4.Origin of Indo Europeans

Migration of Anatolian farmers

The first scholar to hypothesize a large-scale Neolithic migration, based on genetic evidence, was Cavalli-Sforza. He discovered many interesting clues about the genetic makeup of Europeans. Although being very genetically homogeneous, several patterns did exist. The most important discovery was that he found the population spread from Anatolia into Greece, Mediterranean Italy and France. This pattern represented the largest (28%) component of total European genetic variation. He attributed this to the spread of agriculture from the Middle East circa 10,000BC to 6,000BC. Such a demographic expansion might have been propagated by the technological developments affecting food availability (in this case), giving the farmers an advantage over the relatively small-sized Palaeolithic population.

 Anatolian hypothesis

The Anatolian hypothesis is proposed by Colin Renfrew; and it proposes that the dispersal of Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in Neolithic Anatolia. The hypothesis suggests that the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) lived in Anatolia during the Neolithic era, and associates the distribution of historical Indo-European languages with the expansion during the Neolithic revolution during the 7000 BC and 6000 BC millennia. (Wikipedia, 2009) 

The Anatolian hypothesis’ main proponent was Colin Renfrew, who in 1987 suggested a peaceful Indo-Europeanization of Europe from Anatolia from around 7000 BC with the advance of farming by demic diffusion ("wave of advance"). Accordingly, most of the inhabitants of Neolithic Europe would have spoken Indo-European tongues, and later migrations would at best have replaced Indo-European dialects with other Indo-European dialects. The main strength of the farming hypothesis lies in its linking of the spread of Indo-European languages with an archeologically known event (the spread of farming) that is often assumed as involving significant population shifts. Two other competing hypotheses exist; they are Kurgan and Palaeolithic Continuity Theory (PCT). The kurgan hypothesis places PIE in more recent time, whereas the PCT theory places them in far earlier time.

 Kurgan hypothesis

The Kurgan hypothesis is a model of early Indo-European, which postulates that the people of Kurgan culture of the Pontic region were the most likely speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language. The Kurgan hypothesis was first formulated in the 1950s by Marija Gimbutas. When it was first proposed in 1956, Marija Gimbutas contribution to the search for Indo-European origins was a pioneering inter-disciplinary synthesis of archaeology and linguistics. The Kurgan model of Indo-European origins identifies the Pontic-Caspian as the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) home land, and a variety of late PIE dialects are assumed to have been spoken across the region. According to this model, the Kurgan culture gradually expanded until it encompassed the entire Pontic-Caspian steppe. (Wikipedia, 2009) 

Kurgan culture 

The model of a "Kurgan culture" postulates cultural similarity between the various cultures of the Copper Age to Early Bronze Age (5th to 3rd millennia BC) Pontic-Caspian steppe to justify the identification as a single archaeological or cultural horizon. The eponymous construction of kurgans is only one among several factors. As always in the grouping of archaeological cultures, the dividing line between one culture and the next cannot be drawn with any accuracy and will be open to debate. Gimbutas defined and introduced the term "Kurgan culture" in 1956 with the intention to introduce a "broader term" that would combine all the IE cultures in Southern Russia. The comparison of cultural similarities of these cultures is a question of archaeology, independent of hypotheses regarding the Proto-Indo-European language. The postulate of these 5th millennium “cultural similarities” informed by archaeology is a prerequisite of the "Kurgan model" which identifies the copper age (5th millennium) Pontic-Caspian steppe as the locus of Proto-Indo-European. 

