By about 12,000 years ago, the climate warming was accelerating and the glaciers melting at an 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 that landscape. They had to develop 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, which I call 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 facilitated their accessing all the food resources available in the wetlands, and moving from location to location quickly. 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 in Northern Europe

        At the peak of the Ice Age, the glaciers descended to the central part of Eurasia. What we consider 'arctic' today was located as far south as the Danube valley, and the north was ether covered with glaciers or had 'polar; conditions (such as at Antarctica today) that was too cold to support life.
    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 as quickly as the melting 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, or else be unable to access the wealth of life developing in those watery lands.
    While humans could devise a raft of some kind probably even 50,000 years ago, humans were originally 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. For that reason, a way of life tended to remain with the peoples who passed it down from generation to generation.
     According to the records in the ground, 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. It can be argued that the boat-people became the dominant group in northern Europe because so much of northern Europe, replacing the reindeer hunters whose tundra and tundra reindeer were disappearing .
    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. Today, the northern  Ice Age glaciers have survived only in Greenland. Greenland, thus, is a final remnant of the glacier.
Figure 1

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 solution to living in the flooded lands and forests was the most successful adaptation for these conditions. 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. As demonstrated in Part 1, figure 8, many reindeer people from Asian origins borrowed the successful practices of th boat peoples, and in doing so, joined the original boat peoples, impacting them a little genetically and linguistically as suggested by the mixing of red and blue colours in Part 1, figure 8

  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, to the flooded landscape 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).
    Archeology has called the two main excavations of a boat oriented culture,"Maglemose" culture, arising from the "Ahrensburg" reindeer culture south of what is now southern Sweden, and the "Kunda" culture arising from a failing "Swiderian" reindeer culture located where Poland and the east Baltic are located today. Eventually the replacement culture in the flooded landscaoe was the "Kunda" culture.
    The expansion of the "Maglemose" and "Kunda" cultures was the first event since any expansion into the arctic ocean was initially blocked by the still-present glaciers. For that reason we ;look at the expansion of boat peoples east towards the Urals, before the expansion into the arctic ocean and beyond, which began a few millenia later.
    See Part 3. for the expansion from Lake Onega, where we see rock carvings the first skin boats with moose head prows, to the White Sea where we see rock carvings with long skin boats with moosehead prows engages in whaling.

    According to accumulated archeological investigation over the past century, there is no doubt that there was a major change in way of life south of the glaciers, when tundra for reindeer disappeared. I repeat part of the passage quoted in Part 1:
  … 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. . [and also depressed lands flooded with glacial meltwater producing marshes, swamps].. 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.)

    Judging from the locations in which the "Maglemose" and "Kunda" cultures developed, the "Maglemose" culture would have expanded through the region from southern Britain, through the Jutland Peninsula, the Oder RIver valley and south through the Vistula valley. The "Kunda" culture, on the other hand had mastered hunting animals like seals and whales in the sea, and tended to expand eastwards further north at the east edge of the melting glaciers. Managing to harvest large sea animals like seals and whales, they were also responsible for the large scale expansion into the arctic ocean coasts we will discuss later.   
    The story of expansion into the arctic ocean and following arctic coast will be the subject of Part 3. Here we will limit ourselves to the expansion of boat peoples eastward, whether we call them "Maglemose" or "Kunda".


    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-gatherer 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 and joined the success. As I discussed in Part 1, many of them may have been ex-reindeer peoples from Asia, who mixed in with the peoples expanding from Europe and added mongoloid genetics, including the N-haplogroup propogated through male descendants. (See Part 1, for more detao; on that.)
    With the success in hunting and gathering in aquatic environments, and travelling widely using water-highways, 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.
    Note that since boat-use was confined to marshes in lowland areas, these boat peoples did not spread into highlands or mountains. Those locations continued to have pedestrian hunter-gatherers - these people originally pursued horses and bisons, and would have continued, following the herds eastward as western and central Europe became densely forested. There may be another story about the non-reindeer pedestrian hunters, and their expansion eastward through the highlands; but "UIRALA" is focussed on the story of the expansion of northern boat peoples.

