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PIE. Indo-Europeans. Indo-Iranians and their Language

PIE. Indo-Europeans. Indo-Iranians and their Language 

Principal archaeological sites and cultures mentioned in text. Sites: A, Mikhailovka; B, Petrovka; C, Arkhaim; D, Sintashta; E, Botai; F, Namazga; G, Gonur; H, Togolok; I, Dashly Oasis; J, Sapelli; K, Djarkutan; L, Hissar; M, Shahr-i-Sokhta; N, Sibri; O, Shahdad; P, Yahya; Q, Susa.

 Cultures: 1, Cucuteni (NWM)-Tripolye; 2, Pit Grave/Catacomb;3, Sintashta/Arkhaim; 4, Abashevo; 5, Afanasievo; 6, Andronovo; 7, Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex; 8, Indus; 9, Akkadian; 10, Hurrian; 11, Hittite

Table of Contents-Cuprins:  

Archaeology and Language. The Indo-Iranians by C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky

Linguistic Aspects of the Indo-European Urheimat Question by Dr. Koenraad Elst

Indo-European Time Line



Archaeology and Language. The Indo-Iranians by C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky


Archaeology and Language. The Indo-Iranians

by C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky


Current Anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

C . C . Lamberg-Karlovsky is Stephen Philips Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University and Curator of Near Eastern Archaeology at Harvard’s Peabody Museum (Cambridge, Mass. 02138, U.S.A. [karlovsk@]). Born in 1937, he was educated at Dartmouth College (B.A., 1959) and the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., 1964; Ph.D., 1965). His research interests concern the nature of the interaction between the Bronze Age civilizations of the Near East and their contemporary neighbors of the Iranian Plateau, the Indus Valley, the Arabian Peninsula, and Central Asia. His recent publications include Beyond the Tigris and Euphrates Bronze Age Civilizations (Tel Aviv: Ben Gurion University of the Negev Press, 1996) and (with Daniel Potts et al.) Excavations
at Tepe Yahya, Iran: Third Millennium (American School of Prehistoric Research Bulletin 42). The present paper was submitted 23 vii 00 and accepted 29 v 01.

This review of recent archaeological work in Central Asia and Eurasia attempts to trace and date the movements of the Indo- Iranians—speakers of languages of the eastern branch of Proto-Indo-European that later split into the Iranian and Vedic families. Russian and Central Asian scholars working on the contemporary but very different Andronovo and Bactrian Margiana archaeological complexes of the 2d millennium b.c. have identified both as Indo-Iranian, and particular sites so identified are being used for nationalist purposes. There is, however, no compelling archaeological evidence that they had a common ancestor or that either is Indo-Iranian. Ethnicity and language are not easily linked with an archaeological signature, and the identity of the Indo-Iranians remains elusive.

