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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:

Fourth section
The age of the Subarian

THE ETHNONYM SUBARIANS tends to appear quite frequently when trying to penetrate the historical development of Mesopotamia and Anatolia from 4000 BC and forward. For a long time, it was believed that Subarians were another ethnonym of people who were otherwise called Hattians and Hurrians and lived in central and northeastern parts of Anatolia during the Bronze Age. The Hattians had come from the northeastern Caucasus area and occupied central Anatolia around 2300 BC. The Hurrians settled a bit later in its northeastern part. Both spoke North Caucasian languages. But the Subarians used another tongue because they were older in Anatolia than the Hattians / Hurrians.

The Polish-American specialist on Assyria, Ignace J Gelb (1907-1985), working at University of Chicago, was able to demonstrate it in a clarifying paper already in 1944. He wrote the following: ”The Subarians, who from the earlist historical periods have found not only occupying vast mountainous areas north of Babylonia (read East Anatolia and West Zagros Mountains) but also living peacefully within Babylonia side by side with Sumerians and Akkadians” (Gelp 1944). In the 1940s, Mesopotamia, the flat land with the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris, was still called Babylonia after the place names used in the Old Testament.

But Gelb's clarification has not really gone through. It is still possible to see on the internet that the Subarians were a different name for Hattians and Hurrians in Anatolia during the Bronze Age. Another task argues that Subarians would be a synonym to Assyria, proximately during the Iron Age. In The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia – a solid work of almost 1200 pages – claims that Subar, Subartu would have meant only north.

However, it can be noted that since the Sumerians began to write with cuneiform characters the ethnonym Subarian is mentioned. Their country was called Subartu and the people themselves are found as Su-bir/Subar/Subur in Sumerian sources. The successors of the Sumer the Akkadians wrote the Subartum/Subartum/-ina, Sú-ba-ri. In the Bronze Age when the Assyrians began to grow, the country was in their writings called mât Subarri/Subar (Wikipedia, the entry Subartu, updated 2018-06-05). When the Assyrians built their empire, which also included Egypt, they believed reviving and realizing their mighty ancestors, namely, the Subarians.

Subartu lay in the north

As a result of the uncertainties surrounding the toponym Subartu and ethnonym the Subarians in the literature there is no monograph about this people. The only attempt at a systematic historical survey appears to be a chapter in a doctoral thesis at the University of Leiden (Ahmed 2013). In anticipation of a proper, translucent study of the Subarians, I will discuss some of what we know about them, mainly derived from Kurdish historian Kozad Mohamed Ahmed.

Sumerisk man iförd den sumeriska kilten

The Sumerian kilt should have been called ”kaunukas” of the sumerians. Here it is worn by a pious man, in the form of a statue of Ebih-Il from about 2400 BC. Statues that show prominent people piously praying were often given to the temples.

The only conclusion that the linguists seem to agree on is that Subartu was set north of the South Mesopotamian cities. Gelb thought that Subartu comprised the Taurus Mountains in present Turkey and then also the Zagros Mountains in Iraq and Iran all the way down to the prehistoric city of Elam (Gelb 1944). The Israeli historians William W. Hallo and William Kelly Simpson have suggested that Subartu referred to the triangle of Northern Mesopotamia between Taurus and Zagros Mountains where the Euphrates and Tigris begin to be separated from each other (Hallo & Simpson 1971). Kozad Ahmed, who works from the University of Leiden, comes close to Gelb's view that Subartu would have stretched from the eastern part of the Taurus Mountains into the Zagros chain but not as far as Elam (Ahmed 2013). He also believes that Subartu was a summary term of a large area, which contained many different tribes and cultures. It is also possible for him that the ethnonym came from an old hydronym Su (ibid). The long river Euphrates would have been called Su at its northern beginning, and those who lived by the river were or became Subarians.

