Spa culture

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Prehistoric cultures of Russia
Kunda culture 7400-6000 BC Chr.
Bug Dniester culture 6500-5000 BC Chr.
Dnepr-Don culture 5000-4000 BC Chr.
Sredny Stog culture 4500-3500 BC Chr.
Ekaterininka culture 4300-3700 BC Chr.
Fatyanovo culture around 2500 BC Chr.
Copper Age
North Caspian culture
Spa culture 5000-3000 BC Chr.
Samara culture around 5000 BC Chr.
Chwalynsk culture 5000-4500 BC Chr.
Botai culture 3700-3100 BC Chr.
Yamnaya culture 3600-2300 BC Chr.
Afanassjewo culture 3500-2500 BC Chr.
Ussatowe culture 3300-3200 BC Chr.
Glaskovo culture 3200-2400 BC Chr.
Bronze age
Poltavka culture 2700-2100 BC Chr.
Potapovka culture 2500-2000 BC Chr.
Catacomb tomb culture 2500-2000 BC Chr.
Abashevo culture 2500-1800 BC Chr.
Sintashta culture 2100-1800 BC Chr.
Okunew culture around 2000 BC Chr.
Samus culture around 2000 BC Chr.
Andronovo culture 2000-1200 BC Chr.
Susgun culture around 1700 BC Chr.
Srubna culture 1600-1200 BC Chr.
Colchis culture 1700-600 BC Chr.
Begasy Dandybai culture around 1300 BC Chr.
Karassuk culture around 1200 BC Chr.
Ust-mil culture around 1200–500 BC Chr.
Koban culture 1200-400 BC Chr.
Irmen culture 1200-400 BC Chr.
Late corporate culture around 1000 BC Chr.
Plate burial culture around 1300-300 BC Chr.
Aldy Bel culture 900-700 BC Chr.
Iron age
Baitowo culture
Tagar culture 900-300 BC Chr.
Nosilowo group 900-600 BC Chr.
Ananino culture 800-300 BC Chr.
Tasmola culture 700-300 BC Chr.
Gorokhovo culture 600-200 BC Chr.
Sagly bashi culture 500-300 BC Chr.
Jessik Beschsatyr culture 500-300 BC Chr.
Pazyryk level 500-300 BC Chr.
Sargat culture 500 BC Chr. – 400 AD
Kulaika culture 400 BC Chr. – 400 AD
Tes level 300 BC Chr. – 100 AD
Shurmak culture 200 BC Chr. – 200 AD
Tashtyk culture 100–600 AD
Chernyakhov culture AD 200–500

As Kurgankultur (after Russian курган Kurgan , grave mounds') are different Neolithic and Copper Age cultures of Eastern and Central Europe combined, which have in common is to burials at large, bulk cargo of earth or stones grave hills.

Origin of the term

Vere Gordon Childe developed the concept of Kurgan culture in 1926 and linked it with the theory that the Aryans were to be regarded as the origin of the Indo-Europeans . This theory has been traced back to other ethnic origins as the Kurgan theory through subsequent research .

The term used in 1956 by the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas initially referred to the discussion of an original home of the Indo-European languages . Later, Gimbutas increasingly combined the hypothesis of the ethnic uniformity of these cultures with ideas about the introduction of patriarchal structures in Europe.

The generic term “spa culture” is used in archaeological and linguistic discourse to this day. The Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas was and is controversial (see section " Critique of the spa theory and later research "), but this applies to all hypotheses about the Indo-European original home. Today the steppe thesis reformulated from the Kurgan hypothesis is the dominant model of the Indo-Europeanization of Europe.


The Lithuanian-American archaeologist Marija Gimbutas introduced the term "Kurgantradition" in 1956 as a generic term for the semi-nomadic, round burial mound- building peoples, according to their most striking feature, the huge Kurganen (from Russian- Tatar kurgán , burial mounds '), in which a selected group of the dead was buried with numerous grave goods . These cultures are usually referred to as "ocher grave culture " and "pit grave culture " (or, in the meantime, often also called Yamnaja culture ), which Gimbutas did not seem concise enough.

The ocher grave or Kurgan culture is characterized by individual burials in grave pits (later wooden chambers) over which a burial mound (Kurgan) was raised. The graves contain scattered ocher . Since the graves typical of steppe peoples also appear in Central and Southeastern Europe, they are used by gimbutas to prove their Kurgan hypothesis. In a number of graves , first in the Maikop and Novotitarovskaya cultures , carts or wheels were found as gifts, as well as axes made of stone or copper . The skeletons in the later earth graves either lay stretched out or in a stool position on their backs.