Language does not equal ethnic group 

The linguists are attempting to develop new investigative techniques for formative linguistic processes. Generally, the linguists are not accepting the method adapted by Marija Gimbutas. While proposing the “Kurgan culture” theory, she first identified the present day uniformity of IE languages, and imposed that uniformity on earlier period (4000 BC) archaeological finding. (It is like putting the cart before the horse). This method is not being accepted by many linguists. Similarly, there is a recognized broad division among the IE-language groups. They are termed as satem group and centum group. The satem group of IE languages are in which, ‘number-hundred’ (100) is pronounced as “Satem”. This satem group consists of all the Asian group of IE-languages – Iranian, Indian and Central Asian IE-languages. Whereas, in the European group of IE languages, the “number 100” is pronounced as “Centum”, hence this nomenclature “Centum group” of IE languages. This division occurred somewhere in the middle-east (or) Central Asia around 4000 BC. This division is recognised by all the linguists. But this fact does not mean that, this fact can be imposed on earlier cultures in this area of middle-east and claim that earlier middle-eastern cultures were also IE-language speaking people. This is the apparent contradiction of theory of Marija Gimbutas. 

Krell (1998) points out that the Proto-Indo-European had an agricultural terminology and not merely a pastoral one. As for technology, there are plausible reconstructions suggesting knowledge of navigation, a technology quite untypical of Gimbutas' Kurgan society. Krell concludes that Gimbutas seems to first establish a Kurgan hypothesis, based on purely archaeological observations, and then proceeds to create a picture of the PIE homeland and subsequent dispersal which fits neatly over her archaeological findings. The problem is that in order to do this, she has had to be rather selective in her use of linguistic data, as well as in her interpretation of that data. Such an unsystematic approach should have given her linguistic proponents real cause for questioning the relevance of her theory, especially if one considers that, by virtue of its nature, the study of PIE is first and foremost a matter for linguistic, not archaeological, investigation. (Bryant 2004:40) 

Peaceful vs. violent spread 

Gimbutas believed that the expansions of the Kurgan culture were a series of essentially hostile, military invasions where a new warrior culture imposed itself on the peaceful, matriarchal cultures of "Old Europe", replacing it with a patriarchal warrior society, a process visible in the appearance of fortified settlements and hill forts and the graves of warrior-chieftains. But other historians differ and propose that the process of Indo-Europeanization was a cultural, not a physical transformation. It must be understood as a military victory in terms of imposing a new administrative system, language and religion upon the indigenous groups. 

In her later life, Gimbutas increasingly emphasized the violent nature of this transition from the Mediterranean cult of the Mother Goddess to a patriarchal society and the worship of the warlike Thunder god (Zeus, Dyaus), to a point of essentially formulating feminist archaeology. Many scholars who accept the general scenario of Indo-European migrations proposed, maintain that the transition was likely much more gradual and peaceful than suggested by Gimbutas. The migrations were certainly not a sudden, concerted military operation, but the expansion of disconnected tribes and cultures, spanning many generations. To what degree the indigenous cultures were peacefully amalgamated or violently displaced remains a matter of controversy among supporters of the Kurgan hypothesis. 

Renfrew's Linguistic Time depth 

While the Kurgan scenario is widely accepted as one of the leading answers to the question of Indo-European origins, it is still a speculative model, not an ideal or standard model. The main alternative suggestion is the theory of Colin Renfrew, postulating an Anatolian, and the spread of the Indo-European languages as a result of the spread of agriculture. This belief implies a significantly older age of the Proto-Indo-European language (ca. 9,000 BC as opposed to ca.4000 BC). Some linguists do not support this Renfrew theory on the grounds of glottochronology[1] (though this method of glottochronology is widely rejected as invalid by mainstream historical linguistics). This objection of linguists have some basis, because the PIE language contained words for devices especially related to cattle-breeding and riding invented not earlier than the 5th millennium BC by nomadic tribes in Asian steppes, and because there are some difficulties in correlating the geographical distribution of the Indo-European branches with the advance of agriculture. 

A study in 2003 by Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson at the University of Auckland, using a computer analysis based upon lexical data, favours an earlier date for Proto-Indo-European than assumed by the Kurgan model, ca. the 7th millennium consistent with Renfrew's Anatolian homeland theory. Their result is based on maximum likelihood analysis of Swadesh lists.[2] Their results run counter to many accepted categorizations of linguistic relations between the different branches within the Indo-European languages tree. 

