Krell's PIE Homeland Thesis

Kathrin Susanne Krell, a graduate student at  U. of Ottawa, wrote a master's thesis in 1994, entitled Modern Indo-European Homeland Hypotheses: A critical examination of linguistic arguments. In it, she examines the lists of words used by Gimbutas and others in formulating the Kurgan hypothesis, which is to say the idea that the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European lived a pastoral life on the steppes north of the Black Sea, and imposed their language on the people of Europe as well as India and the Middle East primarily by means of invasion. They presumably had domesticated the horse, which provided them with a military power that few could resist. Krell suggested that, when Gimbutas and others had selected reconstructed words in PIE to support their theory, they ignored other words that contradicted or limited their theory.

In support of the Kurgan steppe hypothesis, there are words for horse, cow, pig, goat, and sheep, as well as words for piglet, lamb, and cattle; words for riding, milking, wool, and possibly for breaking a horse; and words for wheel, hub, axle, and transport by vehicle. All these would support the idea of a pastoral society.

But there are also words for grain, barley, kernel, broad beans, axes, milling, grinding, sowing, reaping, gathering, plowing, and fields for plowing, which suggest an agricultural society.

In addition, missing from Gimbutas' analysis are the words for ducks, geese, cranes, salmon, and eels, which are not your typical steppes creatures, words for ships and rowing, likewise not as likely for a pastoral culture, and words for ore, gold, and silver, even though Gimbutas insists that the Kurgan people only knew copper.

The Anatolian hypothesis fits a little better in some ways, But the big problem for the Anatolian hypothesis is that it is dated as beginning around 7000 bc, rather than 4000 bc, which is the earliest likely date for both the domestication of the horse and the invention of the wheeled chariot.

Krell concludes that, while there is certainly some support in the vocabulary for the Kurgan theory, Diakonov's Balkan Theory (1985) fits far better.

Word list (PIE words simplified):

*horse - ekwo-
*cow - gwou-
*cattle - peku
*pig, swine - su-
*young pig, piglet - porko-
*sheep/ewe - owi-
*lamb - agwhno-
*goat - aigi-
*dog - kwon-
*boar - epero-
*deer/elk - elen-
*wolf - ulkwos
*fox - ulp-
*hare - kas-
*bear - rkto-
*beaver - bhibhru

*duck - anətis
*goose - ghans-
*crane - gerənos
*salmon - laks-
*eel/snake - angwi-
*eagle/large bird - or-
*bee - bhei-

*oak - deru-
*acorn - gwel-
*birch - bherəg-
*beech - bhago-
*elm - elm-
*apple - abelo-
*spelt/grass/wheat - puro-
*millet - meli

*ash tree - osno-
*barley 1 - gherzd-
*barley 2 - bhare-
*legume/broad bean - bhabha-
*flax - lino-
*maple tree - akero-

*to break a horse - domə-
*to ride - reidh-
*to milk - melg-
*wool - wlna
*to protect, feed - pa-

*field for cultivation - agro-
*grain - yewo-
*kernel - grno-
*hand mill - gwerna
*to sow, seed - se-
*to mow, to reap - me-
*to gather, to pluck - kerp-
*to grind 1 - mel-
*to grind 2 - ghrendh-
*to plow - ar-
*ax - aksi-

*wheel - kwekwlo-
*to go or transport in a vehicle - wegh-
*wheel hub, navel - nobh-
*yoke - yugom
*axle - aks-

*copper - ayes-
*ore - oro-
*gold - ghel-
*silver - arg-

*ship - nau-
*oar, to row - erə-
*mast - mazdos

© C. George Boeree 2013