.    Humans have always had the ingenuity of creating watercraft specifically for the purpose of crossing a river or lake. Reindeer hunters used watercraft to hunt reindeer slowed down in crossing a river. Therefore the idea of watercraft was always there; but until the rapid melting of the glaciers turned former tundra into bogs, lakes, and marshes, there was no need to use watercraft all the time simply to move around such an environment. Thus what had to be created was not the idea of a watercraft, but a lasting watercraft that could be used daily, and replace the traditional walking/running on open tundra. What had to be developed was an entire new way of life.
    A crude watercraft made of logs was not sufficient. What was needed was something that could last a lifetime, survive repeated dragging onto shores or over portages, and which would be easily managed and move quickly. The solution was the dugout canoe. The idea of making a boat with a skin stretched on a frame was so strange, that its development was delayed 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 Hanti on the Ob River.
    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.
    It may have taken 1000 years 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. We have to bear in mind that such a boat-oriented way of life - analogous to how we today have an automobile-oriented way of life - was new. Everything about it had to be invented from trial and error over generations, with Nature making the decisions as to which innovations would succeed and be supported.
  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  developed in many locations independently as a result of similar pressures. My opinion is that, given that imitation was easy, it is probable that the innovation did not have to be invented repeatedly but that it spread by imitation like many other innovations in human history. After all, we also saw the spread of farming, domesticated animals, and horseback riding from the same process - an initial response to environmental pressure lasting many generations, and finally other humans in similar environments basically copying a practice - as humans do still today when ideas (like using computers) take off.
    Thus, we really cannot assume the boat-oriented way of culture remained in the possession of the peoples who invented it. As we have noted, Asian reindeer people appear to have expanded up the Ural Mountains. Since it happened from 12,000 to 10,000 years ago during rapid climate warmng to the Holocene, many reindeer hunters would have given up their dependence on reindeer, and would have easily copied the use of boats. Comparing it with today, it would be like the spread of the use of the automobile throughout the world today.
    This is important because if we look at peoples with boat traditions today (like fishermen, traders) most of it spread from borrowing indirectly with no genetic connection to the peoples who originated it. For example, in our later discussions we note that there are aboriginal peoples along the Pacitic coast today with traditions in whaling, but archeology has revealed these people originated in the interior and migrated to the coast. However, around Vancouver island, the archeology suggests the peoples with whaling traditions there (in the "Wakashan" family of languages) arrived as much as 5,000 years ago, long enough ago for the spread of whaling from origins in the White Sea.
    This reality also created some mystery about the Algonquian languages. They are the people of the birch-bark canoe who spread similarly through the flooded post-glacial environment but in North America. See later, for an interesting discussion.

The Archeological Evidence of Expansion


    Anyone interested in the subject of the prehistoric peoples in the lands from the Baltic to the Urals, will encounter an early theory  of activity in the region developed in the late 1800's before there was any information about archeology. The whole story of "Maglemose" and "Kunda" culture and boat peoples expanding during the climate warming and glacial shrinking, did not exist. All there was available was information about current languages and cultures of surviving indigenous peoples of that region. So the scholars saw nothing more than various peoples, some primitive some civilized, and made up an entire story mainly designed around conventions and trends in the then-new science of linguistics. So they arbitrarily chose an existing theory by a German scholar of how languages diverged from a series of groups breaking away from parental groups, and migrating and linguistically diverging. In the past almost-century, as archeology and other sciences have discovered the truth about the rise and expansion eastward of boat peoples, and Asian reindeer people near the Urals, and the actual events have become clear, linguistics has failed to update the naive century-old theory of an expansion west from the Urals.
    As shown in the quote from Clark given above, this knowledge from archology has been known for more than half a century, but today the information about the expansion of boat peoples is still not out there, not understood. There needs to be a good sense of the entire picture of a rapidly warming climate, which produced a population explosion of plants and animals, which in turn produced a population explosion of peoples hunting and gathering those animals. Without understanding the population explosion, the public today told of the "Maglemose" or "Kunda" culture findings, will not see the large scale consequences - not just the consequences of the population explosion but also the mastery of the new way of life that facilitated the explosion and expansion. As we will see, boat use  made it possible for humans to travel some 5 times further or faster than every before on foot. Every river was a highway. It would have been similar to imagining that Europe had built all its roads and highways before the invention of the automobile. 
     It was an innovation with as much impact on humankind as the development of farming towards the south. For more on development of a new way of life, follow the link at the bottom of this page.


    A summary of the revelations from archeological work over the past century was quoted above from Clark. The actual archeological work addressed the sites in specific locations - generally rivers - and give them different names if there is something noticably different in the culture as the boat peoples in that water body introduced their own special adaptations. For example, the "Kunda" culture of the lands to the east of the Baltic coast, present large harpoons, indicative of hunting seals in the sea, while the "Maglemose" culture began as a marshland hunting culture. Humans are not naturally people who like to travel of water instead of on food, and there must have been considerable pressure from Nature to head out into the open sea - probably in large dugouts using three pairs of rowers and one helmsman (since that was what archeology has found from later sites)
    Perhaps the expansion of the "Maglemose" culture was the source of the particular dialect culture on the Volga. The culture in the Kama probably came from it, but there was some cultural influence from Asian peoples in the Ural Mountains. North of the end of th Kama. was the beginnings of the Pechora River. People there were possibly ex-reindeer people who borrowed boat use, and pursued a mixure of using boats to obtain fish, and yet keeping semi-domesticated reindeer.
    One source of information of archeological discoveries is Jaanits et al.(see references at end). The following presents a map - except this map does not reach as far as the Kama and Urals. Areas labelled with the same archological name, are based mostly on apparent continuity in aspects of the material culture. The "Maglemose" culture appears to define a culture of marshes and swamps. It would have expanded through all the swamplands from the mouth of the Rhine, through Denmark, through southern Sweden, through the lower Oder Valley, and probably southeast on the Vistula. The "Kunda" culture appears to have adapted to the sea - hunting seals and whales - and so this culture, naturally expanded through the open seas created from the glacial meltwater.