Occurrence of Horse-riding in Europe 

According to Gimbutas hypothesis, the reconstructed linguistic evidence suggests that the Indo-Europeans were horse-riding warriors who used thrusting weapons and could easily overrun other areas, and did do so in so far as central Europe is concerned, around the fourth-fifth millennia BC. On the techno-cultural level, the Kurgan people were essentially at a pastoral stage. Discounting this equation, Renfrew holds that on the European scene mounted warriors appear only as late as the turn of 1000BC and these could in no case have been Gimbutas Kurgan warriors predating the facts by some 2,000 years. According to Krell (1998), Gimbutas' homeland theory is completely incompatible with the linguistic evidence. Krell compiles lists of items of flora; fauna, economy, and technology that archaeology has accounted for in the Kurgan culture. Then she compares it with lists of the same categories as reconstructed by traditional historical-Indo-European linguistics. 
Krell finds major discrepancies between the two, and underlines the fact that we cannot presume that the reconstructed term for 'horse', for example, referred to the domesticated equid in the protoperiod just because it did in later times. It could originally have referred to a wild equid, a possibility that would undermine the mainstay of Gimbutas arguments that the Kurgan culture first domesticated the horse and used this new technology to spread surrounding areas, thus spreading the Indo-European languages. (Bryant, 2002:40.). Kathrin Krell (Krell, 1998) finds that the terms found in the reconstructed Indo-European language are not compatible with the cultural level of the Kurgans. Krell holds that the Indo-Europeans had agriculture, whereas the Kurgan people were just at a pastoral stage. There are others, like Mallory and Schmitt, who are equally critical of Gimbutas hypothesis. 

Palaeolithic continuity theory 

The Palaeolithic Continuity Theory (or PCT) is a hypothesis suggesting that the hypothetical Proto-Indo-European can be traced back to the Palaeolithic era, tens of millennia earlier than the Chalcolithic or at the most Neolithic (Beginning from 40,000 BC) estimates in other scenarios of Proto-Indo-European origins. Its main proponent is linguist Mario Alinei (professor at the University of Utrecht, Netherland). The PCT postulates that the advent of Indo-European languages should be linked to the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe and Asia from Africa in the Upper Palaeolithic. Employing "lexical periodization", Alinei arrives at a timeline deeper than even that of Colin Renfrew's hypothesis. The framework of PCT is laid out by Alinei in four main assumptions; Continuity is the basic pattern of European prehistory and the basic working hypothesis on the origins of IE languages. Stability and antiquity are general features of languages. The lexicon of natural languages, due to its antiquity, may be "periodized" along the entire course of human evolution. Archaeological frontiers coincide with linguistic frontiers. (Wikipedia, 2009) 

The continuity theory draws on a Continuity Model, postulating the presence of IE and non-IE peoples and languages in Europe from Palaeolithic times and allowing for minor invasions and infiltrations of local scope, mainly during the last three millennia. Arguing that continuity is "the archaeologist’s easiest pursuit," Alinei deems this "the easiest working hypothesis," putting the burden of proof on competing hypotheses as long as none provide irrefutable counter-evidence. Alinei also claims linguistic coherence, rigor and productivity in the pursuit of this approach. 

Historical reconstruction 

Associated with the Palaeolithic Continuity Theory (PCT) is the historical reconstruction proposed by Alinei, which suggests that Indo-European speakers were native in Europe since the Palaeolithic. According to this reconstruction, the differentiation process of languages would have taken an extremely long time; by the end of the Ice Age, the Indo-European language family had differentiated into proto Celtic/ Italic/ Germanic/ Slavic/ Baltic speakers occupying territories within or close to their traditional homelands. The rate of change accelerated when (Neolithic) (4000-3000 BC) social stratification and colonial wars began. 

