What is it about?

Among Slovenians, both in the profession and in the public, the prevailing opinion is still that the Slavs, the ancestors of today's Slovenians, settled in the territory of today's Slovenia and neighbouring lands sometime in the sixth century AD.This interpretation is nowadays the least questionable among the international professional community. It is still a mystery why the second half of the first millennium AD saw such a rapid expansion of speakers of Slavic languages from Thessaloniki to Hamburg, and scholars from different countries often tackle this enigma with no little (patriotic) passion. In response to the question of why this rapid spread has occurred, the profession currently offers three hypotheses. According to the first, it was a migration or displacement of large groups of people. According to the second, it was only culture or even only language that was spreading. The third, the hybrid hypothesis, suggests that everything happened at the same time: migration, spread of culture and language. A group of Slovenian and Austrian archaeologists led by Dr Benjamin Štular, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences, focused on the latter. They set out to test the hypothesis by analysing so-called deep data, using not only advanced spatial analysis but also one of the methods of artificial intelligence, namely machine learning. This method was used to detect two migrations to the Eastern Alps. The first started shortly after 500 AD and spread from Prekmurje along the Mura and Drava rivers. The second, up the Sava and across the Karavanke, took place only in the decades before 700 AD. Based on a convergence of evidence from archaeology, linguistics and population genetics, the migrants were identified as Alpine Slavs, i.e. people who spoke a Slavic language and shared common ancestry with all other speakers of Slavic languages. Štular points out that when the Alpine Slavs settled in central and western Slovenia, they encountered many people living there. After their arrival, long processes of acculturation, such as assimilation or integration, began. These will be studied in more detail in the future, but it is already clear that the Alpine Slavs were only one of the ancestors of today's Slovenians. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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Why is it important?

Grounbreaking methodology for the study of migrations in archaeology.

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This page is a summary of: Migration of Alpine Slavs and machine learning: Space-time pattern mining of an archaeological data set, PLoS ONE, September 2022, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0274687.
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