Figure 6
Net result of expansion by about 6,000 years ago
showing archeological dialects of the boat peoples

This map shows the final results of the boat-people expansion, after the useful  water georgaphy had become inhabited, and local cultural features were developing,  In the beginning there was only the "Maglemose" culture that expanded through the swampy lands around southern Scandinavia, eastward to the south Baltic. Note how the "Maglemose" hatching is shown over top of "Kunda", which indicates mixing there - suggesting there was a multitribe gathering place there and that "Kunda" drew from "Maglemose".  Note how the "Maglemose" and "Kunda" cultures both extend towards the Volga, from below and above, suggesting the Volga and further the Kama (off the map) emerged from both "Maglemose" and "Kunda" combined - which suggests they were basically variations of the same original boat people expansion. The map also shows the expansion of the "Kunda" culture to the arctic ocean and its establishing "Komsa". There is some evidence that the "Fosna" culture arose from "Maglemose" influences as the glaciers receded and freed up coastal parts of Norway. (All hatchings in the legend refer to boat peoples in rivers and marshes, except #10 which mixes up all aboriginal peoples, including those in highlands of Germany)


    This is not intended to be an archeological paper, but generally to present the character of archeological investigations in the last half century.
    Further informtion was publshed by  Kozlowski J, and Bandi H-G 1984 (see references at bottom)
    Both of the maps show how much was known by the 1980's after the wirthdrawal of glaciers and rise of "Maglemose" and "Kunda" culture was known already by the 1960's
  The following map is from that source. It is more or less similar to the Jaanits et al map in Figure 2. This map shows the more northerly part, so that the "Maglemose" region of the south Baltic is not shown.
    This map mostly shows the story of the "Kunda" culture. Covering several millenia after the beginning of the "Kunda" culture around 11,000 years ago it includes the explansion into the north and the "Komsa" culture that probably represents the first settlement of sea hunters who did not return south when winter came.(See Part 3 for more detail about the expansion into the arctic)
    Originally the people of  Finnish lakeland, was not there either, as it would still have been under a glacier.
    So  I have added to the map some colours. The light blue shows the original "Kunda" culture (black and white vertical hatching) and expansions from it. Archeology often fails to identify the routes taken by boat peoples, simply because they have not (yet) come across campsite remains along the way.
Figure 7
Net result of expansion by about 6,000 years ago
showing mainly the expansions from the "Kunda" culture (blue)

color dded to map in Kozlowski J, and Bandi H-G 1984
This  diagram of archeological material culture zones shows the Kama and Pechora river valleys just west of the Ural Mountains in the crosshatching of item 4. I have coloured them green and red to suggest the peoples in the Pechora were probably ex-reindeer people, and the peoples in the Kama were influenced by culture of the Ural Mountains reindeer peoples. In addition I added blue to connect "Kunda" to the Urals, along the Dvina, and to the arctic ocean to show the Komsa culture ultimately came from the same expansions, and across the Gulf of Finland to  the Finnish lakes (Suomusjärvi) culture. Note that neither the Komsa culture, nor the Suomusjärvi culture could have existed before about 7,000-6,000 before present, because the Ice Age glaciers had not yet melted enough. The Suomusjärvi culture could have come more directly from Maglemose via Sweden as southern Sweden became Ice-free. But our purpose here is not to debate fine details of archeological intepretations, but to generally show that archeologically, the expansion of boat peoples from south of the Ice Age glaciers between 12.000-6000 years ago was a reality

Figure 8

European dialects

 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  This map proposes that if the boat peoples originated from the "Maglemose" culture, there was a region in Britain too because evidence of  dugout boat peoples has been found there too. Of course, since all the western culture has disappeared in the last millenium or two, it is difficult to reconstruct the boat peoples west of the Baltic. Linguistics in particular is unable to acknowledge the existence of any language that did not produce a descendant language surviving today, since linguistic methodology can only analyze known existing languages.  See a similar map for northeast North America in Figure

