Where is the PIE Homeland?

There is a lot of debate about where the homeland of the Proto-Indo-Europeans was. I had thought for years that it was in the southern Ukraine, but that is not correct.

Previously it was thought to be in Anatolia, but that theory seems to be losing support. It is true that the most ancient language within the Indo-European language family is Hittite.

In fact, Hittite is so far removed from the rest that I have long advocated the term Indo-Hittite instead of Indo-European, to show how far removed Hittite is from the rest of IE. Hittite is of course a dead tongue, but it was formerly spoken in Anatolia. There were quite a few other now dead tongues spoken in Anatolia too, such as Luwian, etc. There are still quite a few advocates of various Anatolian theories, but I am not convinced.

There are a few other far-out theories, including the “out of India” theory loved by the Hindutva Indian nationalists, who also insist that European civilization came from India too. Well! I certainly don’t think it did, and I surely hope it won’t come from there in the future, though a walk through downtown London smelling the curry in the air might suggest otherwise.

India isn’t giving the world much but crappy, cheap-labor, job-stealing coders, tons of starvation of varying degrees amidst the world’s highest population of living and uneaten cows, probably the most evil religion on Earth and the world’s most passionate colonizers of 7-11 and gas station franchises. I don’t expect that to change in the future, Academy Awards be damned.

A friend of mine insists that the PIE homeland is in the Baltics on the basis that Lithuanian is a very conservative tongue that supposedly has conserved more of PIE than anything else. I’m not sure sitting in one place and refusing to change proves an Urheimat. Anyway, Balto-Slavic seems to be a very early split-off from PIE, not part of it.

There’s a strange theory out there called the Paleolithic Continuity Theory which suggests that PIE goes all the way back to the first proto-Caucasians that came out of Africa, which would be about 40-45,000 years ago in my estimation. This theory seems absurd because I don’t see how we could reconstruct that much so easily at such a time depth.

The top theory for the PIE homeland is the Kurgan Hypothesis favored by the great female (!) scholar Marija Gimbutas. The earliest settlements in this area are in a region from north of the Sea of Avov in the Donets Basin of Southeastern Ukraine east from Rostov on Don through Kalmykia all the way to the Ural River north of the Caspian Sea. This area stretches from the north Black Sea to the north Caspian Sea and is just north of the Caucasus.

The earliest cultures were the Samara and Seroglazovo cultures. Seroglazovo stretched from Rostov on Don across to the Ural River north of the Caspian. Another major settlement area was north of the Azov Sea in southeastern Ukraine. Samara was about 100 miles southeast of the city of Samara on the Middle Volga, 150 miles north of the far northwestern Kazakhstan border and about 400 miles north of the Caspian Sea. This general area is called the Pontic Steppe.

Additional support for this comes from the recent findings of what seem to be typological affinities, probably borrowings, between PIE and the Northeast Caucasian languages, probably Proto-NE Caucasian. These include the tongue-twisting languages of Dagestan, Chechnya, etc. in the Caucasus.

Dagestan and Chechnya are quite close to the Manych-Kuma Depression (a line running from Rostov to the Kalmykia-Dagestan border), one of the PIE homelands. This area between the Black and Caspian Seas from Rostov to Kalmykia is traditionally considered to be the boundary between Europe and Asia.

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18 Comments

Filed under Anthropology, Caucasus, Europe, European, History, Linguistics, Near East, Regional, Russia

18 responses to “Where is the PIE Homeland?

  1. jaakkeli

    Uralic languages also have some very ancient commonalities with Indo-European, although they’re still debating whether that’s because of contact between the earliest proto-forms. That constrains proto-Indo-European to the north since Uralic shares lots of far northern words, meaning that at least contact with the tundra and the taiga was always there (“tundra” itself might be one of those words). Even if proto-IE would be the southern neighbour, and it surely would, that would place proto-IE to the Eastern European or Central Asian steppe, not India.

    At least the origin from India is easily verified nonsense if you know any Finnish linguistics: Finnic languages are full of loanwords from the earliest stages of Indo-Aryan languages, so for it to be out of India, Finno-Ugric languages would also have to come out of India…

  2. Gosh, I don’t know what to say about that, Jaakeli. I don’t know that much about proto-Uralic either. Where is the homeland supposed to have been anyway?

