Where did the Proto-Indo-Europeans come from?


As Proto-Indo-Europeans the speakers as well as the (hypothetical) carriers of the partially reconstructed Proto-Indo-European original language and culture are called. This prehistoric people is believed to have existed during the later Copper Age to the Early Bronze Age.

The Proto-Indo-Europeans are also considered to be the ancestors of almost all European ethnic groups, i.e. the Indo-Europeans. This includes the Greeks, Celts, Balts, Latins, Romans, Teutons, Slavs and Albanians. Ethnic groups that do not live in Europe can also be traced back in part to them, including the Persians, Armenians, Kurds, Tajiks, Pashtuns, Baluch and those around 1500 BC Indo-Aryans immigrated to northern India in the 4th century BC, from which the Indians of Indo-Aryan descent emerged.

The following approach, primarily postulated by Marija Gimbutas, should be noted in this comparison:

“The Indo-Europeanization was linguistic, possibly cultural and religious, but no physical Merger or transformation. "

This is to express that it was not a mixture of genes, but violent subjugation and gradual assimilation of the former populations of Europe, Anatolia, Persia and India.

In recent times, however, this basic idea has mostly been put into perspective. A partial physical mixing of the Proto-Indo-Europeans with the respective previous population cannot be completely ruled out. To what extent and to what extent the ethnic groups have merged cannot be assessed based on the current state of knowledge.

Proto-Indo-Europeans or Ur-Indo-Europeans?

In German-speaking science, the term Indo-European used. The name was chosen to summarize the westernmost (Germanic languages) and easternmost (Indo-Aryan languages) Indo-European language groups known at the time, also in the name of the new language family, which has been increasingly interpreted as an ethnic context since the early 19th century Indigenous people suggested that in the course of its history, as a result of migrations and wars, had split into different branches.

An ethnic aspect, as explained in this article, has often been rejected in German-language academic literature since 1945 because the terms Indo-European and Aryan had found prominent use in racist and nationalist language and propaganda, especially under the Nazi regime. Any extension that goes beyond the linguistic point of view is often criticized as “not provable”, as an absurdity, if not even as a supposed revenant of old Nazi racial madness. This corresponds at least to the "common point of view" in German-speaking countries.

In drastic contrast to this are still the international considerations and approaches. So z. For example, there are far fewer doubts about a cultural and religious influence on Europe by the spreading Proto-Indo-Europeans. The question of to what extent and to what extent a genetic and ethnic relationship can be postulated with one another, as with today's speakers of Indo-European languages, is a heated debate in ethnology on the basis of many arguments and facts.

What remains undisputed is that the terms Indo-European and Indo-European are completely synonymous. Whether the relationship between the Indo-European languages ​​is based on a common ethnic origin is another question than which of the two terms is used. Both have defects; since the discovery in the second half of the 20th century that Tocharian also belongs to the Indo-European languages, one would have to take instead Indo-European today actually from Celtotocharian speak while the term Indo-European (In addition to the fact that here, too, due to the addition of Tocharian, Indo-Aryan is no longer the easternmost language, nor is the Germanic the westernmost) the many non-Indo-European language islands (including Basque, Aegean languages, Etruscan, Caucasian languages, as well as the Ural languages, the latter, for example, the Finno-Ugric languages) in Europe and the other genetic or ethnic origin of the language carriers of the same language islands, which can probably be derived from it, does not do justice. With regard to the Proto-Indo-Europeans or Ur-Indo-Europeans, it would be more correct to name the specific name of the original people instead, which is favored by the respective original home theory, i.e. Kurgan, Anatolians etc.


The origin of the Proto-Indo-Europeans could not be proven to this day - despite countless approaches.

The most prominent approach is probably the Kurgan hypothesis, advocated in the 20th century by Marija Gimbutas, which sees its origin in southern Russia.

The Black Sea flood hypothesis takes a different approach. This was presented in 1996 by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, both geologists at Columbia University, in a popular article in the New York Times. According to this thesis, the Proto-Indo-Europeans lived in the immediate vicinity of the prehistoric Black Sea. The trigger for the migration of the Proto-Indo-Europeans is said to have been a gigantic flood disaster.

At this point it must be pointed out that there were numerous absurd assumptions, especially in the early 20th century.

Even today, nationalist currents continue to propagate “their” nation as the true original home. Examples of this type of transfiguration can be found in Iran. The original Aryans (in the sense of Proto-Indo-Europeans) are said to have formed in its plateaus and spread from there.

Culture and religion

In terms of culture and religion, little is known either. On the basis of archaeological finds and the presumed forms of society derived from them, only a rough (hypothetical) picture can be sketched.

The Proto-Indo-Europeans probably formed patrilineal communities, which lived predominantly semi-nomadic. Presumably they kept domesticated animals such as domestic cattle and sheep. It is largely confirmed that the Proto-Indo-Europeans also domesticated the horse (ek'wos) knew. Cows probably played a central role in their mythology, religion but also in everyday life (gwous). A man's “value” and social status were measured, for example, by the number of animals he has, which can be seen in the Latin language, in which the word for money (lat. pecunia) from the word for cattle (lat. pecus). The Latin word "pecus" is directly related to the German word "Vieh" (Old High German still "feho") due to linguistic regularities. Images of farm animals can also be seen on earlier gold coin finds from antiquity.

Furthermore, the Proto-Indo-Europeans practiced a polytheistic religion. The focus of these was probably sacrificial rites, which were performed by a priest caste. The Kurgan hypothesis considers burials primarily in barrows, but sometimes also in stone graves. Influential leaders were buried with their property, possibly even with certain family members such as their wives (sati, human sacrifice).

There are also references to sacred kingdoms in which the tribal leader also assumed the role of a high priest. Many later, Indo-European ethnic groups knew a kind of “three-way division” of their communities, so there was a clergy, a warrior class and simple peasants. This view was primarily represented in this way by the renowned French religious scholar Georges Dumézil.

Tools and weapons were made of bronze, silver and gold were known. Sheep were kept to gain wool, which was used to make clothing. These were made using weaving techniques. There is evidence that the wheel was used on simple ox carts. Later generations developed these into chariots, which at that time were considered to be a great innovation in warfare.

The original name of the Proto-Indo-Europeans could not yet be reconstructed. An etymological relationship to “aryo-” is assumed, to what extent this may or can be associated with “Aryans” is the subject of research.


The Proto-Indo-Europeans are considered to be a hypothetical group, which presumably dates from around 4000 BC. Has existed.

Based on the reconstruction of their language and archaeological finds, some features of their culture can be partially established:

  • They had a patrilineal kinship system organized around the paternal line.
  • They worshiped at least one god, presumably * diwos ph2tēr (lit. "Heavenly Father"), there were probably other deities as well.
  • They believed that ghosts might haunt them.
  • You may have already written songs and epics, which were probably mainly about "immortal fame".
  • They raised cattle.
  • They presumably built carts with massive, but not spoked wheels, like those used in later chariots.
  • They kept slaves who, like cattle, they regarded as property.
  • They lived in a climatic area where there was also snow, which also does not exclude some areas of Africa.

Other findings are considered less certain:

  • They probably had a semi-nomadic or nomadic way of life.
  • They rode horses; this is controversial because there is no common Indo-European verb for “to ride”.
  • They lived on the northern or northeastern shore of the Black Sea.
  • They were familiar with large lakes but not with oceans.

See also

Web links

  • Archaeological culture (Copper Age)
  • Archaeological Culture (Bronze Age)
  • Archaeological Culture (Europe)