April 23, 2014

New page: Early Kurgan expansion maps

Triggered by a mail discussion on linguistic prehistory, I finally did something that was in my agenda since long ago: create and share some Kurgan expansion maps → dedicated page in this blog.

The maps do not cover all the Indoeuropean expansion (which still continues to this very day for all I know) but just the core one of the Chalcolithic period, which provides the skeleton for the understanding of later periods. For ad-hoc reasons all maps are of Europe and nearby parts of West Asia only, although admittedly that leaves the proto-Tocharian Afanasevo culture off map. As I did not go into the Bronze and Iron ages' periods, which would have to include Indo-Iranian expansion, this works alright.

Some eye candy to entice you (map #2 out of 4, arguably the most central one, outlining at least five different branches of Indoeuropean very early on, early 4th millennium BCE):


  1. Do you have a opinion about what pre-Greek language was spoken in Cyprus? I know they had contact with the Semitic people of the Levantine Coast but some think they're related to the Minoans.

    1. Eteocypriot of course. Another issue is what exactly was the so far not deciphered Eteocypriot but I don't think it was Semitic yet. Semitic as such expanded from the Circum-Arabian Pastoralist Complex (CAPC), which almost certainly has roots in the Harifian subculture of the late Natufian and subsequent PPNA, which was specialized in semi-desert hunting and later herding. So even in the Levant it is most likely a late arrival from the semi-deserts.

      But of course there are all kind of doubts when it comes to unattested or untranscribed languages.

      Said, that Cypriot Neolithic is clearly North Levantine by origin, surely related to Amuq-Biblos culture.

      What I do suspect is that the Eteocypriot syllabary might be at the origin of the Iberian one (an alternative could be the Dispilio tablet of Macedonia but this issue is even blurrier), owing to some more or less attested Chalcolithic trade with the Levant, probably via Cyprus. A possible relation with Minoan Crete is unclear (I'd rather imagine Minoans as arriving from Anatolia in two waves: Neolithic and Bronze Age). Whatever the case both are rather peripheral to the main European dynamics although they probably had a loose cultural influence (via trade) in the Mediterranean and quite likely in Iberia specifically.

    2. I've written a book claiming that there are two eteocypriot languages, one of them being a dialect of Hurrian and the other one something unknown.

  2. Thanks for the answer.

    Its interesting that the Linear A and Linear B syllabaries didn't survive the end of the Bronze Age but the Eteocypriot syllabary was used until the classical period and being replaced by the Greek Alphabet much later.

    The Iberian syllabaries are really a mystery, the main hypothesis is that they're derived from the. Phoenician abjad.

    1. Greece went, as you probably know, through a deep crisis at the end of the Bronze Age: after going around on rampage, destroying Troy, Ugarit, and a long etcetera we don't fully understand, they succumbed to the tin crisis* and their own continental steel-equipped backstage forces, the Dorians or "Herakleans", falling down into the Dark Age. That was used by the Phoenicians (Canaanites) to escape their own Late Bronze crisis (Jewish invasions) by means of heading to the sea, surely with help of Cypriot refugees from the Greek conquest, who knew not just their trade but also a bit of geography.

      While there is not known archaeological data about older than 9th century in Gades, the Phoenicians claimed to have founded it in the 12th century. Same about Carthage. So they clearly took control of the Mycenean Greek (and previously Eteocypriot, maybe Eteocretan too) trade with the Far West (the Hesperides) at about the same time as Mycenae collapsed.

      This Late Bronze Age crisis happened at the same time in all the Mediterranean and I'm pretty sure that Greek colonial schemes and boundless imperialism were not unrelated: mobilizing all kind of forces for and against them, they eventually caused their own collapse by destroying their own tin providers maybe (Atlantis and Heraklean Hesperian legends) and completely destabilizing the previous socio-political order.

      At some point someone developed steel (Hittittes, it seems) out of dire military need and this was eventually used against Greece itself. The role of Phoenicians is not well understood, but they clearly took over the main share of the Greek commercial empire for many centuries to come, making it for the first time directly colonial, and according to their own history destroying the last Western center of power, the mythical Tartessos or Tharsis, yet to be located archaeologically.

    2. "The Iberian syllabaries are really a mystery, the main hypothesis is that they're derived from the. Phoenician abjad".

      That's the Greek alphabet (I thought you were talking about that, my apologies). Iberian syllabaries can't and shouldn't be derived from a more evolved (simpler) alphabet as the Phoenician one. There's some tenuous but hardly deniable evidence that they evolved in the Chalcolithic, long before the Phoenician anything (back then they used cuneiform variants):

      → http://forwhattheywereweare.blogspot.com/2012/09/chalcolithic-iberian-script.html


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