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Originally humans only  preserved knowledge of the past by oral traditions of passing information generation to generation. When writing was invented oral knowledge could be carved in stone, and its knowledge perserved almost eternally. Since writing became an institution  in southeast Europe, most written information described events there, and later peoples north of the Mediterranean were left out of  the percieved history of Europe. But in recent centuries sciences have emerged that permit  penetration of the past in new ways. The most significant development was archeology. Over the past more than a century the amount of knowledge of the past from archeological discoveries has opened up a large window into the past never seen before, and the new information has revealed mistakes assumed in the past from the limited information of ancient writers. Two other sciences - linguistics and population genetics - have the shortcoming of claiming to be able to reveal the past in languages and genetics purely from applying methodologies on modern data . However the methodologies and results have not been tested and proven, and we must accept what is presented on faith. As a result, archeology remains our greatest window to reconstructing the past.


    Everything we understand about the past is from interpreting traces left behind. It is analogous to studying tracks of animals in the snow to reconstruct what the animal did and where it went sometime recently. Today we actually create tracks with much information when we take photos or videos. As long as we locate the photos and videos correctly in time and space, we can see a repeat of some past events preserved on media.

    Before there was such media, there was writing. Ancient Greeks and Romans were fond of writing. Before the invention of writing, knowledge of the past was passed from generation to generation orally. Writing was able to permanently record knowledge as if spoken by someone. As a result there exists ancient writing that has frozen information and sentiments for all time. Ancient Greece produced what we today know as historians, who sought to record events for posterity. Ever since then, humankind has been reading and rereading what was written, and  viewing the past through that lens. But given that ancient Greeks could only observe the world around the Mediterraean, little was recorded about what was going on towards the north. Herodotus knew little about the north. He reported what traders had revealed to him about peoples north of the Black Sea. Peoples of Delos reported to him about visits of maidens from "Hyperborea" 'beyond the north wind'. He had himself learned in Greece how tin and amber was brought by "barbarians" "from the ends of the earth". If in the past, we defined out knowledge of the past by what had been written by ancient historians, we obtained a distorted perspective of the past - a Greek-Roman centered perspective. Today, logically, we cannot say that historic events were not going on everywhere else. The fact that there were no historians beyond the ancient Greco-Roman world does not mean all those unmentioned places were filled with gentle people who did not create any significant events. A few travellers into the north offered some information about northern Europe. Pytheas spoke about ancient Britain, islands north of Britain, Iceland (called "Thule") and the southeast Baltic where he offered some place names which confirm the language there was Estonianlike. At that time the lands were more depressed prior to continual rebound after the glaciers had left, and the Samland Peninsula was an island. The name Abalus, translates with Estonian and Livonian as 'place of the lagoon' hence naming the region where the Samland Peninsula is located - in the lagoon behind the long sandbar that runs parallel to the coast. Or Pytheas mentioned "Mentonomon" a word that survived until Prussian times in the form Mänte Neem 'Cape of the Pines', for the Cape of Hela. Later Roman historian Tacitus also described the area. Because ancient historians were focussed on their Mediterranean world, we learned more about the long distance Greek and Phoenician traders, than similar long distance trade networks through the interior of Europe and across the north. Julius Caesar appears to have identified them in the Brittany "Veneti" who he even said ruled the northern seas. Since Caesar's time scholars have assumed he only meant northwest Europe, but why would a strong trader people not rule the seas as far east as the southeast Baltic. After all, Tacitus wrote a century later that the "Aestii" at the southeast Baltic spoke a language that was close to the language of Britain (A debated statement assumed to mean the Aestii were Celtic, but could actually mean the native British spoke a Finnic language!)
