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Publicerad 2018-09-23The English version is a translation by Google. Svenska versionen

The Indo-European issue
A discussion paper by Sören G Lindgren

The Indo-European issue
is divided in four sections, each in its own file:

Abstract, second section:
From the Swedish Oscar Montelius and German Gustaf Kossinna is a tradition that, on simplified grounds, is believed to know where the Indo-European language family originated and how it spread in Europe. The Lithuanian archaeologist and language researcher Marija Gimbutas launched a version of this tradition, known as the Kurgan hypothesis. It is assumed that the Indo-European languages arose and spread of the plains north of the Black Sea, the Pontic plains.

Second section
The simplistic tradition

It seems as if Swedish archaeologists are releasing one of the Nazis' archaeological inspirers, Gustaf Kossinna (1858-1931), out of the poison cabinet. Senior Professor Kristian Kristensen in Gothenburg made it in his book Europe before history (Kristensen 1998) and others have since, in their historical reasoning, made no reservations to Kossinna. Perhaps they allow it because Kossinna took decisive impressions of the legendary Swedish archaeologist Oscar Montelius.

Kossinna had developed a culture-historical model according to which the manufactured objects found by archaeologists in their excavations were testimony not only about the culture that existed but also the language used. In the Corded Ware culture, the people who made the Ware would have spoken a Proto-Indo-European language. They would thus be identical to Arians, such as early Indo-Europeans or early Germans. It was this simplistic argument that the Nazis then used not only in their propaganda, but also to motivate the takeover of Czechoslovakia and the assault in Poland: artefacts of the Corded Ware culture had been found in both countries, which could thus be considered German!

From the Swedish point of view, it is interesting that Kossinna's cultural-historical interpretation was strongly influenced by Oscar Montelius (1843-1921). He was in his time a groundbreaking Swedish archaeologist, Director General of Swedish National Heritage Board and One of the 18 in the Swedish Academy. Montelius developed a method of dating unearthed artefacts, which was accepted internationally. The method is still used today, although natural scientific methods, which began with the C-14 procedure, have become increasingly important. It was also Montelius who coined the term Viking Age (Hagerman 2006).

In 1884 Montelius published the article About the immigration of our forefathers to the Nordic region. Four years later, it came in a German translation. The article was something of a revelation for Kossinna. He wrote letters to Montelius where he thanked and bowed for the new knowledge he received from the Swede (Baudou 2005). Kossinna had until now been a language scientist, philologist, and librarian, but at an age of 36 years he saddled to archaeology. In a series of articles he sharpened Montelius's thoughts and expressed ideas about the origin of the Germans, who appealed to a chauvinist majority of the educated class in Germany in the 1890s. He became well-known and popular, which meant that he could be appointed professor of German archaeology at the University of Berlin year 1902.

Foto av Oscar Montelius

Oscar Montelius lived 1843-1921. He was Sweden's internationally renowned archaeologist in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Photo from Wikipedia.

The latest scientific study of the relationship between Montelius and Kossinna was published in 2014 by Lena Almqvist Nielsen at the University of Umeå. It happened in her licentiate dissertation: Prehistory as cultural memory. There she writes:

Kossinna more single-track

Almqvist Nielsen writes further in her dissertation:

According to this comparison, Montelius had a deeper understanding of the historical processes than Kossinna. But Montelius had another side, which was unfortunately typical for this time. In the book Det rena landet (The Clean Country) of 2006, the historian Maja Hagerman has emphasized that Montelius contributed a lot of racism in Sweden in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was an avid supporter of the hypothesis that the Swedes were dolichocephal while Sami and Finns were brachycephalic. The former were cultural and civilian developed; the latter primitive (Hagerman 2006).

The Swedish self-image was blown up during the period in the 17th century, when Sweden was a Great Power, but ended in crisis after 1809 (when Finland was lost). The anatomist Anders Retzius (1796-1860) contributed to the attempt to find a solution (to win Finland again within Sweden's borders). He launched a racist thinking he took from the continent with its motivations for the colonialism. But he came from natural science. This meant that he invented a method of measuring skulls, which Montelius (and his college students Hans Hildebrand (1842-1913) and Gustaf Retzius (1842-1919) then developed further. This eventually resulted in a typical Swedish madness, Det rasbiologiska Institutet (The Institutet for Racial Biology), founded in 1922 - unique in the world! Sweden would be first of all in the world in the field of racial biology, as the new dirt expensive hospital Karolinska sjukhuset in Solna would make Sweden the world's most important in modern medicine!

But despite all historical stupidities, the structures of Montelius science paradigm, still live among Swedish archaeologists. One might stumble upon the perception that Swedish always have been spoken in Sweden. This view is unlikely to be compared to language development in other countries in Europe after the end of the Ice Age (people in, for example, the British Isles have changed language at least 5 times!).

