The Indo-European Cradle from a Linguistic and Archaeological standpoint

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Republication from the Annual Review of Linguistics


The Indo-European Homeland from Linguistic and Archaeological Perspectives

Vol. 1: 199-219 (Volume publication date January 2015)
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-linguist-030514-124812

David W. Anthony1 and Don Ringe2
1Anthropology Department, Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York
2Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Archaeological evidence and linguistic evidence converge in support of an origin of Indo-European languages on the Pontic-Caspian steppes around 4,000 years BCE. The evidence is so strong that arguments in support of other hypotheses should be reexamined.


Figure 1  Wheel terms found in Indo-European language branches. Modified with permission from Anthony (1995).



Mismodeling Indo-European Origin and Expansion: Bouckaert, Atkinson, Wade and the Assault on Historical Linguistics

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Atkinson-I-E-Expansion-Animated-Mapby Martin W. Lewis


As GeoCurrents passed through its August slowdown, plans were made for a series on the Summer Olympics. Thanks to the efforts of Chris Kremer, we have gathered statistics—and made maps—relating Olympic medal count by country to population and GDP, both overall and in regard to specific categories of competition. The series, however, has been put on hold by the recent publication of two heralded articles on the history and geography of the Indo-European language family. On August 24, a short piece in Science—“Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family”—made extravagant claims, purporting to overturn the most influential historical-linguistic account of the world’s most widespread language family. On the same day, Nicholas Wade, noted New York Times science reporter, wrote a half-page spread in the news section of the Times on the Science report, entitled “Family Tree of Languages Has Roots in Anatolia, Biologists Say.” Over the next few days, the story was picked up—and often twisted in the process—by assorted journalists. Within a few days, headlines appeared as preposterous as “English Language Originated in Turkey.”

As Wade’s title indicates, the Science article, written by Remco Bouckaert and eight others (most notably Quentin D. Atkinson), seeks to overturn the thesis that the Indo-European (I-E) family originated north of the Black and Caspian seas. It instead locates the I-E heartland in what is now Turkey, supporting the “Anatolian” thesis advanced a generation ago by archeologist Colin Renfrew. The Science team bases its claims on mathematical grounds, using techniques derived from evolutionary biology and epidemiology to draw linguistic family trees and model the geographical spread of language groups. According to Wade, the authors claim that their study does nothing less than “solve” a “long-standing problem in archaeology: the origin of the Indo-European family of languages.” (Strictly speaking, however, the problem is not an archaeological one, as excavations by themselves tell us nothing about the languages of non-literate peoples; it is rather a linguistic problem with major bearing on prehistory more generally.)




By  Periklis    DeligiannisGalatia-Gaul[This  article is in fact a part of my book  ‘The Celts‘, Periscope publ., Athens 2008, unfortunately available only in Greek]

After  the  sharp  diminution  of  the  Celts  of  Central  Europe  by  the  Germans  (58  BC)  and  the  Romans,  Greater  Gaul,  the  country  that  lies  between  the  Rhine,  the  Alps  and  the  Pyrenees,  became  the  main  Celtic  area  in  mainland  Europe.  Gaul  (as  it  is  usually  called  for  short,  because  of  the  Romans),  Noricum,  Raetia (partly) and Northwestern Pannonia in Central Europe,  Gallaicia  (Galicia), Asturia and Cantabria  in  the  Iberian  peninsula,  and  finally  the  British  islands,  were  the  last  independent  Celtic  areas.

Shortly  before  the  Roman  conquest  of  Gaul  (or  Galatia  in  ancient  Greek)  by  Julius  Caesar,  about  sixty  tribes  shared  its  territory.  The  largest  of  these  tribes  (the  Arverni,  Aedui,  Pictones  etc.)  occupied  each  one  a  territory  of  about  15-20,000  sq.  km.,  with  a  population  of  up  to  250,000  inhabitants.  The  Celtic  tribes  were  divided  into  sub-tribes  called  pagi.  The  60  Celtic  peoples  of  Gaul  included  a  total  of  300  sub-tribes.  Many  of  these  pagi  were  originally  independent  tribes  which  were  gradually  incorporated  in  the  largest  ones,  either  by  conquest  or  by  conciliation.
The  linguists  have  estimated  that  the  tribes  of  the  Volcae,  the  Helvii  (close  relatives  of  the  Helvetii  of  modern  Switzerland),  the  Turones,  the  Nervii,  the  Suessiones,  the  Veneti,  the  Venelli  and  the  Aulerci  were  the  oldest  that  were  formed,  because  the  etymology  of  their  national  names  is  rather  difficult.  Some  of  these  tribes  were  probably  formed  initially  in  Central  Europe,  mostly  in  the  north  of  the  Alps  (the  Celtic/Gallic  cradle).  The  peoples  with  tribal  names  of  numeric  type  are  considered  to  be  later  tribal  formations,  e.g.  The  Remi  (meaning  the  ‘first  ones’  in  Gallic  Celtic),  the  Petrokorii  (the  ‘four  tribes’)  the  Vocontii  (‘twenty  clans’).  The  same  goes  for  the  tribes  whose  national  names  are  annominations  or  epithets,  e.g.  the  Ruteni  (the  ‘blonde  ones’,  a  Proto-Indo-European  verbal  type  found  today  in  the  names  of  the    Russians  and  the  Ruthenians  of  Eastern  Europe),  the  Leuci  (the  ‘bright  ones’,  like  the  Greek  ‘leucos’  meaning  the  ‘white’), the  Belgae (the ‘thunders’,  Belgians),   the  Nemetes  (the  ‘sacred’),  the  Aedui  (the  ‘fiery’),  the  Pictones  (possibly  the  ‘painted  ones’  like  the  Picts  of  Pictland/Caledonia,  modern  Scotland),  the  Caleti  (the  ‘hardened’),  the  Lemovices  or  Lemovii  (‘warriors  of  the  elm’,  which  was  their  totemic  tree)  the  Medulli  (the  ‘mead  drinkers’)  etc.


Celtic  warriors  in  an  impressive  artwork.  Note  the  two  naked  Gaesati/Gaesatae  warriors  in  the  frontline,  with  their  hair  stiffened  with  lime  or  lemon  juice.  Another  warrior  blows  the  ‘carnyx’,  the  Celtic  war  trumpet  (Copyright:  Zvezda  /Karatchuk  (artist)).

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