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

Submitted by on September 4, 2012 – 10:06 pm 91 Comments |  
Dear Readers,

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.)

As GeoCurrents is deeply interested in the intersection of language, geography, and history, the two articles immediately grabbed our attention. Our initial response was one of profound skepticism, as it hardly seemed likely that a single mathematical study could “solve” one of the most carefully examined conundrums of the distant human past. Recent work in both linguistics and archeology, moreover, has tended against the Anatolian hypothesis, placing Indo-European origins in the steppe and parkland zone of what is now Ukraine, southwest Russia, and environs. The massive literature on the subject was exhaustively weighed as recently as 2007 by David W. Anthony in his magisterial study, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Could such a brief article as that of Bouckaert et al. really overturn Anthony’s profound syntheses so easily?

The more we examined the articles in question, the more our reservations deepened. In the Science piece, the painstaking work of generations of historical linguists who have rigorously examined Indo-European origins and expansion is shrugged off as if it were of no account, even though the study itself rests entirely on the taken-for-granted work of linguists in establishing relations among languages based on words of common descent (cognates). In Wade’s New York Times article, contending accounts and lines of evidence are mentioned, but in a casual and slipshod manner. More problematic are the graphics offered by Bouckaert and company. The linguistic family trees generated by their model are clearly wrong, as we shall see in forthcoming posts. And on the website that accompanies the article, an animated map (“movie,” according to its creators) of Indo-European expansion is so error-riddled as to be amusing, and the conventional map on the same site is almost as bad. Mathematically intricate though it may be, the model employed by the authors nonetheless churns out demonstrably false information.

Failing the most basic tests of verification, the Bouckaert article typifies the kind of undue reductionism that sometimes gives scientific excursions into human history and behavior a bad name, based on the belief that a few key concepts linked to clever techniques can allow one to side-step complexity, promising mathematically elegant short-cuts to knowledge. While purporting to offer a truly scientific* approach, Bouckaert et al. actually forward an example of scientism, or the inappropriate and overweening application of specific scientific techniques to problems that lie beyond their own purview.

The Science article lays its stake to scientific standing in a straightforward but unconvincing manner. The authors claim that as two theories of Indo-European (I-E) origin vie for acceptance, a geo-mathematical analysis based on established linguistic and historical data can show which one is correct. Actually, many theories of I-E origin have been proposed over the years, most of which—including the Anatolian hypothesis—have been rejected by most specialists on empirical grounds. Establishing the firm numerical base necessary for an all-encompassing mathematical analysis of splitting and spreading languages is, moreover, all but impossible. The list of basic cognates found among Indo-European languages is not settled, nor is the actual enumeration of separate I-E languages, and the timing of the branching of the linguistic tree remains controversial as well. As a result of such uncertainties, errors can easily accumulate and compound, undermining the approach.

The scientific failings of the Bouckaert et al. article, however, go much deeper than that of mere data uncertainty. The study rests on unexamined postulates about language spread, assuming that the process works through simple spatial diffusion in much the same way as a virus spreads from organism to organism. Such a hypothesis is intriguing, but must be regarded as a proposition rather than a given, as it does not rest on a foundation of evidence. The scientific method calls for all such assumptions to be put to the test. One can easily do so in this instance. One could, for example, mathematically model the hypothesized diffusion of Indo-European languages for historical periods in which we have firm linguistic-geographical information to see if the predicted patterns conform to those of the real world. If they do not, one could only conclude that the approach fails. Such failure could stem either from the fact that the data used are too incomplete and compromised to be of value (garbage in/garbage out), of from a more general collapse of the diffusional model. Either possibility would invalidate the Science article.

Such a study, it turns out, has been conducted—and by none other than Bouckaert et al. in the Science article in question. Their model not only looks back 8,500 years into the past, when the locations and relations of languages families are only conjectured, but also comes up to the near present (1974), when such matters are well known. Here a single glance at their maps reveals the failure of their entire project, as they depict eastern Ukraine and almost all of Russia as never having been occupied by Indo-European speakers. Are we to believe that Russian and Ukrainian are not I-E languages? Or perhaps that Russians and Ukrainian speakers do not actually live in Russia and Ukraine? By the same token, are we to conclude that the Scythian languages of antiquity were not I-E? Or perhaps that the Scythians did not actually live in Scythia? And these are by no means the only instances of the study invalidating itself, as we shall soon demonstrate. An honest scientific report would have admitted as much, yet that of Bouckaert et al. instead trumpets its own success. How could that possibly be?

One can only speculate as to why the authors proved incapable of noting the failure of their model to mirror reality. Did they neglect to look at their own maps, trusting that the underlying equations were so powerful that they would automatically deliver? Could their faith in their model trump their concern for empirical evidence? Or could it be that their knowledge of linguistic geography is so scanty that they do not grasp the distribution of the Russian language, much less that of Scythian? If so, they are not operating at an acceptable undergraduate level of geo-historical knowledge. Alternatively, the authors might be aware that their model generates nonsense, but prefer to pretend otherwise, hoping to buffalo the broader scholarly community. They seem, after all, to conceal their approach as much as possible, couching their “findings” in jargon-ridden prose that proves a challenge not just for lay readers but also for specialists in neighboring subfields. (Translations of such passages as “Contours on the map represent the 95% highest posterior density distribution for the range of Indo-European” will be forthcoming.)

Regardless of whether the authors are intentionally trying to mislead the public or have simply succeeded in fooling themselves, their work approaches scientific malpractice. Science ultimately demands empirical verification, and here the project fails miserably. If generating scads of false information does not falsify the model, what possibly could? Non-falsifiable claims are, of course, non-scientific claims. The end result is a grotesquely rationalistic and hence ultimately irrational approach to the human past. As such, examining the claims made by the Science team becomes an example of what my colleagues Robert Proctor and Londa Schiebinger have aptly deemed “agnotology,” or “the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.”

As the critique we offer is harsh and encompassing, GeoCurrents will devote a number of posts to examining in detail the claims made and techniques employed by Bouckaert, Atkinson, and their colleagues. But before delving into the nitty-gritty, a few words are in order about what ultimately lies at stake. We are exercised about the Science article not merely because of our passion for the seemingly esoteric issue of Indo-European origins, but also because we fear for the future of historical linguistics—and history more generally. The Bouckaert study, coupled with the mass-media celebration of the misinformation that it presents, constitutes an assault on a field that has generated an extraordinary body of rigorously derived information about the human past. Such an attack occurs at an unfortunate moment, as historical linguistics is already in crisis. Linguistics departments have been cutting positions in historical inquiry for some time, creating an environment in which even the best young scholars in the field are often unable to obtain academic positions.

The devaluation of historical linguistics is merely one aspect of a much larger shift away from the study of the past. Subdisciplines such as historical geography and historical sociology have been diminishing for decades, and even the discipline of history faces declining enrollments and reduced faculty slots. Academic history itself, moreover, has been progressively shying away from the deeper reaches of the human past to focus on modern if not recent historical processes. Such developments do not bode well for the maintenance of an educated public. At the risk of descending into hyperbole, we do worry about the emergence of something approaching institutionally produced societal dementia. The past matters, and we care deeply for the preservation of its study.