According to Kozad Ahmed, in the various sources, some plants and objects are associated with the Subarians: grains, figs, pomegranates and plums, woolen clothes, suits and waggons (ibid). The barley was domesticated in the Levant; it has been suggested that it took place because the Natufians learned to brew beer, which would have occurred approximately 13,000 years ago, according to a survey of a Natufian burial site in the cave Raqefet in the Carmel Mountains in Israel (Liu et al 2018). But at the same time or later, wheat was domesticated in southeastern Anatolia, that is, Subartu. Norwegian professor Manfred Heun has suggested that brewing beer was for religious parties, especially in Göbekli Tepe (Heun et al 1997). It would have been a thousand years after the drinking ceremonies in Raqefet Cave. Could the Subarians have learned early from the Natufians and later during the Chalcolithic period, developed to a champion in beer brewing?

One of the areas where the sheep was tamed was probably the Taurus Mountains, where large flocks of wild sheep lived. But you do not get any wool from the wild/newly tamed grey sheep. There was a mutation to come, that turned the colour of the wool from grey to white. This was possible to comb and then spin. This woollen thread was also possible to dye, which made it very popular (Ivanova 2013). There is nothing that suggests that the Subarians should have invented wool. However, it is highly likely that through the Subarians wool became widely known in Mesopotamia and simple forms of woollen fabrics were woven by Subarian women. The kilts that the Sumerian men carried were made of sheepskin with the wool outward or by wide strips of dyed woollen fabric woven together. The Subarians may also have developed sheepskin fur jackets, which were estimated everywhere at higher altitudes in winter.

The comeback of the ceremonial centres
Sumerisk stridsvagn

A chariot of war from Ur, around 2500 BC, from Sumerian time. The four-wheeled carriage is drawn by a four-donkey team of onagers. Could the Subarians conquer the southern Mesopotamian cities by introducing this new weapon in the era of warfare? Picture from Wikipedia.

Interestingly, it is also the task that the carriage, possibly in the form of a chariot of war pulled by donkeys, would be associated with the Subarians. If Hallo & Simpson are right in their claim that the Subarians conquered the cities of southern Mesopotamia about 3500 BC, it could have happened with the help of a whole new weapon, just chariots of war. With an attack of these wagons, it would have been easy to break through a defensive line of foot soldiers.

Compared to the elegant, two-wheeled chariots of war of the Bronze Age, the early versions with their compact wheels were clumsy. They were not drawn by horses or African donkeys but Asian donkeys, onagers (Equus hemionus onager), which were a bit more big-grown than the African donkeys. There are different bids on where the onager would have been domesticated: Northern Iran, Anatolia and Mesopotamia have been proposed. But northern Iran is probably the best place because, in areas with semi desert, no oxen could be used as draft animals. But the onagers were adapted to this climate type. For transports between the various chieftain villages, one would have used sledges as elsewhere in the 5th millennium BC.

The Subarians probably did not invent the wheel, but they had contact with cultures where the wheel had proved to be used, namely the Maikop culture in the Northern Caucasus and Cucuteni-Tripylje culture in the present western Ukraine and northern Romania. In the latter culture, the cities could grow very large – 10,000 inhabitants or much more (possible upp to 40 000 inhabitants). In Anatolia, the population remained smaller, usually 2-3000 people – Arslantepe, Domuztepe and Samtsat (Sagona & Zimansky 2009). In the latter all heavy transports were carried out with ox-drawn sledges. In the Ukrainian cities, four-wheeled trucks, still drawn by oxen, were used. This dramatically improved logistic capacity and probably made it possible for cities to grow in size. It is also likely that the chieftain villages in Iran quickly took over the wheeled transport options, but used onagers to pull them.

Pictografisk text från Kish

A seal from the city of Kish made of clay and with a script of stylized pictures, so called pictograms. In West Asia, it would have been the Subarian who brought this script to southern Mesopotamia. Image from the Internet.