Once upon a time—no one really knows how long ago—there was a community that spoke a language known today as Proto-Indo-European. For almost two  centuries scholars have been trying to locate the time and the place and to reconstruct that language. Several recent works by archaeologists and linguists on the origins and eventual spread of Proto-Indo-European-related languages—Germanic, Slavic, Romance, Iranian, Indic, Albanian, Baltic, Armenian, Tocharian, and Greek —from India to England offer new perspectives on this centuries-long debate. Among these the work of Renfrew (1987), Mallory (1989), Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1984, 1995), and Mallory and Mair (2000) are of greatest interest.
The archaeologist Renfrew contends that the Proto- Indo-European settlement was located in Anatolia around 7000–6500 b.c. and its subsequent spread can be
attributed to a superior technology: the invention of agriculture.
The linguists Gamkrelidze and Ivanov situate the homeland of Proto-Indo-European a few millennia later in the nearby Caucasus. Mallory and Mair agree with their 4th-to-5th-millennium date but place the homeland in the Pontic-Caspian steppes. Whatever the location of its homeland and the timing of its dispersal, there is agreement that the Proto-Indo- European community split into two major groups. One group migrated west to Europe and became speakers of Indo-European (all the languages of modern Europe save for Basque, Hungarian, and Finnish), while the other headed east to Eurasia to become speakers of Indo-Iranian
(fig. 1). Indo-Iranian split into Iranian and Vedic or
Indo-Aryan. The Iranian languages are those of Iran (Iranian),
Pakistan (Baluch), Afghanistan (Pashto), and Tadjikistan
(Tadjik), and the Indo-Aryan languages are Hindi
and its many related languages. In this review I am seeking
to trace and date the movement and language of the
Indo-Iranian community.
The Theorists: Archaeologists, Linguists, and Others With the renewed interest in the relationship between archaeology, language, and archaeogenetics, new solutions
are being offered for old problems (Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi, and Piazza 1994; Kohl and Fawcett 1995; Meskell 1998; Renfrew and Boyle 2000). The search for the Indo-Europeans in an archaeological context is almost as old as archaeology. Raphael Pumpelly’s (1908) highly regarded excavations at Anau, Turkmenistan, were motivated  by such a search, and they had a profound influence on V. G. Childe (1928). Renfrew (1999), reviewing the status of the origins and dispersal of the Indo-European languages, suggests that the immediate ancestor of the Indo-Iranian languages “may perhaps find its material counterpart in the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture of the Ukraine” (1999:280). He argues for an eastward dispersal of Indo-Iranian-speakers after 3000 b.c. He offers no “cause” for this dispersal but believes it unrelated to horse riding, which he attributes to a later-2d-millennium
He places the dispersal of Indo-Iranian 64 F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
Fig. 1. Hypothetical development of the Indo-Iranian languages.
onto the Indian subcontinent around 1700 b.c. and invokes
his “elite dominance model”—the subordination
of the local populations by an elite group of charioteers,
as described in the Rigveda—to describe it.
Elena Kuzmina (1994), in search of the homeland of the Indo-Europeans, examines the regions from the Balkans-Carpathians-Danube Basin to the Urals and the eastern steppes of Kazakhstan and places the establishment of the Proto-Indo-European community broadly between 4500 and 2500 b.c. and its subsequent spread in the range of 3200–2200 b.c. She favors an Indo-European homeland in the Pontic-Caspian zone and argues for a
series of eastward migrations to the Urals. As a result of the movement of tribes along the Don Basin in the northern Caspian area and from the western steppes and the mountainous Crimea to the eastern steppes beyond the Urals, a productive subsistence economy based on cattle breeding and wheat and barley farming spread. The largescale migrations of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, she believes,were motivated by the reduction of local food
resources as a result of deteriorating climatic conditions and by a conscious search for new productive lands and modes of subsistence. Reliance upon migrations as the principal agent of social change has been typical of Russian archaeological interpretations, along with a blurring of the distinction between ethnic, linguistic, racial, and cultural entities, the isolation of racial/ethnic groups by the craniometric methods of physical anthropology, and the use of linguistic paleontology to reconstruct the development of
cultural groups. For instance, attempts have been made to identify the physical types of the various Andronovo populations, invariably by craniometric means (Alekseev 1967, 1986, 1989). These studies are more closely related to racial typology than more recent attempts to gauge degrees of biological affinity between populations residing in distinctive geographical settings (Malaspina et al. 1998, Voevoda et al. 1994). Skeletal remains from sites of the Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex have been compared with those of the Harappan civilization in terms of nonmetric cranial features and judged “profoundly”