*Make no mistake: we at GeoCurrents are strong supporters of the scientific method. Linguistics is itself a logically constituted, rigorous endeavor that counts as a science in the larger sense of the word, and I have myself co-edited a work defending science and reason against eco-radical and other far-left attacks (The Flight from Science and Reason, edited by Paul R. Gross, Norman Levitt, and Martin W. Lewis. 1997. New York Academy of Sciences).


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  • Nathan

    Thank you!

  • Fedor Manin

    I’m also deeply skeptical about this study, but your factual criticism (about Russian, Scythian, etc.) is addressed in the following note on the front page of their website:

    “(NB: – This figure needs to be interpreted with the caveat that we can
    only represent the geographic extent corresponding to language
    divergence events, and only between those languages that are in our
    sample. The rapid expansion of a single language and nodes associated
    with branches not represented in our sample will not be reflected in
    this figure. For example, the lack of Continental Celtic variants in our
    sample means we miss the Celtic incursion into Iberia and instead infer
    a later arrival into the Iberian peninsular associated with the
    break-up of the Romance languages (and not the initial rapid expansion
    of Latin). The timing represented here therefore offers a minimum age
    for expansion into a given area.)”

    In other words, the study could be falsified only by demonstrating that Indo-European presence in a particular area is _younger_ than they predict. (Which seems decidedly more difficult to prove.)

    • Many thanks for providing this information, which is significant. Such issues will be dealt with in later posts on this subject. I will, however, respond to the particular points made in the passage that you cite:

      1. “we can only represent the geographic extent corresponding to language divergence events.” Do languages really diverge in discrete events? Does not language divergence happen continually? Whenever one segment of a language community adopts a new word, a new sound, or a new grammatical feature, some degree of divergence has occurred. It is always an open question as to when diverging dialects become separate language; in the modern world, the issue is more political than linguistic (cf Serbo-Croatian, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin).
      2. “only between those languages that are in our sample.” That’s interesting, seeing as Atkinson claims in an interview (to be cited later) that “all” I-E languages were included (an impossibility, as there are no hard and fast divisions between languages and dialects). But more to the point, if one can simply exclude languages at will from the sample, one can then mold the results. Drop a few more languages, and the maps will differ. In such a manner, one can get the results that one wants.
      3 “nodes associated with branches not represented in our sample will not be reflected in this figure.” Yes indeed, which is one reason why the figures are so spectacularly wrong.
      4. “the lack of Continental Celtic variants in our sample means we miss the Celtic incursion into Iberia and instead infer a later arrival into the Iberian peninsular…” I am glad that the the authors begin acknowledge their own errors here, but they still do not go far enough; they do make an inference, and that inference is simply incorrect. They also miss not just Celtiberian and Latin, but also Mozarabic, Ladino, and several other I-E languages of the Iberian peninsula (the map frame for 1000 CE still shows only partial I-E coverage in the Peninsula).
      5. “associated with the break-up of the Romance languages.” The model assumes that Latin began to “break-up” with the fall of the Western Roman Empire. That is incorrect, as divergence began much earlier. The “vulgar” Latin of the distant provinces was not the language of Cicero.
      6. “not the initial rapid expansion of Latin.” Latin did indeed expand rapidly as a language of administration, but not necessarily as a language of everyday use. Basque remained in use throughout, although the maps produced by the study indicate otherwise.
      7. “The timing represented here therefore offers a minimum age
      for expansion into a given area.” This proviso is particularly rich, as it alone undermines the approach. In other words, I-E languages could have been found in any part of the study area at much earlier times? If so, how can one one pinpoint Anatolia as the place of origin? If one claims to “find” a location of origin, one is automatically making an an argument for “maximum ages” in areas that fall outside the supposed birthplace.

      Every sentence here is deeply problematic.

    • The problem with Scythians (or rather their conspicuous absence in the paper) is that if they were taken into account, that would pull the IE homeland in the direction of the steppes (at least it should, if the statistics is right).

  • Much of the meat of your argument arises from a basic misunderstanding of the figures in our paper. Fedor Manin points this out in his comment. Our geographical reconstructions are only for the language lineages that are direct ancestors of the particular sample of IE languages we analyzed. Our inferred geographic distributions don’t say anything about the full extent of IE languages at any time past or present. Our main purpose is the estimate the location of the common ancestor of our representative sample of IE languages. The approach we take would not be appropriate if one was interested in determining the full geographical extent of IE languages in past times.

    But more generally I wonder if your contention is with (i) the fact that we simplify things and thus make some mistakes in the details of our inference (which we certainly do on both counts) or with (ii) the general approach of letting the data speak through a computational model? Personally I would love to include more direct evidence-based information into the computational analysis to correct the details (and see if that changes the main inference of the location of the origin), but that would require the linguists and archaeologists to actually embrace the value of computer models to synthesize large amounts of data. How can a human mind, however elegantly expressed its written conclusions, correctly balance the thousands of items of evidence to provide a probabilistic statement about history in a way that others can verify (i.e. The Horse, the Wheel and Language)? What is good about our approach is that the simplifying assumptions are clearly stated and can be improved upon in subsequent analyses. I just wish that the historical linguistics crowd would try *constructive* rather than destructive criticism for a change. We want what you want: to determine what happened. So as we are all scientists, we should work towards common ground, shouldn’t we?

    • A.F

      Why are incompetent people like you trying to deal with issues you are unfit to handle properly?

    • Dégoûté

      I am appalled at the arrogant tone of your remark (“historical linguistics crowd” indeed), but let’s put that aside. I am sure there are *reasons* for your failure, and picking an arbitrary and incomplete sample of IE languages might be one of them (along with the others identified in this article). But the fact that there are reasons for the failure doesn’t let you off the hook. It *is* the hook. That you don’t get that is very strange. If you wish to establish the reliability of a method for discovering unknown facts about the real world (e.g. the IE homeland) you have to first show that it yields results in accordance with known facts about the real world (e.g. the origin of the Romance family in Italy, or the existence of Russians). Otherwise you might as well do your linguistics on Elvish and Hobbit-tongue.

      • I am with you on “historical linguistics crowd”…

        On a more series note, however, the problem is indeed of showing that the model works *on an entirely different problem or set of problems*. While they seem to be able to model the origin of Latin around Rome, this is just a subset of the bigger IE problem/data…

        • Alfia Wallace

          Do any of the European guys on this paper have actual linguistics training? I mean, not just algorithm-jockeying. No offense intended, but this looks like a bunch of zoologists, psychologists and statisticians. And what’s with this “Language and cultural evolution group”, which is seems driven to make a connections between Indo-European language spread and the spread of “culture” such as agriculture? Are we now to conclude that the Indo-Europeans brought agriculture to everywhere IEs now live? Or just to Europe?

          • I couldn’t tell. They are certainly not know in linguistic circles (as in “being regulars at linguistic conferences”, and the like). And they most certainly PR themselves as not being linguists. What I find peculiar is that they publish this work in Nature (earlier paper) or Science (this one), but never in Language, Journal of Linguistics, or some historical linguistics journal. Nor have they ever taken this to a linguistics conference!

