an be argued that the boat-people became the dominant group in Europe. I call their watery world UI-RA-LA. It's peak of expansion was  at about 8000 years ago. Then climatic warming slowed down again, the glaciers disappeared, water flowed into the sea,  and things stabilized in subequent millenia.

The blue tone and blue arrows represent the initial expansion of the boat peoples. The pink tone represents actual surviving reindeer hunters and herds. The orange tone represents former reindeer hunters left in an open subarctic landscape who had to hunt other animals like moose and move around on foot as before.  The boat peoples was one of the adaptations that was very successful. Less successful solutions to the loss of reindeer herds and the warm climate would have borrowed boat use, just as later in history, people borrowed farming practices. Once invented and mastered, anyone could copy.

  While humans were always able to invent watercraft for temporary needs, the real revolution was the development of an entire way of life around travelling by boats instead of walking. Walking became restricted to the islands of higher ground where they placed their campsites. Gradually the former reindeer people adapted, and soon they had access to a rich bounty of fish, sea-mammals, and waterfowl, not to mention animals that like water like the "moose" (American English) or "elk" (British English).

    According to accumulated archeological investigation over the past century, there is no doubt that there was a major expansion of boat peoples from Europe reaching the Ural Mountains. This knowledge was already available in the 1960’s as shown by the following passage from a respected textbook by Grahame Clark.
“… reindeer hunters of western and northern Europe during the period between ten and fifteen thousand years ago provide a well-documented example. Analysis of the larger game animals represented in the food-refuse of the Late-Magdalenians who sheltered in the south German cave of Petersfels for example, shows that they obtained four-fifth of their meat from reindeer. And even greater concentration can be seen on the summer hunting stations of the Hamburgian and Ahrensburgians sited on the margins of glacial tunnel-valleys in Schleswig-Holstein. In that case over 99 percent of the larger game animals were of a single species. The evidence suggests that other animals were the victims of chance encounters and that the only serious quarry was the reindeer...By attaching themselves to a herd of reindeer a group of hunters would not only possess themselves of a walking larder, comparable up to a point with a domesticated herd, but also a source of many of the most important raw materials they needed, skins for clothing and tents, antler and sinew for hunting gear. … quite suddenly, in the course of a few generations the ecological setting changed: as Late-glacial gave way to Post-glacial climate and glaciers entered on their final retreat, forests encroached rapidly on the open grazing grounds formerly occupied by reindeer. … the hunting people of the North European Plain reacted in part  by reverting to a mixed hunting economy ... but in part by developing special skills in fishing and winning food from the seashore.” (Clark 1967: 73–74.)
    The archeological culture that arose from the Hamburgian and Ahrensburgian cultures was, as we mentioned earlier, called the Maglemose culture . The author continues:
    “The Neothermal inhabitants of this region [North European Plain most severely affected by environmental change at the close of the Pleistocene] had to adapt to a landscape transformed from park-like tundra into closed forest. ... People could no longer support themselves hunting a single species. ... Information is particularly rich in this respect of the Maglemosians who take their name from the big bog (magle mose) at Mullerup where their culture was first recognized. Their hunting grounds on the North European Plain extended in the west to eastern England and Flanders with outliers as far as Ulster and were centered on the marshy region now covered by the North Sea, and North German Plain, and the west Baltic area including Denmark and south Sweden; in the east they occupied parts of northern Russia as far as the Ural mountains. Over the whole of this territory they were fond of camping along river banks and lake shores on the margin of the encompassing forest, a favoured resort of certain game animals, including notably elk (= moose), as well as of wild-fowl, water-plants and fish.” (Clark 1967: 79.)

ice retreatFigure 2
    These three maps illustrate the progression of events disussed here, Map 1 shows how tundra hunters followed Ice Age tundra animals, notably reindeer herds. Archeology has found evidence of these people, of European origin, dating back to the very beginning of the retreat of the glaciers, about 20,000 years ago.
    Map 2 jumps forward to cover the period from 12,000 years ago, when the new boat peoples expand east as far as the Urals (arrow 3)  Meanwhile, when northern Scandinavia becomes ice-free and there is a return of arctic tundra, reindeer are able to migrate west into what is now northern Finland. This development, however, could be considerably later than 12,000 years ago. Figure 2 shows that the glaciers and glacial lakes in northeast Europe have to disappear and arctic tundra has to return.
    Map 3 shows arrow 4, which represents the expansion of seagoing boat peoples north to the arctic. This appears to have occured steadily from 8,000 years ago to about 5,000 years ago.

The Innovation of the Boat as the Core of a Way of Life


    Today we take the use of boats for granted. Because today anyone can purchase a boat and go fishing, there is a common belief that boats and boat use is something that could easily arise from simply concieving of it and trying it. For example, some scholars have said the idea for a skin boat could come from watching a wicker basket float on water. But such experiments and ideas are what humans do all the time - they are just amusements or toys. Or they could be ad hoc contrivances to solve a one-time problem. The idea is never adopted into common practical uses because there is no real long term necessity.or usefulness for it.  Indeed, humans have always been able to put baskets in water and watch them float. Children can even climb in them and play games.
    Another good example would be to ride on the back of a large animal. There is not doubt that early horse hunters may have developed a sport of jumping on the back of the wild horses and trying to see who could remain on the longest. But games, amusements,.or sport would not become established in that society until this practice of riding on a horse's back became useful in the way of life in general.
    Another example would be the discovery of electricity. Apparently a battery had been invented in ancient times, but it was used probably as a novelty of some kind. It was a toy. Who back then could have imagined that one day there would be a world society that actually ran on electricity?
    The reality is that an idea does not become established in a society unless it is truly necessary and economically viable. The invention of boats had to represent improvements for a society that offset the natural reluctance of the human being to take to water.
    The use of boats or water craft like rafts were probably used by humans maybe back to ape ancestors, since today we can see apes devising ways of crossing a river on something serving as a raft.  But these are one-time solutions to challenges, and not something of continual necessity. Indeed, the reindeer hunters from which the Maglemose and Kunda cultures emerged had probably created ad hoc watercraft to ambush reindeer crossing a river, the river slowing them down. The story of the boat people is not the invention of the boat, just as horseback riding is not the invention of a way of life using the horse for transportation, nor how weeding around wild berry plants is farming.  What we must see is the practice becoming a central necessity in the way of life.
    Unless you find yourself living in swamps, a boat is just a novelty or an occasional practical device. Unless you live in open steppes, horseback riding is an occasional practice. Unless you live in a location where wild food cannot grow, farming is an occasional  practice too.
    The revolution of the use of boats as a central part of a way of life is something needing more recognition. It lead to harvesting water animals, and most importantly to large scale trade. There were water highways everywhere, and the invention of a boat-oriented way of life lead to contact and trade over large regions, and therefore boats were responsible for the creation of a European civilizations that reached from one end of Europe to another, whereas previous civilizations, like those of Asia Minor, were comparatively small.


