Neolithic creolisation hypothesis

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The Neolithic creolisation hypothesis, first put forward by Marek Zvelebil in 1995,[1] contributes to the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat issue and proposes a cultural melting pot in the Neolithic of Northern Europe of foreign Neolithic farmers and indigenous Mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities that resulted in the genesis of the Indo-European language family.

The hypothesis holds that the linguistic and cultural influence of the Neolithic farmers was far greater than the persistence of their foreign gene pool. While according to Zvelebil the linguistic influence of indigenous hunter-gatherers predominated, other archeologists such as Marek Nowak[2] favor a scenario compatible to Colin Renfrew's Anatolian hypothesis in attributing the leading linguistic role to the foreign farmers.

Archeological evidence[edit]

A study of strontium isotope signatures among the Neolithic farmers in south-west Germany indicated that the first Linear Pottery culture (LBK) farmers received their partners from a wide catchment, were patrilocal, and intermarried with hunter-gatherer women along the agricultural frontier.[3] The appearance of Mesolithic motifs on the first Funnel Beaker culture (TRB) pottery, and of other elements in the material culture, has been adduced in support of these results.[4]

It was theorized this intermarriage between the two communities resulted in the breakdown of the early farming Linear Pottery culture (LBK) and Lengyel culture social and ideological structure, and a subsequent development of a new foraging-farming community, identified archeologically as TRB, such as to cause the combination of cultural traditions of earlier foraging and farming generations to be accomplished in an act of cultural creolisation. In the Polish Plain, this pattern persisted during some 2500 years between 4400 and 1800 BC (2200 BC), until the last hunter-gatherer communities finally became part of the Globular Amphorae/Corded Ware cultural horizon, leading to a cognitive structure more familiar to the indigenous hunter-gatherer community while retaining certain earlier routine practices of both the ancestral Neolithic and Mesolithic traditions. The cultural variability of the Funnel Beaker culture (TRB) horizon and of the later Globular Amphorae and Corded Ware traditions was proposed to be due at least partly to this process.

Anthropological evidence[edit]

A more anthropological perspective is proposed to confirm the concept of farmer communities being "acculturated" by neighboring foragers.[5] Investigations revealed low paleaodemographic values of Linear Pottery farmers as well as Corded Ware culture populations with dominant agricultural occupations. The highest values correspond to Corded Ware culture populations using a husbandry mode of production.[6]

Linguistic evidence[edit]

Frederik Kortlandt's assessment takes into account the typological similarity of Proto-Indo-European to the Northwest Caucasian languages. Assuming this similarity can be attributed to areal factors, Frederik Kortlandt thought of Indo-European as a branch of Uralo-Altaic which was transformed under the influence of a Caucasian-like substratum.[7] Kortlandt had in mind areal factors that would be essentially in agreement with the Kurgan hypothesis and an origin in the eastern part of the Great European Plain.

This should be kept distinct from linguist Peter Schrijver's speculation on the reminiscent lexical and typological features of a family of languages featuring complex verbs, a structural type of which the Northwest Caucasian languages are the sole survivors in the region,[8] which he links to the archeological Linear Pottery culture, the first farmers in Europe. Under the Anatolian hypothesis, they are supposed to have been Indo-European-speaking, but Schrijver's proposal (like Kortlandt's) is compatible with the Kurgan paradigm, as he suggests they spoke languages from a completely different family, which typologically resembled Hattic, Minoan and Northwest Caucasian. This family did not directly influence Proto-Indo-European in its steppe homeland, but individual branches in Central and Southeastern Europe (Germanic, Celtic, Italic and Greek) only during the Bronze and Iron Ages.


  1. ^ Marek Zvelebil. "Indo-European origins and the agricultural transition in Europe." In M. Kuna, N. Venclová (eds.), Whither Archeology? Papers in Honour of Evžen Neustupný. Institute of Archeology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague: 172–203, 1995.
  2. ^ [1] "Transformations in East-Central Europe from 6000 to 3000 BC: local vs. foreign patterns." Marek Nowak, Institute of Archeology, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, Documenta Praehistorica XXXIII, 2006, Neolithic Studies 13
  3. ^ Bentley R.A., Chikhi L. and Price T.D. "The Neolithic transition in Europe: comparing broad scale genetic and local scale isotopic evidence." Antiquity 77 (295): 63–66, 2003
  4. ^ [2] Marek Zvelebil. Homo habitus: agency, structure and the transformation of tradition in the constitution of the TRB foraging farming communities in the North European Plain (ca. 4500–2000 BC), Department of Archeology, University of Sheffield, UK, Documenta Praehistorica XXXII (2005) p. 87–101. © 2005 Oddelek za arheologijo, Filozofska fakulteta – Univerza v Ljubljani, SI
  5. ^ Interactions between hunter-gatherers and farmers in the Early and Middle Neolithic in the Polish part of the North European Plain – Arkadiusz Marciniak. In D. Papagianni & R. Layton (eds.), Time and Change. Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives on the Long-Term in Hunter-Gatherer Societies, 115–133. Oxbow: Oxford, 2008 (approved)
  6. ^ Cultural adaptive strategies in the Neolithic in central Europe within the context of palaeodemographic studies. Arkadiusz Marciniak, Journal of European Archaeology (JEA), 1, 1993/1, p. 141–151
  7. ^ [3] Frederik Kortlandt: The spread of the Indo-Europeans, 1989 : "If we can identify Indo-Hittite and Indo-European with the beginning and the end of the Sredny Stog culture, respectively, it will be clear that the linguistic evidence from our family does not lead us beyond Gimbutas’ secondary homeland and that the Khvalynsk culture on the middle Volga and the Maykop culture in the northern Caucasus cannot be identified with the Indo-Europeans. Any proposal which goes beyond the Sredny Stog culture must start from the possible affinities of Indo-European with other language families. It is usually recognized that the best candidate in this respect is the Uralic language family, while further connections with the Altaic languages and perhaps even Dravidian are possible. The hypothesis that Indo-European is genetically related to a Caucasian language family or to Afro-Asiatic seems much less probable to me. What we do have to take into account is the typological similarity of Proto-Indo-European to the North-West Caucasian languages. If this similarity can be attributed to areal factors, we may think of Indo-European as a branch of Uralo-Altaic which was transformed under the influence of a Caucasian substratum. It now appears that this view is actually supported by the archaeological evidence. If it is correct, we may locate the earliest ancestors of the speakers of Proto-Indo-European north of the Caspian Sea in the seventh millennium (cf. Mallory 1989: 192f.). This is essentially in agreement with Gimbutas’ theory. [Cf. now Kortlandt 1989.] "
  8. ^ [4] Peter Schrijver. Keltisch en de buren: 9000 jaar taalcontact, University of Utrecht, March 2007.