          • Michael Dunn is definitely a linguist.

          • … and he thinks that cognates are “homologous words”? It’s in their paper, p. 958. Students with this level of understanding don’t pass my “Introduction to Linguistics” or “Languages of the World”, the very introductory courses…

          • Tom D

            They explain this in the supplementary materials. From p. 1:

            “Cognates are homologous words, related by common ancestry. To be diagnosed as cognate the words must have similar meaning and, most importantly, show systematic sound correspondences. For example, the English word ‘five‘ has cognates in German (fünf), Swedish (fem) and Dutch (vijf), reflecting descent from proto-Germanic (*fi mf).”

            This sounds to me like they certainly understand what cognates are.

    • Please see my response to Fedor Manin. I appreciate your measured tone. I understand the desire to make simplifying assumption that allow for this kind of computational analysis, but the results must still conform to what is known empirically. As the next post will show, your model does not make “some” mistakes, but rather many many many…

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion. Our problem is unequivocally NOT with using a computational model. Our problem, as we shall make clearer in the following posts, is that the model is no good. It takes incomplete/problematic/wrong data, relies on bad/wrong assumptions, and spits out patently wrong output. But moreover, our problem is with the fact that a model that provides evidence for the Anatolian theory *given* this particular data set is touted as “the solution” to the “long-standing archeological problem” (which it isn’t). Such a solution could only come from a model that independently correctly predicts historical and geographical distribution of other language families. That is, first show us that this is a good tool, than apply it to solve the IE problem (or some other problem). Instead, what’s been shown is that it’s not a good tool. Negative result is a result too but it should be presented as such.

    • For an example of the successful use of phylogenetics in linguistics, see Ringe, Tandy, and Warnow 2002, or the CPHL Project generally at

      • Thanks for the link, John! Indeed, Ringe’s work in this area is far more successful and solid. I will be citing him in one of the upcoming posts!

  • Yoav

    I thought Science was better than that. It used to be an entirely reliable publication. Has that changed?

    • In my experience, it’s not a reliable publication when it comes to language matters (see for example my response to another work by Atkinson et al. published in February 10 issue of Science). It makes me wonder if they do a better job in other areas or if they are as bad reporting on research in other fields as well…

  • A.F

    Thank you for making it so clear that this “paper” is nothing but crap, and I also approve the idea that we are here facing a deliberate assault on historical linguistics.

  • Vitaliy Rayz

    To Alexei Drummond:

    I would like to elaborate a bit on the topic of verification
    and validation (V&V) of computational models. Prior to claiming that a model
    has a certain predictive power, one has to go through a V&V process using
    some existing data (like experimental findings or known analytical solution).
    In this case, for instance, a model intended to investigate an origin of
    language families could be tested on a language family with a less
    controversial origin. Suppose we agree that the Austronesian languages
    originated in Taiwan. Would this “diffusion” model of yours correctly point to
    Taiwan, or instead place the origin somewhere close to the center of the
    Polynesian Triangle, in the middle of the Pacific? Once the accuracy of the
    model is established by comparing its predictions to already known results, it can
    be then used to investigate language families with unknown or controversial
    origins. Thus, if a new, unverified model is applied to

    the I-E languages and fails to agree with a more or less accepted hypothesis of
    their origination, it only demonstrates the inaccuracy of the model, not at all
    the inaccuracy of the established theory. Such results could be then published
    as preliminary data at best, but not as a claim that the problem of I-E origin
    is finally solved!

    • Excellent point. I would love to see the model applied to Austronesian, especially seeing as it assumes that “movement into water is less likely than movement into land by a factor
      of 100.” I also wonder how the “100” figure was derived.

      • My understanding is that the “100” figure is simply an order of magnitude. Figure S5 in the Supplementary Materials (p. 33) provides four maps: “Di ffusion model at top left, 10 times less likely into water top right, 100 times less likely into water model bottom left, and the sailor model bottom right”. The sailor model is one “in which movement from
        land into water is as likely as from land to land” (I don’t understand how the first one is different from the last one?) — all four maps look rather similar (see image).

        Besides Austronesian, you mentioned the Philippines, where seas unite and land separates… In fact, as far as I can tell, even the animated map shows movement into Europe as following the Danube corridor… Or rivers aren’t water?

  • Pingback: [LINK] “Mismodeling Indo-European Origin and Expansion” « A Bit More Detail()

  • Pingback: Quentin Atkinson’s Nonsensical Maps of Indo-European Expansion « Headline « GeoCurrents()

  • Over at Discover Magazine’s Gene Expression, Razib Khan pointed out that the model used by the team makes some false predictions.

    Most notably, their study suggests that Romany diverged from the other South Asian Indo-European languages three thousand years before present, predating even Sinhalese and Kashmiri. He suggests that the program used mistook the influences on Romany picked up by the migration of the language’s speakers westward for change over time.

    • Thank you for your comment, Randy! Razib Khan’s is a very interesting response, just the sort of thing that he is known for. As far as Romani goes, this is one of the worst mistakes, and I am explaning it in a forthcoming post (to be posted probably on Monday, as we have several other posts related to this article to put up first). To give you a brief preview: while the general point that Razib Khan makes about Romani is correct, he doesn’t give it justice, in my opinion. While elsewhere (, one of the Science team authors said that they provide “linguistic support” for the Anatolian theory, the actual linguistic evidence allows to date the Romani exodus from India about 2,500 years after what the Atkinson’s team hypothesized! There are many other similar problems with the configuration of the tree in the article (or rather in Supplementary Materials), which I will take up in that post, so stay tuned!

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  • The study rests on unexamined postulates about language spread,
    assuming that the process works through simple spatial diffusion in much
    the same way as a virus spreads from organism to organism. Such a
    hypothesis is intriguing, but must be regarded as a proposition rather
    than a given, as it does not rest on a foundation of evidence.

    That is well and good, but what are the historical linguists’ postulates about language spread, and how are they tested? It seems to me just to be a bunch of ad hoc assumptions.

    • For example, historical linguistics seems to require not just Indo-Aryans to migrate into India, but also the Dravidians! Why is this theory of language spread somehow more “scientific” than Bouckaert et. al.? (This movement of people is simply not supported by the genetic data, by the way.)

      E.g., Substrate Languages in Old Indo-Aryan (Rgvedic, Middle and Late Vedic) Michael Witzel, Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies (EJVS) 5-1, 1999, pp. 1-67

      As mentioned above, Zvelebil(1970,1990) is of the opinion that the
      Dravida entered South Asia from the Iranian highlands. Their oldest
      vocabulary (Southworth & McAlpin) is that of a semi-nomadic,
      pastoral group, not of an agricultural community.

      It is indeed possible that the Dravida constituted a first wave of
      central Asian tribes that came to Iran before the IA, just as the
      Kassites came to Mesopotamia before the Mitanni-IA. In that case they
      knew the horse already in Central Asia, but would not have taken it over
      directly from the Indo-Iranians (as may be indicated by Brahui (h)ull
      ̄ı, O.Tam. ‘horse’, etc., different from IIr. a ́cva).

