Anatolian hypothesis: Wikis


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The Anatolian hypothesis is also called Renfrew's Neolithic Discontinuity Theory (NDT)[1]; it proposes that the dispersal (discontinuity) of Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in Neolithic Anatolia. The hypothesis suggests that the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) lived in Anatolia during the Neolithic era, and associates the distribution of historical Indo-European languages with the expansion during the Neolithic revolution during the seventh and sixth millennia BC.[2]



The Anatolian hypothesis’ main proponent was Colin Renfrew, who in 1987 suggested a peaceful Indo-Europeanization of Europe from Anatolia from around 7000 BC with the advance of farming by demic diffusion ("wave of advance"). Accordingly, most of the inhabitants of Neolithic Europe would have spoken Indo-European tongues, and later migrations would at best have replaced Indo-European dialects with other Indo-European dialects. However, Renfrew has since modified his view and this is discussed below.

Reacting to criticism, Renfrew by 1999 revised his proposal to the effect of taking a pronounced Indo-Hittite position. Renfrew's revised views place only Pre-Proto-Indo-European in 7th millennium BC Anatolia, proposing as the homeland of Proto-Indo-European proper the Balkans around 5000 BC, explicitly identified as the "Old European culture" proposed by Marija Gimbutas.[3]


Map showing the Neolithic expansion from the seventh to fifth millennium BC.

According to Renfrew (2003), the spread of Indo-European proceeded in the following steps:

  • Around 6500 BC: Pre-Proto-Indo-European, located in Anatolia, splits into Anatolian and Archaic Proto-Indo-European, the language of those Pre-Proto-Indo-European farmers that migrate to Europe in the initial farming dispersal. Archaic Proto-Indo-European languages occur in the Balkans (Starčevo-Körös-Cris culture), in the Danube valley (Linear Pottery culture), and possibly in the Bug-Dniestr area (Eastern Linear pottery culture).
  • Around 5000 BC: Archaic Proto-Indo-European splits into Northwestern Indo-European (the ancestor of Italic, Celtic, and Germanic), located in the Danube valley, Balkan Proto-Indo-European (corresponding to Gimbutas' Old European culture), and Early Steppe Proto-Indo-European (the ancestor of Tocharian).
  • After 3000 BC: The Greek, Armenian, Albanian, Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic families develop from Balkan Proto-Indo-European. Proto-Greek speakers move southward into Greece; Proto-Indo-Iranian moves northeast into the steppe area.

Renfrew's 2003 scenario qualifies as an "Indo-Hittite" model, separating Anatolian from all other branches around 6500 BC, more than a millennium before the next split at 5000 BC. The Balkans qualifies as a "secondary Urheimat" (6500-3000 BC), from which he derives the Satem groups and Greek, at a time (3000 BC) compatible with the Kurgan time frame, qualifying the suggestion further as a Graeco-Aryan (and Graeco-Armenian) model.

However, his early separation (5000 BC) of "Northwestern IE" (Germanic, Celtic and Italic, compare Alteuropäisch) from "Balkan PIE" (Graeco-Aryan-Balto-Slavic) postulates 1500 years of common evolution of Graeco-Aryan-Balto-Slavic after separation from the Northwestern dialects. This is incompatible with the Kurgan topology of the Indo-European family tree. The postulation of early "Northwestern IE" separation is thus the core claim of this scenario, without which the model would become equivalent to an extreme Indo-Hittite view with a Balkans homeland of the non-Anatolian branches.

The main strength of the farming hypothesis lies in its linking of the spread of Indo-European languages with an archaeologically known event (the spread of farming) that is often assumed as involving significant population shifts.


While the Anatolian theory enjoyed brief support when first proposed, the Indo-Europeanist community in general now rejects it, its majority clearly favouring the Kurgan hypothesis postulating a 4th millennium BC expansion from the Pontic steppe. While the spread of farming undisputedly constituted an important event, most see no case to connect it with Indo-Europeans in particular, seeing that terms for animal husbandry tend to have much better reconstructions than terms related to agriculture. The linguistic community further notes that linguistic evidence suggests a earlier date for Proto-Indo-European than the Anatolian theory predicts.

Most Indo-Europeanists' estimates of dating PIE lie between 4500 and 2500 BC: It is unlikely that late PIE (even after the separation of the Anatolian branch) post-dates 2500 BC, since Proto-Indo-Iranian is usually dated to just before 2000 BC. On the other hand, it is not very likely that early PIE predates 4500 BC, because the reconstructed vocabulary strongly suggests a culture spanning the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age, perhaps with knowledge of the wheel, metalworking and the domestication of the horse.