The Recent Algonquian Boat Peoples of a similar North American parallel


      When European colonization began in the 1700's, observers found in the northeast quadrant of North America a seasonally nomadic canoe-oriented people whose way of life we can use as an example of how the situation must have been in northwest Eurasia perhaps as late as two millenia ago.
    We can believe that the Algonquian situation had changed little over the past 10,000 years or so because until the 16th century, with the arrival of Europeans, they were not impacted by any other way of life. In northwest Eurasia, particularly up the Volga, and Dneiper, the northern boat people were drawn into the fur trade.  With strong contacts with southeast Europeans civilizations, both the boat peoples at the north end of the Volga and Dneiper (including links to the Baltic) were influenced from the southern civilizations. It lead to the creation of farming and settlements, which reduced the range of contacts between tribes, which caused the rise of smaller social units and dialects. It lead ultimately to the entire zone becoming "civilized" so that we can only tell the original situation from the grouping of languages and dialects into "Finnic", "Volgaic", "Kama" and "Ob-Ugrian" which generally speak of dialects and languages developing within the major water systems (Baltic water basin,  Volga water basin, Kama-Pechora water basin, and Ob River water basin) which would have developed as the original highly nomadic peoples settled down and became dialectically subdivided.
    While there are scholars who have advanced for a century now, the belief that a dialectic subdividing occurred, as the people stopped being far ranging nomadic peoples.


    In northeast North America, particularly in northeast Canada which was about the same latitude as the middle Volga , the Algonquian parallel peoples had never been impacted before the arrival of the European powers a few centuries ago. It is possible to even see the first consequences of contact in the response of Algonquian tribes to the arrival of Europeans - French and then English - as the native peoples began making long canoe journeys of up to 2000 km, in fleets of birch bark canoes, to carry furs to the fur market set up where Montreal is today. Had Europeans not arrive, eventually influences from the south would have arrived. Archeology has determined that there was trading going up and down the Mississippi (perhaps similar to trading going up and down the Volga for millenia starting from about 5,000 years ago ("Comb-Ceramic" culture) and changing little for a millenium or two. The Slavic culture (today the "Russian" culture) only arrive in the boat-people country from about two millenia ago, and the arrival of Norse/Viking traders only arose since about 1000 years ago.  But trade going up and down the Dneiper and Volga dates back to about 5,000 years ago, as proven by archeology. (furs disintegrate in the ground, but amber survives. The amber came from the southeast Baltic coast, in shipments incuding furs and other northern goods, as confirmed by findings of lost/dropped amber objects along the route. The more recent Slavic and then Norse migration into the trade network unfortunately became so strong, that as in North America, the original presence of the aboriginal boat-oriented hunter-gatherers is covered over. But today's North American aboriginal people would not be surprised. It has only been about a half a millenium since the first European colonization of North America, and all the original North Americans have been reduced to a minority. Why does it happen. The answer is simple: farming activity produces food usable by humans in much greater concentration than wild nature - where the food sources in the north are widely spread out in a low density, so that all creatures, including humans, dependent on those food sources have to be widely distributed.  Thus it should be clear, "civilization" overran the original human low density condition purely because of the ability to procure food by farming within a land area of only as little as 1000 square meters of land, whereas in nature in the northern wilderness hunter-gatherers needed maybe as much as 100 square kilometers per family to make a living.
    Since in northwest Europe, the highly nomadic low density boat-oriented hunter gatherers had been impacted by "civilization" in the south from about 5,000 years ago, even by the Roman Age, they were a considerable distance from their origins. Actually those parts most impacted by "civilization" - at the east Baltic and up the lower Volga -  became progressively more "civilized", while the remote parts of northwest Eurasia  that had little contact with southern civilization remained in their original "primitive" way of life. In other words, the transformation was not uniform over the entire area.
    For that reason, we can get insights about the original expansion from the Baltic, before the changes from what was observed of the Algonquian peoples of Canada at the time of European arrivals around the 17th century.


   The Algonquian peoples have been defined by similar language and a boat oriented culture - mainly birch-bark canoes. Scholars have similarly subdivided the Algonguians according to the water systems to which they belonged.  Without sharp geographical or political boundaries, all the Algonquian peoples formed a continuum. It was not a smooth continuum, but the boundaries of each water system tended to confine the peoples, and even provide a natural social/poltical subdivision.

Figure 5

The dialectic division of the Algonquian boat oriented (birchbark canoes) seasonally nomadic hunter-gatherers, was shaped by the water geography

Figure 6

The Cultural Dialects of Algonquians was determined by water geography - solid lines indicate edges of water basins

Water basins are shown by the added lines. Like in the Ur-Finnic boat cultures of northwest Eurasia around 12,000-6,000 years ago, 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 formed 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 very broad origins, that subdivide dialectically over time, some dialects becoming extreme – ie languages. As described in the main text, while the ancestors of the Algonquians were not impacted by new developments until the recent arrival of European colonists, in northwest Eurasia, the influences began as early as 5,000 years ago with fur trade, and then farming settlements in suitable locations. This shrunk the scale of activity and subdivided the original broad foundation


Figure 7

Late Ice Age in Ice America shows how a flooded landscape appeared in southern Quebec and Ontario into which a boat-oriented boat people could spread into.