    At the origin of boats you really needed a situation in which humans had to deal with flooded lands all the time, generation after generation. Beginning with the need to cross waters to get from one island region to another, soon they found they could just as well hunt water animals and gather plants as well. This then promoted improvements to the dugouts and the invention of new hunting practices that employed boats.
    Once the art and technology of using dugout canoes and the hunting in aquatic environments had developed  the boat actually provided the unexpected benefit in allowing them to travel some five times faster than even walking on clear solid ground. Suddenly a single language and culture in boat-oriented peoples could cover a vast water geography.
    The degree to which the boat people recieved benefits can be the equivalent of the later advantages of farming. The mere act of trying to help wild plants of animals flourish, lead to a way of life that allowed a high concentration of usable food animals and plants in a small area, which lead to population growth in farming peoples.
    Today's culture of automobiles on highways, is based on an older one of horsedrawn carriages on roads, but both are ultimately based on the oldest tradition in transportation - boats on rivers. Without the boat-oriented way of life, and the results in shipping and transportation, Europe today would not be much more advanced than North America in the 17th century before European colonization.  
    It all owes itself to the development of the dugout canoe in the flooded lands south of the metling glaciers at about 12,000 years ago in what is now southern Scandinavia.
   Starting new inventions and new ways of life using them, is very difficult - there have to be sustained environmental pressures, and there has to be a long evolution from crude actions to a refined way of life. That could take many generations.
   But once the way of life has matured and proves to be successful then other peoples can quickly copy it. Not only does the establishing of it validate it for others to copy, but new users do not need to progress through a long evolution anymore. By simply copying, they derive the benefits immediately.
    This is an important point. Humans are social creatures, who inherently want to be part of a larger social order, and if they see other peoples doing something interesting they will copy it. But if it does not exist yet, the environment has to practically force humans to develop the adaptation!  This is important because, even if it took  millenium to gradually evolve the boat-oriented way of life, when other peoples saw that way of life, they could easily adopt it or parts of it, if it was useful for them.
    Hunting peoples, for example, adopted farming after they saw it, but only to the extent that it was possible. A person in the arctic may learn of farming, but not be able to make it practical.
     The development of horseback riding too, may have taken a hundred generations to develop into a central role in a society, but once it was established all other peoples could adopt it. But it had to begin in a slow way accompanied by sustained pressure.
    Such sociological insights suggest that it was not necessary for either horseback riding ot a farming way of life to be brought into continental Europe from elsewhere. All that was needed was for a people living in an environment in which this innovation was useful, to learn of it and copy it.  That means continental Europe did not need any great migrations from the east for the innovations of farming or horse use to spread everywhere. A minority could invent it and it would spread into the majority if it was practical.
    A good example is the way in recent North America, the Plains Natives for whom horseback riding was an obviously useful innovation, saw Spaniards in the south riding horses, soon found Spanish horses who had escaped into the wild, and in a few generations the Plains Natives were riding horses througout the Plains.

    The first watercraft designed for regular use 12,000 years ago were probably logs with a cavity for a person in it, and from then on, the buiders of them made the walls thinner and the shape more streamlined.
    In the beginning the boat began as a simple raft of logs, improvised when needed. But the new way of life needed a reusable, long-life, canoe. It may have begun as a cavity in a log, but then the cavity was made larger, the design more streamlined, and eventually the walls thiner to make the boat easy to handle.
     Archeologists have not found very many canoes since most  have rotted away. But a few have been found from Britain to the east Baltic - or parts of them -  preserved in bogs. But, archeologically speaking, the greatest testimony to the originating and expanding of a dugout boat people are adzes. Stone adzes have been found from Britain to the Urals, suggesting a successful culture developed in the vicinity of Denmark (where archeologists found the first evidence of it in the "Maglemose" culture, found in a Danish bog). These stone adzes would not have been very useful to chop away wood; however the technique was preserved by the Finno-Ugric Hanti (Khanty, Ostyaks) It involves using hot coals to burn away the wood, and using the adze to chop away coals in the direction the burning should proceed. Where the coals are not chopped away, the burning does not get oxygen and the fire is choked.
    Unfortunately archeologists and other scholars have failed to adequately appreciate what great development took place when a prehistoric people developed a new way of life involving dugouts boats/canoes. They assume that any people anywhere can decide to build a boat and suddenly create a way of life involving them.   Even our modern experience can tell this is not true. Who today can build a sleek dugout without actually having a  master show us or at least a complete set of instructions. Those who have attempted without instruction and from only the concept, can only manage a crude trenched log.
     But even before ANYONE had created a dugout, how would an inventor even know what was needed? If humans have never before glided in a water vehicle, how would they know that this would be useful? How would they know that this new method of getting around will give them greater success than the original method of creating paths and walking? That is the reason the internalization of a new innovation into a culture is a slow trial-and-error proceedure. (But once perfected the innovation can be copied by anyone!) A good example today is the automobile. The automobile could not have come into existence, had it not been for precedents in earlier vehicles drawn by horses. The automobile simply replaced the horse with an engine.  This the automobile in fact took a couple thousand years to develop, when we think of its beginnings with the pulling of ancient wagons with horses.
     Even though humans were entertaining themselves by jumping on the backs of horses for sport from the moment they investigated the animals, it probably took 1000 years for conditions to push societies to develop the horse into the fabric of society. Similarly other beasts of burden like oxen, also took some time to become adopted into practical uses. Ironically, North America certainly had animals that could have been similarly domesticated - bison domesticated to pull wagons, or the riding of a large animal like a moose - but it never developed. And yet, within a couple of generations after the Plains Indians saw the Spaniards riding horses, they were suddenly riding horses, as already mentioned.
    Another example is the developments leading to the telephone. It begins with couriers carrying messages, evolves into a postal system carrying letters, which then discovers sending messages by telegraphy, which then develops into the telephone. It is also a very long evolution, but once it is part of the way of life of a people, it is easily adopted by other people. We need only note how fast the cellphone has been established in the modern world, including third world countries where the cellphone users do not have any of the earlier traditions that developed it. You can find in a Brazilian jungle a people who only a couple generations ago lived in the wild, now having solar panels and satellite dishes and watching a flat screen TV!
    Thus, applying this to the evolution of a boat-oriented way of life: obviously humans had always been able to create boat-like toys from floating bowls in water, and even creating huge boat-like bowls and having a child play around with it in water games. Obviously too whenever ancient tribes found their way blocked by a river or a lake, they were intelligent enough to put together some sort of raft to cross it.  Even apes can improvise a raft from some logs. The issue is not in human ingenuity. The issue is in the development of an entire way of life revolving around transportation and hunting using a boat, instead of the traditional ways travelling on foot.
    If it had never existed before; if humans have previously only hunted and travelled on foot; then doing these things with a boat required a major evolution, perhaps as elaborate as our long evolution today towards the automobile, starting with the horsedrawn wagon, nay-- starting with harnessing the power of a horse!.
    The development of  a boat-using way of life thus had to go through many trial and error developments, and human need and circumstances judged which choices were better and which were worse (Tribes that adopted the better ways were more successful, had more children, and  also found rival tribes copying their methods. Evolution itself selected the good choices!)