Many archaeologists reject terms such as “Kurgan people” and “Kurgan culture” because, in their opinion, they do not do justice to the cultural differences and developments within a large area over a period of around 2000 years and suggest a context that does not exist. Most archaeologists, especially in Russia, do not use the term Kurgan culture, but subdivide the corresponding period into different regional, time-limited cultures, which can be found in the graphic below under "Copper Age" (except Glaskowo).

The term "Kurgan hypothesis" describes the idea that this region is the original home of the speakers of the common Indo-European basic language . This hypothesis is judged positively by some prehistorians and linguists.

Origin according to Gimbutas

The so-called Kurgan culture emerged from the 5th to 3rd millennium BC. BC during the drying up of the steppe areas in southern Russia, which at that time stretched between the Dnepr , Siversky Donets , Don and Volga north across the Caspian Sea to the Urals . Due to the formation of dry steppes , east of the Caspian Sea also desertification , and the resulting famines , the porters of the Kurgan people were forced to migrate to more westerly, rainier areas. From this point on, when the peoples north of the Black Sea were subjugated or displaced, i.e. from around 4500 BC. BC, the presumed semi-nomadic conquerors of Gimbutas are called "Kurgan peoples".

Way of life

According to Gimbutas, the Kurgan culture stands in contrast to the society of so-called Old Europe , i.e. the Neolithic and Eeolithic cultures of Europe, which are said to have been peaceable, sedentary and matriarchal . The Kurgan peoples, on the other hand, belonged to a warlike, patriarchal and hierarchical culture that buried their dead in pits with tent-like or hut-like chambers covered by a stone or mound. Depending on the season, these semi-nomadic peoples lived temporarily in semi-subterranean pit houses and practiced seasonal agriculture in the permanent settlements , which was carried out to a lesser extent but continuously. The rest of the year they moved the herds of cattle on heavy ox-drawn wagons to the south, where they lived on pasturage. Dare graves , so car as grave goods for the deceased, were frequent. The Kurgan culture was the first of a series of archaeological cultures that buried their dead in burial mounds ( Kurganen ). This tradition held in the Eurasian steppes until around the time when the horse people of the Scythians and of related strains, but then disappeared. In contrast to later cultures, setting up the burial chamber and the accessories were still relatively simple. Often it was just a simple pit (Russian: Jama) from which the name of the subculture of the Yamnaja culture goes back.

The grave finds from Southeast Europe include up to around 4300 BC. Apart from hunting equipment , no weapons . In addition, there is allegedly no evidence of settlement fortifications . Therefore, according to Gimbutas, the peaceful farmers were easy prey for the wandering groups of the Kurgan culture, who overran them. The intruders were armed with stabbing and cutting weapons : with long daggers , spears , lances , arrows and the typical Kurgan bows made of wood. Investigations of the Kurganen showed that only some of the men saw weapons in the afterlife, while in Kurganen later horseback nomads all men's graves and many women's graves contained weapons.

Walks in waves

Alleged advance of the Kurgan peoples to East Central Europe in the period between 4300 and 3500 BC. Chr.

As the project manager of five large excavations in Southeastern Europe and after intensive studies of a wide range of original archaeological reports and linguistic research, Gimbutas believed to be able to prove since 1977 that the Indo-Europeans were the " old Europe " of the Copper Age , i. H. pre-Indo- European Neolithic Europe, had infiltrated.

The various Kurgan cultures with a patriarchal ruling structure, which consisted of a king or prince, a councilor and free men, accordingly emigrated from the steppe region of the northern Black Sea and the lower Volga region, probably due to climatic reasons during a dry period. They moved west to Europe (cf. Baden culture , string ceramics culture and funnel cup culture ), south-west to Anatolia , south-east - but only from around 2000 BC. - to today's Iran and today's India ( cf.Andronowo culture and Indo-Iranian languages ), to the northwest to the Baltic States and Eastern Europe and to the east to the southern Russian and Kazakh steppes as far as the Altai and Tuwa (cf. Afanasjewo Culture , which was probably founded by immigrants from the Yamnaja culture ), later from there to the Tarim basin (cf. Tocharer ).

The arrival of the Kurgan people, who identified the Gimbutas with the Indo-European indigenous people, brought about a layering of the long-established Neolithic population with it, which had serious social consequences. So the funeral customs changed ; so z. B. in the north the collective burial in megalithic graves of the individual burial, where one finds stool positions and ocher scattering in the graves , as they were common in steppe graves of southern Russia and Central Asia. The social upheaval is also reflected in the material culture, i. H. there are battle axes and boat axes (cf. boat ax culture ), ceramics decorated with cord and other additions that suggest an origin from Southeast Europe. This upheaval, which, apart from the Iberian Peninsula and western France, encompasses all of Europe, is, according to Gimbutas, to be equated with Europe's Indo-Europeanization. Extensive fire horizons in the Danube region, which started from 4400 BC. Are tangible, and Greece and Troy (from 2200 BC) point in the same direction. Marija Gimbutas also mentions the domestication of the horse , which was tamed by the steppe peoples and appears for the first time within the Neolithic European peasant cultures. In hippology , however, it is controversial whether horses were domesticated enough at that time that they could be ridden.