Marija Gimbutas
Bild av Marija Gimbutas

Marija Gimbutas was born in Lithuania, fled to Germany in 1944 and emigrated to the United States in 1949. Photo from the Internet.

Kristiansen's interpretation that the Swedish language was introduced in Sweden with the Corded Ware culture after 3000 BC is based on the so-called Kurgan hypothesis for the origin and spread of the Indo-European languages. It was launched by the American Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) at a Philadelphia conference in 1956.

In the 1930s, Marija Gimbutas first studied linguistics at the University of Kaunas in Lithuania and then continued with archaeology and language at university in the capital Vilnius, where she became a Master of art in 1942. The same year, she married the architect Jurgis Gimbutas. When the Soviet Red Army plunged into Lithuania in 1944, the family fled to Germany. In 1947, she doctorated at Tübingen University with a dissertation on funeral scripts in Lithuania during the Iron Age. Until 1949, when the family moved to the United States, she was a lecturer at Heidelberg University. She was a great language talent and was able to read at least 13 languages. Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, discovered it soon and benefited from it by putting her translating archaeological texts from east European languages. In 1964 she was appointed Professor of European Archaeology and Indo-European Studies at California University in Los Angeles.

She had done her studies and laid her academic foundation during a time that was strongly influenced by not only Gustaf Kossinna but also by other German researchers. The fact that she named the early distribution of agriculture in the Balkans for ”Old Europe” is likely to have been an influence from the language researcher Hans Krahe (1898-1965). He was a professor at the University of Heidelberg, the same institution where Gimbutas worked as a lecturer. Consistently he was speaking of pre-Indo-European words and twists as ”Old European”. Gimbutas did not work out of an Anglo-Saxon tradition, but a German, but it was concealed by the fact that she took important impressions of the 1960s's flushing feminism in the English-speaking world.

The Kurgan hypothesis

Gimbutas, as stated, presented her Kurgan hypothesis in 1956. The early Eurocentric and initially unhistoric idea of the Indo-European home had assumed that it would have been located in the Nordic region. The first Swedish archaeologists Hans Hildebrand and Oscar Montelius considered that it was Sweden (Hagerman 2006). From there it had been moved to Central Europe (Kossinna went so far that he pointed out Schleswig-Holstein as his home). However, with the end of World War II, the central European hypothesis get wrecked.

When Marija Gimbutas moved it south to the plains north of the Black Sea, it was welcome, especially as the Australian archaeologist Vere Gordon Childe (1892-1957), most active in Cambridge, already proposed it in the 1920s (Gordon Childe had been influenced by Kossinna but the Nazi racist abuse of his theories forced him to reject Kossinna and in the 1940s he became Marxist).

Marija Gimbutas did not openly support either Gustaf Kossinna or Gordon Childe, but referred to the politically neutral, language-historical ideas developed by German language researcher Otto Schrader (1855-1919) (Gimbutas 1963: 38). According to Schrader, the Proto-Indo-Europeans from their reconstructed proto-lexicon to judge had only known the horse, not the donkeys or the camels. The horse lived wildly on the steppes north of the Black Sea, on the plains around the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea. He came to the conclusion that the Proto-Indo-Europeans first stayed here and domesticated the horse. However, as we will see, it was not the horse that was domesticated first but the Asian wild ass, called Onega. The reconstructed Indo-European dictionary is unreliable as an empirical historical source.

This has, among other things, a historical cause. The aforementioned proto-lexicon had been reconstructed by deduction back from the present languages. The work was considered completed around the turn of the century in 1900. However, the language of the Hittites was discovered at that time, but widely recognized as Indo-European first in the 1920s; in fact the oldest we know. But the Hittite vocabulary was never completely integrated into the Indo-European dictionary. According to Colin Renfrew, the chronological conclusions drawn from the dictionary were that the Indo-European languages arose in the 4th millennium BC. But if the Hittite words had been working in, the chronology would have become the 6000's BC (Renfrew 2004). It would have been more consistent with the modern chronology of the C-14 dates and DNA studies.

The Cold War Worldview

Marija Gimbutas also used language-historical arguments, but relatively cautiously. More important seems to have been for her to substantiate her hypothesis with archaeological facts (Gimbutas 1991). There is no doubt that the cultures that existed on the Pontic plains north of the Black Sea were originally seminomadic, combined small-scale agriculture with hunting and partly pastoralism. Like in the one at Dniepre, Sredny Stog (4700-3400 BC), the dead were buried on the side with bent legs in flat tombs. Then came the Kurgan period with status graves over which were thrown to a height of some meters, around 3000 BC. Gimbutas could clearly demonstrate that there had been a hierarchy in the early Pontic cultures. For that she will have recognition!