       One interesting observation about inventions that are not toys but become part of the way of life of a human society, is that every new development needs to be founded on an old one, because too dramatic a development throws the operation of that way of life into chaos.. Early automobilies for example had to be built on top of the existing institutions of the horse-and-carriage,  The first automobiles had to still look like carriages, except powered by engines not horses. That would not disrupt society's operation (other than putting liveries out of work, but then, the liveries turned into automobile repair facilities.) It is clear that change cannot be dramatic. If someone had produced an automobile that looked like a modern automobile right away, the public would not have been able to relate to it. But the "horseless carriage" was wonderful. It was still the familiar carriage, but it did not need a horse to pull it.
     The evolution of the boat had to proceed in a similar way. It had to slightly improve something already established.
    In hunting the moose and other large animals, the early hunters (about 10,000 years ago) would encounter rivers and marshes, and had to improvise rafts to get across. Perhaps they straddled a log and paddled across on it.
    After a time, someone decided to paddle across while trying to keep their feet out of the water. Why not make a cavity in the log?
    Once there was a cavity in the log, the hunter gained the ability to go after water animals directly from the crude boat.  For example fishing or hunting wildfowl, not to mention collecting edible water plants, was now easy.
    The dugout canoe, thus fostered a change towards hunting and collecting foods connected to the flooded lands - and if the lands were mostly flooded, it would have been teeming with water plants and animals!  In turn, changes to the dugout boat, and its use, altered the way of life as well.
    Then the hole was made more comfortable, and larger, to hold more than one man. Then someone discovered that making the outside more streamlined allowed it to travel faster
     Each change was then tested in actual practice. The clans and tribes that had the better developments in both the vehicle and its use, had more children than those who has made poorer developments. Thus it was evolution itself that decided, from greater success and population growth, that developments would constantly move in the more beneficial directions.
     Over many generations, the log turned into a dugout with a streamlined shape and thin walls (to be light enought to carry). Such sleek dugouts are still made and used by the Khanti of the Ob River in Siberia, althought they can only make small single-man versions on account there are no large trees in their northern environment.  The Khanti method of making the dugout is probably thousands of years old. The method involved using fire to make the cavity. The stone adze was not used to chop the wood, but to chop away coals in the direction in which the maker wanted the fire to proceed. Fire is halted when there is a buildup of coals.  In the 1980's filmmaker Lennart Meri documented the making of a dugout in a Khanti campsite on a branch of the Ob River. The Khanti dugout, used by one man in the fashion of a kayak, was limited in size by the limits in the size of trees in their northern location.
       The first dugouts, those associated with the archeological "Maglemose" culture, were designed for dealing with the marshy landscape from the region now the Jutland Peninsula and southern Sweden, east along the south Baltic coast (the Oder River basin) to the southeast Baltic. These people had no need nor desire to venture out into the waves of the Baltic. Humans did not develop in uncomfortable directions unless circumstances forced them, or circumstances benefited them beyond their sense of discomfort.


    The development of the boat was intended originally to get around in the flooded lands beneath the glaciers, but it had further benefits. It allowed people to access aquatic food sources in the water itself, previously in accessible. But most unexpected of all, the streamlined canoe could travel some five times faster or further than even on foot on flat ground. Suddenly these boat peoples were much more mobile that any previous hunter-gathere people. It was such a successful way of life that anyone in the northern landscape of lakes, rivers, and seas who was still walking around on foot and getting wet, would quickly copy the boat people. Any remaining pedestrian hunters, quickly acquired boats. As I said above, even though creating the sleek dugout took generations, any people who would benefit from it could easily copy it, just like in more recent times hunter-fishers in an area of fertile land, could easily copy farming already developed elsewhere.
    According to archeology and population genetics, the Ural Mountains contained reindeer peoples migrating north, at about the time the boat peoples reached it. Since reindeer were threatened by the warming climate, many reindeer people would have converted to boat peoples at the Urals, and that would have introduced the Y-DNA N1c1-haplogroup into the Finno-Ugric cultures, and also influences from the language of there reindeer people.
    With the success in hunting and gathering, and travelling between bountiful sites, it is no wonder that the populations of boat peoples blossomed and caused tribes to divide and divide producing new tribes who travelled further and further away to occupy the still-vacant coasts of lakes, rivers, marshes and bogs from Britain to the Urals. It all makes sense.   
    The growth of populations of boat peoples probably exceeded the growth of any other post-glacial hunting people. And because of boats they expanded further and faster than any highly mobile reindeer people on solid tundra had ever done before. A great portion of humanity today has the boat people at their roots. It would explain our love for recreational boating, canoing, and fishing. Recreational activity tends to be connected to ancient experiences that have found themselves into our human nature.

. It may have taken 1000 years or more to refine the dugout boat to something light and streamlined, to determine what to hunt and fish, develop new tools and techniques for the aquatic environment, etc. Those that had better ideas were more successful. It was thus Nature that gradually selected the people and methods that worked best. More successful methods resulted in more children, more population growth, more expansion. We must not picture a sudden invention of boat use, and a sudden expansion. It could have, by chance, begun in one place, and expanded from there.
    Early dugout canoes were probably crude cavities in logs, but in the end they were the sleek, thin-hulled, designs such as are still created by the Khanti on the Ob River.
    Once the boat was developed, it could endure by imitation. It is far easier to imitate than originate. (In the world of art, any capable artist can make a copy of the Mona Lisa, but only Leonardo da Vinci created the original.)
    Based on archeology dating the beginning of the "Maglemose Culture" at around 12,000 years ago, and the "Kunda Culture' a seagoing version, shortly thereafter,  the boat people developed and expanded in the next couple millenia, finally begin spread through the water-geography from the swollen Baltic to beyond the Ural Mountains. For the most part, they entered formerly uninhabited territories (since this was the first appearance of boat peoples - previously humankind had been tundra hunters of mammoths and reindeer.
    The idea that a boat-culture does not happen unless Nature imposes pressures forcing humans to make it happen, or that it does not happen overnight, leads us to ask whether boat peoples in other parts of the world were independent evolutions Since humans are land-creatures, the development of a boat-oriented way of life required strong pressures to force humans to act against their instincts. The melting glaciers certainly created the conditions in the lands just south of the glaciers as they retreated towards Scandinavia. It is possible that reed boats may also have independently developed elsewhere, we don't know. But in general once the boat existed, any people who found it beneficial could copy it. In the Mediterranean, there were ships with boat head prows, showing a copying of a custom that originated in the north - as described elsewhere. 
    Because a boat-oriented  way of life, once invented and perfected, could simply be copied, it is difficult to tell if there were another location of original development as a resulting a continuous environmental pressure, over many generations, as opposed to it simply being copied completely formed. The evidence is strong, that a North Atlantic crossing of aboriginal skin boats could have occurred from the arctic Norway coast as early as 6,000 years ago. The Norse were able to inhabit Iceland, visit Greenland, and sail the wind and currents down the Labrador coast in 1000 AD, it is certainly possible it could have happened often in the previous 5,000 years ago. All that was needed was a purpose, and for sea-hunters, the purpose would have been to find whales, walrus, seals, fish, etc.