      So once again, before raining on Bouckaert et. al.’s parade, please explain why what preceded them was so much more “scientific”?

      • Regardless of the exact details about Dravidian speakers’ arrival to South Asia, it is quite clear that they did “arrive” from somewhere as they are not part of the original coastal out-of-Africa migration (like the inhabitants of the Andamanese islands are).

        “This movement of people is simply not supported by the genetic data, by the way” — you bring up an important point here: it is not always the case that language spread correlates with migration of actual, physical people. Languages also spread like cultural innovations, from one group to another. That this is indeed so is very easy to see: just think about all the peoples that speak English!

        More on this here:

        and here:

        More generally, why historical linguistics is more scientific than what Bouckaert et al, are offering? Because testable hypotheses have been proposed and tested against the facts. Bouckaert et al.’s work does not withstand the same procedure…

    • Dear Arun,
      I can hardly summarize the historical linguists’ postulates about language change and language spread in a comment here, but may I recommend April McMahon’s “Understanding Language Change” for a good summary? Perhaps you can get some more information before you decide it’s all “a bunch of ad hoc assumptions”?

  • Great article! By the way, recently, another computer model trying to reconstruct language evolution appeared:

    For as much as I know, the inventors of this model (Alexandre Bouchard-Côté) aren’t linguists, but at least they don’t seem to ignore empirical evidence: “The system was able to suggest how ancestor languages might have sounded and also identify which sounds were most likely to change. When the team compared the results with work done by human specialists, they found that over 85 per cent of suggestions were within a single character of the actual words.”

    Do you think that this model is any better than Bouckaert’s?

    • Thanks for your kind words, Gosse! We hope you’ll peruse more of this series:
      And thanks also for bringing up this other article! I’ve read it a while ago though not the accompanying materials. I was not too impressed with this work. The figure of 85% may sound impressive but is it really? I am not sure how to evaluate this “success”. E.g. students who get 85% on my final exam, get a B and are usually very upset about it. But more seriously, it has been shown in other work that 15% “error rate” in the input has serious consequences for tree reconstruction, for example. So how usable is this model?

      There are several other aspects of this work that are raising red flags for me. Most notably, why reconstruct Austronesian at all? It’s conservativity as well as simple syllable structure make it easier to reconstruct (though maybe not for their model, I don’t know). But also, why not validate the model by reconstructing a known proto-language and comparing how well that measures up to the real, not reconstructed proto-forms?

  • Krishna Pillai

    As an interested layman in the history of language and anthropology, there seems to be clear evidence that the wheel was in use at least 7,500 years ago. The actual invention of the wheel must have been earlier. The “line of the wheel” could have been some 2,000 years older than assumed.

    • Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    • Just a bit down the page at are pottery cups, models of carts found near or in Transylvania. They look like ore carts, and indeed the first mines, for chalcocite that has arsenic in it, date from the 6th mil BC is there also.

      Initially, they were dragging baskets of ore out, but then found them easier to move on rollers. But at some point, the back corner poles would have slipped down preventing the hind roller from being left and acting like a wheel. The narrow base is so you can turn the cart in narrow tunnels.

      The arsenic (which caused a recent disastrous fish kill) lowers the forging temp so the ore would melt in an ordinary hearth and produce arsenic bronze, the toughest of all bronzes. Also known as “fool’s gold” it was initially collected for jewellery.

      • Once again, I am perplexed as to what this has to do with the linguistic problem at hand. Material culture is silent as to the language of its users, just as DNA reveals little about the language…

  • A pet peeve: “Proto-Indo-European” was never spoken in India. Why do we let ignorant racists redefine “Aryan”, rather than use the term as the 19th century European scholars who coined the term intended?

    Nor can we really understand who the original Aryans were without reconstructing the climate and ecosystems- which gave rise to so much of the original terminology? For instance, at the end of the Ice age, the Anatolian closed drainage basin was full of meltwater, so Lake Tuz was 50 times its current size. The language map should reflect that, and consider how vast numbers of wintering Siberian waterfowl created the connection with Mother Goose.

    Similarly, East of Lake Tuz was where the first wine grapes were, so that whole nomenclature emerged there. Wheat descended from einkorn, still growing in the Taurus mtns… and so it goes, down thru the list of cognates, so many of which can be traced to the original conditions that produced them.

    Nor do I get how anyone can develop a cogent theory of Aryan dispersal without considering the effect of the catastrophic 5600 BC flood of the Euxine basin… into which salt water poured. Which gave rise to the confusion over all the Aryan terms for fresh water craft and habitat but not the marine environment.

    Lastly, it does not seem to occur to anyone how the first horses brought Anthrax into the Aryan heartland in the Danube watershed. It wasnt such a big problem on the Steppe because the grass fires sterilized the land, but in wetter Europe resulted in the well known abandonment and dispersal all the way to Ireland. Those who moved to the Cycladic isles also got away from all the inter-tribal conflicts this kind of thing can cause, giving rise to the peacefulness of the Minoans. Also giving rise to new terms for new situations and fostering the innovation Aryans were known for.

    • Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Dale. There are some interesting issues here that need closer consideration, such as the changes in physical geography and climate that need to be taken into consideration in our reconstructions of the past. I am not sure though how the fact that wheat and grapes and so on originated in a certain place can be used directly as an argument for this or that linguistic theory. The words for ‘wine’, for example, are clearly similar in Proto-Kartvelian, Proto-Semitic, and Proto-Indo-European, but who borrowed them from who is a much subtler issue.

      • I dunno how either Asya; but we’ve never had the DNA to trace geographic origins or C-14 & dendrochonology to figure out when. Linguistics has been based on the way and assumed rate sound changes.

        Gimbutas shows us the Sabatinovka platter and spindle whorls with writing, and there’s this lengthy example- all of it 7000 or more years old. Writing dramatically slows down the evolution as well as spreading language. A merchant class with it is an upscale trend setter, just as English is now, so the usual linguistic rules dont apply.

        The wine, wheat, bronze, or whatever entering a trade zone have far more impact and cross cultural lines so its impossible to say which was in place at the site of origin. But we do see how it’d become part of Aryan, just like Kereoke, in just a few years. And- the language was in use for over a thousand; we have nothing else to compare Aryan to.

        • There’s more to historical linguistics than assuming a constant rate of sound changes! While it is clear that PIE speakers must have been familiar with wine, wheat etc., it doesn’t mean that they were the first to discover those things. Besides that, I am not sure what to make of your remarks.

          • Whoever brings a new resource into the commonwealth increases the perceived reward of cooperation. Whoever tries to control access relies on force, and further has a “not invented here” attitude twards any innovation. Primate study shows alpha male chimps try to control access to favored fruits. The violence level is well known. Bonobo rely on widely scattered tubers in the leaf litter, which alphas cant monopolize, so they are ruled by a sisterhood with trivial levels of violence.

            Alphaism is handed down on the Y chromosome, and were it not for females sneaking off to mate with betas, there would not be any. But alphas also sire females that abandon and abuse young; cultures which are more dominated by alphas have much higher infant mortality because its the betas that adopt and protect the young. Both sexes. Aryan culture regularly introduced new resources, and did so on a much larger scale- so the evidence of violence, both domestic and intertribal has been lower.