    Thus historical reconstruction of the past has been highly dependent on where the practice of writing was situated. European civilization thus developed a Greco-Roman centered idea of the past. Europeans were inspired to connect themselves to the ancient world. If you investigate Celtic thinking, you will find stories/ myths that saw the origins of Celtic families in ancient Greek heros. The Venetians took to heart the fiction perpetrated by Roman historian Livy, that after the Trojan War described in the Iliad, already a fiction, some of the "Eneti" heroes who aided Troy, had arrived in the Adriatic by sea, and after conquering the indigenous "Euganei", had settled. Accordingly Venetian families enthusiastically placed Trojans at the roots of their family trees.  The Roman view of Europe dominated for centuries after the Roman Empire disappeared, but was not correctly interpreted. Because the word "Celtae" was an alternative to "Galli" and West Europe in general was "Gallia", it was assumed all peoples in "Gallia" were Celtic. Similarly because the geographical region from the Rhine to the Vistula north of the Danube was called "Germania", every mention of "Germani" was taken to mean 'German', and it was imagined it was like a large nation - even though Romans had never conquered and ruled it - everyone speaking the German language. Similarly the Roman geographical designation of "Sarmatia" was assumed to contain the "Sarmati". In reality, other than actual Roman Empire territories, there was no political organization and there were great dialectic variations from settlement to settlement and only long distance (inter-tribal) trading developed a lingua franca over a larger area. Julius Caesar's report suggests that three were three regions of organization around trade - one in the Garonne River, one in the Loire Valley, and one in the northeast and the Rhine. Each had its own "language, laws and institutions" which means there was Aquitanic, Celtic, and Belgic. It was assumed through the centuries that they were all branches of Celtic, but perhaps only the central one was Celtic. Investigations of written remnants of Belgic have been inconclusive.  But through the centuries it has been assumed it was a version of Celtic, and because Caesar wrote that it seemed the Belgae had crossed over into southeast Britain at an earlier time, Celtic nationalism had assumed all of Britain had been turned Celtic around 500 BC. This is now a misguided assumption. Even after the Romans took over Britain, governed it, turned British into Romans, for four centuries, Romans were still unable to covert the north - Pictish endured. Looking east into the geographical region of Germania, similarly there was no single governed region nor even a single people and language. I determined this from comparing the tribe names recorded by Tacitus who entered the region along the coast, and Ptolemy's place and tribe names which seem to have been taken from a Roman survey that went east on horseback through interior highlands, Tacitus identified the coastal tribes as "Suebi", independent tribes but unified by common customs. One can expect there was a common language as well we can call "Suebic". I was able to interpret tribe names in meaningful ways with Finnic. On the other hand very few if any tribe and place names from Ptolemy - mainly describing the interior highlands - suggested descriptions in Finnic. The conclusion is that Tacitus, investigating trade ports along the coasts, only investigated peoples who came to the ports via boat, while Ptolemy, presented the survey of the interior highlands farming settlements, not boat peoples. The reality of Germania was thus 1. Large organized Germanic militaristic nation in the interior near the Rhine, 2. Boat-using coastal and lowland peoples of Suebic tribes, who spoke dialects of Finnic, and 3. Interior Germanic language farmer settlements throughout the interior highlands, probably speaking a hundred Germanic dialects where only neighbouring settlements could communicate well with each other.  The common language was whatever language had been developed by large scale trade - probably Suebic. And we could go further east into the region east of the Vistula and north of the Black Sea, Romans called "Sarmatia". The name was obviously from the highly visible "Sarmati" traders peoples identified by Herodotus centuries earlier as Sautomatae, but mostly the actual inteior peoples were the descendants of the Scyths, who called themselves Scoloti (Greek interpretations), and  were the source of the Slavs, later called Sclavi, Sclovi, and meaning people speaking similarly,  in contrast to people who could not be understood, who from the Greek point of view were "barbarians". But for centuries, the Roman naming of large geographical areas steered scholars wrongly.
    Today some of these misguided ideas, distortions, still prevail. Only some decades ago, the belief that there was, before the Roman Empire a giant Celtic empire still prevailed. The lack of Celtic in the French language had to be interpreted as Romans killing off the Celts, when in reality the Celts were never a large people, but obtained fame from their metal craftsmanship, and warlords who set out to conquer weak peoples and establish personal kingdoms for the warlords. French probably developed from a mixture of Belgic and Latin. The Belgae were boat peoples, and their expansion into southeast Britiain was probably inspired by their involvement in trade, industry and commerce, and a desire to develop British tin mining. It is worth noting that Tacitus clearly identified the Belgae from Gaul, to be well educated and skilled, and running the economy, but could be clearly identified as immigrants. That meant when Tacitus spoke of the Aestii language being similar to British, he was not speaking of Belgic or Celtic, but of the majority who resided in the countryside away from the economic activity - a situation similar to how when Finland belonged to the Kingdom of Sweden, its economy was run by Swedes in the south, while the vast majority to the north spoke Finnish.
