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Armenian hypothesis

The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European homeland, proposed by Georgian Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze and Russian linguist Vyacheslav Ivanov in 1985, suggests that Proto-Indo-European was spoken during the 5th–4th millennia BC in "eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia".[1]

Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a 'pre-proto-Indo-European'.[2][3][4][5][6] It also lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language "no later than the 4th millennium BCE."[7]


Gamkrelidze and Ivanov presented their hypothesis in Russian in 1980–1981 in two articles in Vestnik drevnej istorii. During the following years they expanded and developed their work into their voluminous book, published in Russian in 1984; the English translation of the book appeared in 1995.[8] In English a short sketch of the hypothesis first appeared in The Early History of Indo-European Languages, published in Scientific America in 1990.[9][10] Tamas Gamkrelidze published an update to the hypothesis in 2010.[11]

According to Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, the Indo-European languages derive from a language originally spoken in the wide area of eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia. The Anatolian languages, including Hittite, split-off before 4000 BCE, and migrated into Anatolia at around 2000 BCE. Around 4000 BCE, the proto-Indo-European community split into Greek-Armenian-Indo-Iranians, Celto-Italo-Tocharians, and Balto-Slavo-Germanics. At around 3000–2500 BCE, Greek moved to the west, while the Indo-Aryans, the Celto-Italo-Tocharians and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics moved east, and then northwards along the eastern slope of the Caspian Sea. The Tocharians split from the Italo-Celtics before 2000 BCE and moved further east, while the Italo-Celtics and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics turned west again towards the northern slopes of the Black Sea. From there, they expanded further into Europe between around 2000 and 1000 BCE.[10][8]

The phonological peculiarities of the consonants proposed in the glottalic theory would be best preserved in Armenian and the Germanic languages. Proto-Greek would be practically equivalent to Mycenaean Greek from the 17th century BC and closely associate Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (the Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).

The hypothesis argues for the latest possible date of Proto-Indo-European (without Anatolian), roughly a millennium later than the mainstream Kurgan hypothesis. In this respect, it represents an opposite to the Anatolian hypothesis in spite of the geographical proximity of the respective suggested Urheimat by diverging from the timeframe suggested there by approximately 3000 years.[citation needed]



Robert Drews says that "most of the chronological and historical arguments seem fragile at best, and of those that I am able to judge, some are evidently wrong". However, he argues that it is far more powerful as a linguistic model, providing insights into the relationship between the Indo-European and the Semitic and Kartvelian languages.[10]

J. Grepin wrote in a review in the Times Literary Supplement the model of linguistic relationships is "the most complex, far reaching and fully supported of this century".[12]

Renewed interest

Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a 'proto-proto-Indo-European'.[2][3][4][5][6] It also lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language "no later than the 4th millennium BCE."[7]

Haak et al. (2015) states that "the Armenian plateau hypothesis gains in plausibility" since the Yamnaya partly descended from a Near Eastern population, which resembles present-day Armenians. Yet, they also state that "the question of what languages were spoken by the 'Eastern European hunter-gatherers' and the southern, Armenian-like, ancestral population remains open."[2]

David Reich, in his 2018 publication Who We Are and How We Got Here, states that "the most likely location of the population that first spoke an Indo-European language was south of the Caucasus Mountains, perhaps in present-day Iran or Armenia, because ancient DNA from people who lived there matches what we would expect for a source population both for the Yamnaya and for ancient Anatolians."[3] Nevertheless, Reich also states that some, if not most, of the Indo-European languages were spread by the Yamnaya people.[13]

According to Kroonen et al. (2018), Damgaard et al. (2018) "show no indication of a large-scale intrusion of a steppe population."[14] They further note that the earliest attestation of Anatolian names, in the Armi state, must be dated to 3000-2400 BCE, contemporaneous with the Yamnaya culture, concluding that "a scenario in which the Anatolian Indo-European language was linguistically derived from Indo-European speakers originating in this culture can be rejected."[7] They further note that this lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language "no later than the 4th millennium BCE."[7]

Wang et al. (2018) note that the Caucasus served as a corridor for gene flow between the steppe and cultures south of the Caucasus during the Eneolithic and the Bronze Age, stating that this "opens up the possibility of a homeland of PIE south of the Caucasus."[15]

Kristian Kristiansen, in an interview with Der Spiegel in may 2018, stated that the Yamnaya culture may have had a predecessor at the Caucasus, where "proto-proto-Indo-European" was spoken.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Gamkrelidze & Ivanov 1995, p. 791.
  2. ^ a b c Haak 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Reich 2018, p. 177.
  4. ^ a b Damgaard 2018.
  5. ^ a b Wang 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Grolle 2018, p. 108.
  7. ^ a b c d Kroonen, Barjamovic & Peyrot 2018, p. 9.
  8. ^ a b Gamkrelidze & Ivanov 1995.
  9. ^ Gamkrelidze & Ivanov 1990.
  10. ^ a b c Drews 1994, p. 33ff.
  11. ^ Gamkrelidze 2010.
  12. ^ J. Grepin, Times Literary Supplement, March 14, 1986, p.278.
  13. ^, Proto-Indo-European homeland south of the Caucasus?
  14. ^ Kroonen, Barjamovic & Peyrot 2018, p. 7.
  15. ^ Wang 2018, p. 15.


  • Damgaard, Peter de Barros (2018), The First Horse herders and the Impact of Early Bronze Age Steppe expansions into Asia
  • Diakonoff, I. M. (1984), The Prehistory of the Armenian People
  • Drews, Robert (1988), The Coming of the Greeks, Princeton University Press
  • (in Russian) Гамкрелидзе, Т. В.; Иванов, Вяч. Вс. (1984), Индоевропейский язык и индоевропейцы. Реконструкция и историко-типологический анализ праязыка и протокультуры, Тбилиси: Издательство Тбилисского университета
  • Gamkrelidze, Tamaz V.; Ivanov, V. V. (1990), "The Early History of Indo-European Languages", Scientific American, 262 (3): 110–117
  • Gamkrelidze, Thomas V.; Ivanov, Vjačeslav V. (1995), Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and Proto-Culture, Moutin de Gruyter
  • Gamkrelidze, Tamas (2010). "In Defense of Ejectives for Proto-Indo-European" (PDF). Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences. 4 (1).
  • Grolle, Johann (12 May 2018), "Invasion aus der Steppe", Der Spiegel
  • Haak, Wolfgang (2015), Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe, bioRxiv 013433
  • Martiros Kavoukjian, Armenia, Subartu, and Sumer : the Indo-European homeland and ancient Mesopotamia, trans. N. Ouzounian, Montreal (1987), ISBN 0-921885-00-8
  • Kroonen, Guus; Barjamovic, Gojko; Peyrot, Michael (2018), Linguistic supplement to Damgaard et al. 2018: Early Indo-European languages, Anatolian, Tocharian and Indo-Iranian
  • Reich, David (2018), Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Wang, Chuan-Chao (2018), The genetic prehistory of the Greater Caucasus

External links