But then she developed her hypothesis building. The first agricultural culture in Europe, Old Europe, which she called it, had begun around 7000 BC in Greece. Agriculture then spread further north, mostly through emigration from various parts of Anatolia, where in Serbia today the interesting Vinça culture emerged with associations with the Levantian Natufian culture. But in common, they had a little different cultures that emerged in Balkan anthropomorphic imagery, as in many cases stylized depicted women. Of that, Gimbutas drew the feminist conclusion that it was the women who ruled or in any case had a major influence on governance in Old Europe. But it was a conclusion that was simplistic.

Historically, there was nothing special about the goddesses of the Neolithic; they go back to an very old tradition of ideas in humans, probably half a million years old. The basic thing in it is that the world and existence are seen as divine and thus holy. In the Old Testament, it appears that Yahweh says that his name is ”I am” (Exodus 3:14). God claims to be the whole existence, the real reality as the flying time. That was what people believed about the two goddesses in the Subarian patriarchal and warlike Arslantepe in eastern Anatolia in the fourth millennium BC. However, according to Gimbuta's feminist logic, the women's statues would mean that Old Europe was peaceful. Furthermore, she claimed that the languages used in Old Europe were unknown. The latter was an unfortunate conclusion guided by the assumption that the Kurgan culture was Indo-European, a conclusion that she more or less took over from the German tradition (Kossinna's ghosts was present in this because his thinking had pervaded the archaeology in all states in Balkan during the time between the World Wars). She chose to describe the Kurgan culture as hierarchical, patriarchal and warlike, thus feministly pronounced barbaric.

In this image, she consciously or unconsciously associated with biblical and mythological histories: A feminine and paradisaic world that is attacked and devastated by a male and bellicose culture.

In another aspect of this picture, one could read it as a peaceful west threatened by an aggressive and barbaric east, thus a neolithical variant of the world of cold war that had grown after the end of World War II and prevailed throughout the post-war period until around 1990. In this way it was in the West comfortable to recognize Gimbutas' image of the Neolithic in Europe as a picture they were used to. Without asking for any empirical evidence, Gimbutas' hypothesis were accepted that the Indo-European languages arose on the Pontic plains in the 4000s BC, with the seminomadic farmer during a surprisingly short time moved from a more or less equal hunter culture to hierarchical war societies.

Two eager supporters

Two eager supporters of the Kurgan hypothesis are Anglo-Saxon archaeologists J P Mallory and David Anthony. In their books they have cleaned up after Gimbutas. Mallory's work came out in 1989 and was named In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth. Anthony version was published in 2007 titled The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Both offer nice and entertaining reading, but despite all their attempts to convince the opposite, it is mainly the question of speculation. Based on the incomplete Indo-European lexicon, historical conclusions are drawn, which are then underpinned by, among other things, archaeological findings.

In 2007, James Mallory, along with American linguist Douglas Adams, released a solid review of the Indo-European issue (Mallory & Adams 2007). What is remarkable with the comprehensive study is that it is so oddly odd: The world is founded with the Indo-European language and then everything is confusing. In the world of ideas there were no older thoughts than those Indo-Europeans developed, patriarchalism and sun cult were ready and complete with them according to Mallory & Adam's description. But it is almost offensive that the two in the section of the Indo-European religious beliefs fall back on the French religious historian George Dumezil (1898-1986). During his lifetime, he was highly appreciated, but was later found to be in many ways mistaken. Dumezil seems to have had a right-wing focus, like Kossinna, with nationalist and simplistic distortion of the research. In these days when a swing to right is taking place in the western world, it is not surprising that Kossinna and Dumezil have popped up again.

To the third section of the papper The Indo-European issue.
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Publiceringshistoria, engelska versionen: Utlagd 2018-09-23.


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Sources for the second section:

Almqvist Nielsen 2014: Lena Almqvist Nielsen: Förhistorien som kulturellt minne. Historiekulturell förändring i svenska läroböcker 1903-2010. Universitet i Umeå och Högskolan Dalarna: Historiska medier nr 10. http://umu.diva-portal.org/
Baudou 2005: Evert Baudou: Kossinna Meets the Nordic Archaeologists. Current Swedish Archaeology, vol. 13, 2005.
Gimbutas 1963: Marija Gimbutas: The Balts. Thames & Hudson.
Gimbutas 1991: Marija Gimbutas: The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe. Harper.
Hagerman 2006: Maja Hagerman: Det rena landet. Om konsten att uppfinna sina förfäder. Prisma.
Kristiansen 1998: Kristian Kristiansen: Europe before history. Cambridge University Press.
Mallory & Adams 2007: J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams: The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford University Press.
Renfrew 2004: Colin Renfrew: Time Depth, Convergence Theory and Innovation in Proto-Indo-European: 'Old Europe' as a PIE Linguistic Area. Första kapitlet i boken Languages in Prehistoric Europe. Redaktörer Alfred Bammesberger och Theo Vennemann. Heidelberg 2003, 2004.



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