Spread of the spa culture

As a result of long periods of drought, which modern geologists have only recently experienced due to the end of the previously unknown Eastern Mediterranean monsoons from 7000 to around 4500 BC. Could explain, the Kurgan influences spilled over to the areas of old Europe in three waves:

  • Phase I around 4400-4300 BC Chr.
  • Phase II around 3500 BC Chr.
  • Phase III immediately after 3000 BC Chr.
  • A fourth wave occurred around 2500–2200 BC. BC into the Nile valley .

This Gimbutas chronology does not refer to the development of a single cultural group, but to a number of steppe peoples with a common tradition that extended over very wide periods and areas. ( Lit .: Gimbutas, 1996)

Kurgan I.

The peoples of the so-called Kurgan I group came from the Volga steppe and fled the drought to the west, into the western part of today's Ukraine , further to the mouths of the Dniester and Danube rivers and then upstream following the lower reaches of these two rivers.

The Russian archaeologists refer to Kurgan I as the Early Jamna Culture , whereby the word Jamna means something like "pit" and denotes the pit under the burial mound.

Kurgan II

The culturally more highly developed so-called Kurgan II peoples only followed around 1000 years later. They had their origin north of the Black Sea (which is called Pontos Euxeinos in Greek , hence “Pontic”) in the northern Pontic area between the lower reaches of the Dniester and the Caucasus Mountains , where they grazed their herds on the vast steppes. But new drought, coupled with a strong increase in their herds, drove the people living there further west, northwest, north and southeast. Almost the entire Balkan Peninsula , Hungary , Austria , eastern Germany to the Elbe , Poland and central Russia , but also the area north of the Caucasus, were now settled by Indo-European groups.

Russian archeology calls Kurgan II "Michajlowka I" or Maikop culture .

Kurgan III

The migratory movements were interrupted this time for a short time: as early as 3000 BC. The so-called Kurgan III phase began, again from the Volga steppe. It lasted 200 years. These Indo-European newcomers reinforced the already some generations earlier to Central Europe drawn migrants . This expanded the area of ​​so-called Kurgan descendants, in particular to the west, beyond the Rhine , north to Scandinavia and northern Russia. The immigrant groups have now also penetrated into the areas around the Aegean Sea ( Greece , West Anatolia ) and the countries south of the Caucasus ( Georgia , Armenia , Azerbaijan , East and Central Anatolia, and northern Iran).

Schmoeckel and Wolf assure that so-called Kurgang groups have penetrated as far as Syria , Palestine and Egypt ( Lit .: Schmoeckel, 1999).

Kurgan III is called "late Jamna" in Russian archeology (see above).


The mobility of the Kurgan people was based on the domestication of horses in this region as well as on the keeping of cattle, sheep and goats and - on the edge of the forest belt - also on pig farming. Horses were not unknown to the farmers of old Europe ( Iberian horses ); but they were not domesticated. Pasture and livestock farming, which have existed for more than 13,000 years, also led to the transition from matriarchal societies to armed patriarchy . Even if the exact time of this process is so far difficult to determine, it certainly took place before 4000 BC. Chr.

Archaeological finds, underpinned by comparative Indo-European language and mythology research , speak for a collision of two ideologies , social systems and economic forms that shakes the cultural foundations . According to Gimbutas' hypothesis, this clash of cultures changed ancient Europe and in later European prehistory and history, pre-Indo-European and Indo-European elements merged. For example, strong non-Indo-European elements have been preserved in language and mythology.

Funeral customs and worldview

Round hill tombs in Moldova , southern Romania and eastern Hungary provide broad evidence of the migrations of the Kurgan peoples. The earliest Kurgan graves in Moldova date back to around 4300 BC. Dated.

In stark contrast to the balanced relationship between male and female burials in the simultaneous cemeteries of ancient Europe, the Kurgan graves were designed almost exclusively for male corpses. While simple earth pits were common at that time in ancient Europe, the Kurgan tribes covered their graves with a mound of earth or stone and only buried their “warrior” princes in them, along with their preferred war tools , the spear , bow and arrow and the flint dagger or long knife.

Cross-section through an early Kurgan with a semi-underground burial chamber
A kurgan in the steppe
Kurgan near Suwałki, Poland. When a burial mound has been removed by soil erosion or human action, the stones are often left behind.