The Structure of Hunter-gatherer Boat Peoples Way of Life


      The warming climate was causing the populations of wildlife to increase as well - the marshes came alive with waterfowl, fish, and even large animals like the moose.  This new way of life using boats was successful, and the boat-people populations began to increase in parallel to the wildlife. Families, bands and tribes grew large, and daughter tribes split off from mother tribes, and migrated far enough away to establish a new hunting-fishing-gathering territory. And soon it was repeated until the boat peoples had filled up the water-geography available between the Baltic and Siberia.
    It is necessary to understand a little about the social organization of nomadic hunting peoples - how they expanded, how they interracted.
    We can learn a great deal about it by what is known about the Algonquian canoe-using hunter-fishers of the northeast quadrant of North America. from direct observation in the last centuries since European colonization.
  The most important truth for scholars to understand is that humans are territorial. You simply cannot say that a particular people migrated into another area, without considering whether there were already people there.
    When the Uralic language family was interpreted a century ago it was interpreted as a succession of migrations from the Uralic westward, but nobody considered that the region into which it migrated was already inhabited, and the indigenous people would react in some way to immigrants intruding on their territories and carrying a new language. Migration requires a strong people that overwhelms the indigenous peoples either with military might, or numbers. There is no evidence of it so the century old linguist interpretation cannot be in any way correct.
    If immigrant peoples are not overpowering, then the indigenous people will resist the immigrants.invaders, tell them to move on, or permit them to inhabit empty marginal lands.. If the immigrants/invaders did not, there was a battle for supremacy. 
     Scholars cannot treat the environment as if it were vacant - except in the beginning when freed from the Ice Age.
    To summarize: The boat people originally expanded into virgin lands, but once the expansion had been completed and tribes were claiming ownership over wildlife in different regions, newer immigrants had to deal with those who were already there. The newcomers could move on, or agree to take marginal lands.
    Thus while the original expansion could cover the entire region from Britain to the Urals in 1000 years, further waves of migration had to deal with the established peoples - taking marginal lands, fighting battles over ownership, and trying to find peaceful ways of sharing increasingly limited resources as the populations grew..
     Note that in civilization we think of lands in terms of acreage for farming. Hunting peoples did not have a sense of owning nature, but owning rights to hunt particular animals.  A farming people could move into the territories of a hunting people as long as they did not hunt. This is something scholars do not understand. I recently read of how scholars studying the early peoples of central Europe were puzzled that the hunting peoples did not  quiickly adopt farming themselves. The reason is simple - as long as the two shared the same environment, each had to respect the others way of life. This was actually observable in Canada between Algonquin hunter-gatherers and Huron (Wendat, Iroquoian) farming peoples.
  Peaceful co-existence of two different peoples requires that each side remains within their own economic territory. It is interesting to note too that in Canada, the farming natives known as "Hurons" were 90% dependent on what they farmed - maize, squash, etc.  They could have hunted and fished but they were closely involved with the Algonquians - the seasonally nomadic hunters-fishers. If they wanted meat, it would be more likely from trade - meat for maize. 
     Different peoples could occupy the same landscape, as long as they exploited different resources. In other words concepts of territory could overlap in the same landscape.  Farmers, traders, fishermen, crafters could - and later did - occupy the same environment as long as they were clear as to staying within their territories and respecting those of the others. It is the origins of professions. Specialization plus trade also made for a better economy for everyone involved.


   An important and also unrecognized aspect of the boat-peoples is that with boats, boat-using hunter-fisher-gatherers could travel over five times faster and farther than the earlier hunters that moved on foot over clear open land. That means boat-using hunting-fishing-gathering territories could be over five times larger than that of the earlier big animal hunters, like the reindeer hunters. For example, if a reindeer hunter band covered a territory 100km in diameter, the boat-users could cover a territory of 500km in diameter with the same effort . However, since boat-use was determined by the nature of the waterways, boat-people territories would be stretched in various ways according to the configuration of water systems. . A linear territory could assume the form of travelling 1500km up and down a river, or along a coast. (For example, evidence of rock carvings with moosehead skin boats suggests that there may have been a tribe that migrated annually between wintering at Lake Onega and summering in the islands off the coast of arctic Norway. Lake Onega images of moose do not show antlers - proof that these people were not there in summer and never experienced antlered moose (antlers are lost in the fall and regrown in spring).
     TerrItory is very important in the human psyche, and it follows that if the range of tribes with boats was this large, then in the early period of expansion of the boat peoples, it is clear that breakaway bands and then tribes would have to travel a great distance to remove themselves from the territories claimed by the parent band.  If families were having three children, then a breakway tribe would form every 50 years or less, and move about 500km away. They water geography from the  Baltic to the Urals and beyond would have boat-people within 1000 years.  (The destination lands have to be unoccupied, as mentioned above for that speed) The most recent example of rapid expansion of a boat-people is that of the Canadian arctic "Thule" culture from Alaska to Greenland in only about 500 years.
    Note that a group of men in dugouts could travel from the Baltic to the Urals, via the Volga, within weeks, so we are here speaking about boat peoples tribes actually inhabiting the the region - which also depends on population growth.
    As I mentioned above, the original expansion (10,000 to 6000 BP) was unopposed. Towards Scandinavia, there were virgin lands released from under the glaciers. Further east, there would have been remnants of reindeer people, but they were in very poor shape, with the warmed lands that no longer supported tundra reindeer.I believe that the remnant pedstrian hunters - moose, elk, deer, an individual woodland reindeer - would have quickly adopted the new successful way of life.
   But in terms of boat peoples, the marshes and rivers were empty, and could be inhabited without opposition. As time went on, of course, new waves of expansion occurred, and the new immigrants would have to find territories in more marginal territories. When the climate stopped warming, the whole post-glacial expansion would reach an equilibrium, until human developments such as farming and trading.
    Today, the whole world is claimed as someone's territory. We cannnot understand a prehistoric situation in which humans did not have territories.. The days of simply moving into virgin lands, and occupying them, has long disappeared.   Either the immigrants have to negotiate with those already there, or come with an army and conquer them.  In prehistoric times, humans had to deal with the territories of wolves, bears, and lions.


    In describing the boat peoples who expanded through the region from the Baltic to the Urals (and beyond too) the UIRALA articles often make references to the Algonquian indigenous peoples of eastern Canada, as they were when European colonists arrived, because they lived in a similar latitude, and similar post-glacial lakeland, and lived by the boat (well known for their birch-bark canoe.) What Europeans observed a couple centuries ago, provides us with actual examples of how humans would organize their lives if they lived on water systems and travelled in boats.
    A natural human tribe consists of 5-7 bands (extended families of brothers and sisters, their children and elders). (Larger tribes require political organization, government, to remain as one.) From the Canadian  evidence, the most common pattern among boat-peoples is that the 5-7 bands each 'owned' one of the water basins of the tributaries of a large river so that the tribe as a whole owned the entire river water basin. The extended family bands travelled through their large territories on their own for most of the year, and then they all came together once a year to socialize, find mates, trade, exchange news. The tribal meeting place was usually near the mouth of a river.
    For example in Canada, the Kawartha Lakes region water basin drained south towards a lake called Rice Lake today, and from there a river continued to Lake Ontario. There were some 7(?) extended families, each assuming territories in one of the branches. Every year, in late summer, all families would make their way down the rivers to the tribal gathering place located at Rice Lake and live together for a month. A relatively small population, thus, covered an area, that today  contains a million people. It is difficult to fathom how after the Ice Age, a relatively small population of nomadic hunter-gatherers might  cover northern Europe in only several tribes.
      In the case of peoples who fished and hunted sea coasts, perhaps a tribe was distributed along the coast, each band claiming a part of the coast. Archeology shows that there was a cultural unity along the south Baltic which they have named "Maglemose". If the bands of this tribe travelled the coast, the central location where the bands got together would have been at the mouth of the Oder as it would be a central location. And on the east Baltic the bands of the tribe archeologists have called "Kunda" would probably have met at the Dvina (Daugava, Väina) at the Gulf of Riga. The mouth of the Vistula would have been the gathering place of bands who travelled the Vistula. If the three tribes wanted to meet in a large gathering, the mouth of the Vistula was a good place. Archeology has found overlapping of archeological cultures there. Another location where it appears two or three tribes came together is Lake Onega.
    The further north the people live, the lower the food density in the land, and the further they had to travel to secure their food. Thus for example the Cree around forested part of the the lower Hudson Bay, covered a territory as much as 3000km wide, their far-ranging movements keeping the language from breaking into many separate languages over that entire area. (Europeans did however note three dialects). North of them, the arctic ocean boat-oriented Inuit had established a single language, with about three dialects from Alaska all the way to Greenland.
     Towards the south, where food density was greater, people did not have to travel as far. Shorter-range interaction between peoples caused dialects over smaller regions and for there to be sufficient separation between the larger groups as to develop distinct languages (=dialects that are too far apart to be easily understood by each other). For example in Canada, the Ojibwa boat-people lived throughout the Great Lakes water basin, the Algonquins in the Ottawa River water basin, the Montagnais Innu in the Saguenay River water basin, the Labrador Innu in the Churchill River water basin. Note how water basins defined the regions, since boat-use was generally confined to the water basin. Within these divisions there were dialects too, especially among the Ojibwa. To be accurate, the language varied in relation to distance, and while adjacent tribes could understand each other's dialect more distant ones had difficulty. 
     In the east Baltic coast, there would have been a continuum of dialects up the east Baltic coast, but then because of the obstacle of the Gulf of Finland, a dramatic difference between the north and south side - the reason Estonian and Finnish are considered distinct languages, while southern Estonian dialects would have transitioned into the northern Livonian dialects, Livonian into Curonian, and so on.  In North America,  it would have been similar - the strong differentiation being caused by geographic barriers or some other basis for separation. For example the Montagnais Innu lived on the Saguenay River, so they would have to be different from the Algonqjuins on the Ottawa River.
    The following figure compares the prehistoric situation of the boat peoples, with those observed in North America among the Algonquians.  Boat peoples, to summarize, basically are contained by the water systems they inhabit. This containment creates a gentle tendency for dialectic divergence.