    When looking into the past, we have to be careful we are not sustaining false ideas entrenched in the many centuries of written history beginning in writings from the Greek and Roman past two millenia ago.


   Before the science of archeology had uncovered much about the past, first there was the new science of "linguistics" Before the science was formalized and developed methodologies, it was known as philology. Philologists sensed that the FInnic languages had deep roots in Europe. It was when early linguists began analysing languages to reconstruct the past, even before archeology, that a new narrative emerged that equally began to influence how we viewed the past.The new narrative undermined what philologists had come to think about Finnic languages that it was a north European language of great antiquity. Now Finnic languages were not even in northern Europe before the Roman Age! Suddenly the early hunter-gatherer peoples of northern Europe were ambiguous, even though history showed that the word "FInni" had been used in Scandinavia to describe the aboriginal peoples, and even included in the hinterlands being called "Finnmark" and "Finnlanda". Tacitus referred to primitive peoples who came to the market at the southeast Baltic as "Fenni". The connection is obvious. The aboriginal peoples were called "Fenni" and "Finni" is just a dialectic shift of E to I that was typical of Norse language (as revealed in how it turned VENTA into VINDO). So if Finnic languages arrived in the Baltic area from the east only in the Roman era, then what happened to the original natives? Was there a great swooping of eastern Finns into northern Scandinavia that was so powerful it converted all the aboriginal peoples? It made no sense to me. The logical answer was that the "FInns" were the aboriginal peoples, and that the modern Finns - Finnish and Estonians and other "Balto-Finns" - simply arose from those of the original natives who were influenced by the spread of innovations in trading and farming that was spreading up from continental Europe. But once a false narrative has been created and strongly backed by the academic world, it is as hard to displace than the ongoing belief that the British Isles was all Celtic before the Romans and that not a single aboriginal language and culture ever existed. (And when archeologists expressed the view that the ancient Pictish language was non-Indo-European, the Celtic nationalists still continued a myth that the Picts were still Celtic, when they may have been descendants of the original Finnic-speaking native British. This could be construed from a Celtic perspective repeated by Anglo-Saxon monk-historian Bede that the Picts had come from "Scythia", which resonates with Tacitus saying that the "Aestii" of the east Baltic spoke a language similar to native British, since Roman historians regarded the east Baltic coast as the "Scythian coast".  So that meant that trader ships from the east Baltic were still visiting Pictish ports, and the visitors and Picts were heard to speak the same language.)
    The new linguistic theory that only saw FInnic arriving at the Baltic in the Roman era, had an impact in permitting major distortions in the reconstruction of the past, including Lithuanians appropriating the amber trade, even though their language and culture is dominated by imagery of farming and sunny meadows and not boats and seas like among the Finns.
    According to the linguistic theory, then, the Finns arrived at the Baltic in the Roman era, and INSTANTLY became experts in sailing the seas in boats to fish and trade across the northern seas.
    The "Uralic" languages theory perpetrated a century ago by a group of early linguists, was from the modern point of view simply childish garbage.
    The problem is that linguistics ONLY looks at the way languages from the same origins diverge when separated, and how words shift relative to one another. An exercise of trying to imagine the extinct mother language is possible, but it had been impossible to prove the methodology really reconstructs a parent language rather than inventing one from limited available data. We have to take linguistic reconstructions of proto-languages and the manner of descent on faith, since none of the methodology has ever been proven to really work.