different (Hemphill, Christensen, and Mustafakulov 1995). These researchers believe that their study documents “gene flow from west to east, from western Iran to the oases of Central Asia” (p. 863). In their opinion the Bactrian Margiana complex either originated in or passed through Iran. But the presence or absence of certain nonmetric features of the skull cannot be considered “gene flow” and hardly supports such a sweeping conclusion.
There is absolutely no evidence that genes are involved in determining the presence or absence of the cranial features studied; there are numerous nongenetic factors that account for cranial features and their variation (for example, diet, infant cradling). To speak of
“gene flow” suggests a degree of understanding of the genetic structure of the architecture of the skull that we simply do not currently possess.
The Archaeological Evidence
The principal actors on the archaeological stage are the Pit Grave culture(s) of the Pontic-Caspian steppe at 4000–2800 b.c., its descendant the Catacomb Grave culture(
s) of 2800–2000 b.c., and its successors the Timber Grave (Srubnaja) culture(s) of 2000–1000 b.c. and the related Andronovo cultures of 2000–900 b.c. (see figs. 2and 3). No two writers agree on the extent to which these entities are related. This is not surprising, for there is a conspicuous absence of formal descriptions, ceramic typologies,chronological sequences, and/or distribution analyses of the artifact types that are said to characterize
them (Zdanovich 1984). Each of them is divisible into archaeological variants, and each variant has its advocate for its Indo-Iranian identity. Archaeologists describe the
various “tribes” of the Pit Grave or the earlier Mariupol culture as inhabiting the region between the Dnieper and the Urals in the 4th millennium. The development of cattle breeding and the domestication of the horse are taken to be major 5th/4th-millennium developments on
the Russian/Ukrainian steppes. These archaeological cultures are typically identified as Indo-European (Anthony 1991).
The Andronovo culture was first described by Teploukhov (1927) and has been the focus of archaeological research on the Ural/Kazakhstan steppe and in Siberia (Jettmar 1951). Kuzmina (1994) is among the majority of scholars who believe that the Andronovo is Indo-Iranian and forms a single cultural entity, albeit with regional variations. Increasingly, however, the concept of a single homogeneous culture covering 3 million square kilometers
and enduring for over a millennium has become untenable (Yablonsky 2000).
(lamberg-karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 65
Fig. 2. Principal archaeological sites and cultures mentioned in text. Sites: A, Mikhailovka; B, Petrovka; C, Arkhaim; D, Sintashta; E, Botai; F, Namazga; G, Gonur; H, Togolok; I, Dashly Oasis; J, Sapelli; K, Djarkutan; L, Hissar; M, Shahr-i-Sokhta; N, Sibri; O, Shahdad; P, Yahya; Q, Susa. Cultures: 1, Tripolye; 2, Pit Grave/Catacomb;
3, Sintashta/Arkhaim; 4, Abashevo; 5, Afanasievo; 6, Andronovo; 7, Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex; 8, Indus; 9, Akkadian; 10, Hurrian; 11, Hittite.)
  Archaeologists working on the steppes are involved in giving new definitions—that
is, distinctive chronological and cultural phases—to the cultures of the steppes (Kutimov 1999, Levine et al. 1999 and papers therein). Similarly, the nature of Andronovo
interaction, its periodization, and its unstructured chronology are all subjects of heated discussion. Numerous subcultures have been identified: Petrov (also called Sintashta-
Arkhaim-Petrovka), Alakul, Fedorovo, Sargarin, Cherkaskul, Petrovalka, Abashevo, Novokumak, and others. On the basis of the type of pottery and its technology,the absence of the pig, and the presence of camels,cattle, horses, psalia (distinctive decorative pieces,often of bone or ivory, attached to the reins at the ends of the bit), and chariots, Kuzmina argues for cultural continuity of the Andronovo from 2000 to 900 b.c. She uses ethnohistoric evidence to support the idea of the southern Urals as the homeland of the Indo-Iranians,
tracing the Iranian-speaking Sakas and Sauromatians of the 1st millennium back to the Andronovo tribes and suggesting that Indo-Iranian texts such as the Rigveda
and the Avesta reflect the world of the Andronovo culture. In the Rigveda there is an admonition against the use of the wheel in the production of pottery, and the
fact that Andronovo pottery is handmade is taken as
evidence of its makers’ Indo-Iranian identity.
In an effort to create a science of archaeo-linguistic
correlations, Kuzmina (1994) devises the following methods
for ethnic attribution: (1) retrospective comparison—
comparison of the archaeological culture with a
descendant culture whose ethnicity is established by
written documents, (2) correlating the ethnic attribution
derived by the retrospective method with lexicostatistical
data on the level and type of economy, (3) determination
of migration routes and the plotting of migration
indicators through time and space, (4) anthro66
F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
Fig. 3. Relative chronology of major archaeological cultures.
pometric analyses, believed to indicate a group’s biological
affinity, (5) study of linguistic substrates and toponymic