The grave finds reveal two characteristics of the Indo-European view of the world, as manifested themselves for the first time in East Central Europe in the two graves of Suworowo (on the northern edge of the Danube Delta) and Casimcea ( Danube Valley ). The sites testify that the so-called Kurgan peoples worshiped the horse as a sacred animal (which can be compared with the Scythian barrows preserved by permafrost on the Altai ) and that the wife or consort of a tribal chief was sacrificed after his death.

Alleged population shifts in old Central Europe to the north and north-west indirectly indicate a catastrophe of such enormous proportions that for Gimbutas they cannot be explained by climatic changes or epidemics (for which there is no evidence from the second half of the 5th millennium BC anyway available). On the other hand, it is allegedly proven that mounted warriors invaded these regions, not only through the finds of barrows that were made for a single man, but because at that time a whole complex of social traits emerged that was characteristic of the spa culture: hill settlements , Keeping horses, an economy oriented towards pasture farming, references to violence and patriarchy as well as religious symbols that indicate a sun cult . Radiocarbon dates settle this period between 4400 and 3900 BC. Chr.

In contrast to the massive, above-ground longhouses of the previous period, the small funnel cup houses are being built . They contain ceramic with attached in Furchenstich Engineering sun symbols decorated, herringbone and stitch patterns. The most impressive hill settlements come from the Salzmünder culture , a subgroup of the funnel cup culture , which dates back to the first half of the 4th millennium BC. Is dated. Such a settlement is on a plateau near Halle an der Saale . Hill settlements are built at the highest point in the area and are naturally protected on two or three sides by water or steep cliffs. On the Dölauer Heide five small rectangular houses, the walls of which consisted of three wooden posts each with fillings made of wickerwork plastered with clay, were uncovered. About twenty mounds of earth have been excavated in the same region; each of them contained a central grave in a depression below the surface of the earth and a mortuary shrine, usually made of stone blocks. From this phase there is evidence of violence - signs that people were killed with spears or axes - that continued into the next millennia. Graves with skeletal remains of women, men and children were found in a mess. Also in Eastern Ireland and central England which is bell-cup temporal emergence of grave monuments to individuals around the middle of the fourth millennium BC. In extreme contrast to the previous tradition of group burials.

The end of "old Europe"

The changes in material culture in parts of Central Europe around 4000 BC Chr. Is referred to by Gimbutas as Kurganisierung as a result of the first Kurgan wave. Marija Gimbutas describes the social structure of the agricultural civilization in these parts of old Europe as matristic, i.e. egalitarian, matrilineal and matrilocal .

Around 4000 BC Around BC there was a change in the economic area to a mixed economy of agriculture and pasture farming and in the social area to a patriarchal class society , which was described as a "successful Indo-Europeanization process" ( Lit .: Gimbutas, 1996). The livestock (not nomadic livestock) played an increasingly important role as the agriculture . The change in social structure, religion and economy was not a slow domestic development, but the clash and the gradual mixing of two social systems with completely opposing worldviews .

Not all of Central Europe was Kurganized as a result of the first wave of invaders, but what is certain is that fortified hilltop settlements have now been built in most of the Danube basin. It took many generations until the traditions of all of old Europe were gradually displaced by the Kurgan culture.

Critique of the spa theory and later research

The Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas is controversial for various reasons, as are all other hypotheses about the Indo-European original home. Archeology discusses whether the Kurgan cultures were really shepherd nomads, what role riding or cavalry warriors could have played in the assumed expansion of the Kurgan people to south-east and central Europe, and whether there is sufficient evidence for the immigration of Kurgan people as possible speakers of Indo-European. Linguistic and genetic evidence for the suspected migration is also discussed.


Shepherd nomads

Reconstructed mine house of the Bronze Age Srubna culture

In early publications, Marija Gimbutas referred to the people of the Kurgan cultures of the Copper Age steppe region as nomadic cattle breeders of the Black Sea steppes (English: "nomadic pastoralists of the Pontic steppes" ). Archaeologists countered this early on by saying that solid settlements were excavated and examined from all steppe cultures of the Stone Age and Bronze Age, which contradicts a lifestyle as a pure nomad . These settlements were often located on the edge of the northern forests or in the river valleys, where arable farming was possible and mostly practiced with the available water, which is missing in the open steppe. The houses in these settlements were often semi-underground pit houses , an adaptation to the continental climate with very cold winters and hot summers, because they were easier to heat in winter and cooler in summer. In some cultures the pit houses were just small mud huts with a thatched roof, in others large communal houses that united the living areas of several families and stables under one roof (e.g. Andronowo culture ). These settlements were only inhabited for part of the year. In winter the residents migrated with their herds of sheep, cattle and horses into the open steppe or along the rivers far south towards the Black Sea and camped like nomads in tents. This lifestyle of seasonal alternation between sedentariness and nomadism is known as semi-nomadism . Under the conditions of the steppe, considerably more people could be fed than with a sedentary lifestyle as an arable farmer. Vegetable food from agriculture played a subordinate role. In later publications, Gimbutas therefore corrected their characterization and referred to the Kurgan cultures as semi-nomadic cultures (English: "semi-nomadic cultures" ). Only in the Iron Age culture of the Scythians and related tribes in the 2nd / 1st. Millennium BC BC - shortly afterwards and at the same time much further west the Kimmerians  - the settlements were mostly abandoned and the steppe inhabitants became pure nomads.

