The Full Wiki

Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Indo-European topics

Indo-European languages (list)
Albanian · Armenian · Baltic
Celtic · Germanic · Greek
Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan, Iranian)
Italic · Slavic  

extinct: Anatolian · Paleo-Balkans (Dacian,
Phrygian, Thracian) · Tocharian

Indo-European peoples
Europe: Balts · Slavs · Albanians · Italics · Celts · Germanic peoples · Greeks · Paleo-Balkans (Illyrians · Thracians · Dacians) ·

Asia: Anatolians (Hittites, Luwians)  · Armenians  · Indo-Iranians (Iranians · Indo-Aryans)  · Tocharians  

Language · Society · Religion
Urheimat hypotheses
Kurgan hypothesis
Anatolia · Armenia · India · PCT
Indo-European studies

The Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses are designed to explain the origins of the Proto-Indo-European language and the people. The identity of the Proto-Indo-Europeans has been a recurring topic in Indo-European studies since the 19th century. Many hypotheses for an Urheimat have been proposed, but none of them has gained general acceptance among the linguistic community. As Mallory (1989:143) once put it: "One does not ask 'where is the Indo-European homeland?' but rather 'where do they put it now?'"

The only thing known for certain is that the language must have been differentiated into unconnected daughter dialects by the late 3rd millennium BC. Mainstream estimates of the time between PIE and the earliest attested texts (ca. 19th century BC; see Kültepe texts) range around 1,500 to 2,500 years, with extreme proposals diverging up to another 100% on either side:

These possibilities boil down to four competing basic models (with variations) that have academic credibility (Mallory (1997:106)), i.e.:

  1. Pontic-Caspian: Chalcolithic (5th to 4th millennia BC)
  2. Anatolia: Early Neolithic (7th to 5th millennia BC)
  3. Baltic hypothesis: Mesolithic to Neolithic (Ertebølle to Corded Ware horizon, 6th to 3rd millennia BC)
  4. Balkans: Neolithic (5th millennium BC)



Scheme of Indo-European migrations from ca. 4000 to 1000 BCE according to the Kurgan hypothesis. The magenta area corresponds to the assumed Urheimat (Samara culture, Sredny Stog culture). The red area corresponds to the area which may have been settled by Indo-European-speaking peoples up to ca. 2500 BCE; the orange area to 1000 BCE.

There have been many attempts to claim that particular prehistorical cultures can be identified with the PIE-speaking peoples, but all have been speculative. All attempts to identify an actual people with an unattested language depend on a sound reconstruction of that language that allows identification of cultural concepts and environmental factors which may be associated with particular cultures (such as the use of metals, agriculture vs. pastoralism, geographically distinctive plants and animals, etc).

In the 1970s, a mainstream consensus had emerged among Indo-Europeanists in favour of the "Kurgan hypothesis" placing the Indo-European homeland in the Pontic steppe of the Chalcolithic period. This was not least due to the influence of the Journal of Indo-European Studies, edited by JP Mallory, that focused on the ideas of Marija Gimbutas, and offered some improvements. She had created a modern variation on the traditional invasion theory (the Kurgan hypothesis, after the kurgans (burial mounds) of the Eurasian steppes) in which the Indo-Europeans were a nomadic tribe in Eastern Ukraine and Southern Russia and expanded on horseback in several waves during the 3rd millennium BCE. Their expansion coincided with the taming of the horse. Leaving archaeological signs of their presence (see battle-axe people), they subjugated the peaceful European Neolithic farmers of Gimbutas's Old Europe. As Gimbutas's beliefs evolved, she put increasing emphasis on the patriarchal, patrilinear nature of the invading culture, sharply contrasting it with the supposedly egalitarian, if not matrilinear culture of the invaded, to a point of formulating essentially feminist archaeology.

Her interpretation of Indo-European culture found genetic support in remains from the Neolithic culture of Scandinavia, where bone remains in Neolithic graves indicated that the megalith culture was either matrilocal or matrilineal, as the people buried in the same grave were related through the women. Likewise, there is evidence of remaining matrilineal traditions among the Picts. A modified form of this theory by JP Mallory, dating the migrations earlier to around 4000 BCE and putting less insistence on their violent or quasi-military nature, essentially replaced the version of Gimbutas.

