The wide Polish plains, already swampy and wooded, today intensely populated, which, starting from the Carpazî, extend towards the north, are the center of the general problem represented by the important ethnographic border lines that cross them and are in apparent contrast with the conditions geographic. This fact is a consequence of the prehistoric past: we try to explain it precisely with the help of ethnography.
The most important dividing lines of current ethnography, which cut through the Polish territory, are: the border between Balti-Lithuanians and Slavs; the border between Germans and Slavs; the border between Eastern Slavs (White Russians and Ruthenians) on the one hand, and Western Slavs (Poles) on the other. The common element in these boundaries that will most strongly affect a superficial observer is the recent date of their formation. In fact, over the last millennium they have moved a lot and still retain the character of large areas with mixed populations on the eastern side. Their displacement is due to the gradual thinning suffered for several centuries by the Lithuanian-speaking territory,
Leaving aside the linguistic boundaries, subjected to the decisive influence of political conditions, and taking into consideration the essentially conservative phenomena of material culture, a surprising observation can be made. The most important diffusion boundaries of tools and objects still used today in Poland follow the NO.-SE direction. These borders cannot be related either with the current ones or with the ancient linguistic borders. In fact, in the south, they penetrate so deeply into the Polish and Ruthenian-speaking territory that they cannot even coincide with the maximum extension of the ancient Lithuanian border, and must therefore be considered as a remnant of an even older age. This state of affairs forces us to reconnect ethnographic investigations to prehistoric ones.
The first question we will have to consider is whether Poland’s ethnographic border lines are perhaps related to the original division of Slavic groups. In fact, Poland must be considered the original seat of the Slavs before their great expansion began in the century. I d. C. In support of this thesis we have the names common to all Slavs of those plants that do not grow in the east (Hedera helix, Taxus baccata), or in the north (Carpinus betullus) and which therefore exclude an original homeland located further east or north. A more western or more southern original site would contrast with the fact that the name used by the Germans was assumed for the beech shortly before the birth of Christ, a name that later spread in all the Slavic languages. This tree must have been originally unknown to the Slavs. Furthermore, from the rapid spread of this term throughout the Slavic area, it can be deduced that the original seat of the Slavs, that is, before it began in the century. The expansion of the Christian era had a minimal extent.
By examining some ancient place names, the most likely East Slavic substratum of the Masovian dialect of the Polish language, and finally having regard to the truly enigmatic linguistic affinities between the language of the Polish Slavs of Mecklenburg, of the Kasciubi residing on the mouth of the Vistula and that of the Slavs Eastern Slavs (Great Russians), it is very likely that the northeastern portion of the Vistula basin, now Polish, was already inhabited by Eastern Slavs. On the other hand, however, the emperor Porphyrogenetus reports, in the first half of the century. X, that White Croatia or Great Croatia, the ancient homeland of the Croats, lay on the Διτξική river, in which the Vistula is commonly recognized, at N. dei Carpazî. We also know from historical traditions that White Croatia was annexed to the Russian Empire of Kiev.
The aforementioned facts, referring already in more recent times, agree with the location in Poland of the original seat of the Slavs; however, they make the aforementioned correspondence between the expansion limits of the current ethnographic phenomena following a line NO.-SE very unlikely. and the ancient subdivision of the Slavic groups. Linguistic data show how in the first centuries of the Christian era the ancestors of the Eastern Slavs and those of the Southern Slavs formed a closely related group, in sharp contrast with the Western Slavs. If therefore the present ethnographic borders of Poland were to indicate the past borders of the Eastern Slavs, then the dividing lines in the south-western sense should branch out from them even more accentuated and coincide with the ancient border lines of the southern and western Slavs. But this is not. We are therefore forced to seek the explanation of Poland’s enigmatic border lines in an even more remote antiquity. However, we will then have to count on the probability that our boundaries are due to far greater diversity of civilizations than those existing among the Slavic subgroups.
Examining the prehistoric material, it turns out that Poland’s border lines run from the NW. towards SE. they already appear in the Bronze Age. They are in fact closely related to the north-eastern border of the maximum expansion of the so-called Lusatian civilization. Nor should we overlook the fact that later, in pre-Roman times, the young civilizations that arose in the area of Lusatian civilization adhere to the old boundaries following the NO.-SE direction. It follows as a consequence that the Germanic waves of the later ages touched without modifying the differentiations created in Poland by the Lusatian culture of the Bronze Age, which still exist today in the expressions of the material culture of the Polish peasantry.
Much has been discussed about the ethnic attribution of the Lusatian civilization. Two opposing tendencies are currently competing for the field. Numerous Slavic scholars see in its representatives the ancestors of the Slavs. The greater number of German scholars instead tries to detect the Illyrian character of this civilization. The latest results of the linguistic investigations (J. Kuryłowicz) present a solution that we can consider a compromise between the two opposing opinions.
It is now beyond doubt that the Northern Indo-Europeans form a homogeneous group in contrast to the other Indo-Europeans. Not only Germans, Balts and Slavs belong to this Nordic group, but also the Illyrians. From the close linguistic affinities that unite these Indo-European subgroups it must be deduced that their ancient headquarters must not have been territorially distant. Only for the Germans it was possible to specify an original prehistoric site and put it in relation with their current ethnography (Pessler). On the other hand, no prehistoric complex whose localization responds to the linguistic affinities of the Nordic Indo-European subgroups has not been found for the Slavs and the Baltics, with the exception of the Lusatian civilization. Wanting to maintain the relationship established between the ancient Illyrians and the representatives of the Lusatian civilization, it is necessary to consider the latter common heritage of the Nordic Indo-Europeans, after the detachment of the Germanic subgroup. Only this thesis accords the results of prehistoric investigations with the results of linguistic research.
Considering in this respect the Polish ethnographic border lines directed from the NO. to the SE., you will see in them the traces of the old demarcation lines of the European Indus of the NE. (Balto-Slavs). To support this opinion, that is, here the ancient borders of the territory occupied by the northern Indo-European group emerge, is the fact that the continuation of these lines turns towards the east, dividing the steppes already inhabited by the Indo-European Iranian lineages from the wooded territory that was Finnish. These non-Indo-European natives of northeastern Europe are considered to be the descendants of representatives of an ancient Neolithic civilization, known under the name of their dotted pottery(comb ceramic). The Baltic and Slavic waves that engulfed this territory probably gave rise to the differential characteristics that later distinguished the northern Indo-Europeans. Probably having crossed this border provoked at first the detachment of the Baltics from the ancient Balto-Slavic community, then the detachment of the Eastern Slavs from the Slavic community. The expansion of the Polish language towards NE, with the consequent formation of the Neomasovian dialect beyond this so ancient frontier, would be an argument in favor of this thesis.