I say this because after contenting myself at dnghu.org by pointing out the errors or exaggerations on their site concerning Proto-Indo-European, one of its purported members volleyed back a claim that the Kurgan hypothesis is consensus among IEists. That's news to me, but I've been in this game long enough to have a good idea of what is consensus and what is fantasy. So many times, I've encountered people who after reading one book, deify the author of said book into an infallible Saviour that no one should dare challenge, not even other knowledgeable authors. Was there ever a time when the tenet "Question what you read!" was taught in schools?
|How Indo-European languages expanded over time according to the Kurgan Hypothesis|
What is the Kurgan Hypothesis? This is from the Encyclopedia Britannica (2003) :
Kurgan culture, seminomadic pastoralist culture that spread from the Russian steppes to Danubian Europe about 3500 BC. By about 2300 BC the Kurgans arrived in the Aegean and Adriatic Regions. The Kurgans buried their dead in deep shafts within artificial burial mounds or barrows. The word kurgan means "barrow" or "artificial mound" in Turkic and Russian.Then in Encyclopedia Britannica, volume 22, page 987, it clearly states:
We should pay close attention to Encyclopedia Britannica here because the encyclopedia has a continued dialogue with university academics and is carefully edited by professionals. If it doesn't have a full grasp of what's going in the academic world, what encyclopedia does? Wikipedia? I don't think so.
Some scholars believe that the Indo-Europeans were the bearers of the Kurgan (Barrow) culture of the Black Sea and the Caucasus and west of the Urals. The Kurgan culture, however, was only one of a number of related steppe cultures extending across the entire Black Sea-Caspian region, an area that was transformed about 4000 BC by the advent of the horsedrawn wheeled vehicles and related innovations. It is probably best therefore, to follow J.T. Mallory (In Search of Indo-Europeans ) in locating the speakers of Proto-Indo-Euoprean among the populations of this region, but not to attempt a more precise indentification until further evidence is available. [I add boldface here to emphasize key points.]
Even if we could claim that it were consensus in academe however, the theory is full of too many gaping holes to be taken as seriously as many linguistic hobbyists choose to take it. Unfortunately, the holes are just obscure enough that they can be easily glossed over by the unknowing masses. Take for example, the simple revelation that culture and language are not the same thing and that they don't even spread across the world in the same way. Don't believe me? Well, we can easily imagine for example a case where a single person adopts a new culture but retains one's old language. It happens. It happens a lot. And so if it happens, it undermines the narrow-minded assumption that the Indo-Europeans must be *strictly* identified with the Kurgan culture. Common sense will tell us that archaeology, being a study of material culture, can tell us absolutely nothing about linguistics, the study of an abstract and thus non-material means of communication. If I observe in the archaeological record that a people in Eastern Europe have adopted a new style of pottery at a certain period, I honestly don't know whether they merely adopted a new style of pottery or also adopted a new language. Archaeology here is utterly useless to the sensible linguist.
It also doesn't help the credibility of Marija Gimbutas, the one who pushed forth this decades-old theory, when she shows her strange bias towards making Indo-Europeans a completely "male-dominated", "woman-reviling", "war-loving" people to force an imaginary, black-and-white opposition between Indo-Europeans and "Old Europe" which we are to believe by her accounts is the exact opposite. Example:
Moreover, in contrast to the mythologies of the cattle-herding Indo-European tribes that, wave upon wave, from the fifth millenium BC overran the territories of Old Europe and whose male-dominated pantheons reflected the social ideals, laws, and political aims of the ethnic units to which they appertained, the iconography of the Great Goddess arose in reflection and veneration of the laws of Nature. (words of Joseph Campbell in Foreword included in The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas, 1989)
Yet, fundamentally with these very Wiccan-stained assertions, she proves to us that she doesn't understand one important fact about the Indo-European-speaking population that undermines her whole claim: The Indo-Europeans were never a unified people. They couldn't have been because they were supposed to be pastoralist nomads and such people, as any qualified ethnologist understands, would never have understood the abstract notions of a single government or of a "unified people" as we do today. At most, we can be sure that an average Indo-European could very well have been aware of which peoples around one's area spoke languages similar to one's own and which did not but this would be the reasonable limit of an Indo-European speaker's sense of cultural unity with peoples it may have only occasionally interacted with many kilometers away.
So if we now grasp that a "single, unified Indo-European people" is an anachronistic fantasy, then we must also grasp that Indo-European speakers had many dialects and many cultures spread over a large area from the very beginning, similar to the situation of the Inuit today. However, if we accept that, we must inevitably reject the Kurgan Hypothesis altogether, for it is then nothing more than an overly simplistic vision tied to a black-and-white belief that prehistorical archaeological cultures have a one-to-one relationship with protolanguages and that a single language must necessarily have a single culture, which is clearly a false premise if we choose to contemplate on the inherent complexity of humanity for a moment.
Where does that leave the Indo-European homeland debate? In Eastern Europe of course. Ultimately, it's linguistics that must decide the core homeland of the linguistic theory and there is ample linguistics to show that Eastern Europe is the best choice. On a whole, Indo-European must be in a position to be accessible to the northern shores of the Caspian Sea (nb. the words borrowed between Indo-Iranian and Finno-Ugric languages c. 2500 BCE) and also to be capable of receiving Near-Eastern loans at an early date (nb. the issue of "six" and "seven" and other cultural loanwords of clear Semitic origin). Ironically, the Encyclopedia Britannica even concedes, when discussing the Kurgan culture, that by 3500 BC there was a secondary homeland that "was established in the Danube river basin" which is "what many linguists consider to be the Proto-Indo-European homeland" (Enc.Brit., vol 18, p. 763).
So while many online like to be one-minute experts and call the Kurgan Hypothesis "widely accepted", it is in fact the most received only by those who know the least about Proto-Indo-European or what absurd contradictions the Kurgan Hypothesis implies.