Figure 3


    Once we understand the way the North American Algonquian boat peoples divided up their activities in the Canadian landscape we get to understand the early situation in ancient Greater Europe very well. Notably we can predict that the Ob, Kama, Volga Rivers (for example) would produce separations that would promote all their languages drifting apart from a common parent.  Thus once we identify the early Finno-Ugric cultures as aboriginal boat peoples like the recent Algonquians we can predict that linguists will find linguistic differences according to the major water systems. Indeed, that is what they found - the Ob-Ugrian languages on the Ob River, the Permian in the Kama River water system, the Volgic in the Volga, and the Finnic in the waters draining into the upper Baltic. It follows obviously that if the expansion from the "Maglemose" culture of the Jutland Peninsula (Denmark) is correct, then not very long ago there must have been more Finno-Ugric families - perhaps a family on the Vistula, perhaps descendants of "Maglemose" on the Oder, perhaps a family in southern Sweden, perhaps even a Finno-Ugric family in Britain.  Such notions are controversial to everyone who has fallen victim to the erroneous theory of migrations described  above.

Figure 4

European dialects

Figutes 3,4:  Boat Peoples Are Partitioned By Water Systems

These maps, based on geography of rivers,  roughly suggests regions where water systems tie tribes together. Water systems "CONTAIN" their boat peoples, and that causes in situ dialectic divergence with boat people in neighbouring water systems 


    The Algonquian cultures of native North America are those made famous with the birchbark canoe. If we are speaking of those tribes who were located towards the north, we find a people almost identical in way of life to the “Maglemose” and “Kunda” culture of over 10,000-5,000 years ago in northern Europe.  They both accessed the flooded post-glacial landscape through mastering the use of canoes, and harvesting aquatic plants and animals. The only real difference is that the Algonquians developed the birchbark canoe, but towards the south, where there were no birch trees, and Algonquians further south had dugouts too. 
    Therefore the Algonquians of the east half of Canada are a perfect model for the expansion of the Maglemose and Kunda boat peoples from the Scandinavian and Baltic area eastward to the Urals.
    The distance  in a straight line between the Baltic and Urals is close to 2000 km. The distance covered by the Cree speaking peoples of the Algonquians around the south half of Hudson Bay, similarly covered about 2000 km, consisting of the water basin of the southern Hudson Bay. The single Cree language was only broken up into about three dialects, one at about three major river systems.
    Figure 5 is drawn on top of a government water drainage map, drawing lines around the water basin. I then added historically identified peoples, which suggest regions of associated clans and tribes, and their common culture and language.
Figure 5
Algonquian water drainage map

Water basins are shown by the added lines. Like in the proto-Finno-Ugric cultures, The social and political organization of all the Algonquian (canoe-using) boat peoples were determined by the natural heirarchy of water systems. The social and political units ranged from extended families, to tribes made up of 5-6 families in a river system, and several tribes in a larger system formed a ‘nation’ and all people of a similar language was a ‘people’  We are interested in the fact that the Cree language forms a single language with only dialectic variation, that covers about the same distance as the distance between the Baltic and the Urals, thus proving that it is possible to have a very broad origins, that then over time can break up dialectically over time, some dialects becoming extreme – ie languages. The Algonquians did not break up dialectically further as a result of lack of civilization influences until recent European colonization.

       The Cree distribution over a vast region, we note, is confined by the waters flowing into Hudson Bay. The Cree language does subdivide a little into dialects, according to several major rivers, but it appears all share the fact that all the rivers flow towards Hudson Bay, which means there were contacts, such as multi-tribe gatherings, using the coast as an easy means of contact. Contacts have the effect of all groups coming in contact preserving the common culture and langugage.
    Figure 5 shows how towards the south, the degree of dialectic subdivision is stronger. As dialects become strong, they become related language. But usually neighbouring peoples are close dialectically and language distinctions can be defined further apart. The Cree speakers would probably find it difficult to communicate with, for example the Micmac or Maliseet of New Brunswick. But looking at Figure 5, we can see that from the Great Lakes dialects to the Atlantic dialects, we are only speaking of only about 5 dialectic steps!
    This comparison between  the prehistoric European boat peoples and the more recent Canadian Algonquians, clearly demonstrates that the traditional "Uralic Languages Family" model of a  tight origin at the Urals and  sequence of migrations eastward is false. A century ago, scholars were naive. They used linguistic models applicable to southern settled farming peoples.  The correct approach would obviously be a broad original language - the language of the original expansion and inhabiting of the entire region from the Baltic to the Urals (and the Ob River), followed by what we see in the water basin map of Figure 5 - they natural subdivision according to water systems. Confined to their water systems, tribes would develop their own dialects. Neighbouring water systems would speak almost the same dialect, but nore distant tribes would have considerably different dialects.
    Just as the European boat peoples had a source from which they expanded with population growth, so did the Algonquians we discuss above. The expansion of the Algonquian boat peoples originated near the Altantic - although descent from Hudson Bay i a possibility too - , and obviously expanded via the water systems. Archeology reveals there were some early hunter-gatherers in eastern Canada, but probably the flooded post-glacial landscape was empty because without sophisticated boats (streamlined and light) , it was difficult or impossible to live in it.

Figure 6

The question is did a boat using culture develop in the left map, like the Maglemoe Culture developed south of the Europen glaciers? The Algonquian tribes used birch-bark canoes which were essentially skin boats - a skin on a frame - but they knew about dugouts too. As we see later, in northern Europe, the skin boat developed  after the dugout canoe had been perfected, as a result of the arctic not providing  trees for larger canoes needed for more than one person on the sea. Therefore the fact that the Algonquian tribes used birch-bark canoes means probable origins from circumpolar skin boat peoples descending from the north.  Note in the right map, the Labrador coast is ice-free. People could have descended down the Labrador coast by the same winds and currents that brought the Norse in the 10th century.  An alternative, descending from Hudson Bay would have meant a very long journey. It is therefore most likely the Algonquians come from the first peoples in the eastern Arctic, perhaps the "Dorset Culture". But in any case, we are speaking of the same expansion of peoples using boats like today we use automobiles, to inhabit the flooded lands released from under glacier ice, and still today filled with lakes (like Finland or Ontario, Canada)

 The reader is asked to project this recent Algonquian canoe peoples example into the proto-Finno-Ugric boat peoples of around 10,000 years ago. What can we conclude?
    The original single proto-Finno-Ugric language between the Baltic and Urals probably, like the Cree dialects, also had mild dialectic difference in 3-4 steps -  Baltic, Volgic, Permic, and Ob-Ugrian. The dialectic subdivision would have occurred naturally, primarily according to the water basins of the east Baltic, the same as in the Algonquian dialectic subdivisions.
    The story of the expansion of the proto-Finno-Ugric boat peoples is very clear, and so is the dialectic subdivision according to major water geography divisions. It should be so obvious there needs not be a debate. Archeologists could use the Algonquian information to analyse their archeological data in terms of behaviour patterns. European scholars have not made much effort to look for examples in North America. Care must be taken that boat people examples come from boat peoples not from farming peoples like the Iroquoians. Iroquoians lived in villages surrounded by farm fields. They made boats, but only for temporary use - an example from history, of them making fresh elm bark into a long boat, for crossing Lake Ontario. It was a single use boat, since once dried it broke apart. Farming people did not need permanent efficient boats to be used for years. 


