Paired Horse and PIE breakup

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at WXS.NL
Fri Nov 6 09:27:55 UTC 1998

"N. Ganesan" <naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>  Many guesses for PIE splitup dates are possible. But the
>  evidence points to a more likely scenario that PIE people
>  lived as one single speech community in rather a small
>  region after 3500 B.C.. Want to know the reasons
>  why PIE split up before 6000 B.C.? I will appreciate
>  Summary of main points for a PIE split date like
>  6000 B.C. or references.

Renfrew puts PIE around or before 6000 BC (the date of the earliest
farmers in Greece and the Balkans) or even earlier, in Anatolia
(Catal Huyuk, c. 7000 BC).  Such dates are impossibly early, and
Renfrew's arguments are linguistically unsound in other respects (if
Hittite is the direct descendant of the "stay behinds" in Anatolia,
and Greek the direct descendant of the language of the first farmers
that crossed over from Anatolia to Greece, then we would expect Greek
to be closest to Hittite.  In fact, Greek is much more similar to
Sanskrit than to Hittite).

But I do agree with Renfrew that there's a striking similarity
between the expansion of Indo-European languages across Europe and
the expansion of agriculture across the same area.  It has to be
borne in mind, however, that this expansion was not entirely gradual
as Renfrew has it, but proceeded in several stages.  It is easy to
see how this came about: the Anatolian farmers, when they crossed
over into Greece, Bulgaria and southern parts of ex-Yugoslavia and
Romania, found circumstances similar to the ones they were used to in
Anatolia: basically hilly terrain and Mediterranean climate.  Further
north, in temperate Europe (Ukrainian and Hungarian steppe, North
European flatlands), conditions were quite different, and the
Mediterranean farming techniques simply did not work.  That is why in
the period from 7000-5500 BC agriculture spreads only to the Western
Mediterranean, but stays confined to the Balkans elsewhere (Karanovo,
Starcevo, Cris,, Ko"ro"s cultures).  It is in the Hungarian Ko"ro"s
area that the transition to temperate conditions is made, and c. 5500
BC we see the second stage of Neolithic expansion: the "Danubian" or
Linear Ware (LBK) culture, that quickly expands from Hungary
north-west across Germany to the Netherlands and from Hungary
north-east to Czechia, Slovakia and Poland.  A little later, the
Dnepr-Donets culture expands (from Poland/Belarus?) into the
Ukrainian and Caspian forest-steppes.

My theory is that these movements c. 5500 BC represent the breakup of
PIE (Proto-Hittite staying behind in the Balkan area, the Ko"ro"s/LBK
groups moving east and west to eventually become Western and Eastern

Admittedly, the common vocabulary for wheeled transport is a problem
for my theory (not as much as for Renfrew's version, of course).  If
wheeled transport was invented c. 3500 BC, there is still a gap of
two millennia between my date for PIE breakup and the wheel.

There is of course the possibility that future archaeological finds
may push the date a bit further back [we are dealing with perishable
wooden, non-metallic, artifacts after all], but it seems unlikely
that wheeled transport existed before 4000 BC, and 5500 BC is too
much to hope for.  But at the same time, what I am arguing for is an
early Indo-European-speaking area which had not yet expanded into its
present area (France, Great Britain & Ireland, Italy, Spain, Central
Asia, Iran, N. India had not yet been Indo-Europeanized by 3500 BC).
We can roughly compare the area occupied by IE between 5500 and 3500
with the present area of the Romance languages, and likewise the
linguistic distance between the IE languages at the time (Romance is
some 2000 years old).  Now there are plenty of examples of tecnical
vocabulary that has spread across the Romance area since the fall of
the Roman Empire, which might be confused for original Proto-Romance
(i.e. Latin) words is we didn't have Latin to know they weren't.  the
classical example is pseudo-Latin *<duos gentes de armas super
caballos>, "two policemen on horses".  But the Latin for "horses" was
<equi>, and "gendarmes" as such did not exist in Roman times.

Furthermore, most of the words in question are derived from common IE
roots (*weg^h- "to carry" -> "to tranport, to ride", *ak^s- "armpit,
arm, shoulder, wing" -> "axle", *kwel-, *kwekwel- "to turn, to spin"
-> "wheel, chariot", *retH-/*rotH- "to run" -> "wheel, chariot").
Assuming a time depth of 2000 years (5500-3500 BC), and that the the
IE dialects were still largely mutually intelligible (as the Romance
languages are today), such transparent formations may have easily
been picked up and adopted by other Indo-European speakers, along
with the items themselves.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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