    In the story of northwest Eurasian post-glacial boat peoples, we discuss how humans are not naturally designed to sit in boats and travel for hours in boats. Humans are pedestrians. Therefore adapting to a new life riding around in boats required considerable pressure from Nature to do so. The lands had to be suddenly flooded, where previously they had been dry. This situation occurred with the melting of he glaciers - but especially in the Late Ice Age. As the white of snow and ice decreased, more of the sun's heat was absorbed by the dark earth and sea, instead of being reflected back into space by snow. That is the reason the retreat of the Ice Age occurred slowly at first, but accelerated so that in the last stages melting was occurring very fast, In Europe the accelerating occurred from 12,000 years ago. The two maps of figure 6, show the dramatic change in North America between 11,500 years ago and 8,400 years ago. The applicable map is the latter. The glacier had by then withdrawn enough to open up inhabitable lands into which people could expand, as long as they were able to navigate the flooded lands. The 8,400 map almost predicts the expansion of Algonquian boat peoples from the Great Lakes water system out of very low density woodland peoples.
    Archeology of the North American east arctic has determined that humans arrived there very early. Finds of stone blades on the east North American coast that seem similar to those in Europe has lead to theories of early crossings of the Atlantic. It is unlikely that boats crossed the North Atlantic until there was a reason for humans to go onto the open sea, and to become very comfortable with it. I believe - as we see in Part 3 - that this reason arose with whale hunting. A rock carving at the White Sea shows a tribe in many large boats catching a whale in much the same way that was used by Greenland Inuit in the 17th century. Whaling peoples became aware of where the whales were. They travelled up and down the European coast - which may have taken them south and become seatrade cultures who created the megalithic structures. It is common sense that a group may have discovered that whales congregated at the south end of Greenland, and that they travelled up and down the North American coast. I believe that the Algonquian culture may have arisen from whale hunters who, arriving at the Grand Banks, were halted by the bounty of fish and took up residence on the coasts there. There they became salmon-catchers in much the same way as on the Pacific coast, and followed salmon up the rivers. All Algonquian cultures came to dominate all the rivers that drained into the north Atlantic ocean including indirectly based on the fact that the Great Lakes that drained to the Atlantic via the Saint Lawrence River - except for the Cree who took up residence in rivers draining into Hudson Bay.
    The origins of Algonquians in oceanic skin boat peoples is suggested by the design of the birch-bark canoe, which is essentially a skin boat that employed birch-bark for the skin. Still, dugouts were not unknown. Algonquians at the Atlantic where birch trees were rare, and there were large deciduous trees, did make dugout canoes.
    The origins of the Algonquians can be a combination of several influences. The reality to consider is that what happened once, happens again, if all factors remain unchanged. If the Norse managed to reach the Canadian coast by accident, simply from following currents (A current would take them from northern Norway to Greenland, and from Greenland to the Labrador coast, and then south along the Labrador coast to southern Newfoundland, where boats will begin to face the Gulf Stream coming against them, making it counterproductive to continue south. Since aboriginal whaling peoples had all the same large boats, and same currents and winds, the accidental arrival at Newfoundland could have occurred many times over the several millenia when whaling people were established. Of course, such people, following whales, would not have sense being lost, because they knew exactly where they were - on the whale migration route. (Today we orientate ourselves to location on unmoving land. Whaling people like reindeer people were oriented to the animals they hunted, not to a location on land or sea.)
    Thus the Algonquian boat peoples could have arisen from both Native North Americas, and influences from across the North Atlantic. (And we cannnot dismiss the possibility of Native North American seagoing people, when and if they existed, from riding the Gulf Stream from North America to Europe. Except that the Gulf Stream ride would have to be a long one, without access to fresh water - less probability of success than a route following currents that carry boats along the Greenland coast to Iceland, to more Greenland coast, then Labrador coast.
    In any case, the retreat of the North American ice sheets, opened the doors to the development of inland boat culture in order to exploit the virgin lands freshly released from under the glaciers. If it did not begin around 8,400 years ago, it happened within a millenium or two later.
  In any case the resulting expansion into the flooded landscape, which was similar to the circumstances in Northwest Eurasia about the same time, can provide insight into the nature of boat peoples way of life, before the arrival of influences from traders and farmers. The influences on the Algonquians occurred only a few centuries ago from European colonists, while in northwest Eurasia the influences came several millenia ago. North America upon European contact with it, was roughly similar to the Copper Age in Europe.
    Thus, the Algonquian boat peoples of the east half of what is now Canada, will provide insight to the circumstances of the northwest Eurasian boat peoples when they were still seasonally nomadic boat-oriented hunter-gatherers. The following section enumerates some of the insights.
    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. 