The Kurgan hypothesis seeks to explain the Indo-European language expansion by a succession of migrations from the Pontic-Caspian steppe, or, more specifically and according to the revised version, to the area encompassed by the Sredny Stog culture (ca. 4500 BC). This hypothesis is compatible with the argument that the PIE homeland must have been larger,[5] because the "Neolithic creolisation hypothesis‎" allows the Pontic-Caspian region to have been part of PIE territory.

The main competitor of the Kurgan hypothesis is the Anatolian hypothesis advanced by Colin Renfrew. It states that the Indo-European languages spread peacefully into Europe from Asia Minor from around 7000 BCE with the advance of farming (wave of advance). But this theory is contradicted by the fact that ancient Anatolia is known to be inhabited by non-Indo-European people, namely the Hattians, Khalib/Karub, and Khaldi/Kardi.


The diversion of Haplogroup F and its descendants.

The accumulation of Archaeogenetic evidence which uses genetic analysis to trace migration patterns since the 1990s has also added new elements to the puzzle. Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Alberto Piazza argue that Renfrew and Gimbutas reinforce rather than contradict each other. Cavalli-Sforza (2000) states that "It is clear that, genetically speaking, peoples of the Kurgan steppe descended at least in part from people of the Middle Eastern Neolithic who immigrated there from Turkey." Piazza & Cavalli-Sforza (2006) state that:

if the expansions began at 9,500 years ago from Anatolia and at 6,000 years ago from the Yamnaya culture region, then a 3,500-year period elapsed during their migration to the Volga-Don region from Anatolia, probably through the Balkans. There a completely new, mostly pastoral culture developed under the stimulus of an environment unfavorable to standard agriculture, but offering new attractive possibilities. Our hypothesis is, therefore, that Indo-European languages derived from a secondary expansion from the Yamnaya culture region after the Neolithic farmers, possibly coming from Anatolia and settled there, developing pastoral nomadism.

Wells (2002) states that "there is nothing to contradict this model, although the genetic patterns do not provide clear support either," and instead argues that the evidence is much stronger for Gimbutas' model:

while we see substantial genetic and archaeological evidence for an Indo-European migration originating in the southern Russian steppes, there is little evidence for a similarly massive Indo-European migration from the Middle East to Europe. One possibility is that, as a much earlier migration (8,000 years old, as opposed to 4,000), the genetic signals carried by Indo-European-speaking farmers may simply have dispersed over the years. There is clearly some genetic evidence for migration from the Middle East, as Cavalli-Sforza and his colleagues showed, but the signal is not strong enough for us to trace the distribution of Neolithic languages throughout the entirety of Indo-European-speaking Europe.

High concentrations of Mesolithic or late Paleolithic Y-DNA haplogroups of types R1b (typically well above 35%) and I (up to 25%), are thought to derive ultimately of the robust Eurasiatic Cro Magnoid Homo sapiens of the Aurignacian culture, and the subsequent gracile leptodolichomorphous people of the Gravettian culture that entered Europe from the Middle East 20,000 to 25,000 years ago, respectively.[6] Small Neolithic additions have been connected to occurrences of haplogroups J2, G, F and E3b1a (which are believed to have originated in Anatolia, the latter haplogroup in Northeastern Africa)[7][8], although such a position has been challenged as simplistic. Haplogroup R1a1, whose lineage is thought to have originated in the Eurasian Steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas, is associated with the Kurgan culture,[9] as well as with the postglacial Ahrensburg culture that might have spread the gene originally.[10] On the other hand Dupuy and his colleagues proposed Ahrensburg culture to have brought Haplogroup Hg P*(xR1a) or R1b (Y-DNA) to the population and stressed genetic similarity with Germany.[11] Ornella Semino et al. propose a postglacial spread of the R1a1 gene during the Late Glacial Maximum, subsequently magnified by the expansion of the Kurgan culture into Europe and eastward.[12] R1a1 is most prevalent in Poland, Russia, and Ukraine and is also observed in Pakistan, India and central Asia. Wells suggests the origin, distribution and age of R1a1 points to an ancient migration, possibly corresponding to the spread by the Kurgan people in their expansion across the Eurasian steppe around 3000 BC. R1a1 is largely confined east of the Vistula [13] and drops considerably to the west: R1a1 measurements read 6.2% to Germans (a 4X drop to Czechs and Slovakians reading 26,7%) and 3.7% to Dutch.[14] The spread of Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup R1a1 has also been associated with the spread of the Indo-European languages, as well as a later, more regional spread associated with the Slavic expansions. The mutations that characterize haplogroup R1a occurred ~10,000 years bp. Its defining mutation (M17) occurred about 10,000 to 14,000 years ago.