            Alphas rely on brute force to set status, which is very important to them and for which they establish layers of authority which shows up in the nomenclature. Beta status is based on the perceived contribution of resources, especially farming; which shows up in the nomenclature. Cultures dominated by alphas have men who can recite long lines of illustrious warrior ancestors. Matriarchy favors betas who can expound at length on the nuance of production.

          • What does any of this have to do with PIE homeland???

          • Part of the problem, is all the terms for the fresh water ecosystem and not the marine- even tho the digs along the West Coast of the Black see seem from the Aryan era. Ryan & Pitman, “Noah’s Flood” reveals the Aryan homeland is on the bottom of the Black sea, which is why nobody could find it. It was fresh water in the era of Aryan Unity.

          • The flooding of the Black Sea is an important factor to consider, but by itself it cannot tell us when and where PIE was spoken. The problem is linguistic and the solution will ultimately be linguistic as well… The PIE homeland may have been where the Black Sea is now and been flooded or it may be have been later and elsewhere… That it MAY have been flooded does not mean that it was…

          • R&P report land grasses anaerobically preserved in marine mud in bottom cores. C-14 mid 6th mil BC. This is NOT freshwater mud from a river. Is there another explanation? Wider survey found fresh water shells and beach sand of an Euxine lake half the size of the Black Sea.

            Because of sanctions against the Aryan priestly class, eg no wielding blades; Oswald & Ballantine think there was a failed revolution; but would agree some great disaster was recorded in myth. Such as Gilgamesh.

            He is sent back to retrieve a sacred object from a submerged temple. As the flood began spreading over the vast Danube/Dneipr delta, the rate slowed. He would have been able to paddle his canoe following the treetops along the road, and then when he gets there, dive down into a few fathoms. This would not have been possible in the Biblical flood. Even if based on a Fertile Crescent river or the Nile, everyone knew the waters would recede. What Gilgamesh had to deal with was new.

          • Oh I am not disputing the Black Sea flood—that’s a pretty well established fact. But even if we assume that certain people were displaced by this flood (instead of just…well… flooded) we have no way of telling whether they spoke PIE, or (Proto-)Semitic, or Sumerian, or (Proto-)Kartvelian or some other language entirely. Gilgamesh of course has nothing to do with PIE.

          • R&P note the earliest copy of Gilgamesh is in Mitanni cuneiform. Which was not a Semite culture, but an upland Aryan horse culture. That report of the Great Flood was composed by the Aryans who saw it- which differ in significant ways from Genesis, which it would not do if the source was Semitic. They are ‘Aryans’ because the nomenclature fits that ecosystem- which was destroyed by the flood, which in turn gave rise to the endless debates on where the original Aryan homeland was. The debate on where the homeland was only exists because they assume there was one.

            If the flood was reported in some other language, the terms would have effected the Mitanni version.

          • So what? Cyrillic is used for Tatar (a Turkic language) and Udmurt (a Finnic language) besides Russian and other Slavic languages. So what? That’s the thing about writing systems, they can be bent to represent any language you want…

          • The times you refer to had many different fonts for many different languages, with warfare and refugees displacing and destroying cultures all over. Aryan emerged in an unprecedented era of peace and wide spread trade. Magic signs date to the Old Stone age, some of which were often seen, many unique. But just like English now, it paid to know Aryan and consolidating both the spoken and written forms simplified commercial records and contracts.

            The Parthenon was not only a temple, but also a vault for the treasury of the Delian league. In like manner Chalcolithic Aryan temples were also the repository for trade items and grain. Its a no brainer for the witch to use the familiar magic signs for commercial nmenonic devices.

            Given the Aryan cultural continuity across millennia (8000-4000 BC based on the dendrochronology of Aryan timber frame), its a small step from the inscribed altar ware with a prayer to Demeter to a Sanskrit mantra.

            There’s a British, French, German & Chinese consortium posting jpg of 100,000 documents found at various Silk Road archives that should help us sort it all out.

  • Hoo boy. To get Aryans, you havta start with Neandertal hybridization- which, as with many other species, resulted in lotsa Y chromosome fully functional males, but few fertile hybrid females because their reproduction is so much more complex. Sykes, “The Seven Daughters of Eve” finds only 7 indigenous mtDNA lines in Europe. There’s 40 in the Levant, 140+ in Africa, the rest in the range.

    The scarcity of fertile Palaeolithic females empowered women and produced the fecund goddesses. No other gene pool, even today, has so much power and wealth in the hands of women, and this has been ignored in every Aryan history outline. I could, and have, gone on at length on the effect of feminism; but lets move on…

    Nobody else built Mammoth bone longhouses with over 100 in it, enduring Ice Age winters. Alpha male warriors get cabin fever, and there wasnt anyone outside to war against, so they were not bred as often to protect the women and kids from impulsive violence.

    DNA reveals wheat descended from einkorn, still growing in the Taurus mtns. Where Hodder and others are digging at Chatal Hoyuk and a dozen other Neolithic communities. And not finding any evidence of violence or warfare, but do find female iconography. It is in Anatolia we find the earliest Aryan cognates for grain, oxen, fields, and working the land. We also find the pottery and images of cattle. But they are not bulls, but cows, and the bowls are for milking. Which is why Hodder dont find any evidence of them eating beef atho there’s lotsa swine and goat.

    Hodder and others knows of late 7th mil abandonment. Climate change drove many north, to the shores of the then freshwater Euxine lake. Where there was more rain and much richer Danube delta soil. But Ryan and Pitman, “Noah’s Flood” outline the 5600 BC inundation when rising sea level broke thru the Bosporus- with a flow 100 times greater than Niagara. Which caused a 2nd exodus up the rivers. I dont see how anyone can understand Aryan history without factoring this into development. Which I could also go into at length.

    Then, there’s the 4000 BC introduction of horses- which however brought in Anthrax and the consistent 3rd Aryan diaspora. Lastly, we have samples of Aryan script from 5000 BC. Aryan was the lingua franco of a vast mercantile, not military, empire run by women. Just like English now, it was adopted by communities that wanted to profit from trade, and not related by blood, especially of apha male warriors.

    • These are interesting ideas, but difficult to substantiate. I would note, however, that proto-Indo-European does not seem to have served as a lingua franca, as it shows none of the grammatical changes that generally occur when a language takes on that role.

      • It didnt change because writing evolved out of the need for shopping lists in a vast trade network. Last year, a 3rd Mil BC cylinder seal was found in Uzbekistan, with icons that resemble those seen on Cucuteni pottery from the 5th.

        • As far as I understand, neither has anything like writing…

          • The data is obscure Asya. has both an inscription on a cave wall and an image of the Gradesnica Platter. Greeks made similar rectangular platters to serve the sacred “Pelanos” (barley & wheat bread) in ritual for Demeter. Women also inscribed a prayer in Greek to Demeter on spindle whorls. 7000 year old Aryan artefacts are similarly inscribed.