Insights into the Way of Life of northern boat-oriented hunter-gatherers


      Through a greater understanding of the recent Algonquian tribes across northern Canada, we can find much insight into the way of life of boat-oriented hunter-gatherers - how they defined territories according to water systems, and how their social organization was naturally defined by the heirarchy of the water geography - such as extended families having river branches as their territoriy and the tribal territory being the entire water system (except if the water system was very large, in which case - like the Volga - there could be 3-4 tribes.) It is through my learning about the Algonquians, adding to it information from "primitive" tribes elsewhere in the recent world, that I present the following reconstruction of the evolution of the northwest Eurasian interior boat peoples. Essentially we need to understand natural human social and territorial behaviour, as it manifested in particular environmental situations - in our case the northern marshy and forested environment that was found throughout both northern Eurasia and northern North America.


   How did population growth affect migrations and new social units?
    The warming climate as the glaciers decayed - in mostly Scandinavia in Europe, and Quebec in northern North America - was causing the populations of wildlife to increase  - the marshes came alive with waterfowl, fish, and even large animals like the moose.  This represented an increase in both hunted and gathered food for the humans. This new way of life travelling in boats on water, and going much faster and/or further, allowed humans to access wildlife that had been inaccessible while they were only on foot on dry land. The lands and waters that had formerly been underneath glaciers were virgin lands where no human had been before, and therefore, their expansion encountered no previous inhabitants - they were not entering anyone else's territory, and there was no need to engage in territorial competition, nor was there any mixing  with existing inhabitants - except when they expanded beyond the reach of the new virgin lands and the lands already had inhabitants of a similar character.
    The manner of expansion is easily understood, when we understand that humans in their natural state can only grow their tribes to a certain size before they have to give rise to new tribes which then have to travel far enough away to be beyond the territory of the parent tribe. If the natural tribe size is at most 80 individuals, or 6 to 8 extended families, then there would be pressure for a group to break away somewhere between 60-80 individuals, and set off on a journey to new lands/waters.
    (Note that humans managed to make the size of their tribe larger by instituting government, rules, regulations and processes for administering them. That could lead to large tribes or many tribes consisting of many more families than 6 to 8. It gave rise to "city states", "confederations", "kingdoms", etc."
    Thus, with the rapid climate warming occurring around 10,000 years ago, boat-people populations began to increase in parallel to the flourishing of wildlife. Families, bands and tribes grew large, and daughter tribes split off from mother tribes, and migrated far enough away to establish new hunting-fishing-gathering territories.
    Even though groups of men could travel thousands of kilometers in a summer, and actually visit distant places, the expansion could not occur faster than the rate of population growth. Accordingly the expansion could not occur in a single summer. Each step in the expansion could only occur as each parent tribe grew too large. Nonetheless, even if we consider a birth rate of 3 adults coming of age as 2 adults passed away, the rate of expansion would be quite large. Breakaway groups would arise every few generations, and since the breakaway groups needed to migrate into new virgin hunting-gathering territories, the entire region from the Baltic to the Urals in northwest Eurasia, or from the Atlantic to central Canada in northeast North America, could become inhabited by the respective boat peoples within a thousand years