  3. Robert, I don’t believe the Baltaic region is the likely “birthplace” of the PIE people, but it is somewhere between the Black sea and the Baltaic region.
    The reason for Lithunian’s close comparison to PIE is not because it’s ancient as I falsely interpreted it to be, but because it failed to evolve like other IE languages did. Even amongst the more ancient Indo-European languages such as Greek and Sanskrit, they evolved too from classic Greek and Sanskrit to modern Greek and Sanskrit.
    As for the Indo-European words in Uralic that contributes to the Indo-Uralic hypothesis, many linguists believe it is due to Finno-Ugrians inhabbitting a predominantly IE-speaking continent for thousand sof years, they were able to assimilate Indo-European words and grammer.
    And regarding the Indo-Aryan ‘connection’ it is probably due to Uralic (and Altaic’s) similarity in some areas to Dravidian languages. It is well known that although unrelated to Indo-Aryan, Dravidian languages have still influenced them singificantly. If you listened to Rajesthani, Bengali, Sindhi or Punjabi, you would not guess them to be IE, but Dravidian unless somone told you they are Sindhi or Punjabi.
    Urdu and Hindi have less Dravid influence except for a few consinants. Also what has been found is much Dravidian influence in Sanskrit, also contributing to the suppossed ‘connection’ between Uralic and Indo-Aryan.
    But I still ought to read up on this further.

  4. jaakkeli

    As for the Indo-European words in Uralic that contributes to the Indo-Uralic hypothesis, many linguists believe it is due to Finno-Ugrians inhabbitting a predominantly IE-speaking continent for thousand sof years, they were able to assimilate Indo-European words and grammer.

    NO linguist in the world believes that. We were talking about the protolanguages, the time when the language had not yet split into many. Proto-Indo-European and proto-Uralic were simply languages of one group, not languages that dominated continents. And what’s known is that a) proto-Uralic and proto-IE existed roughly at the same time and b) they were certainly in contact, since there are obvious loanwords (to either direction) or just common words (if the languages are actually related).

    And regarding the Indo-Aryan ‘connection’ it is probably due to Uralic (and Altaic’s) similarity in some areas to Dravidian languages.

    There is no particular similarity between Uralic and Dravidian. That was just some eager folks’ wild idea that got too much press. The large number of Indo-Aryan loanwords in Finnic languages is very well known by linguists and easily verified: just look up a list of words and check some dictionaries. Even the word Aryan is shared (in Finnic languages Aryan means either “southern people” or “slave”, similar to the way Slavs gave rise to the word slave in the languages of those who enslaved them).

    That you put “connection” in scare quotes shows that you don’t have a clue. (Sorry to be so blunt, but over the net there’s no other way to point out that someone is so badly wrong.) Finnic and Indo-Aryan contact dates back to the earliest Indo-Aryan languages and continued until broken by the Turkic expansion. This isn’t contested or controversial at all. If you have trouble believing that, I can cite the work.

    There is simply no way the first Indo-Aryan languages were spoken in India. We KNOW that Finnic speakers borrowed loads of words from Indo-Aryan languages since the earliest forms of Indo-Aryan. You didn’t borrow words without ever meeting, so we know that proto-Indo-Aryans were in contact with the early Finnic people and they were certainly in Eastern Europe – nowhere near India.

  5. jaakkeli

    Gosh, I don’t know what to say about that, Jaakeli. I don’t know that much about proto-Uralic either. Where is the homeland supposed to have been anyway?

    Nobody really knows, except that it had to be fairly northern (since the languages share northern words that would’ve been lost if contact with the animals, plants etc were lost). So, somewhere on the taiga, but not in North America; probably in Europe, but possibly in Siberia…

    The Volga-Urals region is the usual guess, but that’s just a guess based on surviving languages and the intuition that northern Siberia is probably a dead end for any tribe that decides to move there (so no big language expansions from there).

  6. Lafayette Sennacherib

    I read something recently about the economic basis of the sacredness of cows – it might have been by Amartya Sen – which explained all that it contributed to a subsistence level family. Remember a cow only eats grass, but it provides milk, and its stools can be dried and burnt to provide a long fire, amongst other things which I can’t remember off hand. Not as mad as it seems at first glance.

  7. Lafayette Sennacherib

    Also obviously the cow can get pregnant and produce offspring which can be traded, or replace it when it dies. Killing the cow and eating it would maybe get a week’s worth of food, maybe less in that heat; but it would lose the family a substantial economic asset that pays its way all its life.

  8. The Volga Urals are not so far from the Middle Volga region where they PIE homeland is, so contact seems reasonable.

    Proto-Indo-Aryan was probably spoken up on the steppes of Russia, possibly even the Pontic Steppe where contact with PU could have taken place.

