PIE breakup in ca. 1750 B.C.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at WXS.NL
Tue Oct 27 20:27:16 UTC 1998

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

>The widely published Professor of Classics is saying that
>PIE breakup occured in ca. 1750 B.C. Is he is correct? Otherwise,
>are there any reviews where his theory is shown to be wrong?

I found one review on the Net, by Bill Darden, Dept. of Slavic, Univ.
of Chicago, which isn't very favourable of either one of the recent
proposals to put the IE homeland in Anatolia [Renfrew, Gamqrelidze &
Ivanov, Drews]. See: <http://www.indoeuropean.org/page4a.html>.

In general, theories about the IE homeland (or the homeland of any
linguistic group) cannot be shown to be correct or incorrect.  They
must remain a matter of speculation.  We can say whether this or that
alternative is more or less likely, given the known present (or
historically recorded) distribution and divergence of the languages,
and given the proposed correlations with archaeological findings.
But without a time machine we can never be sure.

>Robert Drews, The coming of the Greeks: Indo-European conquestd
>in the Aegean and the Near East, Princeton University press, 1988
>(available in both hard cover and paperback editions)
>page 197:
>" Some dubious assumptions about the PIE speakers are interlocked and
>of long standing. One of these assumptions is that when poised on the
>threshold of history, the PIE speakers were a numerous people, making
>up a fair portion of the world's population. For such a multitude,
>a spacious home must be imagined, and a second assumption is that
>the IE homeland was a vast territory, perhaps covering much of
>Eastern Europe or the Eurasian steppe. From this homeland, the
>Indo-Europeans are supposed to have set out, in prehistoric times, in
>a series of massive Volkerwanderungen; eventually, they came to rest
>in the lands in which during historical times the IE languages were
>spoken. The beginnings of these mass migrations are placed between ca.
>and ca. 2000 B.C., and the reasons for the migrations are seldom
> An alternative picture is more likely. At the end of the third
>the PIE-speaking community was no larger than the Hurrian, the Sumerian,
>the Hattic, or the Proto-Anatolian and was only a fraction the size
>of the Semitic. The PIE-speaking community remained intact, playing no
>significant historical role, until the second quarter of the second
>millennium. In the late seventeenth or early sixteenth century,
>and then whole communities of PIE speakers began leaving their native
>lands (probably in the lake district of eastern Anatolia). None of these
>movements of PIE speakers involved a population much larger than that
>of one Mesopotamian city of the first rank. Nor were the movements
>Wanderungen at all. The relocations - some of them apparently by sea-
>were well planned and organized, and their leaders knew where they were
>going and what they would do when they got there. The PIE speakers'
>object in leaving their native lands was to take control of societies
>that were vulnerable and that could profitably be exploited.
> Takeovers rather than Volkerwanderungen are what seem to have plagued
>the ancient world in second millennium B.C. The IE takeovers appear to
>have been analogous to the hyksos takeover of Egypt, and to the Kassite
>and Hurrian takeovers of various communities in the Fertile Crescent
>(the Kassites and Hurrians may have been neighbors of the PIE
>speakers before they set out on their adventures). For all of these
>intruders, chariotry was essential: it was their mastery of chariot
>warfare that made it possible for the intruders to conquer and then to
>dominate lands from Egypt and Greece to India. The takeovers were
>motivated, it need hardly be said, by the desire for power and wealth."

If this is what Drews proposes, then it is the least likely scenario
of the three I have seen for an Anatolian origin of IE.

The view held by most (but not all) Indo-Europeanists, archaeologists
and historians, which we can call the "standard" view on IE origins,
is basically the one first proposed by Marija Gimbutas and
subsequently refined and argumented in Mallory's "In Search of the
Indo-Europeans".  According to this theory, the origins of the IEans
lie in the Eurasian steppe, where by 4500BC we find the Sredny Stog
(in the western steppe [Ukraine] north of the Black Sea) and
Khvalynsk (eastern steppe, north and east of Caspian) cultures, which
are seen as ancestral to IE culture.  At the economical level, these
early steppe societies were more based on keeping livestock as well
as hunting and fishing than exclusively on agriculture.  The horse
(native to the steppe lands) appears to have been first domesticated
in the Sredny Stog cultural area, c. 4000 BC, which was to lead to
the nomadic way of life that has predominated in the Eurasian steppe
ever since (or at least until the expansion of the Russian Empire in
modern times).  The first step was the evolution of the Yamna
(Pit-Grave or "Kurgan") culture c. 3500 BC out of the Khvalynsk and
Sredny Stog cultures.

Now having domesticated the horse is not something necessarily
exclusive to Indo-Europeans, so in order to make this theory work, it
has to be established that the historical distribution of the IE
languages finds its origins in the Yamna and Khvalynsk/Sredny Stog
cultures of 4500-3500 BC.  We have to find evidence from migrations
out of this area into regions where IE languages are later found.

Cases have been made for early expansions eastwards
(proto-Tocharians?) and westwards into the Balkan peninsula.
The history and origin of the Tocharians (which we find in Chinese
Turkestan in the first centuries AD speaking an IE language not
closely related at all to Iranian) is an enigma in itself.  Mallory
makes an, I think, convincing case for linking the Afanasievo culture
(<3000 BC) of the Upper Yenisei river to the Proto-Tocharians, based
on archaeological similarities between Afansievo and the more western
steppe cultures Sredny Stog/Khvalynsk and its 5th mill. predecessors
(Dnepr-Donets culture, Samara culture).