This conflicts with the early Neolithic (8th millennium) date of Gray and Atkinson (2003)[4] which, even if accepted, loses significance in distinguishing between the Anatolian and the Kurgan model with Renfrew's 2003 revision postulating a secondary Urheimat in 5000 BC, not 7000 BC.

Reconstructions of a Bronze Age PIE society based on vocabulary items like "wheel" do not necessarily hold for the Anatolian branch, which is more frequently admitted to have possibly separated in the Chalcolithic. In Renfrew's revised 2003 scheme, thus, the "wheel" or "horse" criticism applies only to the "Northwestern IE"/"Balkan PIE"/"Early Steppe PIE" split at 5000 BC. Renfrew's revised "Indo-Hittite" scenario has thus approached the Kurgan model at least in terms of time depth, with a split of "PIE proper" in 5000 BC, essentially proposing a time frame of the order of one millennium earlier than that of the mainstream view, as opposed to four millennia in earlier versions.

Recent research

Conventional methods in historical linguistics do not employ an explicit optimality criterion to evaluate chronologal language trees. These methods cannot quantify uncertainty in the inferences nor provide an absolute chronology of divergence events. Previous attempts to estimate divergence times from lexical data using glottochronological methods have been heavily criticized, particularly for the assumption of constant rates of lexical replacement.

Computational phylogenetic methods from biology can overcome these problems and allow divergence times to be estimated without the assumption of constant rates. These methods were applied by Q.D. Atkinson (See more: Atkinson Q.D. From Species To Languages: A phylogenetic approach to human prehistory. - University of Auckland, 2006. - 229 p.) to lexical data to test the Anatolian and Kurgan hypotheses.

Divergence time estimates for the age of the Indo-European language family are used to test between two competing theories of Indo-European origin – the Kurgan hypothesis and the Anatolian farming hypothesis. The resulting age estimates are consistent with the age range implied by the Anatolian farming theory. Validation exercises using different models, data sets and coding procedures, as well as the analysis of synthetic data, indicate these results are highly robust.


The design and conclusions of Haak et al. (2005)[5], supporting "a proposed Paleolithic ancestry for modern Europeans", were in 2006 questioned by Ellen Levy-Coffman. Reviewing mitochondrial aDNA studies focusing on Paleolithic remains concluded a "lack of genetic continuity between modern Europeans and Paleolithic samples."[6] Levy-Coffman states that "Y chromosome genetic picture of Europe may also have undergone significant change", but do not review any data for ancient YDNA.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gray, D.; Atkinson, D. (Nov 2003). "Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin". Nature 426 (6965): 435–439. doi:10.1038/nature02029. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 14647380.  edit
  3. ^ Renfrew (2003), paper presented at the "Languages in Prehistoric Europe" conference at Eichstätt University, 4-6 October 1999.
  4. ^ Gray and Atkinson by glottochronological arguing, (using phylogenetic techniques from evolutionary biology) - dated PIE to the 8th or even 9th millennium, concluding that their findings support Renfrew's theory over the Kurgan model.
  5. ^ Ancient DNA from the First European Farmers in 7500-year-old Neolithic Sites; Science, 11 November 2005, Vol. 310. no. 5750, pp. 1016-1018. DOI: 10.1126/science.1118725. Authors: Wolfgang Haak, Peter Forster, Barbara Bramanti, Shuichi Matsumura, Guido Brandt, Marc Tänzer, Richard Villems, Colin Renfrew, Detlef Gronenborn, Kurt Werner Alt, Joachim Burger
  6. ^ Ellen Levy-Coffman (2006-08-17). "We Are Not Our Ancestors: Evidence for Discontinuity between Prehistoric and Modern Europeans". Journal of Genetic Genealogy. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 


See also


Simple English

The Anatolian hypothesis of Proto-Indo-European origin is that the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language lived in Anatolia during the Neolithic era. When the Neolithic Revolution took place in the seventh and sixth millennia BC, the speakers spread over Europe. Those who advocate this hypothesis think that the Indo-European languages originated in Anatolia. They believe that the Proto-Indo-Europeans then migrated north to the location north of the Caucasus Mountains. There is an another hypothesis, called the Kurgan hypothesis. The people who support it say the Indo-European languages came from the Caucasus. One of the best-known advocates of the Anatolian hypothesis is Colin Renfrew.

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