  9. Thx for this LS. It’s pretty typical here in the US to bash the Indians for not eating their cows when 1/2 the population is starving, so it’s nice to know there is a reasonable economic basis for the bovinephilia after all.

    Look at me Ma! I just made a new word!

  10. shonchelai

    It is very common among traditional animal herders that slaughter of dear animals with individual naming is almost last resort, as they are more useful alive, as transport and for renewable resources, including for some tribes, their blood, than dead. Often the naturally dead, old, sick, injured and abnormal animals could provide fur, skin, sinew, bone, hoof and horn etc enough for other useful purposes, and hunting game, fishing gave free, varied high protein diet, as well as different useful resources as listed before.

  11. This region may have another claim to fame, as the only place on earth to have been successively Shamanist, Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, Communist and ‘Wild East’ Capitalist (Kalmykia: ‘off-shore’ ‘banking’, and UFO chess capital of the universe).

    Is it something in the air? Or because it’s a natural geographical crossroads, including Sarai on the Silk Route.

    It is a pity they didn’t add democracy to the list yet.

  12. Rachel Lalonde

    you quoted- “India isn’t giving the world much but crappy, cheap-labor, job-stealing coders, tons of starvation of varying degrees amidst the world’s highest population of living and uneaten cows, probably the most evil religion on Earth and the world’s most passionate colonizers of 7-11 and gas station franchises. I don’t expect that to change in the future, Academy Awards be damned.”

    if you have a problem some peoples lifestyles, then stop being so concerned about their history.period.
    you seem like you have a problem with the whole universe….which makes me feel that you have a problem with your internal self?

  13. if you have a problem some peoples lifestyles, then stop being so concerned about their history.period.
    you seem like you have a problem with the whole universe….which makes me feel that you have a problem with your internal self?

    Culture is changeable. History is not. Open season on culture.

    The purpose of this blog is to deliberately piss off as many people as possible. That means you are a satisfied customer. If you don’t understand the blog, hang around a bit and figure out the joke.

    I like myself just fine, in fact maybe too much, and I am an American nationalist, so I like America too.

    HAND.
    HTH.

  14. Rachel Lalonde

    i understand this blog quite well now…and all i can say is that you have a problem. go get some help. ofcourse you might not take my suggestion since you’re so self-centered(and that’s why you’re a good example of why us americans are known to so be egocentric),but let’s face it, no country is a perfect country and no culture is flawless either. life is better when you celebrate universalism then nationalism. becuase in the end,when doomsday or whatever comes,its not only americans whowill fry from the global warming, but the rest of the world will too,together with America.

    Have a Great Day.

  15. Katie

    I’m putting my bets on the altai and ural mountains purely based on a womans instinct.I used to have my own baltic theory.But I dont discredit the indian theories either they had a writing system while ‘indo-europeans’ were still living under interlaced branches.Lithuanians did’nt even have their own writing system until the 15th century strabo and Tacitus do not write fondly of them either.

  16. Urals, sure. Altai? I’m not buying it, but Tocharian A and B are awfully early forms.I have not reviewed the Indian theories, but I’m not fond of chauvinist science. Interesting stuff about Lithuanians.

  17. It should be noted that contributions into Finno-Ugric and Permian by Indo Iranian appear to either have completely Indo Aryan etymologies with some sound variations (the phonetics are PIE) if not completely Indo Aryan forms, for example sata meaning hundred. Therefore only an exclusive group of Indo Aryans would have to be the major players in this interaction since the characteristic Iranian features appear to be missing in the loanwords. It would be most likely if the Andronovo or Sintashta cultures were responsible for the transmission of these words. Otherwise, on PIE, I think Gimbutas makes some errors because she doesn’t take into account that agricultural terms appear in the core vocabulary of the reconstructed language and that horses as draft animals (related vocabulary occurs in PIE) should not appear until the mid third millennium BC. Kurgans are nomads and did not practice agriculture. However the Anatolian hypothesis doesn’t seem to make sense either since it places the Greeks in Europe at about 6000 BC which does not seem to fit with the succession of cultures found there. Therefore western central Asia should probably come into consideration because it has evidence for wheeled vehicles in a fairly early context (ie Altyn Depe 4th-3rd millennium BC) as well as Neolithic farming traditions. Also a few horse remains have been found in Uzbekistan at an early neolithic period. There have been arguments over whether or not ekwos actually refers to the horse or some other equid before being applied to its namesake.

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