The Palaeolithic Continuity hypothesis reverses the Kurgan hypothesis and largely identifies the Indo-Europeans with Gimbutas' "Old Europe." PCT reassigns the Kurgan culture (traditionally considered early Indo-European) to a people of predominantly mixed Uralic and Turkic stock. This hypothesis is supported by the tentative linguistic identification of Etruscans as a Uralic, proto-Hungarian people that had already undergone strong proto-Turkish influence in the third millennium BC, when Pontic invasions would have brought this people to the Carpathian Basin. A subsequent migration of Urn field culture signature around 1250 BC caused this ethnic group to expand south in a general movement of people, attested by the upheaval of the Sea Peoples and the overthrow of an earlier Italic substrate at the onset of the "Etruscan" Villanovan culture. 

Proponents point to a lack of archaeological evidence for an Indo-European invasion in the Bronze Age; to the lack of substantial genetic change since the Palaeolithic; and to analogy with a theory of a Palaeolithic origin of Uralic peoples and languages in Eurasia. Moreover, the continuity theory is much more parsimonious in comparison with classical approaches to the IE developments. 

Genetic evidences 

For the specific problem of the origins of Indo-European languages, Cavalli Sforza has first tried to adjust his data to the traditional model of the warlike invasion theory, claiming that the two data converged, and later has done the same with Renfrew’s model. (Ammerman-Cavalli Sforza 1984) Nevertheless, he has recently had to surrender to the latest outcome of genetic research, i.e. 80% of the genetic stock of Europeans goes back to Palaeolithic. Bryan Sykes comments that the Neolithic farmers have certainly been important; but they have only contributed about 20% of European genes. It is the hunters of the Palaeolithic that have created the main body of modern European gene pool. (Sykes, 2006) 
However, genetic research has not conclusively shown that modern Europeans are primarily the descendants of Palaeolithic hunters since modern science is still unable to extract Y-DNA haplogroups from Palaeolithic samples. Thus the possibility remains that modern European haplogroups may be result of later immigration. For instance, the recent analysis of Arredi, Poloni and Tyler-Smith (Arredi Barbera, 2007) suggests that R1b-M269, the most common western European haplogroup, may have entered Europe only in the Neolithic period. (Along with introduction of agriculture) In contrast to paternal lineages, identification of ancient mtDNA (maternal lineages) has met with some success. These studies have revealed significant genetic differences between modern and ancient Europeans. 


There is a general feeling that Sanskrit came along with Indo Europeans of Southern Russia, but there is a possibility that this language existed along with common colloquial language as the language of the elites and priests. The elite groups had many tactics to maintain their identity and exclusiveness. Some strategies are like dress style, (like modern day designer clothes), hair style (head bun style for elite and normal crew cut for ordinary class), head bun style was the sign of elite class in Egypt, Mesopotamia and India, similarly the Indus priest statue also depicts hair bun style, but the ultimate instrument of exclusiveness was language. In modern day example, if a province wants to separate out from an existing nation, language is the first ideology used in creating division and separating out people. In Similar way, language is a potential weapon in creating a separate, exclusive identity to the elite class. It is possible that Sanskrit existed side by side along with Dravidian language in Indus valley culture. 

In a way, the language differentiation is helpful in identifying the foreigners. See the case of migration of people from Bangladesh and infiltration from Pakistan into India. The migration from Bangladesh is rampant and migration from Pakistan is negligible, because any Urdu or Sindhi speaking foreigner can be easily identified but a Bangala speaking foreigner could not be identified because it is a common language in both countries. The point is that the language helps in creating identity to a section of people, and that distinctiveness brings in prosperity to that section of people, and they have the vested interest in maintaining the exclusivity of that language, and that is reason for creation and survival of Sanskrit language. Palaeolithic continuity theory and Anatolian hypothesis is in concurrence with Sumerian origin of Sanskrit. Renfrew’s Anatolian hypothesis also coincides with this view because the origin of PIE was somewhere in the heart of Anatolia, which is much nearer to Sumeria than southern Ukraine. 