    The point is that comparative historical linguist can only observe changes in an array of languages and speculate on ways in which real world events caused the changes to come about. Beyond observing the way languages that seem close to each other appear to change, everything else is speculation. Linguists cannot determine how the changes came about. It cannot determine if they came about by divergence, convergence, migrations, dialectic subdivision, or what. Linguistics cannot tell how the changes came about from numerous possible scenarios. Because of that, interpreting must be done in conjunction with other sciences describing the same peoples and regions. Linguistics is dependent therefore on what is available in the other sciences to guide the interpretation.
    And therein lies the problem.
    A century ago, archeology and those other relevant sciences were in their infancy, and the linguists had very little information to assist in translating the linguistic observations into proposed actual events.
    A century ago there was much less information than there is today. For example, scholars did not know the timing of the withdrawal of the Ice Age glaciers, nor the development of a boat-oriented culture that grew and expanded along with the warming climate and the flourishing wildlife. A century ago there was only any applicable historical writings, the observations of anthropologists who visited various isolated peoples, and recordings of languages. There was nothing much to go by to reconstruct the past and therefore all hears were bent towards the interpretations of the linguists.
    Let us picture the world a century ago at the time the linguists were trying to imagine the past that their linguistic results might suggest. Nothing was yet known about how the glaciers withdrew, the development of boat-oriented peoples into the flooded lands filled with glacial meltwater, and the expansion of the boat-people east as far as the Ural mountains. There was so little information that the linguists had to make it all up, and they were free to construct what they pleased. They chose the most elegant model - a pretty family tree. Who would not want to view language descent as a language family tree, It was in vogue back then and well into the 1900's. More real, less elegant, more complex scenarios have only been developing in the last centuries.
    But a century ago, there was a trend in the world of linguisics to try to picture all the languages of the world being descended from parent languages, going back to the beginning of languages. At that time the academic world was inspired by biologists arranging all plants and animals into a biological family tree. Fossils were being discovered and if something was found that no longer existed, they were placed on the family trees, as a dead end branch.
    Today the century old theory had come under scrutiny for many reasons, from flaws or shortcomings of the simple traditional divergence-only approach, and for the century old family tree model contracting the accumulated information from archeology and other sciences that already in the 1960's suggested the original model was the wrong one.
    But there are those who steadfastly hold onto the original theory. They are so invested in the original misguided and simpleminded model that they will defend it to the death, using whatever rationale they can muster, blocking out valid counterarguments and mocking and attacking opposition like people do in cults that want to exclude opposition. It has become extremely heated and political. The "Uralic" linguistic field has become a hotbed of political conflict between traditonal supporters of the original "Uralic Family Tree" and those who find it contradictory to the real world, as we know it now a century later.
   The reality is that comparative historical linguistics produces reconstructions of the past evolution of languages that cannot be proven because we cannot go back in time to check if the methodology works. The methodology at best needs that all similar languages arose from natural diverging of languages born from and separating from a parent language. But how is that determined for certain? It cannot deal with similarities arising from long term contact between unrelated languages. Furthermore the methodology cannot even detect languages that did not leave descendants that survive to be anayzed. Ancient languages whose existence is obvious in archeology, if there is no descendant living language is as if it never existed as far as linguists are concerned.  The criticism could be applied to ALL historical comparative linguistic reconstructions of a human family tree. The past reconstructed with linguistics is as self-generated as perhaps theoretical physics. Population genetics too is mainly a science of trying to infer the past from the data in today's populations.
     Linguistic and populaton genetics attempts to look into the past needs FIRST to have archeologists and others  reconstruct the past as it occurred in the real world, and only then construct models of linguistic or genetic development that fit the realities discovered. The linguists of a century ago simply selected a default standard family tree model that was already popular in their day. What they lacked was the new archeological information speaking of a west-to-east expansion at the end of the Ice Age and also a south-to-north shift of reindeer people and the conversion of some to a non-reindeer way of life.
     The linguists who created and promoted the original "Uralic Family Tree" model had little more than a blank geographical region, and the locations of the peoples who spoke the languages studies, and maybe some anthropological information of remote peoples. Today, the most knowledgable scholars know that linguistics, like population genetics, are only additional tools, and cannot alone reconstruct the past.