Whether we speak of the Algonquian boat peoples, or the prehistoric northwest Eurasian boat peoples, we are dealing with a quite rapid expansion into previously uninhabited territory. Tribes that are formed and fill up the water geography, will be speaking the original language before the expansion, everywhere, but then because water geography along with natural tribal divisions (a natural tribe cannot be too large), different tribes in different water systems (like a river or a coast), have more contact with others  within the water system than outside, and as a result the original language begins to turn in its own direction to the extent that communication with neighbouring tribes is reduced. In the Algonquian example, as shown in Figures 3 and 5,  four major dialectic regions developed, each defined by water geographies - waters flowing into Hudson Bay, waters flowing into the Great Lakes, waters flowing into the Saint Lawrence River (we include the Ottawa), waters flowing into the Atlantic. Today's descendants of these people like to think of each division as a 'people' because within each there were tribe subdivisions, each with their own dialect.  But these dialects were so close that communication between them was easy. Even communication between these 'peoples' was easy if they were neighbours. For example the Ojibwa (Anishnabe is the name they prefer today)  of Lake Superior mix with Cree speakers at Sioux Lookout north of Superior, and make fun of how they use the same words in slightly different ways. Apparently it was easy to create a hybrid language there, called Oji-Cree. If Lake Superior or Cree peoples were to try to communicate with the Innu of the Labrador coast, communication would be more difficult, perhaps like today between Estonian and Finnish. The maintaining of language over as much as 5000 km east-west over thousands of years (maybe up to 8,000 years) is testimony to how widely boat peoples could travel, and to meet relatives from considerably far away, and to try to maintain communication ability. We know today just how far and fast one can go with a boat. 17th century fur traders in Canada could travel from Montreal to Lake Superior in a matter of weeks. A group of men at Lake Superior could take the summer off, and visit relatives at the Atlantic and return by small. We can apply this wisdom to the prehistory of the region from the Baltic to the Urals. As shown in Figure 4, it is possible to subdivide the boat peoples in a similar way into similar size regions. And as with the Algonquians these regions would define a 'people', within which would be tribes. But unlike the Algonquians, the European boat peoples, experienced much more history - the fur trade came, farming was tried. When they stopped being seasonal nomadic boat peoples, and settled down into permanent villages, these regions began to subdivide and connunication became more localized. The Finno-Ugric linguistic groupings, each with several related languages or dialects, developed out of the original circumstances of a single language over the entire area, with only dialectic subdivision.
The subdivision of an original language, creating dialects, and then the dialects developing into related languages. never happened yet in original Canada. Comparing Canada with prehistoric Europe, Canada was about at the equivalent of the European Copper Age - about 5,000 years ago. In fact North America had trade in copper from north of Superior, and a major trade artery in the Mississippi. It is no coincidence that the name "Mississippi" came from the Algonquian boat peoples,
    The following looks at how the languages of northwest Eurasia developed, when we consider the dialectic fragmentation approach. (Note to scholars, we do not include any discussion of the influences of reindeer peoples on the boat peoples in subsequent history. We only show the initial spread of the boat people and settling into the different water system and developing dialects, as suggested in Figure 4



The following diagam shows how a spread of a people into a region can be a broad origins of language development. The large rectangle corresponds with the part of  northwest Eurasia into which boat peoples expanded. The numbering refers to the graphics of Figure 9
1.  The Ural Mountains were a barrier to easy movement of boat peoples, but when some crossed into the Ob River system, they became isolated by the Urals Mountains
(As will be discussed elsewhere, the boat peoples encountered reindeer peoples (following and possibly helping guide in mild domestication, reindeer herds) as suggested by N-haplogroup genetics in the Urals and beyond the Ob River basin.)

2.  The Ugric boat peoples now in the Ob RIver basin, are separated from the rest of the boat peoples, and there is also a natural separation between the reindeer peoples in tundra or mountains, and the Ugric people peoples in the Ob water system
3. Over time, the boat peoples on the west side of the Urals subdivides naturally as the millenia pass, from boat peoples being contained by  the waters flowing into the Baltic (FINNIC), the waters flowing down the Volga (VOLGIC) and the waters flowing down the Kama River. (PERMIC); Although the Pechora flows northward linguists have connect Pechora basin language with the Kama.

NOT SHOWN in order to keep the diagram simple, the diagram only deals with the region east of the Baltic. In ancient times boat peoples survived further west as suggested  in Figure 8.

Figure 7
dialectic subdivision

         The above is presented as an introduction to the linguistics connected with the indigenous languages of northwest Eurasia today. It is generally acknowledged that the traditional linguistics approach advanced a century ago has been wrong, as it treated the people as if they were European settled people, and not as widely spread mobile hunter-gatherers who did not diverge by migrating outward from an origin, but rather fragmenting from an originally wide origin.

    The Way of Life in a Watery Forest Landscape

    The Canadian example of the Algonquians, also provides insight into the way of life of the original boat peoples of northwest Eurasia. Here are some insights.
    The most primitive way of life among surviving Finno-Ugric cultures are also the most remote - the Ob-Ugrians on the Ob River which drains into the arctic ocean east of the Ural Mountains.  Even recently clans went up the river to spend part of the year in their traditional campsites. They have been documented by the films of Lennart Meri shot in the 1980's. The films include so many primitive aspects that when I showed it to an Ojibwa friend in Canada, he initially thought it was all staged and everyone was acting.  The film included icons familiar in Algonquian culture such  as the drum made by stretching skin on a frame, and the teepee construction.
    Most notable about the Ob-Ugrians is that they were still continuing a tradition - the tradition of a tribe occupying a whole river,  each extended family possessing a branch of the river, and all the bands congregating near the mouth to affirm the tribe. (Of course today, the practice has degenerated, but at least the essence of it still remains in the practice of clans to go upriver to traditional camps.)
     And the territories of the ancient tribes could be enormous. In North America the Montagnais Innu occupied the whole Saguenay River system. About the time the French first arrived, they came down to the mouth and congregated to affirm the tribe. The location was called Toudessac.  Interestingly, when Europeans began arriving in ships it was the Montegnais who set up a trading post to trade with the Europeans.
    In Eurasia the Khanti (Hanti, Ostyaks)  were equally enterprising. Learning of places to trade at the southern reaches of the Ob, groups made long trips southward to engage in trade.  The Ob River is very large and in effect the Khanti occupied a territory as large as all of eastern Europe!  We only need to project what is relatively recent in the Ob River to large rivers to the east. For example, it is easy to imagine that when agricultural people arrived (The Danubian Culture) it was not the agricultural people who travelled down the Danube to trade at the eastern Mediterranean or Black Sea. It would have been descendants of the boat peoples.  Similarly other rivers would have seen the boat people easily assuming roles as traders. We can easily imagine situations in the Vistula, Dneiper, Oder, Rhine, Volga, etc. where one subdivision of the boat-people dominated an entire water basin.
    The following map depicts actual archeological discoveries of "archeological dialects" among the ancient peoples who were all essentially dugout or skin boat users. The graphically patterned areas represent locations where remains of a particular "culture" have been found.  The map described the period of between 7500-3000BC or 9500-5000 BP (before present). This is the period of boat-peoples expansion. Note the hatched area at the bottom. At that time it would have represented a culture that lay in the Vistula water system and upper Oder. Note also another hatching for the Dneiper. Later archeology reveals the entry of agricultural peoples in these areas, but that may be misleading. Boat peoples and agricultural peoples can coexist as they do not interfere with each other's sense of territory. Moreover people tied to settlements and farm fields would welcome the service that the nomadic boat peoples offered, such as trade. Here too there are models in recent North America, in the relationship between the farming Indians, the Hurons, and the seasonally nomadic boat/canoe peoples, the Algonqians.