As for the Maikop culture, Russian scientist Mariya Ivanova, who from the University of Heidelberg follows the work of the Russian archaeologists, has come to a new conclusion. She emphasizes in an article that the actual Maikop culture (3700-3000 BC) in the northern Caucasus seems to have originated in the development of culture in the Iranian highlands and in southern central Asia (Ivanova 2012). She emphasizes that the 4th millennium BC was a great period of important inventions: preparation of wool, wheeled wagons, double ox span, new forms of ceramics and, above all, metal refining, starting with copper, but soon followed by gold and silver (ibid). Most of these inventions were made in northern Iran and southern Turkmenistan (ibid), ie in the northern part of what I have called the ”Baluchistan cultural complex” in this paper.

Karta över Central- och Sydvästasien

Archaeological sites from the 3000s BC to Central and Southwest Asia, of which a major part formed the cultural complex of Baluchistan: 1. Mehrgarh; 2. Quetta; 3. Mundigak; 4. Shahr-i Sokhta; 5. Fullol; 6. Sarazm; 7. Zhukov; 8. Geoksyur; 9. Altyn-depe; 10. Kara-depe; 11. Parkhai; 12. Tepe Hesar; 13. Tepe Sialk; 14. Arisman; 15. Tall-i Iblis; 16. Tepe Yahya; 17. Tall-i Bakun; 18. Susa; 19. Uruk-Warka; 20. Tepe Giyan; 21. Tepe Ghabristan; 22. Sé Girdan; 23. Tepe Gawra; 24. Tell Brak; 25. Telmankend; 26. Leilatepe; 27. Soyuq Bulaq; 28. Boyuk Kesik; 29. Berikldeebi; 30. Kavtiskhevi; 31. Kudakhurt; 32. Maikop. Map hypertexter.se after Ivanova 2012.

The secret of this development south of the Caspian Sea lay in a social organization. It was a further development and adaptation to new conditions of the Gravettian ceremony centres (for which the nomadic groups of hunters had gathered repeatedly for a variety of reasons). The same was happening to the Iranian highlands, but the ceremony centre had evolved into the chieftain villages, which, among other things, produced what nomadizing groups of shepherds needed. But the chief seats also exchanged goods among themselves and, in addition, probably even competed (Alizadeh 2013). For a period of about 1500 years, 5000-3500 BC, this was the area where the breakthrough inventions of the chalcolithic period were made. From northern Iran, these inventions usually spread first to the cultures north of the Black Sea, then to Subartu and from there to the South Mesopotamian cities.

This developmental model is historically more logical than the one who claims that everything important happened in the southern Mesopotamian cities. Over a geographically wide area there is a slow development, a knowledge accumulation, which allows another area, to benefit from the combination of new knowledge and broadening of the economic base through a high return from agriculture, made possible by their own innovation, namely artificial irrigation (i.e. a dug channel system).

Sumerian a Fenno-Ugrian language?

The Finnish assyriologist Simo Parpola has recently suggested that the people of the Maikop culture would have spoken Sumerian or Proto-Sumerian. It would then be a language that, according to Parpola, would have been a part of the Fenno-Ugrian language family (the European part of the Fenno-Uralian; Parpola 2007). Parpola associates in this proposal to an early language-historical research that just claimed that the Sumerian had been an archaic form of the Fenno-Ugrian. Later researchers have rejected this interpretation (given the distance to northern Russia and Siberia). But if the Samarian culture at Lower Volga used a Fenno-Ugrian language, it was not far to the Caucasus and the Maikop culture, and therefrom to southern Mesopotamia. It remains to see if Parpola is right. But if he does, you can understand, for example, the Sumerian title for ”king”: Ensi. In Finnish language of today, the same word is ensimäinen. It means ”the first one”. That could have been the meaning of the Sumerian title. It is a common variant of the early royal titles. If Parpola really manage to solve the mystery that the Sumerian language is, it would be a sensation!

The new impulses from the East led to a cultural upswing among the Subarians, which also explains how more and more archaeological findings show that the use of pictograms shows up in Subartu (but also in the Old Europe in the Balkans). With the Subarian army, this writing was brought to the southern Mesopotamian cities. After the conquest of the Sumerians, it was developed in the cuneiform script.