Demotic and common script 

In Egypt there were two forms of scripts existing side by side, one is the language of common people called demotic[3] and other script was of priestly language called hieratic[4] closely related to Hieroglyphic. Initially the demotic or hieroglyphic scripts could not be deciphered. During the time of Napoleonic war in Egypt, the Rosetta stone was found and the French man Silvestre de Sacy deciphered the Egyptian scripts. Similar is the case of Sanskrit. It has been always called as language of the gods, given by gods. It was spoken only by priestly class and was understood only by them. Because of that exclusivity, it is a dying language in India. But the point is that, this elite language simultaneously existed side by side with the other Dravidian languages of the common people. The reason for the wide spread distribution of the Indo European languages is that, wherever the priestly class moved in, the priestly language also have spread. Even in new territory like southern steppe and subsequent spread, the language might have first entered into southern Russia from Anatolia. It is likely that this spread was not by physical conquest, but was a peaceful spread by cultural diffusion. But after entering into southern steppe, it took the form of physical conquest in the hands of Indo-Europeans of Southern Steppe. The later day genetic spread of M-17 genes should not be taken as the only criteria. The later day spread of Indo-European languages are by physical violence, but the beginning was cultural diffusion which does not leave any genetic trace, only cultural trace, this theory clearly follows the pattern proposed by Renfrew. 

The theory of Marija Gimbutas has flaw in it, because it explains only the spread of kurgan culture after 3000 BC, but the spread of agriculturist theory proposed by Cavalli Sforza put forth the evidence that highly advanced civilization existed in 10,000 BC itself and they started moving into all cultivable area of the entire European continent and they formed the megalithic civilization of Europe and Asia as well the central American cultures. There are many remarkable similarities in various features of these transatlantic Meso American cultures and megalithic cultures of Europe, building of pyramids, calendars, human sacrifice and others. It looks like that the megalithic culture of Europe had spread to Meso America through the maritime cultures of European Atlantic sea Coast, and the contact between these cultures was snapped because of some unforeseen disaster, most probably the eruption of Santorini and consequent tsunami. It looks like that disaster created by that tsunami was massive and could have wiped out major cities of Mediterranean sea which resulted in a cultural vacuum and total break of ties with central America. As a result of that disaster, the contact between these cultures had been totally forgotten and only being remembered as Atlantis myth. 

Language spread is through diffusion 

Language and religion generally spread through diffusion model. Imagine, a scenario in which the present civilised world is forgotten because another black age (possibility is less) and after some centuries another renaissance happens, and the scholars will find lot of evidence for the spread of English language, and all over the world. But they will come to a conclusion that the place of origin of English language was America, because large number English books found along with inscriptions in English were found in many buildings in America. England will be considered as place of secondary spread, through conquest by Americans. Similar is the fate of IE languages, once it was the official language of ancient people of middle-east and had spread far and wide, later because of various disasters the continuity was broken. Many theories are being floated now and the most popular theme is that Ukraine is place of origin of IE languages and Ukrainian were the torch-bearers of all the associated cultures of IE people. This is apparently not a sustainable argument. 
Similar is the case of religion. If someone comes to a conclusion that because of Jewish origin of Jesus, all the present day Christians also will be of Jewish descent, it will be nonsensical conclusion. Same way, it is wrong to conclude that the Ukrainians speak Indo-European language, and the Ukraine is the home land of Indo-Europeans. Indo-European languages might have spread by way of diffusion as well as by genetic conquest. Hence it is wrong to conclude that Indo-European people were violent and successful in warfare and have spread far and wide. But a balanced view should be taken on this issue. 