    Knowledge about the expansion of the boat-oriented hunter-gatherers has of course been refined over the past decades, but the story is basically the same – an expansion of nomadic hunter-gatherers in a way of life involving northern forests and dugout canoes. Today, remains of the ancient way of life can still be seen in the Ob-Ugrians. See for example the film entitled “Toormi Pojad” (“Toorum’s Descendants” by Lennart Meri in the 1980’s in which the film crew visited a traditonal camp of  Hanti/Khanti/Ostyaks.
    The following map shows the regions covered by the Kunda, Volga, and Kama-Pechora cultures.

Figure 9

 Another archeology map
from Kozlowski J, and Bandi H-G  1984

The above map covers the results of the expansions of boat-oriented hunter-gatherers comprising events developing between  10,000-8,000 years ago, even if its beginnings went back to as early as 12,000 years ago.

    The map in Figure 3  references information from Kozlowski J, and Bandi H-G  (1984)  which summarizes accumulated archeological findings up to the 1980’s. See our references section at end for another useful source (Jaanits, L. et al, 1982) but which is in Estonian.
    The map also shows three regions beyond the expansion into Volga and Kama, not involved in our discussion, as follows:
     The “Komsa Culture” shown in the map in arctic Norway, can be argued to originate from Kunda Culture descendants that originally seasonally migrated between Lake Onega to the White Sea, and even arctic Norway, to harvest sea life. This scenario is strongly suggested by rock carvings of the same skin boat with moose-head prow located as far apart as Lake Onega, and arctic Norwegian islands. Eventually some of them did not return for the winter, but stayed through the winter, and that gave rise to the “Komsa Culture”.
    The “Suomusjärvi“ peoples of Finland too of water-filled prehistoric Finland were obiously boat peoples from the same origins. They could be a branch of the Kunda culture that adapted to post-glacial lakeland, or more directly from the Maglemose.
     The “Yangelka Culture” boat peoples shown on a branch of the Volga, were probably Volgic boat peoples who did not continue north on the Kama.
Our interest here is mainly in the “Kunda”, “Volga-Oka”, and “Kama-Pechora” cultures. Archeologists including more than one water basin in their material culture definition simply means there was an absense of strong divergence. The tribes in each remained in strong communication.
Note that the “Kama Culture” covers both the Kama and Pechora water basins. Note the vertical hatching of “Kunda” in the middle.
    For further insight, I quote from Koslowski and Bandi. My underlining is added to notable portions.
    “A new wave appeared [in the Ural Mountains area]  only at the beginning of the Atlantic (period), in the upper Kama basin, and then advanced northward, reaching the Petchora and Vytchegda basins. This wave is represented by the Kama culture (Bader, 1966; Bourov, 1973)...”
    This text continues to mention that artifacts associated with the Kunda Cculture that also reached the Pechora.
 “....The other (perhaps earlier) wave advanced from the western Russian plain across the Dvina basin, and is associated with the Kunda culture which represents the last descendants of the Swiderian. The two waves met in the Petchora basin, where the discoveries of Vis Pea Bog I, dated at 8080 +/- 90 yr and 7090 +/- 70 yr BP, give the most complete adaptation to taiga conditions, including many elements of the Kunda culture such as tangled points. Objects of wood and bone are preserved, including bows and arrows of wood. elements of skiis and sledges, bark receptacles and nets.

     As we see from the archeological evidence, the Dvina and Pechora regions recieved the expansion of the Kunda culture coming from the west.  The authors do not link the Kama Culture to the  Kunda, but it is obvious it came via the Volga by boat from the Baltic. The mention of Kunda does not exclude the Maglemose, since they were close enough to be closely related. (Even gathering at the meeting place of the east Baltic and south Baltic). The “Maglemose” culture was situated from southern Scandinavia east along the south Baltic and was more or a marshlands culture,  whereas the Kunda culture adapted to hunting in the sea, along the edge of the glacial meltwater sea, and was able to easily move into open seas, such as Lake Onega, and the arctic ocean.

Figure 10

kunda tools
A harpoon head and adze head of the Kunda culture reveal both the hunting of seals, etc, and the making of dugouts (dugouts were made by burning and adzes were used to chop away coals in the direction desired for burning)

    The material culture differences that archeologists use to identify different material cultures – Kunda, Maglemose, Volga-Oka, Kama-Pechora, etc – are mostly practical adaptations to new environment and basically the boat-oriented way of life remained the same. There may have been slight dialectic variations, but we can believe that the entire region spoke the “Proto-Finno-Ugric”. Applying it to the dendrogram of Figure 2, it means the “Proto-Finno-Ugric” language was spread over a couple thousand km. This is important because it means, the language at the Baltic was the same as at the Urals before the first divergence at the Urals, and subsequent divergences in the Baltic, Volga, and Kama. No migrations. All divergences are in situ from the expanded boat peoples settling down into water basins and to each side of the Urals.
    Since today humankind lives very compactly in cities, we have little idea of how a small population could be so widely distributed and maintain a single language with small dialectic variation over such a vast region. For that reason, let us look at an example of a such a nomadic boat-people in a similar post-glacial water-filled environment that existed only a few centuries ago in Canada. The northern Algonquian cultures were at such a primitive stage, that they did not have any permanent settlements, and followed a nomadic way of life where they did not arrive at the same place until a year later. This permitted widest nomadism, and greatest scale of a broadly distributed base-language. As we will in our discussion of the Algonquian example, their dialectic subdivision was determined by water system boundaries. The second stage of permanent settlements and a smaller scale of nomadism had never occurred in Canada.  With colonization of North America from Europe, the Algonquian peoples were forced into settlements and a non-mobile way of life by colonial governments. But before the actions of the colonial governments, the following shows a primitive situation that reflects the situation between the Baltic and Urals around 10,000 years ago.