correlations, and (6) the reconstruction of culture,
cosmology, and worldview from archaeological and linguistic
data. Using these methods, she assesses the Andronovo
culture as Indo-Iranian and, more specifically,
the Fedorovo culture (a late variant of the Andronovo)
as Indo-Aryan. The ethnic indicators here are (1) the absence
of the pig from the domestic diet, (2) the presence
of the Bactrian camel, (3) the special significance of horse
breeding, (4) the special role of chariots, (5) a cult of the
horse associated with burial contexts, (6) vertically oriented
tripartite vessels manufactured by coiling, (7)
unique quadrangular pots, (8) cremation, and (9) houses
with high, gabled roofs. Diakonoff (1995:147) concludes
that with Kuzmina’s methodology “the bearers of a certain
archaeological culture can securely be identified
with the bearers of a language of a certain group or with
their ancestors.”
The ethnic and linguistic identity of the Andronovo
culture nevertheless remains elusive. A great deal is
made of the importance of the horse in the Andronovo
cultural context, but the role of horse riding as a stimulus
to the development of sheep, goat, and cattle pastoralism
and the relative dependence upon pastoral transhumance
compared with sedentary agriculture is much debated.
Given the absence of botanical data providing information
about crops and the relative paucity of settlement
archaeology—save for the newly discovered “country of
towns”—we have virtually no understanding of the demographic
situation on the steppes. Khazanov (1983:33–35)
has shown that a shepherd can control up to 2,000 sheep
when riding horseback as compared with fewer than 500
on foot. However, increase in herd size results in risks
to the fragile environment of the steppes, and given the
severe winters, the relative unavailability of water, and
the failure of rainfall in as many as six out of ten years
out-migration (diffusion) is inevitable (Khazanov 1983).
The Pit Grave Culture
Kuzmina (1994) is not alone in believing that the domestication
of the horse introduced a new stage in the
evolution of civilization. On the steppes the horse allowed
for the increasing role of cattle breeding, the inlamberg-
karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 67
tensification of interethnic communication, the development
of plough traction, and the use of carts and
wagons. By the middle of the 3d millennium these innovations
were being used by tribes of the Pit Grave
culture from the Danube to the Urals. The 4th-millennium
Pit Grave culture was characterized by large fortified
settlements (e.g., Mikhailovka), four- and twowheeled
wagons pulled by bulls or horses, intensive
cattle breeding and farming, extensive use of metal tools,
and burials under mounds (kurgans) containing carts,
wagons, and sacrificed horses. The migrations of the Pit
Grave culture(s) are considered by some scholars to be
responsible for the emergence of stock breeding and agriculture
in distant Siberia. With regard to horse riding
Anthony (2000) supports an early date—late 4th/early 3d
millennium—while Levine (1999) finds conclusive evidence
only in the late 2d millennium. In light of the fact
that texts refer to horse riding in late-3d-millennium
Mesopotamia, where the domesticated horse was an obvious
import, it would appear that Anthony is closer to
the mark.
The warrior attributes that are evident in the Andronovo
culture are frequently assigned to the Pit Grave
culture. Axes, spears, bows and arrows, a rich variety of
dagger types, and chariots all speak of conflict and confrontation,
as do the heavily fortified communities.
Sharp distinctions of rank are attested in burial sites.
Kuzmina (1994) suggests that social position was defined
more by social, ideological, and ritual activities than by
property ownership. Russian archaeologists view the
steppe cultures as a “transitional type.” The concept of
a “military democracy,” derived from the work of Lewis
Henry Morgan, remains popular and refers to the presence
of a chief, a council, and a popular assembly. Khazanov
(1979), while regarding the military democracy as
a particular type of transitional society applicable to the
social formations of Central Asian pastoral nomads, has
also advocated the adoption of the concept of a “chiefdom”
as a transitional form preceding the state.
Commenting upon the vehicle burials of the Pit and
Catacomb Grave cultures, Stuart Piggott (1992:22) points
out that over the past 40 years more than 100 kurgans
with vehicles have been excavated but fewer than half
have been published even in the briefest form. By contrast,
Gening, Zdanovich, and Gening (1992) have published
on the settlement and cemetery of Sintashta in
the southern Urals, where ten-spoked-wheeled chariots,
horse sacrifices, and human burials have been radiocarbon-
dated to the 1st century of the 2d millennium b.c.
However horses may have been regarded on the
steppes, in Mesopotamia the king of Mari, ca. 1800 b.c.,
is admonished not to ride a horse, lest he jeopardize his
status: “You are the King of the Hanaeans and King of
the Akkadians. You should not ride a horse. Let my king
ride a chariot or on a mule and he will thereby honor
his head” (Malamat 1989).
The Petrov, Alakul, and Fedorovo Cultures
The earliest of the Andronovo cultures would seem to