    The primary window into the past is archeology. It finds the actual remains of the past in the earth. The interpretation of archeological data can be a challenge too and be subject to bias; however archeological data continues to accumulate with every new site, whereas data for linguistics and population genetics never increases, but even diminishes as languages and genes disappear. In a few centuries human genes will be so mixed it will be impossible to find untampered populations .
    Languages will disappear due to a steady convergence towards worldwide languages as a result of mass media.
     Linguistics and population genetics as a window to the past are dieing, whereas archeological data will continually grow, as more and more digging occurs, and new instruments and methods develop to read more and more from the objects. Archeology may be able to uncover more and more DNA to interpret and that will replace modern population genetics.
    Today with so much accumulated information from archeology and other sciences reconstructing the past, there is little value any longer in viewing the past from historical linguistics. Neither linguistics nor population genetics is a solid window into the past because of unprovable methodology, subjective judgements, and general uncertainty what is claimed really happened. When archeology came into its own in the last century it by far became the most powerful tool for looking into the past, and since it reads actual data in the earth the data will continue long after all other tools cease to produce anything new. Before we end on celebrating archeology, let us explain how population genetics is used to try to reconstruct the past, and why it too requires the public simply trust what is claimed, without proof.


   I have already made comment on population genetics in 3. above. LIke linguistics it tries with questionable success to try to infer the genetic past simply from data in modern populations.
     In recent decades, taking advantage of the fact that sexual DNA is past, unbroken, from father to son, or mother to daughter. population geneticists have been taking samples of such DNA from men and women. Normally DNA splits in half and a baby gets the recombination of a half from each parent, thus mixing genetic features from both parental lineages. But sexual DNA is not broken, and when found in a population, it opens a window to the distant past.
    But the interpretation of population genetic results is a challenge. Population genetics like historical comparative linguistic, tries to penetrate the past through logical methods and neither the methods or results can be checked. We have to accept the methods and results on faith.
    Both the interpretation population genetics and linguistics data is dependent on the integrity and skills of the interpreter. Population genetics cannot tell if the DNA marker observed arrived millenia ago or the last century. If the DNA marker is found in a high frequency in two locations, we can propose a movement from one location to the other, but which way. For that reason population genetics looks closely at information from archeology and other sciences in order to assist in anaysis of the population genetics data.
    Population genetics is like linguistics in that the data pertains to today, and we try to reconstruct how this modern data developed. Both require assumptions and the use of methodologies whose validity is not provable (unless we find a time machine to go back in time and check.)
    In spite of the uncertainty of population genetics interpretation, there are some situations that are easily intepreted. The apparent  northward migration of the Y-DNA N1c1-haplogroup from Asia is easy to interpret from our knowledge of climate change at that time (12,000 - 10,000 years ago) and that today's people with N-haplogroups have close economic relationships with reindeer. Knowing that reindeer need cold climates, the warming climate at that time caused reindeer herds to shift northward, and therefore reindeer hunters (or even semi-domesticators) shifted north as population genetics found, was the result of reindeer peoples following the northward shifting of reindeer herds with which they were associated.
  Otherwise, population genetics data can yeild many interpretations, and there is great uncertainty as to the correct interpretation even with archeological and other data.
    Both population genetics and linguistics should only be a supplementary tool once past events have been reconstructed from the more reliable sciences (like archeology that actually digs up the past and does not try to guess it from analysing modern data.)

    Archeology grew out of interest in reconstructing the past of marvellous ancient sites of temples, etc. It blossomed into uncovering all evidence of humans left in the ground, from which we can learn much about even humble northern hunter-gatherers.
    Archeology originated some centuries ago in excavations of ancient temples, etc. that appeared above the sands. As time went on it became meticulous in its approach - every piece of object found in the ground was identified and filed away in archives. It required a great amount of work but satisfing to those involved. For some reason humans are excited by finding things in dirt. The findings at one side are compared with another site. The findings are interpreted, and their revelations about the human past published.
