is an area of southeastern Europe situated at a major crossroads between mainland Europe and the Near East
. The distinct identity and fragmentation of the Balkans owes much to its common and often violent history and to its very mountainous geography.
have identified several early culture-complexes, including the Cucuteni culture
(4500 to 3500 BC), Starcevo culture
(6500 to 4000 BC), Vinča culture
(5000 to 3000 BC), Linear pottery culture
(5500 to 4500 BC), and Ezero culture
(3300—2700 BC). The Eneolithic Varna culture
(4600-4200 BC radiocarbon dating
) produced the world's earliest known gold treasure
, communicated with the Mediterranean and had sophisticated beliefs about afterlife. A notable set of artifacts is the Tărtăria tablets
, which appear to be inscribed with proto-writing
. The Butmir Culture
(2600 to 2400 BC), found on the outskirts of present-day Sarajevo
, developed unique ceramics, and was likely overrun by the proto-Illyrians
in the Bronze Age
The "Kurgan hypothesis
" of Proto-Indo-European
(PIE) origins assumes gradual expansion of the "Kurgan culture", around 5000 BC, until it encompassed the entire pontic steppe
. Kurgan IV was identified with the Yamna culture
of around 3000 BC.
Between the end of the 3rd millennium BC and the first half of the 2nd millennium BC,......