be the Petrov, dated to the first centuries of the 2d millennium.
The Petrov is succeeded by the Alakul, which,
in turn, is followed by the Fedorovo, dated to the second
half of the 2d millennium. Both the Alakul and the Fedorovo
are frequently assigned an Indo-Iranian identity.
Chernetsov (1973) and Stokolos (1972), however, argue
for a Ugric substrate among the Andronovo tribes and a
specific Indo-Iranian identity only for the Alakul, with
the latter proposing a local development for the Fedorovo.
Kuzmina (1994) accepts the cultural subdivisions
of the Andronovo culture but often refers to cultural
contact and migrations in the context of a singular Andronovo
entity. She refers to Andronovo influence with
regard to the introduction of specific axes and adzes of
Andronovo type in distant Xinjiang. The relationships of
the Andronovo with the cultures of Xinjiang are documented
by Mei and Shell (1999).
P’yankova (1993, 1994, 1999) and Kuzmina (1994) are
specific in linking the Andronovo culture with the 2dmillennium
agricultural communities of Central Asia,
the Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex. Sites of
this complex and the related mid-2d-millennium Bishkent
culture are seen by P’yankova as influenced by the
Fedorovo tribes. Fedorovo ceramics, funeral rites, and
metal (alloyed with tin) and skulls of the Andronovo
anthropological type are said to be present in a number
of Central Asian sites. There is consensus that throughout
the 2d millennium migrations of the Andronovo
tribes resulted in contact with the Central Asian oases,
the cultures of the Tien Shan Mountains of Xinjiang, and
the indigenous tribes of the Altai, Tuva, and Pamir
The Timber Grave and the Sintashta-
Arkhaim-Petrovka Cultures
Although Kuzmina (1994) identifies the 3d-millennium
Timber Grave culture as Indo-Iranian, it is only in the
Andronovo culture and, specifically, at the site of Sintashta
that she believes one can document a cluster of
specific Indo-Iranian cultural traits: (1) a mixed economy
of pastoralism and agriculture, (2) handmade ceramics,
(3) horse-drawn chariots, (4) cultic significance for the
horse, fire, and ancestors, and (5) high status for charioteers.
There are two contending hypotheses for the origins
of the Sintashta-Arkhaim-Petrovka culture—as an
indigenous culture with its roots in the earlier Botai culture
of northern Kazakhstan (see Kislenko and Tatarintseva
1999) and as the result of a migration from the
west (from the Abashevo and/or the Mnogovalikovo culture(
s), themselves variants of the Timber Grave culture).
Kuzmina appears to favor a western origin, while Zdanovich
and Zdanovich (1995) appear to favor indigenous
roots. Research on the question of origins is severely
hampered by an inadequate chronological framework.
68 F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
Despite the paucity of radiocarbon dates (Go¨ rsdorf et al.
1998), recent research in Kazakhstan has been able to
trace an indigenous series of archaeological cultures from
the Mesolithic to the Atbasar culture of the Neolithic,
all preceding the diffusion of the Andronovo from the
west (Kislenko and Tatarintseva 1999).
Excavations at Sintashta were initiated in 1972 under
the direction of V. I. Stepanov and resumed in 1983 under
the direction of G. B. Zdanovich and V. F. Gening. The
settlement, subcircular in form, is 140 m in diameter
and 62,000 km2 in area. Its elaborate fortification system
consists of an outer wall, a moat, and an inner wall with
periodic buttresses believed to have formed towers. Entrance
to the settlement is by way of two gates, each
offering angled access and a movable bridge placed over
a moat. Several two- or three-room houses with hearths,
constructed of timber, wattle and daub, and unbaked
brick, were excavated. Evidence for the production of
metal as well as ceramics was found in some of the
Two hundred meters northwest of the settlement a
burial complex consisting of 40 graves with 60–65 inhumations
was uncovered. The burials were placed in
pits in which wooden structures were constructed and
roofed with wooden beams. Single and multiple burials,
adults and children, were placed in these wooden structures.
The burials contained a wealth of material: vessels,
daggers, pins, awls, needles, axes, mortars, pestles, stone
tools, bone artifacts, etc. Five graves contained psalia and
“battle chariots.” Twenty-five graves had evidence for
the sacrifice of horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and dogs. The
animals or sometimes only parts of them were placed
either directly in the burial or in associated pits. From
one to six horses were placed in individual graves. The
excavators had little doubt that the differences in the
wealth placed in particular tombs indicated a rank-ordering
of social strata. Significantly, several of the burials
containing considerable wealth were of females and children.
In some burials the excavators recorded the presence
of “altars” and associated “ritual fires.”
A circular barrow 32 m in diameter contained three
burial clusters. The first group had abundant grave offerings
placed in individual chambers containing numerous
sacrificed horses. The second group was placed
in a central structure 18 m in diameter. Within this burial
was uncovered a large battle chariot with a very rich
inventory of material remains and numerous sacrificed