    From the original interest in remains of ancient architecture, archeology continued to investigate just about any remnants of human activity in the ground, going back to even before the rise of civilizations. Much attention has been given to blades made of flint. Prehistoric tools were difficult to distinguish from natural broken flint, so a good eye as needed.
    Archeology was more than simply finding man-made objects. New fields of investigation developed, such as radio-carbon dating from remains of campfires, or determination of ancient vegetation or climate, from remains of seeds and pollen. Today it is even possible to obtain remains of DNA from human remains. Every year some new way is discovered for extracting even more information from the sites of ancient human campsites of setttlements.
    Archeology can today be compared to crime scene investigation, except the crime scene is revealed by removing the dirt that has accumuated over it over the centuries or even millenia.
    But as as concerns early northwest Eurasia, the events involving humankind and our responses only began to come into focus around the mid-1900's. Since then, I have noted - sometimes from newspaper articles- remarkable discoveries that were formerly alone. The "Maglemose" and "Kunda" cultures were identified, and the latter had large harpoons that indicated that they were using large dugouts and hunting seals and whales in the Baltic sea. When I read that one side along the east Baltic coast included seven oars, the thought came to me that the large seagoing dugout had three locations for oarsmen, and one man with a steering oar at the helm. In Estonian (and FInnish), the word for seven is seitse, and for five is viis. This by coincidence parallels the word for 'ride, journey' sõiduse and 'transport, carry' which is viise.
    Archeology found evidence of material culture moving from west to east, and archeologists aware of the now popularized "Uralic Language Family" saw the conflict between the story told by archeology and what the linguistic theory implied (an east-to-west expansion, opposite to what archeology revealed.)
    It was fascinating to me to discover where archeological discoveries contradicted ideas that had been established from previous interpretations from historical texts and linguistics. Archeologists often took initiatives to see if archeological findings confirmed prevailing beliefs. I recall there was one archeological investigation that looked for evidence of Celts from the mainland crossing to Britain and conquering the natives. A conquest would appear as a major replacement of native cultural objects with Celtic ones, but the Celtic objects they found were only what would be expected from normal trade. Another archeological investigation wanted to see, if, as some historical texts suggested, the southeast Baltic area was invaded and conquered by "Goths" from Scandinavia. The archeological investigation discovered that while the coastal area experienced cultural change, the interior around the bend of the Vistula, had not changed. But the change near the coast was not the result of an invasion but immigration. A cemetary showed native cremations buried alongside west Baltic inhumations. But this should not be an unusual discovery since the southeast Baltic had an international port/market, that was open to traders from all origins. The change would have occurred shortly before the arrival of Roman historian Tacitus. He wrote that the native "Aestii" had the customs of the "Suebi" (whose origins would be in the west Baltic), but spoke their own language. This and later historical texts suggest that the original nations around the port, were the "Venedae Races" mentioned by Ptolemy, citing earlier Greek sources. When Tacitus arrived, the coast were now "Aesti nations" but that was probably what the Suebic language called them. But then Tacitus mentioned the "Venedi" towards the interior, probably precisely in the interior where archeology showed no evidence of change from the older culture. It follows that there was no outright invasion to the coast, but enough immigration to alter the character of the port/market area towards the west Baltic Suebic one.
    Here is a very good example of how comparing historic and archeological information can reveal more about the past.

    The best way of understanding how scholars can reconstruct the past is to think of modern crime scene investigation. Most of us know about it from films and tv including it in police dramas.
    The methodology is very simple - to use all available tools to gather information about circumstances at a time and place in the past, and then analyze them to reconstruct what actually happened.
    As time goes on, new methods will emerge to extract more information from materials found in the earth. The love of humans for digging in the earth - the reason children love the sandbox - the uncovering of the past in the earth will continue, and soon computers will be added to the analysis of large amounts of data. Historical texts will survive, but with computer cataloguing will be easier to access.
   The UIRALA project was rooted in ACTUAL data found in the ground through archeology and other sciences that reconstruct paleo-climate and biology so that we can reconstruct the world in which our events took place.



There are no particular references for this postscipt chapter other than generally what was used in the previous chapers

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


2017 (c) A. Pääbo.