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Inside royal kurgan in Kerch, Ukraine		Source: Danil/Adobe Stock

The Kurgan Hypothesis – Right Idea, Wrong Continent


In 1956, a hypothesis was proposed by UCLA archaeology and anthropology professor Marija Gimbutas. Her proposal, which was in part based on prior work by Otto Schrader (1883) and V. Gordon Childe (1926), came to be known as “the Kurgan hypothesis”, and it stated that the Proto-Indo-European culture could be tracked backed to an origin in the geographical region roughly between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

Linguistic Correlations: Unveiling the Kurgan Hypothesis

The theory was supported by two key lines of cultural evidence. The first line of evidence focused on so called “kurgans,” which were a type of earthen mound, functioning as burial chambers. The locations of known kurgan sites formed a recognizable cultural pattern across a vast swath of Europe and Asia. This widespread cultural artifact indicated a prevalence of cultural influence across a geographically diverse area. Notably, the excavation of said mounds yielded a wealth of datable material which enabled archaeologists to pin the mounds to a specific period, around six to eight thousand years ago. According to most prevalent archaeological timelines, this date precedes other megalithic constructions or advanced societies, thus the hypothesis has had a significant impact on Indo-European studies.

The second line of evidence was built on linguistic evidence. The Kurgan hypothesis postulates that the people of this early Kurgan culture in the steppes north of the Black Sea were quite possibly the earliest speakers of a proposed mother language – “the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE),” which went on to spread across Europe and the Indian subcontinent, eventually evolving into the Romance, Hellenic, Germanic, Celtic, Balto-Slavic, Indo-Iranian, and Armenian language groups.

Linguists had already been studying the numerous lexical and morphological similarities between many of these language groups, and a goal of identifying a presumed “mother language” had been a longstanding holy grail of linguistics. As far back as 1653, the existence of such a language had been proposed by well-travelled scholars who noticed linguistic similarities throughout their journeys in Asia and Europe. The idea was fleshed out by many scholars during the 19th century and backed up by the development of many sound theories and patterns such as Grimm’s law, Verner’s law, and others. By the early twentieth century, well-defined descriptions of PIE had been put in place which have stood the test of time and are still accepted today.


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By Ken Goudsward

Ken Goudsward's picture


Ken Goudsward is an independent researcher and author whose interests include archaeology, philology, ontography, epistemology, and thaumaturgy. He writes in a variety of genres, including non-fiction, science fiction, dark comedy, and poetry.

His books include: “UFOs In The Bible”, “Magic... Read More

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