Using stochastic models of word evolution to study the presence/absence of different words across Indo-European, Gray & Atkinson (2003) suggest that the origin of Indo-European goes back about 8500 years, the first split being that of Hittite from the rest (Indo-Hittite hypothesis). Gray & Atkinson (2003) go to great lengths to avoid the problems associated with traditional approaches to glottochronology. However, their calculations rely entirely on Swadesh lists, and while the results are quite robust for well attested branches, their calculation of the age of Hittite, which is crucial for the Anatolian claim, rests on a 200 word Swadesh list of a single language and are regarded as contentious. Interestingly, a more recent paper (Atkinson et al., 2005) of 24 mostly ancient languages, including three Anatolian languages, produced the same time estimates and early Anatolian split.

A scenario that could reconcile Renfrew's beliefs with the Kurgan hypothesis is that Indo-European migrations are somehow related to the submersion of the northeastern part of the Black Sea around 5600 BC:[15] while a splinter group who became the proto-Hittite speakers moved into northeastern Anatolia around 7000 BC, the remaining population went north, evolving into the Kurgan culture, while others may have escaped far to the northeast (Tocharians) and the southeast (Indo-Iranians). While the time-frame of this scenario is consistent with Renfrew, it is incompatible with his core assumption that Indo-European spread with the advance of agriculture.

See also


  1. ^ Johanna Nichols (1997), "The Epicenter of the Indo-European Linguistic Spread", Archaeology and Language I: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations, ed. Roger Blench and Matthew Spriggs, London: Routledge
  2. ^ Johanna Nichols (1999), "The Eurasian Spread Zone and the Indo-European Dispersal", Archaeology and Language II: Correlating archaeological and Linguistic Hypotheses, ed. Roger Blench and Matthew Spriggs, London: Routledge
  3. ^ The Non-Invasionist Model
  4. ^ Russell D. Gray and Quentin D. Atkinson, Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin, Nature 426 (27 November 2003) 435-439
  5. ^ Mallory 1989, p.185
  6. ^ The Genetic Legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in Extant Europeans: A Y Chromosome Perspective - Ornella Semino et al.
  7. ^ Y-DNA Haplogroup E and its Subclades
  8. ^ The questionable contribution of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age to European craniofacial form - C. Loring Brace
  9. ^
  10. ^ Passarino, G; Cavalleri GL, Lin AA, Cavalli-Sforza LL, Borresen-Dale AL, Underhill PA (2002). "Different genetic components in the Norwegian population revealed by the analysis of mtDNA and Y chromosome polymorphisms". Eur. J. Hum. Genet. 10 (9): 521–9. doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5200834. PMID 12173029.  
  11. ^ Dupuy, B. et al. 2006. Geographical heterogeneity of Y-chromosomal lineages in Norway. Forensic Science International. 164: 10-19. [1]
  12. ^
  13. ^ Alexander Varzari, 5.2.4: "... across the history the geographic boundary, dividing Southeast Europe from Eastern Europe was more transparent for the reciprocal flows than the boundary between Eastern and Western Europe."
  14. ^ European R1a1 measurements (referred to as M17 or Eu19) in Science vol 290, 10 November 2000
  15. ^ As alleged by Ryan and Pitman, in Noah's Flood : The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event that Changed History (1998)

Atkinson, Quentin; Geoff Nicholls, David Welch, Russell Gray (2005) From words to dates: water into wine, mathemagic or phylogenetic inference? Transactions of the Philological Society, 103 (2): 193 - 219.

External links



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address