    We can learn a great deal about territories and social organization 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. It is important to understand whether the lands, marshes or seas entered was already someone's territory or not. If the lands were not possessed by existing inhabitants, then newcomers could simply enter and not be opposed - other than being opposed by wild animals like bears. If there were already people in the destination area, then if those people used the same resourced (such as both were hunter-gatherers), then the newcomers would have to compete, even enter battles, to push the existing inhabitants out. The newcomers have to be stronger and be able to defeat the original inhabitants.
    The exception to this would be if the people at the destination pursue a completely different way of life. For example  reindeer hunters living in dry elevated lands would not represent any territorial threat to boat peoples, as each has a different sense of territory. People who are living off reindeer herds at higher elevations pose no territorial threat to boat peoples. Later in history, farmers and hunter-gatherers too were compatable. Or later professional traders were compatable with just about all other ways of life.
    Thus competition, even wars, arose only where two groups sought to claim the same kinds of resources in the same areas.
    Thus when two peoples encountered one another in the same geographical area, and they got along because they followed different ways of life and had a different sense of territory, it was important that each side respected the territory of the other. Thus reindeer hunters did not hunt or fish in the lowlands. Or later farming people did not pursue any hunting or gathering in the wilderness at all. The tendency was for each side to become more strongly entrenched in their way of life, and then secure the goods of the other side through trade. This could be observed in recent northeast North America where the Algonquian nomadic boat-oriented hunter-gatherers made annual visits to the villages of the Iroquoian farmers called "Hurons" or "Wendat". I recall reading how scientific investigation of the diet of the "Hurons" showed that they lived almost entirely on the grains they grew.
    More recently I recall scientists were investigating the skeletal remains of farmers and hunter-gatherers located in the early "Danubian Culture" where a similar interraction between farmers and hunter-gatherers took place. Some naive scholars wondered why the hunter-gatherers remained within their culture, and did not adopt farming ways. The answer is exactly the same - in order to get along, each side had to be entrenched in their unique way of life, and then trade for whatever the other had. However, if one of the ways of life was not strong, not succeeding, the strengthening of each side did not happen, but rather that the weak side became weaker until they had to end their original way of life and join the winning side.
    Therefore both results were possible - strong reindeer hunting groups becoming stronger in their identity, and weak reindeer hunting groups becoming weaker and seeking to join the winning side.
   During the rapid climate warming the new boat-oriented way of life which was an adaptation to the new warmer environment was strong, while the remaining reindeer peoples were only strong towards the north as a result of shifting north with the reindeer. Towards the south, among reindeer people who had been slow to respond, the reindeer hunters were compromised. Thus one can pretty well predict that - speaking in terms of reindeer people moving north through the Ural Mountains - the reindeer peoples at the north end of the Urals around 10,000 years ago were not likely to have changed, and contacts with the boat peoples for trade, did not alter, but intensified, the identity of each side. On the other hand towards the south compromised reindeer people would have changed their way of life.
    Let us consider the reindeer people who changed their way of life towards that of boat peoples. That action placed them in a new competition with the existing boat peoples. The new converts would now be intruding on the territories established by the existing boat peoples.  For a boat people tribe, their territory would comprise an entire river. Archeological information suggests that the original boat peoples had not yet inhabited the Pechora River because of its northern location, nor the Ob RIver because of the Ural Mountains being an obstacle for crossing by water.
    Otherwise, if weak reindeer people wanted to intrude on the territories of boat peoples, then, failing to find their own virgin territories, they would have to win territories by competition/battle with those who had already staked their claim on those territories. Failing to find their own boat-oriented territories, and losing competitions to steal some, the compromised reindeer people would basically have to become subservient to the winner - as examples in North American history shows, the losing side becomes servants to the  winner. That essentially means extended families acquire unrelated members who lack inherited rights, such as they may be. In general, slavery in humankind arose from winners of wars seeking to make individuals from the loosing side useful. (This rise of illegitimate people in servant roles arose with competition and war, which began mainly in the resource-poor southeast Europe, where the losing side was offered mercy, within the society of the winning side. Such people otherwise lived a good life. They simply did not have legitimacy.The evil, unnatural, kind of slavery arose when humans were treated like a commodity, much like domesticated animals - cattle, horses - were, which was dehumanizing.)
  These would then be examples of how we should not link way of life to language nor genetics. The expansion of the boat-oriented way of life would not remain in its original genetics nor language. However, insofar as language originated to describe a way of life, even when the way of life was borrowed/stolen by another people, the language of those other people would still be forced to import words and expressions that were found in the language of the original way of life, in order to use that way of life. (This can be better understood in the historic example of hunter-gatherer people adoptiing farming - and having to import/borrow farming related terms. Or, today all lesser used languages of the world import technological terms from the languages spoken by the peoples who developed the technologies.)