The situation in the Balkans is also obscure.  The "Old European"
civilization (Karanovo, Starc^evo, Vinc^a) which had flourished there
from the 7th millennium to c. 4200 BC was suddenly interrupted.  In
the so-called "Balkan dark ages" (c. 4200-3200 BC) most of the tells
were abandoned (but in Romania and the Western Ukraine, the "Old
European" Tripolye culture was apparently unaffected).  Gimbutas and
others have argued that the fall of Old Europe was due to IE "Kurgan"
invasions from the steppe.  As in the case of the IVC, others have
argued that Vinc^a and related cultures collapsed of their own
account [a further parallel between Vinc^a and the IVC are the
mysterious signs found on Vinc^a artefacts, which might be the oldest
writing in the world].

What seems clear, in any case, is that when the settlements were
occupied again, 500-1000 years later, things had changed profoundly,
and cultures like Ozero/Cernavoda (3200 BC) have more in common with
the Kurgan cultures of the steppe than with the old Vinc^a.  There is
overall pretty good evidence for direct invasions from the Kurgan
area into the Balkans (and from there to Greece [Early Helladic I]
and Anatolia [Troy I]).

Turning to the east again, the origin of Indo-Iranian can also be
traced back to the Yamna/Kurgan cultures of the 4th/3rd. millennium.
By 2000 BC, the area of modern Russian Turkestan is occcupied by the
Kurgan-derived Andronovo culture, ancestral to the Iranians or the
Indo-Iranians as a whole, depending on where one wants to put the
split between the two.  I would favour a slightly early date, making
Andronovo exclusively Iranian, with the Dardic/Indo-Aryan speakers
already in Kashmir, watching the IVC collapse.

So far, I would say the "standard" theory makes a plausible case for
deriving Tocharian, the IE languages of the Balkans (Thracian,
Dacian, Illyrian/Albanian, Greek, Phrygian, ?Armenian), and
Indo-Iranian from the 4th mill. Kurgan area (Eurasian steppe).
Balto-Slavic, just north of the steppe area, is not so hard to fit in
either, although evidence for migrations is weak or absent.
However, when it comes to Northern, Central and Western Europe
(Germanic, Celtic, Italic) and to the Anatolian languages (Hittite,
Luwian/Lycian, Lydian), Mallory's case is much weaker.  [And Drews'
case is pathetically absent].

The problem with Anatolian is that it's simply too deviant,
linguistically, to be a recent offshoot of PIE.  We must allow
Anatolian a lot of time to become so different from the rest, and if
we want to derive Anatolian, like --say-- Greek, from the Kurgan
invasions into the Balkans (4200-3200) there just isn't enough time.

As to NWC-Europe, it is true that at approximately the right time (c.
3000 BC) an important cultural change took place, whereby the earlier
seemingly egalitarian and largely vegetarian society of the Neolithic
(LBK, TRB cultures, etc.) was replaced by a more hierarchic,
meat-eating, milk-drinking and male-dominated society (Corded Ware
around the Baltic c. 3000 BC, Bell Beaker in Central Europe,
spreading to France, Britain, Spain and Italy c. 2500 BC).  But there
is no sign of migrations or invasions.  And Drews' theory of IE
"takeovers" falls flat on its face.  There was nothing to take over
here: no state, no towns, no riches, no large populations to enslave,
just the vast expanse of the Northern European plain with every now
and then a farmhouse or a small village.

These scattered farmers had diffused into the area from the Balkans
starting from c. 5500 BC.  (by a process Renfrew calls "wave of
advance", which is exactly the opposite of what Drews suggests:
nobody was planning anything, and nobody was even aware thwy were
moving, they were just establishing new farmhouses a couple of miles
from their parents'.  The net result was the spread of agriculture
across the European continent).  In my view, they, like the "Old
European" folk of the Balkans [which were to become the
Proto-Anatolians] spoke an IE language.  At the same time as they
spread into Central and Northern Europe, they probably also spread
into the Eastern parts of Europe and the Ukrainian forest-steppe
(Dnepr-Donets culture, c. 5300 BC), and some of them even further
east, eventually all the way to Chinese Turkestan (this would explain
why Tocharian looks like a "Western" IE language).  The Eastern IE
dialects (so-called "Indo-Greek") would then have evolved their
characteristics later as a set of innovations within the Ukrainian
area, possibly as a result of the Kurgan phenomenon.  It was these
Eastern ("Kurgan") IEans which, as outlined above, then spread west
into the Balkans (possibly pushing the "Old Europeans"
[Proto-Anatolians] back into Greece and Anatolia) and east into Iran
and India.  The Western IEans (Germanic(-Balto-Slavic) and
Italo-Celtic), while they did adopt some of the cultural and social
changes developed by the Kurgan people of the steppe, were never
subjected to a full scale invasion, and their languages go back, in
my view, to the original "Danubian" language of the earliest
LBK/Linear Ware farmers.  As a consequence of the social change in
the "Bell Beaker" period, Indo-Euroepan languages did spread further
into areas of SW Europe that had not previously been
Indo-Europeanized (S. France, Britain?, Spain, Italy).

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at wxs.nl

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