            I get how scholars working in multi-cultural academic settings are uneasy getting into Aryan prehistory with so many racist skinheads going online touting achievements. But they are uneasy when confronted with the lack of signs of Aryan violence and warfare, or the diversity of Y chromosome lineages.

          • The Sitovo inscription is much later than even the latest PIE timeframe, 1200 BCE. It may be in a language that is a descendant of PIE or not, there’s no way to tell (yet).

            Similarity of artefacts is not of much help either, as cultural similarities do not prove linguistic similarities of people who made the artefacts. Best contemporary example is the Caucasus: Circassian, Chechen, Lezgin, and Georgian speakers have very similar artefacts (also music, dance, food), but very different languages.

          • The Caucuses is still riven with violence, isolating communities and maintaining diverse languages. The Aryan era is demonstrably free of violence with trade across a much vaster area- where it paid to know Aryan. I’ve not claimed other languages were not around; we see the same now with English used by the upscale amid local dialects. Speaking Aryan correctly was a status symbol, and the priestly class Oswald & Ballentine report on, had the authority to determine what was correct.

            Buddha refers to the “Aryan Eightfold Path”. Was there a Hindu or other Eightfold path? No. The term also means ‘noble’. But what he is doing is giving credit where due, to a set of masters, the Aryans, who preceded him. The same priestly class Oswald & Ballantine got into. Just like Latin the Christian era, so it must have had writing to become consistent.

          • “The Aryan era is demonstrably free of violence with trade across a much vaster area” — what is your evidence for this? As far as I can tell, that’s just one possible spin on the available evidence, but there is no *linguistic* evidence that PIE was spoken over a vast area, that it was used as a lingua franca, or that its speakers were particularly non-violent…

            I see no relevance of the comment about Buddha so I will ignore it for now.

          • If Aryan was not wide spread, influencing many others, then why give it a special politically correct name and bother studying it?

            Hodder, “The Leopard’s Tale”, digging at Chatal Houyuk, goes down thru 1500 years of occupation without any signs of violence. he notes every body found was ritually interred. Interestingly, we find the same at Caral, Peru, with the introduction of agriculture and no signs of violence for the first 1500 years. (Then an El Nino caused a famine and the war was on.)

            Goodison & Morris, on the fly leaf of “Ancient Goddesses”, notes the controversy about a literal Aryan age of peace. They set out to open a virgin Aryan tel to specifically look for signs of violence. Going down thru 4000 years of occupation layers, they didnt find any.

            These are the folks who discovered bronze in the late 6th mil. What does everyone who first gets it do? Make weapons. Nobody has found any, nor the lavish graves of warriors.

          • “If Aryan was not wide spread, influencing many others, then why give it a
            special politically correct name and bother studying it?” — now that’s a silly question. Today, nearly half the people in the world speak an Indo-European language, and that is one reason why it’s interesting. The issue of IE origins has been a subject to much ideological twisting and that’s why it’s interesting. But more than anything, it existed and hence it’s a legitimate subject for study. By your logic, people who study Piraha or Ket are wasting their time. Dixon, who spent his entire life studying Dyirbal (spoken by a couple odozen people) and related languages should have found a better thing to study. Really?!

          • I’ve not offered an opinion on why other languages are studied. I’m trying to follow my own ancestral roots. I grant the ideological twisting, but dont get why yawl let a buncha fascist bigots define “Aryan” when 19th century scholars, who gave the term to us, actually knew something. “The Great Flood” solves the problem of where the Aryan homeland, and thus the language evolved.

            Small isolated tribes have languages that evolve so fast because, just as now, the young introduce new terms, definitions, and pronunciation to the point that Great Grandparents cant understand them.

            Aryan remained stable for centuries, even millennia. There’s a clue in the Maitreyasamiti Texts in Tocharian A, which is a conversation between the living Buddha and the Gautama, Queen of Kucha. Most of it goes on about her trying to maintain the proper performance of original (Aryan) rituals. They agree to go to consult with the monks at Sibushi- who have the written record to refer to. The document dates from the 5th century, in a Brahmi Sanskrit font so similar scholars could read it immediately. How is it Tocharians in NW China write in a way Brahmin can read without there being some earlier, distant, and common source?

          • “Aryan remained stable for centuries, even millennia.” — says who?

          • Common sense. If not, the common source would not have been identifiable. But look at pg 42 of Oswald in Ballantine:
            {1 Thou shalt not bear arms.
            2 Thou shall not swear an Oath
            3. Thou shall cease prayers when the sound of arrows is heard or in the midst of battle.
            4. Thou shall not ride a horse.
            5. Thou shall not touch yeast, meal, or leavened bread.
            6. Thou shall not drink alcohol (maintained only by Brahmins)
            7 Thou shall resign thy offic if your wife dies, and not have any lust for anyone else’s.
            8.Thou shall not be naked outside.
            9. Thou shall not touch a dead body, nor smell the smoke of a pyre, but cease prayers when a funeral passes by.
            10. Thou shall carry a distaff and wear a cap with a spindle wrapped with a thread about it and as a symbol of castration, thou shall wear women’s clothing.
            11. Thou shall not touch raw meat, eat beans, or the food eaten by lower classes.
            12. Thou shall never wear a girdle in keeping with symbolic castration.
            13. Some of you shall be castrated or mutiliated.
            14. Thou shall not recite the Vedas (prayers) while the sky is preternaturally red. }

            No priestly class had the full set, but parts are seen so commonly in all Aryan cultures, you have to ask how such consistency was maintained without the common language and writing.

            There’s another clue in how the Gautama and the Buddha go to consult with the monks at Sibushi on the proper way to perform ritual. Which is a big deal to every priestly class. And who where these monks?

            Down at the bottom of you see their European faces. Even tho Sibushi is in China. -who were authoritative because they had written sources.

          • “Common sense. If not, the common source would not have been identifiable.” — not at all: the common source of modern Romance languages (Latin) changed over centuries and yet it is an identifiable common source. Same thing with PIE, it changed over time, so when we talk about the reconstructed PIE, we talk about that specific variety of it that was spoken *just before* the first-order split. Same as if we want to talk the common ancestor of British and American English, it’s the Early Modern English, not Middle English, not Old English, not some dialectal form of those, and certainly not Proto-Germanic or Proto-Indo-European.

          • It’d be helpful to get into that split. When horses were introduced from Tripolye @4000BC, they brought Anthrax. It wasnt such a big deal on the Steppe where the grassfires sterilized the land. But it was too wet in Forested Europe, and while they did try to quarantine, we see the progressive abandonment of the tels from the Dneiper, Bug, and then Danube. As well as the disperal of LBK ware all over West Europe.

            But in the East, Aryan commerce & colonization went on. In the West, it was all disorganized barbarians; but in the East, Aryans ran into the Mohenjodaro- converting Aryan into proto-Sanskrit. However, first out of the corrals at Tripolye were the Amazons on ponies headed East, still with Centum nomenclature, who Barber says developed into Tocharians by not mixing with anyone else. Nobody else was there. Nobody lived on the Tarim basin Oases til the Amazons show up. Some of whom immediately return to irrigated farming like they know what they are doing. With the “specific variety” still in use by the Cucuteni- who also already had ships on the Black sea… that’d also delivered pots to the Cycladic isles.

