Anatolian hypothesis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Anatolian hypothesis proposes that the dispersal of Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in Neolithic Anatolia. The hypothesis suggests that the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) lived in Anatolia during the Neolithic era, and associates the distribution of historical Indo-European languages with the expansion during the Neolithic revolution of the seventh and sixth millennia BC. An alternative (and academically more favored view) is the Kurgan hypothesis.

The main proponent of the Anatolian hypothesis, Colin Renfrew, suggested in 1987 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 languages, and later migrations would at best have replaced these Indo-European varieties with other Indo-European varieties.[1]

The main strength of the farming hypothesis lies in its linking of the spread of Indo-European languages with an archaeologically known event (the spread of farming) which scholars often assume involved significant population shifts.


A 2003 analysis of "87 languages with 2,449 lexical items" found an age range for the "initial Indo-European divergence" of 7,800–9,800 years, which was found to be consistent with the Anatolian hypothesis.[2] In 2006, the authors of the paper responded to their critics.[3] In 2011, the same authors and S. Greenhill found that two different datasets were also consistent with their theory.[4] An analysis by Ryder and Nicholls (2011) found that: "Our main result is a unimodal posterior distribution for the age of Proto-Indo-European centred at 8400 years before Present with 95% highest posterior density interval equal to 7100–9800 years before Present." which was found to support the Anatolian hypothesis.[5] A computerized phylogeographic study published in August 2012 in Science, using methods drawn from the modeling of the spatial diffusion of infectious diseases, also showed strong support for the Anatolian hypothesis,[6] despite having undergone corrections and revisions.[7]


Against the Anatolian hypothesis stands the argument that PIE contains words for technologies that make their first appearance in the archaeological record in the Late Neolithic, in some cases bordering on the early Bronze Age, and that some of these words belong to the oldest layers of PIE. The lexicon includes words relating to agriculture (dated to 7500 BCE), stockbreeding (6500 BCE), metallurgy (5500 BCE), the plow (4500 BCE), gold (4500 BCE), domesticated horses (4000–3500 BCE) and wheeled vehicles (4000–3400 BCE). Horse breeding is thought to have originated with the Sredny Stog culture, semi-nomadic pastoralists living in the forest steppe zone in present-day Ukraine. Wheeled vehicles are thought to have originated with Funnelbeaker culture in what is now Poland, Belarus, and parts of Ukraine.[8]

Many Indo-European languages have cognate words meaning axle; for example: Latin axis, Lithuanian ašis, Russian os' , and Sanskrit ákṣa. (In some, a similar root is used for the word armpit: eaxl in Old English, axilla in Latin, and kaksa in Sanskrit.) All these are linked to the PIE root ak's-. The reconstructed PIE root i̯eu-g- gives rise to German joch, Hittite iukan, and Sanskrit yugá(m), all meaning yoke. Words for wheel and cart/wagon/chariot take one of two common forms, thought to be linked with two PIE roots: the root kʷel- "move around" is the basis of the unique derivative kʷekʷlo- "wheel" which becomes hvél (wheel) in Old Icelandic, kolo (wheel, circle) in Old Church Slavonic, kãkla- (neck) in Lithuanian, kyklo- (wheel, circle) in Greek, cakka-/cakra- (wheel) in Pali and Sanskrit, and kukäl (wagon, chariot) in Tocharian A. The root ret(h)- becomes rad (wheel) in Old High German, rota (wheel) in Latin, rãtas (wheel) in Lithuanian, and ratha (wagon, chariot) in Sanskrit.

Most estimates from Indo-Europeanists date PIE between 4500 and 2500 BC, with the most probable date falling right around 3700 BC. It is unlikely that late PIE (even after the separation of the Anatolian branch) post-dates 2500 BC, since Proto-Indo-Iranian is usually dated to just before 2000 BC. On the other hand, it is not very likely that early PIE predates 4500 BC, because the reconstructed vocabulary strongly suggests a culture of the terminal phase of the Neolithic bordering on the early Bronze Age.

Theory revision[edit]

Map showing the Neolithic expansion from the seventh to fifth millennium BC.

Reacting to criticism, Renfrew revised his proposal to the effect of taking a pronounced Indo-Hittite position. Renfrew's revised views place only Pre-Proto-Indo-European in 7th millennium BC Anatolia, proposing as the homeland of Proto-Indo-European proper the Balkans around 5000 BC, explicitly identified as the "Old European culture" proposed by Marija Gimbutas. He thus still situates the original source of the Indo-European language family in Anatolia around 7000 BC. Reconstructions of a Bronze Age PIE society based on vocabulary items like "wheel" do not necessarily hold for the Anatolian branch, which appears to have separated from PIE at an early stage, prior to the invention of wheeled vehicles.[9]

According to Renfrew (2004), the spread of Indo-European proceeded in the following steps:

  • Around 6500 BC: Pre-Proto-Indo-European, located in Anatolia, splits into Anatolian and Archaic Proto-Indo-European, the language of those Pre-Proto-Indo-European farmers who migrate to Europe in the initial farming dispersal. Archaic Proto-Indo-European languages occur in the Balkans (Starčevo-Körös-Cris culture), in the Danube valley (Linear Pottery culture), and possibly in the Bug-Dniestr area (Eastern Linear pottery culture).
  • Around 5000 BC: Archaic Proto-Indo-European splits into Northwestern Indo-European (the ancestor of Italic, Celtic, and Germanic), located in the Danube valley, Balkan Proto-Indo-European (corresponding to Gimbutas' Old European culture), and Early Steppe Proto-Indo-European (the ancestor of Tocharian).

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Renfrew 1990.
  2. ^ Gray & Atkinson 2003, pp. 435–439.
  3. ^ Atkinson & Gray 2006, pp. 91–109.
  4. ^ Gray, Atkinson & Greenhill 2011, pp. 1090–1100.
  5. ^ Ryder & Nicholls 2011, pp. 71–92.
  6. ^ Bouckaert 2012, pp. 957–960.
  7. ^ "Letters: Corrections and Clarifications". Science. Vol. 342. 20 December 2013. p. 1446. 
  8. ^ Piggott 1983, p. 41.
  9. ^ Renfrew 2003, pp. 17–48.


Further reading[edit]