The twin goddesses

De två himmelsgudinnorna i Arslantepe

In the corridor that led into the temple hall in the temple of Arslantepe, there were large murals. They were performed in a strange geometric stylisation, perhaps because they depicted something invisible. The most interesting are the opposite cows, Hepet and Hepa, who each symbolized an aspect of heaven, the night and the day; an inheritance from the Gravettian culture. Notice that they stand on each side of a high plant. Was it an early version of the tree of life? Or is it what we see the pillar that holds up the flat sky, which is becoming the tree of life, that is, a transition stage? But in the picture in Arslantepe a man has managed to throw his lasso over the horn of one of the cows. This feature in the picture probably reflects a story about some kind of heroic deed that may be preserved in the so-called Nuri literature. Earlier, we only knew the Gilgamesh epic from the Sumerian culture. But as more and more cuneiform tables have been translated, the existence of extensive literature is revealed, as the Bible and the Greek literature are increasingly evident as the heirs. Image from the Internet.

Gelb also managed to trace a Subarian god name, Hepet. It could also spell Hepa, wrote Gelb, but he was mistaken. Hepet and Hepa were twins. Gelp found them in a Hurrian text, but claims that they would have been Subarian and borrowed into the Hurrian language. Gelb had further found out that Hepet and Hepa goes under the names of Hi-Pa-Tu and Ha-Pa-Tu in early Hittite sources.

These twins were then called Hippa and Hipta in Orphic Hymns and in a Greek inscription from Maeonia in western Anatolia, far from the influence of the Hurrians (Gelb 1944: 107). Gordon Whittaker has conducted the analysis further by showing that in the Sumerian and Akkadian texts there is the same idea of violent thunderstorms – the fire in the water = the lightning in and/or out of the rain clouds – and the idea that in the rain the skies of heaven were milked as as a cow in the Indo-Iranian old religious world (Whittaker 2009). The Hepat and Hepa of the Subarian would have been cows!

The heavenly goddess of the Greeks, Hera, bore the strange second name ”the goddess with a cow face”, which becomes understandable if we assume that she goes back to the Subarian Hepet. But Hepet had the twin Hepa. It does not look better than under the patriarchal influence, Hepa would have been transformed into Zeus himself; Hera is known as Zeus's wife, but she is in fact also his sister. This would also be an indication that, as an early Indo-European language, the Greek idiom initially brought to Europe a religious world of the Indo-Iranian type. It has transformed with the cultural development of Greeks into a completely new religion.

While the Sumerians conquered the southern Mesopotamian cities one after one some of the ruling Subarians got time to fly to southern Egypt. There they came to influence the earliest evolution against an Egyptian priestly kingship. In this context, it is not surprising that we find a cow as a heaven symbol even in Egypt: Goddess Hathor. Her sister in Egypt once was Neftys, but when Isis, who was first an aspect of Hathor, became her own, she joined Nefthys.

If you penetrate the world of the Gravettian culture in Europe, you will discover that it was the intellectually most advanced in the world 25,000 years ago (Lindgren 2018a). Among other things, the Gravettian people believed that there was a goddess for the day and another for the night (ibid). However, this world of notions seemed to disappear into the Ice sheet during the recent Ice Age peak. Thanks to the discovery of Baluchistan's cultural complexes, we can understand that it did not disappear totally but became a fundamental part of the early Indo-European religion. With the spread of the Indo-European languages, structures from it fanned out to all early high cultures.


One of the main issues in this discussion is how the cultures of the Pontic plains from being equal got suddenly a hierarchical character during the centuries down to 3000 BC. An archaeological probable answer is to search in the so-called Eastern Anatolian cities. They lay on the Matalaya plains on the west side of the Euphrates River in eastern Anatolia. Matalaya plains form part of the area in southeastern Anatolia where the domestication of wheat and rye occurred 11,000 years ago. There was also an increasingly hierarchical social system emerging, probably as a result of the influence from Iran. The hierarchy process can be read, inter alia, in the architecture, showing that the local temple was equipped with columns, which separated it from other houses. Other testimonies were the necklaces and tableware as the bowls were made in a way that pointed to specialized craftsmen (Özdogan 2002).