Sanskritisation is a particular form of cultural assimilation found in India. The term was popularized by Indian sociologist M N Srinivas, to denote the process by which castes placed lower level in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility by emulating the rituals and practices of the upper or dominant castes. Srinivas defined sanskritisation as a process by which a 'low' or middle Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently 'twice-born' caste. Generally such changes are followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than that traditionally conceded to the claimant class by the local community. One clear example of sanskritisation is the adoption, in emulation of the practice of twice-born castes, of vegetarianism by people belonging to the so-called "low castes" who are traditionally not averse to non-vegetarian food. According to M.N. Srinivas, Sanskritisation is not just the adoption of new customs and habits, but also includes exposure to new religious ideas, rituals and values appearing in Sanskrit literature. In culmination of this process, Sanskrit language itself is adopted as a sign of advancement. (Srinivas.M.N., 1952) 


Srinivas first propounded this theory in his D.Phil. thesis at Oxford University. The thesis was later brought out as a book titled "Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India." Published in 1952, the book was an ethnographical study of the Coorg community of Karnataka, India. Srinivas writes in his book that the caste system is far from a rigid system in which the position of each component caste is fixed for all time. Movement has always been possible, and especially in the middle regions of the hierarchy. A caste was able, in a generation or two, to rise to a higher position in the hierarchy by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism, and by Sanskritising its ritual and pantheon. In short, it took over, as far as possible, the customs, rites, and beliefs of the Brahmins, and adoption of the Brahminic way of life by a low caste seems to have been frequent, though theoretically forbidden. This process has been called 'Sanskritisation' in this book, in preference to 'Brahminisation', as certain Vedic rites are confined to the Brahmins and the two other 'twice-born' castes. The book challenged the then prevalent idea that caste was a rigid and unchanging institution. The concept of sanskritisation addressed the actual complexity and fluidity of caste relations. It brought into academic focus the dynamics of the renegotiation of status by individuals from various castes and communities in India. 
The relevance of this concept in this book is that this process of sanskritisation shows the process through which the Indo European languages had spread throughout the world. It was not a violent process as imagined by Gimbutas; it was a peaceful diffusion process and cultural assimilation. Some time there would have been violence in spread of any language. That is part and parcel of any armed conflict and invasion resulting in subjugations, which were plenty in the history of world. But the general rule is that language and culture had spread by peaceful diffusion process. This cultural and language spread was carried out by Anatolian elites, into Ukraine, Southern Russia and other places where Indo European languages are being spoken today. The same phenomenon can also be seen in later day invaders of India. Huns adopted Buddhism and became champions of that religion (Kanishka).The descendents of Genghis khan adopted Islam. These examples of Huns and Mongols show that language and religion were adopted in peaceful way, not violence. The reason for their success and spread is due to the fact that religion offers some kind of security and language offers “utility” value. Language is used in commerce, religion as well as Court language, which offers gainful employment and tool of survival. 

[1] Glottochronology means study of language divergence dating.

[2] A Swadesh list is one of several lists of vocabulary with basic meanings, developed by Morris Swadesh in the 1940–50s, which is used in lexicostatistics (quantitative language relatedness assessment) and glotto chronology.

There are two basic versions of Swadesh list, one with 200 meanings, and the other with 100 meanings.

[3] Demotic (from Greek, meaning "popular") refers to the ancient Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Delta. The term was first used by the Greek historian Herodotus to distinguish it from hieratic and hieroglyphic scripts. The Demotic script was used by the Egyptians for  "document writing", which the Second century scholar Clement of Alexandria called  "letter writing,"

[4] Hieratic is a cursive writing system used in pharaonic Egypt that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system, to which it is intimately related. It was primarily written in ink with a reed brush on papyrus, allowing scribes to write quickly without resorting to the time consuming hieroglyphs. The word hieratic derives from the Greek phrase meaning "priestly writing", which was first used by Saint Clement of Alexandria in the second century AD, as at that time hieratic was used only for religious texts, as had been the case for the previous thousand years.