    The story of how the dramatic change in climate lead to a new way of life using boats, is an elaborate one. Boat use turned out not just to be a way to travel around in a wet landscape, but it introduced, for the first time, a way of travelling also through densely forested areas that may not have been marshy, but were still dense and impassable on foot - but the forests had to be on lower lands and contained navigable rivers. This made it advantageous to peoples who wished to inhabit lowland forested areas: not just wetlands. Another unexpected benefit was that where there were waterways, it was now possible to travel some five times faster too. This allowed seasonally nomadic hunter-gatherers to cover much larger hunting areas than even when on foot in open plains.This is clear when we imagine a man walking on open ground beside a river, and imagining a canoe travelling past that man. If we are dealing with forested areas where the pedestrian did not even have flat open ground, the difference in speed was even greater. Imagine for example hunters without boats, such as in central Europe highlands, where there were no rivers. The hunters there could barely move at all, compared to the great distances the boat peoples in the lowlands of the Rhine, Oder, and Vistula River valleys were able to cover in a year.  When we think  it through, we realize that one of the reasons farming developed in the higher lands of central Europe was because the people there could not travel enough to be able to successfully hunt the deer and other animals there. It is easy to see how  slash-and-burn activities would have developed there, to open up the forests and attract and support more deer, and that when ideas arrived regarding deliberately growing crops came along, by hearsay or immigrants from the southeast, it was easy for even the hunter-gatherers there, to easily enter the settled, farming way of life.  In the north the pressures were not as great, and hunter-gatherers may have adopted only some innovations from the south that could co-exist with continued hunting-gathering. In the further north, farming was not even possible dure to the cold climate, and the original boat-using hunter-gatherer culture continued, up until relatively recent history.
    But the use of boats in wetlands not only allowed human success in lowland forests, but also in the sea. The large harpoons of the Kunda Culture, and the location of sites on prehistoric islands, suggests the Kunda Culture represented the Maglemose Culture proceeding into the sea.  While it is unnatural enough for humans to go out on rivers and lakes for extended periods, it was even more unnatural - and scarely - to go out into the sea, especially into high waves out of sight of the short. But once the dugout boats existed, it was possible to create large seagoing dugout containing a number of men, a team of hunters, to ambush seals and other large aquatic animals. When the seagoing boats reached the arctic, and there were no large trees for seagoing dugouts, the people invented the skin boat.  The illustrations below show a descendant of the Maglemose small boat among the Hanti (Khanty, Ostyaks) of the Ob River. It is small because trees in northern Asia are small.  But the rock carving from arctic Norway, reveal that seagoing people went to arctic Norway and brought not just the traditional one-person dugout (top) but also the skin boat with high prow, with the head of the animal from which the skin came on the prow - the moose. More detailed discussion of the expansion of seagoing peoples will be presented in other articles.

Figure 11,12


Khanti Skin Boat

Dugout canoes still used by the Hanti (Khanty,Ostyaks) of the Ob River today. These dugouts are limited in size to the largest trees that can be found in the north, and ridden like open kayaks, and precedents to kayaks.

soroya rock carving

A rock carving from the arctic coast of Norway depicting both a one-man dugout, and a skin boat with a moosehead prow capable of holding several men and dealing with the high waves of the sea

The above illustration from a rock carving in northern Norway, shows that knowledge of making dugouts did not die even among peoples who made skin boats for use on the oceans. . (It was not simply a matter of cutting a hole in a log, but a skill passed down fhrough the generations of how to make the hull thin and streamlined, meaning not any culture could achieve good ones just by observing the final product.)


     There is evidence that boat peoples reached the Urals about 11,000 years ago, in a unique wooden statue that was found on a part of the Ural Mountains that was low, situated to the east of Perm, and to the east side of the mountain range. Figure 12 is a photo of the head at the top of the very long pole, that was originally stuck into the ground in or near a bog. The statue-pole fell over into the bog ans was preserved. Archeological dating has determined it dates to about 11,000 years ago. Since the "Maglemose" boat peoples culture dates to about 12,000 years ago, this statue/pole suggests boat peoples were crossing the Urals into the Ob River water basin at around 11,000 years ago. In addition the pole, they say, was carved with a tool made from beaver teeth. Mountains peoples could not have made this!
Figure 13
Shigir Idol top part

Top part of the very tall, totem-pole-like Shigir statue/pole from four sides. Found preserved in a bog at a location where boat people could cross the Urals, and carved with a tool made of beaver teeth, it was obviously made by boat peoples. What is significant is that it has been dated to 11,000 years ago about a millenium after the boat peoples materialize in the "Maglemose Culture" identified in what is now Denmark.
    Another piece of evidence suggests the boat peoples may not have stopped at the Ob River, but travelled upriver, portaged into the Yenisey and eventually into the Lena. Obviously the further expansion into more eastern rivers would have been later than 11,000 years ago.
    The following illustration shows a very large dugout boat, that is shown on a rock carving at Shishkino on the Lena River not far from Lake Baikal. If you look at the map of Figure 3. you will see how explorers in such boats could have reached the area by river at an early time or later.
If these rock images prove to be considerably younger than 11,000 years ago, at least it shows that boat peoples COULD continue eastward, if they had motives to do so. The boat depicted in Figure 14 is clearly a dugout made by hollowing a log. It is too shallow to be made of skins
Figure 14

      Lena River rock art showing large dugouts, indicative of occasional long journeys.

     These carvings (I guess enhanced  in chalk by archeologists) show well made large dugouts. Another image shows six men. The east Baltic seagoing dugout tradition had places for three pairs of rowers, and one helmsman with a steering oar.  What is interesting about these images is the headdresses. Since all the men in the boats have them, it is not a status or ceremonial headdress, but utilitarian. What I think is shown, is that these men were moose hunters, and they made headgear out of moose's heads, with ears attached. The clothing may have looked much like those pyjamas with ears made for children sometimes.
    The following map shows in green the lowland, marshy regions that boat people could have gone with boats.  The map depicts the situation about 10,000 years ago, The purple dots show the maximum extend of the Ice Sheets. Everything under it would have been depressed and flooded when the glaciers withdrew.
Figure 15

map where boat people could have gone
This map, depicting about 10,000 years ago, with the purple dotted line representing the maximum extent of the glaciers about 50,000 years ago, shows in green the regions that boat peoples could have expended, either through marshy lowlands, or strong rivers. We can only speculate where they actually managed to go. It is food for thought. The "UIrala" would be the region within the purple dotted line which was flooded and depressed by the melting of the glaciers.


  Above we have focussed on the original expansions of the boat peoples from their origins in the flooded lands where glaciers had depareted. But there was a more significant expansion of boat people into harvesting seas, and notably the arctic seas. After those seagoing boat peoples arising from the "Kunda" culture,  sought to harvest the arctic ocean, they did not find large enough trees to make large seagoing dugouts, and therefore invented the skin boat beginning with moose hide on a frame. 
    See the next article (#3) for an investigation of the expansion of the boat peoples from the Baltic to Lake Onega to White Sea, to  arctic Norwegian Seas, northern British Isles, and probably further. (NEXT >)
    Meanwhile as European civilizations flourished on the basis of farming-based settlements, the need for traders/shippers to carry wares between the settlements grew, and the boat peoples found themselves pre-adapted for the role. The already travelled all year from campsite to campsite along waterways, returning to the same place only a year later. Professional traders developed, who made a living from obtaining wares where they were cheap, and carrying it to where they were valuable, living off the difference. These professional traders became an institution on Europe's rivers. This will be the subject of discussion in a later article.


Since this webpage has been constantly updated - edited and changed - sources and references are acknowledged where possible in the text or beside the picture. If a statement is made or picture shown, without a source, that means the image is either fully original by the author (A.Paabo)or significantly modified artistically. One book that has special  signifiance to this project is: Eesti Esiajalugu, Jaanits et al, 1982, Tallinn. 

<<< LAST        ORIGIN & EXPANSION         NEXT >>>

author: A.Paabo, Box 478, Apsley, Ont., Canada


2017 (c) A. Pääbo.