Regarding the question of ethnic origins, evidence developed by archaeologists and linguists suggests that a people or group of peoples sharing a common material culture dwelt in a region defined by the Nordic Bronze Age culture between 1700 BCE and 600 BCE. The Germanic tribes then inhabited southern Scandinavia, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, but subsequent Iron Age cultures of the same region, like Wessenstedt (800 to 600 BCE) and Jastorf, are also in consideration. The change of Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic has been defined by the first sound shift (or Grimm’s law) and must have occurred when mutually intelligible dialects or languages in a Sprachbund were still able to convey such a change to the whole region. So far it has been impossible to date this event conclusively.
Petroglyph, Boat-Axe culture, pre-Viking, Vitlycke, Bohuslan, Sweden, Bronze Age. One of the most frequently occuring motifs in rock carving is the ship, often highly decorated and manned with rowers. Among the proposed interpretations are that of the ship carrying the sun across the sky and that of a funeral cult. Here a fleet of ships is depicted.
The precise interaction between these peoples is not known, however, they are tied together and influenced by regional features and migration patterns linked to prehistoric cultures like Hügelgräber, Urnfield, and La Tene. A deteriorating climate in Scandinavia around 850 BCE to 760 BCE and a later and more rapid one around 650 BCE might have triggered migrations to the coast of Eastern Germany and further towards the Vistula. A contemporary northern expansion of Hallstatt drew part of these peoples into the Celtic hemisphere, including nordwestblock areas and the region of Elp culture (1800 BCE to 800 BCE).
At around this time, this culture became influenced by Hallstatt techniques of how to extract bog iron from the ore in peat bogs, ushering in the Pre-Roman Iron Age.
The expansion of the Germanic tribes 750 BC – AD 1 (after the Penguin Atlas of World History 1988): Settlements before 750 BC New settlements by 500 BC New settlements by 250 BC New settlements by AD 1.
[Top pic: Bronze axe with runic motif from Gotland,Sweden]