Horse domestication and equestrian warriors

Gimbutas called the people of the so-called Kurgan culture as equestrian warriors (English: "mounted warriors" ), whose mobility is said to be based on the domestication of horses .

Riding horse with bridle

Since the 1980s, archaeologists and hippologists have opposed this by stating that this lifestyle was only possible after the invention of the snaffle toggle , i.e. the tie rods in the horse's mouth that are still used today, which enable precise directional control by pressing on the horse's front molars. In early cultures there are depictions of horses as draft animals , with nooses on the head, a harness in the chest area or even nose rings. Experts agree that draft horses were reasonably steerable in conjunction with the whip . The reins of a single rider are too weak to be able to steer the irritable animals precisely. The transition to a mounted lifestyle is only possible with the invention of the bridle. However, no bridles have been found in the Stone Age cultures of the Eurasian steppes.

Depiction of a rider from the Pasyryk culture with a bridle

For a long time it was believed that bridles were in the run-up to the Pasyryk stage in the Altai around 1200 BC. Was invented because iron bars were found there as the earliest grave goods and later spread over the Eurasian steppes. This was opposed by the fact that in the Middle East, in Mitanni around 1800 BC BC, first depictions of horses with bridles appear, which later become more common in West and Central Asia and also China and Egypt.

The research of the American anthropologist David W. Anthony together with several Kazakh, Russian and Ukrainian archaeologists have fundamentally revised the picture after previous preparatory work.

They found part of the horse bones in sites from 3700-3100 BC. In BC during the Copper Age in central northern Kazakhstan , the Botai culture spread characteristic traces of wear on the front molars of horse skeletons, which prove the use of bridles. Since the Botai people were not yet familiar with metal processing, their bridles were probably made of organic material and have therefore not been preserved. The people of the Botai culture also lived semi-nomadically, but in a rhythm that was contrary to other cultures. They wintered in permanent settlements, nomadized in summer and did not farm. Their diet was based on meat and dairy products from horses, which make up over 99% of the bone finds in the Botai site and over 60% (the rest of wild animal bones) in the Tersek site and whose herds they guarded, according to some researchers such as Anthony, as riders. They were also hunters.

A Hittite chariot with bridle steering (Egyptian representation)

Knowledge of snaffles seems to have been preserved in later cultures in Kazakhstan, even if archaeological evidence is missing. In the Sintashta culture , the chariots seem to have been invented, which spread from China to Western Europe and Egypt and whose draft horses are often depicted with bridles. However, both this culture and the Andronowo culture that followed were still semi-nomadic; only the later Scythians became nomads on horseback.

In other Stone Age cultures in the Eurasian steppes, neither clear snaffles nor typical traces of wear on horse teeth have been found.

A find by David Anthony and the Ukrainian researcher Dimitri Telegin in the late 1980s in a settlement in Derijiwka on the Dnepr (about 250 kilometers south of Kiev ) from around 4000 BC. Chr. Was a horse tooth, which shows signs of wear, which were caused by a bridle . They dated this tooth to around 4000 BC. However, this dating turned out to be wrong: New AMS data (OxA-7185, OxA-6577) show that the tooth was from the Iron Age around 700 BC. BC (Anthony / Brown 2000), while the dating of the settlement itself could be confirmed. So a Scythian riding horse was buried and happened to be in the vicinity of a much older site.

The British Marsha Levine also finds no clear evidence that horses were sold before the end of the 3rd millennium BC. Used as riding or draft animals. Their argument that the horses were unsuitable for riding because of their small size ( height 1.2–1.4 m; today 1.6–1.75 m) can be countered by the fact that recent pony breeds such as fjord horses and Icelandic ponies are very good be ridden, even by adults. Cattle were used as draft animals.