Karta över Mindre Asien visande Arslantepes plats

Arslantepe lay about 13 km from the river Euphrates. Along with it, Arslantepe and the other small towns of the Matalaya plain had contact with the cities of southern Mesopotamia during the Ubaid culture. Subaru or Subartu comprised eastern Anatolia as well as northern plain of northern Mesopotamia. Map hypertexter.se after Wikipedia.

Of the towns of the Matalaya plains, only Arslantepe is excavated. The name Arslantepe means ”The Lion hill”. The first excavators encountered the remains of a Hittite city whose city gate had been guarded by a statue of a lion. The further excavations brought the archaeologists remarkable far back in time, namely to the beginning of the Neolithic. This work has been done by a team from university in Rome led by Professor Marcella Frangipane. In Arslantepe there have been found early forms of a king's palace and a monumental temple. There have also been found the oldest metal weapons, swords of copper (Frangipane 2010). It appears that Arslantepe was the leader among the East-Anatolian cities.

The Ubaid culture
Piktografiskt sigill från Arslantepe

Seal found in Arslantepe. The picture shows a high-ranking person who does not need to go on foot but can be seated when traveling on a sledge pulled by oxen. When it became a status at the end of the Neolithic to travel in seated position, it seems as if the enormous long walks that people made during paleolithic lost in the status and thus began to shorten.

At the beginning of the 6th millenium BC, these cities were part of the Ubaid culture, which stretched from the southern Mesopotamian cities to the north up to their east Anatolian counterparts (ibid). This apparently long-distance connection between eastern Anatolia and southern Mesopotamia (the river Euphrates is about 2800 km long) is explained by Frangipane as a result of the lack of raw materials in southern Mesopotamia at a time when metals began to be used (ibid). Arslantepe probably exported copper and gold to several of the southern cities. Arslantepe also had a special district for the south Mesopotamian merchants (ibid). But since the beginning of the 3000s BC, there was in Arslantepe a reorientation towards the western parts of Anatolia and eventually on to the Black Sea areas (ibid). Finally, around 3000 BC, Arslantepe was destroyed by a fire.

So far, there is no explanation for Arslantepe's fall. But we should remember that the Sumerians conquered the southern Mesopotamian cities, one after another, around 3100 BC. According to Simo Parpola's new hypothesis, it would have been the warriors of the Yamnaya Culture who began attacking the farmers of the Maikop culture about 3300 BC and eventually breaking them up. They headed south as the future Sumerians. At the same time, a population decline could be observed in Europe (Shennan et al 2013). It is likely to do with the Yamnaya Warriors attack westward. It has indeed been suggested that this sudden decline in population in Europe would have been caused by the first outbreak of the plague bacteria Yersinia Pestis (Rasmussen et al. 2015). But the peasant communities were still sparsely spread in Europe, so the epidemic could not get the right pace. But Gimbutas Old Europe had a tighter pattern of peasant village. There could the plague have left a gruesome trace. The same could have happened in eastern Anatolian's small and overcrowded cities.

Yersinia Pestis continued outbursts would then be recurring, with mutations occurring. They eventually resulted in the terrible bubonic plague in the 1400 century.

The medieval outbreak in Europe led to a lack of labour. It must also have happened at the end of the fourth millennium BC. But what is the cause and effect? Was Anatolia afflicted with the plague which forced or strengthened a development which meant that new labour was procured in the form of slaves? Were the seminomadic farmers on the Pontic plains captured and carried off as slaves to Anatolia in a first step? In the next step, officers from, for example, Arslantepe, became with violence chieftains of the tribes of Pontic seminomadic farmers who were then transformed into hierarchical warriors? They could overcome the Old Europe weakened by the plague, which seems to have happened.