            There was a time when a merchant from Gonur or Togoluk could’ve gone West over the Caucuses (which was having a gold rush from panning the creeks) to a Black Sea port, then up the Danube all the way to Salzburg, able to be understood the whole way. The cognates were still all the same because it paid to know them.

          • “The cognates were still all the same because it paid to know them.” — the whole point about cognates is that they developped (i.e. changed!) from a common source. They weren’t the same over that great a territory. There’s no linguistic evidence that they were. Just saying that they were, is wasting time. Unless you have evidence to support any of your claims, I don’t see a reason to continue this discussion….

          • Yiddish was spoken by a similar merchant class over a similar vast area. Maybe I wasnt clear; all the local indigenous dialects went on evolving and mixing following familiar rules of linguistics; but Yiddish, also being written for commercial purposes maintained its own identity. Religion prevented Yiddish, the language of an upscale elite from being adopted widely; but that was not a problem for Aryan. Then, as trade networks broke down, as seen so often since with pandemics, Aryan unity was destroyed.

          • “Yiddish was spoken by a similar merchant class over a similar vast area.” — What? Really?

            “but Yiddish, also being written for commercial purposes maintained its own identity” — I am not even sure what that means, “maintained its own identity”… but it wasn’t the written language for commercial purposes. You are totally confused here.

            “Yiddish, the language of an upscale elite” — what sort of literature have you been reading, really?! “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”?!

          • The Protocols were easily demonstrated as a forgery rather than just a local dialect because Yiddish was so consistent for so long. I guess I’m pointing out the obvious, but they already had Hebrew for religion, and the local German or Slavic, but when they wanted confidentiality in what they had to say, to say about some commercial venture, in mixed company, then Yiddish sufficed. But you mite ask some Jews who use it. We see the same with Spanish, Chinese, or many other immigrants. Jews may have had to use German or some other for official documents, but in private negotiations, not using Yiddish, as not using Chinese or Spanish, makes no sense.

            This has gotten so obvious, I’ll drop this here to let others make of it what they will. If anyone contributes confounding facts, I’d be grateful.

          • If you think that Yiddish was the language of the mercantile elite, then nothing is “the obvious”. Because it’s as far from the truth, as your claims here: that Yididsh was the language for “confidentiality”, that Jews spoke German or Slavic alongside Yiddish, etc.

            “But you mite ask some Jews who use it.” — no need, I grew up in a Yiddish speaking family.

            Given your claims about Yiddish, I am glad we are not discussing Aryan anymore!

    • All this is interesting, but I wonder what the DNA information has to do with the linguistic issue of the PIE. After all, genetic information reveals nothing about the language of the people…

      • A population with a higher number of alpha males will produce warrior elite leadership and a focus only on the male lineage. There are many men in misogynistic cultures who can recite long lists of illustrious warrior ancestors, but likely dont know who their great grandmothers were. Primate field studies, which give us the term ‘alpha male’ show alphaism is handed down on the Y chromosome. More alphas have high childhood mortality. Daughters of alphas abandon and abuse young. Betas, both sexes, adopt. If there’s not enuf betas the whole tribe can die off. but if not enuf alphas, then all the females get stolen.

        Alpha dominated cultures have lotsa words for status. Mallory reports the Aryan word for ‘grandfather’ actually meant the mother’s brother. Which it did because the Aryans were matriarchic, few alphas and much lower rates of violence and childhood mortality. Mallory notes how common the female possessive suffix is, but does not appear to know the primate data on the Y chromosome.

        • Perhaps there was a group you refer to as “Aryans”, but how do we know what language they spoke and what its linguistic properties were. The linguistic properties you describe do not ring a bell as far as PIE goes. No such meaning mention in any PIE reconstruction I know of. Nor is there anything about the particular commonality of the female possessive suffix. So why are we calling them “Aryans”?

          • We call them “Aryans” because 19th century scholars like Nietzsche recognized the common cultural root. They didnt call it “PIE” because, for one, they already knew it was never spoken on the Indus. Its obvious Brahman introduced Sanskrit from a common source shared with Tocharian, and even that, was not the original Aryan.

          • My point is that this information about a later group (which apparently did not live in the same place), as interesting as it is, doesn’t help us uncover the the Proto-Indo-European roots. As for a closer commonality between Tocharian and Sanskrit, I can’t think of any linguistic evidence to support that, can you?

          • Just so others can know what we refer to:

            Douglas Adams, Tocharian Historical Phonology & Morphology, pg 7-8, Notes 14-15:”In addition, we have as written languages in Kucha:Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit as the language of Buddhist or other intellectual works, and Karoshti Prakrit in certain kinds of administrative texts.

            15:”This, of course, is essentially the same position as that of Sieg and Siegling, who saw in Tocharian A an imported Missionary language from Russian Turkestan. If Winter’s hypothesis should turn out to be true, it would tend to explain the discrepancy in basic technical Buddhist voabluary, noticed by lane (1966), where by Tocharian A Buddhist terminology is more obviously Iranian in origin while Tocharian B’s original Iranian vocabulary has been very largely replaced by vocabulary borrow directly from Sanskrit.

            (The Tocharian word for ‘karmapath’ sounds just like ‘karmapath’ in English- which we know was borrowed from the Sanskrit.)

            Douglas Adams is pretty obscure; but since he published, archeology revealed the world’s first ashrams at Gonor & Togolok- Uzbekistan, not far from Adam’s location. Over 4000 years ago, it wasnt desert but fertile grassland, a prosperous Aryan province. Also, even more recently, Russians looking at satellite radar found a city where their diggers dont mind calling an “Aryan fire altar” what it is.

          • According to Don Ringe’s careful linguistic analysis, Tocharian had no linguistic contaxt with other IE languages, after it split off. You can look up his posts on the LanguageLog or his more academic publications…

          • Forest vs trees. Whose Tocharian was he looking at? Kucha, for centuries was the center for Buddhist scholarship, as well as where Chinese was translated into Western languages and vice versus. Some sources say 20 languages, some 17; but we’ll see what gets posted. In the early 20th century, British, French, and German expeditions to the region sent back, literally, truckloads of scrolls, that were then shipped back to various museums. Which were then ignored in cellars as first WW1, WW2, and the cold war set other priorities. Even now, its tricky for archeologists because of Uygher desire to establish another Islamic state, and they dont want this Buddhist heritage looked into.

            When the emperor, Tang Tiazong send Xuan Zang to retrieve original Buddhist texts, he spent 6 months in Kucha shipping copies back to Xian before going West, further West into Persia because the Afghan war lords were, as we see they still are, having at each other. Zang comments on Buddhist ruins, even then being desecrated at Bamiyan. Given the massive scale of work, its no wonder people thot there was a lost civilization. But the same arid conditions that destroyed Arya preserved caches of documents, so I’ll wait for more reports on what shows up.

            Conversely, they found writing on wood in anaerobic mud from 5200BC in a Swiss lake. I dont expect that to be the first either.