Horse bones do not show clear traces when the animals are ridden, so dating the horse's use as a mount is difficult. There is reliable evidence for the use of the bridle for the people of the Botai culture (3600 to 3000 BC). Horse bones have been documented in Central Europe since band ceramics . Anthony concludes that domestic horses in the Eurasian steppe region were domesticated from the European wild horse , but initially as farm animals and suppliers of meat and milk. However, it is very likely that they were ridden relatively early because it is difficult to control herds of horses if the shepherds are not mounted themselves. Horse meat, however, made around 4200 BC. BC also in the western steppe cultures from a considerable portion of the food. In summary, Anthony states: "Riding began in the Pontic-Caspian steppes before 3700 BCE, or before the Botai-Terek culture appeared in the Kazakh steppes. It may well have started before 4200 BCE." ("Riding began in the Pontic-Caspian steppes before 3700 BC, or before the Botai-Terek culture appeared in the Kazakh steppes. It may also have started before 4200 BC.")

For more western steppe cultures and thus also for the immigration represented by Gimbutas to ancient Europe between 4500 and 3000 BC. However, there is no reliable evidence that horses were ridden. Anthony assumes, however, that the Yamnaja culture and the Afanassjewo culture could have known not only the car, but also riding.

The archeology of Central Europe is also looking for bridles and discusses some objects made of wood or stag horn, typical traces on horse teeth, which would be proof, but have not yet been found before the Bronze Age and thus clearly after the wandering west. According to this, bridles can only be reliably detected in these regions in the Bronze Age, i.e. after Gimbutas' immigration.

David Anthony thinks it likely that horses were born as early as 4000 BC. Were used in wars between Indo-European clans. Accordingly, they may also have played a role in the decline of old Europe. In his opinion, however, one should not make the mistake of imagining these warriors after the archetypal images of marauding horsemen of later times like the Huns . Because the composite bow that enables archery on horseback did not exist yet. The tactics of the cavalry , i.e. the disciplined and coordinated joint attack of numerous horses, was definitely not known at the time. If the horse played a role in the conquest of ancient Europe, then it served above all as a fast and effective means of transport for the warriors, who, however, dismounted and fought on foot before the actual battle. As archaic Indo-European epics such as the Iliad show, the Bronze Age warriors were concerned with personal glory and the accomplishment of heroic deeds, while the commanders did not have much power. In a conflict with the largely peaceful culture of old Europe, however, even these limited military capabilities may have been sufficient for victory.

Funeral customs

One objection to Marija Gimbutas' hypothesis is that burial customs in Europe also changed fundamentally before and after the so-called Kurgan expansion. A criticism of the Kurgan concept on the basis of various changing burial traditions can be found inter alia. with Alexander Häusler . Häusler doubts that the Stone Age immigration from the steppes to the Baden culture, string ceramics culture and funnel cup culture took place at all. The cultural changes are too great for him to really assume migration. Other researchers advocate it and point to the spread of battle axes to Central and Eastern Europe, the dominant weapon of the Stone Age Kurgan people (see battle ax people ), and to similar ceramics from these cultures. Some investigations are currently ongoing, e.g. B. by strontium isotope analysis , which should clarify whether this migration can be detected otherwise.

By David W. Anthony Copper Age settlement of Southeast Europe will be discussed mainly on chronological gaps. However, he confirms an immigration of Indo-Europeans from the steppe to Southeastern and later Central Europe in a book from 2007, which he expressly does not describe as a coordinated military invasion, but as an emigration of tribes, which the native old European population due to their military and economic superiority forced into a clientele relationship and thus made dependent on themselves.


Map of the Indo-European migration from approx. 4000 to 1000 BC BC (Kurgan hypothesis). Immigration to Anatolia could have taken place either via the Caucasus (dashed arrow) or via the Balkans.
  • Original home according to the Kurgan hypothesis
  • Indo-European speaking peoples up to 2500 BC Chr.
  • Settlement from 1000 BC Chr.
  • When the philologists began to research the language of the Indo-Europeans 200 years ago, archaeological research was still unknown. At that time one was solely dependent on "linguistic evidence". That has changed since around 1950 with intensive excavation work. In the meantime there is a wealth of interesting archaeologists' finds that are used by linguists to compare their assumptions about the material culture of the "early Indo-Europeans". Unfortunately, the archaeological finds do not reveal which language their users spoke.

    Your line of argument was and is mainly followed by the American archaeologist David Anthony. Kathrin Krell, on the other hand, argues that the Indo-European language roots contain many terms from agriculture, while according to their presentation the culture of the Kurgan tribes was based on pure cattle farming - but this contradicts the above-mentioned doctrine that it is to a limited extent there was also agriculture.