In June 2015, two articles were published in the English science journal Nature, Allentof et al. and Haak et al., both of which showed on genetic grounds that both Old Europe and Central Europe were attacked and eventually conquered by warriors from the Pontic plains. The fact that the early Pontic farmers, who were the heirs of the people who lived in eastern Europe during the Ice Age, turned into warriors are explained by Haak et al. The Pontic farmers were influenced from ”the Near East” as Haak says. It was the question of a genetic influence, which traded in the genetic expression, i.e. in a concrete bodily form, was the officers from the eastern Anatolian cities. With their life guard, they had reached the northern side of the Black Sea and established themselves as chieftains of the local Pontic populations. The new layer of leaders forced their subjugates to change in their language and culture. A totally new language was not born on the plains, but a change of tongues happened!

Baluchistan's Cultural Complex

The hypothesis in this paper suggests that the Indo-European languages began in the Makrani language, that was used in the contacts between the Pavlovian culture in Mähren and a likely ceremony centre at the mouth of the Indus River during the European Gravettian culture 30,000 years ago. The contact was continuous, which meant that people travelled the long journey from Europe to India back and forth. It had been going on for 15,000 years but ceased some 20,000 years ago because of the cold and drought caused by the last Ice Age maximum. The people who had lived along the road in western Asia were forced to reorganize themselves. The system of exchanging gifts was slowly developed into what we in the last section called the Baluchistan's Cultural Complex. The chieftains villages in Central and West Asia changed gifts between them. In this way, the Makrani language developed into the Indo-European languages, while incorporating structures from the impressive intellectual heritage of the Gravettian culture into the Indo-European culture.

Beginning sometime 18,000 years ago, people who spoke an early Indo-European language had found their way or were sent to Europe. Then several waves that brought Indo-European languages in different stages of development to Europe followed. This meant that in southern and central Europe various Indo-European languages were spoken already around 4000 BC. In Asia Minor, the people who were most active and spoke an Indo-European idiom seem to have been the Subarians. Subsequently, the warriors of the Yamnaya Culture were added as Subarian officers forced them to change their North Caucasian language into an Indo-European language. That has developed into Latvian and Lithuanian today. (In Lithuania, we also find the Heavenly Cow that gives rain; Gimbutas 2001: 203).

For some reason, the Baluchistan's Cultural Complex also had a pressure to the west during the Neolithic, with the consequence that Indo-European languages were spread to Europe in different stages of growth. But eventually, mainly in the 21st century BC, the aforementioned complex began to push eastward, leading to the spread of Indo-European languages all the way to northern India. Particularly interesting is that even those nomads who began with a new form of pastoralism on the Eurasian plains all switched to one of the languages spoken in Iran. When a larger group of these nomads learned how to use stirrups in leather and could develop heavy cavalry in the 300s BC, Parthian called, they could return to Iran and lay down the country. But the then Persians of that time laughed in their sleeves about their new rulers: they did not speak true Persian!

This interpretation is historically relatively logical. But it is also only a hypothesis. Probably, as far as the history of a language can be documented in written form, we are on a solid ground. What happened before the introduction of the written language tends to be speculation. A description, although speculative, of the history of a language must be empirically related to archaeological studies and DNA surveys. If the description is confirmed by a proto-lexicon then the degree of speculation decreases but does not disappear. However, it is not certain that a proto-lexicon is helpful. What we think is the new words of a new language are in fact the bulk of the words of the old language from which the new grew out. The version of the Makrani language that gave birth to the Indo-European was not what was spoken 25,000 years ago – it was then a confident language that contained words describing mammoth-hunt in the almost Arctic environment in Mähren and the almost tropical environment of the Indian Ocean. With the break of communication, the vocabulary came to diminish and adapt to the environment of semidesert that prevailed and prevails in Baluchistan. It is the vocabulary of this language that the Indo-European proto-lexicon in fact tells about. No wonder it has often been wrong. But, as Gimbutas claim that the origin of the Slavic languages in Old Europe would have been an unknown language because she assumed that only those people who attacked Old Europe from the east spoke Indo-European, is a rather bizarre mythology. We should definitely avoid such things.

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