    Since we are speaking also about insights from the native peoples of recent northeast North America, we could also point out how among the Iroquoian farming trimes, tribes on the south side of Lake Ontario, invaded the north side in the 17th century, which was home of the Huronian Iroquoian tribes. As the above text suggests, vicious wars arise from peoples of a similar kind competing over the same resouces. (In this case the resources were the furs that were traded to the French and English entreprendeaurs in Montreal and Albany - the southern Iroquoian tribes had trapped beavers to extinction and were extremely jealous of the tribes to the north.) The invaders - a "Mohawk" confederation - destroyed Huronia, and established their own settlements along the north shore of Lake Ontario, ready to recieve European traders. The survivors of the "Hurons" or "Wendat" tribes, of course were unable to survive in the wild, so they became attached to the invading Iroquoian tribes as illegitimate individuals attached to families.  Meanwhile, the Algonquians who had had close trading tribes with the "Hurons/Wendat", were enemied to the invaders only by association. Being mobile, they retreated towards the north, but the point is that the Iroquoian people (a completely different culture in a completely different way of life) really had no agenda of making war with the Algonquians. As it happened, by the end of the 1600's, the Algonquian tribes became united, attacked and conquered all the new Iroquoian settlements along the north shore of Lake Ontario, and returned south. By then of course, the "Huron/Wendat" tribes were no more. Some remnants joined Algonquians at the north end of Lake Michigan, and in that mixed culture, there was some permanent settlement and farming added to the original Algonquian culture.
    Anyone interested in reconstructing the distant past of the expansion of boat peoples in northwest Eurasia and relationships at the southern frontier with arriving farming people, studying the native history of Ontario, Canada, will be an eye-opener. Humans are instinctively the same and the same dynamics will be at work at the basic level - before being distorted by complex governments and technology. The most important truth, in my opinion, is that the way harmony is achieved, was/is in different peoples becoming different from one another expecially in having a non-competitive sense of territory. As I said above, hunter-gatherers did not mind the entry of farming peoples into their wilderness, if those farming peoples truly stayed within their territory of growing their own food.  Similarly later, traders were not opposed by any people, if those traders were not seen to hunt, but obtained all their food from their trading activity. This path to harmony is similar to how in jungles, the density of wildlife is achieved by the diversification of species and environmental niches. A red bird with a beak for insects is not going to go to war with a blue bird with a beak for seeds. Nature is about survival, and survival is achieved from minimizing competition. Humans achieved the diversification in a similar way, but using technology.
    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, or to hunt and gather other animals. For example, it is possible for an overpopulated tribe to divide between those that hunted moose, and those who caught fish. It depended on what the environment offered. In later history, economic confederations might develop. For example from about 5,000 years ago, people at the southeast Baltic initiated amber trade with southern civilizations. A short time later the tribes there took on specialized roles - one tribe collected the amber from the shores, another tribe served the role of shipping the wares (not just amber) south via the Vistula, another tribe was engaged in making the large dugout canoes. another tribe served as merchants managing a trade market, another was engaged in fishing, hunting, growing crops. For that reason, Ptolemy called this economic confederation of tribes "Venedae races" and Tacitus called them "Aestii nations". They both saw many tribes united by a common purpose. There were other such economic unions too in Europe, by Roman times, before the Roman Empire reorganized it all.)
    In terms of the early boat people, it is important to bear in mind that after the boat peoples had spread from the Baltic to the Urals, that region was basically populated, albeit sparsely.  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.  They could join the existing people by taking up residence in marginal waterways - branches of a river in less desirable geography. Eventually, packing more people in the area required more sophisticated government structures to enable tribes to be larger, or to form economic confederations of tribes that allowed a greater diversity of territories.  This is the cause of dialectic subdivision developing, that changed dialects covering entire water systems, to the dialects becoming extreme (related languages)
    It is obvious that unless there is evidence of an aggressive people pushing backwards, from east to west, at a later time, that the original idea of an east-to-west migration as suggested in the naive 1800's by linguists, could not possibly occur. However, it is certainly possible for traders to travel up the Volga from east to west, and be unopposed - even welcomed - as long as the traders were clear they were only interested in trading, and not settling, nor taking any established territory from the natives.
   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.
    Today scholars are ignorant of such truths. For example, today there as scholars who insist almost to the point of insanity, that the ancient peoples called the "Veneti" spoke a Slovenian-like language, and that any opposing idea, such as that they spoke the language of the amber trade - Finnic - is wrong. But the reality is that the Indo-European Slovenian-like language could certainly have been the orginal language of peoples settled in the mountains, and that the existence of Venetic in a completely different language was possible too. As long as each group adhered to their way of life, there was no conflict. The "Veneti" located in the marshy lowlands near the northwest Adriatic coast, and the trader routes, while the mountains and highlands pursuing herding and farming, dominating the larger mountainous language.
    Our sense of a single language covering a wide area anc many different ways of life, comes from the creation of large scale political nations. Until the Roman Empire  there was no such large scale government, so common today, in continental Europe, causing all peoples to need to speak Latin.
    To understand the ancient past, we have to get rid of our modern ideas about governments, languages, cultures, and genetics - which today are all interchangable.

Patterns of Seasonal Migrations among Boat-oriented Peoples  


    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.

    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.  

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.
Note that it is possible that the people who made the carvings could have had a new language. We have to be careful to bear in mind that a way of life can be borrowed/stolen. We cannot automatically assume that these people came from the "Kunda" culture for example.
    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.
    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 - many 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. Significanly mentioned references in the article above include:

Clark, G, 1967 World Prehistory, Cambridge A celebrated text that summarized the accumulated archeological discoveries up to that time. Since then the ideas have simply been refined.

Jaanits, L. et al, 1982, Eesti Esiakalugu, Eesti Raamat, Tallinn In Estonian, the product of Estonian archeological work during the Soviet period, where the authors were able to access the work of other archeology within the Soviet Union, not as accessible in the west.

Kozlowski J, and Bandi H-G 1984 The Paleohistory of Circumpolar Arctic Colonizationm, Arctic 37 (4): 359-372 Article in English, where the investigation of the northeast Europe and the Urals was only one section. I chose to use it for reference because of this focus, and because it was a summary.

 Rootsi,S., et al. 2006, A counterclockwise northern route of the Y-chromosome haplogroup N from Southeast Asia towards Europe”  European Journal of Human Genetics 15 (2): 204-11  Comment: This is regarded as the authorative study suggesting the N1c1 haplogroup migrated up the Ural Mountains and then continued west along the arctic coast of northeast Europe to the northern Finland area, and then diffused into the Finno-Ugric speakers from the locations of the reindeer peoples.  .


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


2017 (c) A. Pääbo.