    Another immigration scenario is the Anatolia hypothesis by Colin Renfrew , which assumes a gradual and peaceful expansion of an Indo-European agricultural culture within the framework of the neolithization of Europe. This hypothesis hardly finds supporters anymore. For example, Fortson writes "That they or their ancestors did not originally inhabit Anatolia is certain (in spite of the controvery mentioned in § 2..71)." In The Prehistory of Asia Minor , BS Düring writes: "On balance, the hypothesis that Indo-European originated in Central Anatolia and spread along with the dispersal of farming is not convincing."

    As a third hypothesis, the linguists Gamkrelidze and Iwanow propose the area south of the Caucasus as the starting point for the Indo-European original language and an Indo-European migration from here in several directions. This was said to have run mainly eastwards around the Caspian Sea (where it experienced its Tocharian or North Indian split) and then ran westwards into the northern Pontic region.

    Renfrew's Critique of the Kurgan Hypothesis

    Colin Renfrew countered the Kurgan hypothesis with the Anatolia hypothesis he first published in the late 1980s . He criticizes the Kurgan hypothesis primarily on three points:

    1. archaeological: the kurgan are monuments of a sedentary culture
    2. undeveloped root words for plants and animals may have changed their meaning and were no good for conclusions to a specific geographical area
    3. the overall picture is not convincing; it is unclear what should have caused huge groups of mounted warriors to move west at the end of the Neolithic and force their language on the previous inhabitants.

    Genetic location of the Indo-Europeans

    Since the mid-1990s, the Kurgan hypothesis received new arguments from the genetic characteristics of today's Europeans and the spread of the Indo-European languages. The research was mainly presented by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza .

    The geneticist L. Cavalli-Sforza supports the theory of Gamkrelidze and Iwanow, which he sees as a later wave of emigration after an early expansion of Anatolia. Scenarios in the Neolithic and the Copper Age that mainly see physical migrations ("migrations of peoples") as the cause are, however, controversial today. A strong genetic influence of the Indo-Europeans is today rejected or relativized by most geneticists, regardless of archaeological research.



    • Marija Gimbutas: The civilization of the goddess. The world of old Europe. Zweiausendeins, Frankfurt am Main 1996 (English first edition 1991), ISBN 3-86150-121-X .
    • Marija Gimbutas: The Ethnogenesis of the European Indo-Europeans. Institute for Linguistics, Innsbruck 1992, ISBN 3-85124-625-X .
    • Marija Gimbutas: The End of Old Europe. The invasion of steppe nomads from southern Russia and the Indo-Germanization of Central Europe. Institute for Linguistics, Innsbruck 1994, ISBN 3-85124-171-1 .
    • Alexander Häusler: The graves of the older ocher grave culture between the Dnepr and the Carpathians . Beier & Beran, Berlin 1974, without ISBN.
    • Alexander Häusler: On the relationships between the northern Pontic region, south-east and central Europe in the Neolithic and in the early Bronze Age and their significance for the Indo-European problem. In: Przegląd Archeologiczny 29, 1981, pp. 101-149.
    • Alexander Häusler: Cultural Relations between Eastern and Central Europe in the Neolithic? In: Annual Journal for Central German Prehistory 68, 1985, pp. 21–74.


    • David W. Anthony: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language . Princeton University Press, Princeton / Oxford 2007, ISBN 978-0-691-14818-2
    • AR Dexter, K. Jones-Bley (Eds.): The Kurgan Culture and the Indo-Europeanization of Europe. Selected Articles Form 1952 to 1993. Institute for the Study of Man, Washington 1997, ISBN 0-941694-56-9 .
    • JP Mallory : The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2006, ISBN 0-19-928791-0 .
    • JP Mallory: Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Fitzroy Dearborn, London 1997, ISBN 1-884964-98-2 .
    • JP Mallory: In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Language, Archeology and Myth. Thames & Hudson, London 1989, ISBN 0-500-27616-1 .