  • Oswald & Ballatine, “Did the Proto-Indo-European Priesthood Commit Treason in the era of PIE Unity?” They present a remarkable catalogue of similar wardrobe, customs, nomenclature, and ritual among European and Vedic sources. They see Aryan unity in the mid 6th mil BC. How was such consistency maintained so long? shows us writing; which we typically see in use by priestly classes among illiterates. If the KJV and Shakespeare had not been printed, thereby fixing usage, we’d find them both to be unintelligible. Illiterates very rapidly evolve usage.

    FWIW, Ryan & Pitman, “Noah’s Flood” outlines why there was societal crisis in the same mid 6th mil.

    • The inscription you refer to is NOT from the mid 6th millenium BCE but the late 2nd millenium BCE. It is clearly not by speakers of PIE (too late). Cultural similarities do not prove linguistic similarities, as I just pointed out in another comment here.

      • I referred to several inscriptions. debunk them all, or dont bother.

        • What other inscriptions did you have in mind? The link you’ve provided was to that one inscription that: (a) has not be deciphered or even placed as far as the language is concerned, and (b) is from a later time frame than PIE… As far as I know, there are no inscriptions thought to be in PIE. If you’ve discovered some that are, please provide more specifics…

          • There are several other links to the Gradesnica platter, and Gimbutas, for one, shows us inscribed spindle whorls and a Cucuteni pot- which is prolly a recipe. Several sources mention the large set of icon stamps carved in pottery, stone, ivory, bone & antler. What would you do with 150 different icons? label inventory, stock, shipping, & shopping lists.

            This is what Minoans left us; they never did get into carving stone monuments with propaganda.

          • Even assuming that these “inscriptions” were made by PIE speakers (something for which you have shown no evidence whatsoever, and which it would be very hard to prove anyway), it is not at all clear if we are dealing with “writing” as in “representation of spoken language”. E.g. the signs below are are not writing in this sense (which is exactly what makes them useful). Most likely a system of 150 icons you describe is of the same nature…


          • The above were the result of the attempt to communicate to everyone no matter what the language. The Aryan icons were designed by a resource management elite trying to maintain inventory and know what the trade network needed- just like Gies, ‘Life in a Medieval Village’ shows us with local trade networks. He says each was like a small business- tannery, pottery, foundry, etc. Cucuteni pots, for instance, which sometimes show us extensive iconography, were the polychrome production of real professionals. And after the trade networks crashed with Aryan diaspora, we see the crudeness of the pottery.

            During the Aryan era the distribution of amber, seashells, obsidian, etc from distant sources attests to the trade network- which motivated some to devise a record keeping method to know what would sell. When that network broke down, so did the iconographic tools; in most places. Not all. why did an upland Aryan horse culture have writing?

          • “why did an upland Aryan horse culture have writing?”— you are the only one saying that PIE had writing. So it seems that you just decided to call these folks “Aryans” without any evidence of connection to the actual language and then twist all evidence to support that story. I see no reason to call these folks “Aryans” at all. And since this discussion is really not going anywhere, I won’t address any further comments, unless they have something illuminating in them.

          • I’m not trying to sell a book or promote an academic career, so am not subject to the group think that uses “Proto-Indo-European” for “Aryan” even tho it was never spoken on the Indus. But I dont need to care about Hindu sensibilities.

            The Mitanni had writing; we can read Gilgamesh in it. The archeology shows they were an upland (Northern Iraq/Iran) in the beef business, so flooded bottom land was not their problem. Mitanni is one of many Aryan languages, and I look forward to finds in the Kara Kum of writing to help us sort out the Eastern development. Why is Tocharian a ‘Centum’ when all the others are ‘Satem’? What other traits of the original Aryan did the Sibushi monks retain?

          • Re: the issue of Proto-Indo-European and Aryan, I am not arguing for this or that use of the latter term, especially since it has been so abused throughout history that using it in any sense is fraught with difficulties and complications. I am just trying to define the problem carefully: without asking the right kind of question, we can’t hope to get the right kind of answer, no?

            As for your question about Tocharian being a CENTUM rather than SATEM language, it’s an excellent one. There are different thoughts on the matter. But the one that makes sense the most is that the SATEM phenomenon is an innovation that started in the “geographical center” (which is probably not exactly the geometrical center) of the IE space and spread outwards but not into the most peripheral (geographically) branches, such as Germanic, Italo-Celtic, or (on the other side) Tocharian. This analysis is supported by the fact that K > S change is way more likely than S > K. Why? It would take too long for a mere comment to explain, but you can look it up here:

          • I should’ve read this post before replying to a previous. But, I see how the wilderness in Europe lost & fragmented Aryan culture, in the East it ran into the sophistication of Mohenjodaro and produced the intellectual achievements of the Vedas. If that included math, then we’d expect “satem”.

          • ???

  • Now that a Brit, French, German, & Chinese consortium is gonna post 100,000 jpgs of Silk road documents, and computers are learning how to read them all and all the languages, it boggles the mind to consider how much information and analysis will be available. I’m grateful I dont have an academic career to defend.

  • paul raicu

    Was indeed Scythian language a IE one? P.I.Shafarik (Shafarik P.I. Slavic antiquities: Trans. by O.Bodyansky. Ì., 1948. Vol. 1-3. [In Russian.]) considers the Scythians as Mongols, who then included Türks; B.G.Niebuhr views Scythians as Mongols, this then included Türks (Niebuhr B.G. Vortrage liber alte Geschichte. Berlin, 1847. Bd. the 1. Rus Primary Chronicle // For Russian Land. Monuments of the literature Ancient Rus XI-XV cc. M., 1981. Postmortem edition. [In Russian.]). Probably there are many other examples. Unfortunately, the remnants stone don’t talk and we just speculate who was who…

  • DNA says wheat evolved from Einkorn still growing in the Taurus mtns @8000BC. But Hodder, digging at Chatal Houyuk, notes how the charcoal in the hearths becomes progressively smaller. Climate change stressed forests and crops suffer with drought, so at the end of the 7th mil BC, many farmers move to the Danube delta where the alluvial soil is much richer and the rain regular. Anatolia was no longer the hub of the most prosperous Aryan culture.

    Ryan & Pitman, “Noah’s Flood” (1998) shows how the Aryan farmers had to move again, up the rivers that empty into the West end of what became the Black Sea when the Bosporus open up in the mid 6th mil. This explains why Oswald & Ballantine, “Did the PIE priesthood commit treason in the era of PIE Unity” know there was a great disaster in, you guessed it, the middle of the 6th BC. (pub 1988).

    They outline for us clerical wardrobe, ritual practice, and nomenclature similarities in Germanic, Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit traditions. Just like the Brahmin today, they retain a clerical language- which the mercantile class also uses, amid a variety of local lingos. IOW, Aryan was the language of the upscale elite, who of course, have control over sacred potions like Soma, Kykeion, & wine, again retaining Aryan nomenclature. And just like English today, is adopted by local populations copying elites, just like an accent from Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge. Also just like clerical Latin created the Romance languages, but not the Germanic because they had maintained their own indigenous elites.

    Like English today, Aryan was the language of the mercantile elites who took it way beyond their own original homeland.

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