The Indo-Europeans were a people group originating in the plains of Eastern Europe, north of the Baltic and Caspian Seas in present day Ukraine and southern Russia. They are descendants of the Yamnaya culture. These were rural people who were mainly pastoral agriculturalists and lived during the Neolithic Period (10,200 BC–2000 BC).
There are many theories of how and where these people spread out from their original homeland. Most historical evidence at this time seems to support the Kurgan hypothesis, first proposed in the early 20th century. This theory states that Indo-Europeans migrated out from their homeland and settled new territories including Persia, northern India, and all of Europe.
They seem to be a culture that was obsessed with transportation. By 3500 BC, the Yamnaya people had learned to domesticate horses and knew how to build wagons. This gave them the ability to travel farther and live off of new lands far from their homeland. So it is after this date that we can add new territories to our map that the Indo-European people have settled.
Evidence in Linguistics
It has long been know that the various languages of Europe were related to each other. In the 18th century, European scholars began to understand that these language families were not only related to each other, but also to the ancient languages of Persia and India as well.
Current studies in linguistics of modern languages solidify the findings with respect to genetic research. Both of these seem to validate the Kurgan hypothesis.
photo credit: University of Idaho
This chart shows nine distinct languages that first branched from the original Indo-European language. The path highlighted in green shows the development of the English language that we speak today.
The original Indo-European language had many words describing transportation such as wheel, yolk, saddle, bridal, etc. But these people had no word for city or town. This gives us some insight into the culture and lifestyles they shared living on the plains of Eastern Europe.
The nine major language families that originated from Indo-European are Indian, Armenian, Iranian, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Albanian, Celtic, Hellenic, and Italic. Indo-European cultures today encompass all of Europe and much of Asia. Many of the world’s modern languages are thought to have evolved from their original language.
The Kurgan hypothesis was further confirmed in 2015, when two research groups independently discovered that Indo-European men shared a Y-DNA haplogroup called R1a. This is found in Western Europe, Ukraine, southern Russia, Uzbekistan, Iran, and among the priestly caste on the Indian subcontinent. A related haplogroup, R1b, is more specific for western Indo-Europeans.
This genetic research validates empirical evidence that all of these people groups originated from the Yamnaya people of the plains of Eastern Europe.
This article and its corresponding map will be updated in the event that new and credible evidence is found on the dispersment of this people group. But the general theory on the spread of Indo-Europeans throughout Eurasia is correct given our current scientific, cultural, and linguistic evidence.
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2 Corinthians 3:17
Originally published October 1, 2020
Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe, Nature, 522: 207–211 by Wolfgang Haak et al
Population Genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia by Morten E. Allentoft et al
Upper Paleolithic Genomes Reveal Deep Roots of Modern Eurasians by Jones, E. R. et al
Neolithic and Bronze Age Migration to Ireland and the Establishment of the Insulat Atlantic Genome by Laura Cassidy et al
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language by David W. Anthony
Celtic from the West 3 by John T. Koch (Editor), Barry Cunliffe (Editor)