    Web links


    1. The dates in the table are taken from the individual articles and do not always have to be reliable. Cultures in areas of other former Soviet republics were included.
    2. ^ VG Childe: The Aryans: a study of Indo-European origins , K. Paul, London 1926.
    3. ^ David W. Anthony: The "Kurgan Culture", Indo-European origins, and the domestication of the horse: A reconsideration. (PDF) In: Current Anthropology , Volume 27, No. 4, August-October 1986, pp. 291-313.
    4. ^ Marija Gimbutas: The Prehistory of Eastern Europe. Part I: Mesolithic, Neolithic and Copper Age Cultures in Russia and the Baltic Area. Peabody Museum, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 1956.
    5. Marija Gimbutas: Culture Change in Europe at the Start of the Second Millennium BC A Contribution to the Indo-European Problem . In: A. F. C. Wallace (Ed.): Selected Papers of the Fifth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Philadelphia, September 1-9, 1956. University of Philadelphia Press, Philadelphia 1960, pp. 540-552.
    6. Marija Gimbutas: The End of Old Europe. The invasion of steppe nomads from southern Russia and the Indo-Germanization of Central Europe. Institute for Linguistics, Innsbruck 1994. ISSN  1216-6847 ISBN 3-85124-171-1
    7. Asya Pereltsvaig, Martin W. Lewis: The Indo-European Controversy. Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2015.
    8. ^ HW Arz, F. Lamy, J. Pätzold, PJ Müller, M. Prins (2003): Mediterranean Moisture Source for an Early-Holocene Humid Period in the Northern Red Sea. Science, 300, 5616, pp. 118-121. doi : 10.1126 / science.1080325 .
    9. Marija Gimbutas: The civilization of the goddess. The world of old Europe. Two thousand and one, Frankfurt am Main 1996; English first edition 1991, p. 324. It expressly avoids the term “matriarchy”, since it evokes false associations of female rule analogous to male rule in patriarchy.
    10. See e.g. B. Elke Kaiser, Joachim Burger, Wolfram Schier: Population Dynamics in Prehistory and Early History: New Approaches Using Stable Isotopes and Genetics. Pp. 178-190 . The finding has long been recognized in regional archeology. Here confirmed with isotope analysis to research the eating habits of the people of the catacomb grave culture , Yamnaja culture and Maykop culture.
    11. Published by a. in David W. Anthony : The Horse, the Wheel and the Language. How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the Modern World. Princeton 2007, pp. 201-224 excerpt online . Anthony's results received a lot of attention in the history of the early history of the Eurasian steppes.
    12. David W. Anthony, Dimitri Telegin: The beginnings of riding. in: Spectrum of Science . Spektrumverlag, Heidelberg 2.1992, ISSN  0170-2971 .
    13. D. Ya. Telegin, M. Lillie, ID Potekhina, MM Kovaliukh: Settlement and economy in Neolithic Ukraine, a new chronology. in: Antiquity. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 77.2003, pp. 456-470, ISSN  0003-598X .
    14. ^ Marsha Levine, Colin Renfrew and Katie Boyle: Prehistoric Steppe Adaptation and the Horse. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2003.
    15. ^ David Anthony: The Horse, the Wheel and Language. 2007, p. 199
    16. ^ David Anthony: The Horse, the Wheel and Language. 2007, p. 221
    17. ^ Anthony's lecture at the Silk Road Symposium at Pennsylvania State University.
    18. A somewhat older overview is provided by Hans-Georg Hüttel: Bronze Age Bridles in Central and Eastern Europe, Munich 1981. Excerpt online Even later research did not find any bridles from the time of these immigrants in the Copper Age.
    19. ^ David Anthony: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, 2007, pp. 222-224, 237-239
    20. Alexander Häusler: To the origin of the Indo-Europeans. Archaeological, anthropological and linguistic aspects. in: Ethnographic-Archaeological Journal (EAZ). Berlin 39.1998, pp. 1-46. ISSN  0012-7477
    21. Alexander Häusler: Origin and expansion of the Indo-Europeans. Alternative explanatory models. Indo-European research. in: Journal for Indo-European Studies and General Linguistics. de Gruyter, Berlin 2002, pp. 47-75. ISSN  0019-7262
    22. David W. Anthony: Nazi and ecofeminist prehistories: ideology and empiricism in Indo-European archeology. In: Philip R. Kohl, Clare Fawcett: Nationalism, politics, and the practice of archeology. Cambridge (University Press) 1995. pp. 82–96 (especially from p. 90)
    23. David Anthony: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, 2007, pp. 367-370
    24. ^ JP Mallory: In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Language, Archeology and Myth. Thames & Hudson, London 1989, ISBN 0-500-27616-1 .
    25. Reinhard Schmoeckel: The Indo-Europeans. Departure from prehistory. Bastei Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1999, ISBN 3-404-64162-0 .
    26. ^ David W. Anthony: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language. Princeton University Press, Princeton / Oxford 2007, ISBN 978-0-691-14818-2
    27. Kathrin Krell: Gimbutas' Kurgan-PIE Homeland Hypothesis: A Linguistic Critique. In: Roger Blench & Mathew Spriggs (eds.) Archeology and Language, II, pp. 267-289. Routledge, London 1998.
    28. ^ Benjamin F. Fortson IV. Indo-European Language and Culture Blackwell: 2nd edition, 2010: 171
    29. Thomas W. Gamkrelidze, Wjatscheslaw Iwanow: The early history of the Indo-European languages. In: Spectrum of Science. No. 1 (2000), pp. 50-57.
    30. ^ Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza: Genes, Peoples and Languages. The biological foundations of our civilization. 1999
    31. Semino et al .: Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area . American Journal of Human Genetics 74, 2004: pp. 1023-1034