animals. This entire complex is interpreted as the burial
of an extremely important person. A third group of burials
consisted mostly of women and children placed in
simple shallow pits at the edge of the barrow. These
burials also contained rich grave goods and the remains
of sacrificed animals.
A small barrow was located 400 m northwest of the
large burial complex. It was 12 m in diameter and contained
six adults and three children, all placed in a square
wooden structure. Burial 7, a male, was particularly rich
in material remains, as was burial 10, a female. Both
burials contained a rich inventory of metals—the male
daggers and knives, the female bracelets and needles.
Both burials contained sacrificial animals. The researchers
suggest that this burial complex contained a number
of related persons.
Another barrow was 15–16 m in diameter and contained
a single wooden chamber with five bodies. A large
battle chariot was uncovered, and near each of the deceased
was a rich material inventory. Four additional
graves were found outside of the structure. Some Russian
archaeologists believe that human sacrifice and the defleshing
of the dead were components of Andronovo burial
ritual, and if so, perhaps these are candidates for such
a practice.
Another barrow, looted in antiquity, is 85 m in diameter
and is located almost immediately adjacent to
the large burial complex. Around the barrow there is
evidence for a 12-m-wide moat. Within the barrow there
were numerous “ritual fires” surrounding two wooden
structures and a large wooden “temple” structure. The
principal burial was placed in a vaulted dromos. Over
the looted burial chambers an impressive “temple” had
been constructed.
In the opinion of Zdanovich and Zdanovich (1995; Zdanovich
1997), the Sintashta-Arkhaim-Petrovka culture is
characterized by heavily fortified communities with
moats and walls forming circular or subrectangular settlements.
Gennadi Zdanovich (1995, 1997, 1999), who
excavated both Sintashta and Arkhaim, refers to this culture
as the “country of towns.” Nineteen settlements of
this type, spaced about 20–30 km apart, are known in
an area 450 km by 150 km.
The horse-drawn chariot, a rich inventory of weaponry,
tin-bronze alloying, and disclike bone psalia are all believed
to be innovations of the Sintashta-Arkhaim-Petrovka
culture. The Andronovo culture has also been
seen as responsible for large-scale metallurgy and as the
principal agent in the exchange of metals throughout
Eurasia in the 2d millennium. The recent discovery of
stannite deposits and tin mining at Muschiston, Tadjikistan,
associated with Andronovo sherds (Aklimov et
al. 1998), adds to the already considerable evidence for
the mining of copper deposits by the Andronovo tribes
(Cherynkh 1994a, b). Given the existence of an extensive
Andronovo metallurgical inventory, its association with
the mining of both copper and tin, the evidence for the
production of metal artifacts at numerous sites, and the
presumed extensive migrations, the Andronovo culture
is often considered responsible for the dissemination of
metallurgical technology. Some writers have even suggested
that the pastoral nomads of the steppes—the Andronovo
and the even earlier Afanasiev cultures—were
the agents of the dissemination of metallurgical technology
into China (Peng 1998, Bunker 1998, Mei and
Shell 1998).
The search for new metal resources, the alloying of
copper with tin, intensive cattle breeding, the construction
of fortified settlements, and the development of the
horse-driven chariot are all important innovations of the
“country of towns.” Less attention has been paid to plant
remains. At Arkhaim archaeologists recovered millet
(Panicum miliaceum) and Turkestan barley (Hordeum
lamberg-karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 69
turkestan). The excavator has also argued for the presence
of “irrigated farming” in “kitchen gardens,” parallel
beds 3–4 m wide divided by deep ditches (Zdanovich
1999a; 1999b:380).
Arkhaim is a circular fortified settlement approximately
150 m in diameter. It is estimated that between
1,000 and 2,000 people inhabited it. The settlement is
surrounded by two concentric defensive walls constructed
of adobe and clay placed in a log frame. Within
the circle, abutting the defensive walls, are some 60
semisubterranean dwellings. These houses contain
hearths, cellars, and wells, and some have metallurgical
furnaces. A drainage gutter with pits for collecting water
was uncovered in the circular street that surrounded the
inner portion of the settlement. In the center of the settlement
was a rectangular “plaza.”
Entrance into the settlement was by way of four elaborately
constructed angular passages constructed over
moats and terminating in a gate. Clearly, access for the
unfamiliar would have been very difficult. Larger fortified
settlements with far more impressive stone architecture
are known but remain unexcavated. Russian
archaeologists believe that the Sintashta-Arkhaim-
Petrovka culture consisted of three classes, military and
religious leaders, nobles, and peasants, and they tend to
refer to this culture as a chiefdom rather than as a military
democracy (Koryakova 1996).
The discovery and preservation of Arkhaim is of special
significance, as it was scheduled to be flooded in
1989 after the completion of a reservoir. In 1991 the
Council of Ministers of the Russian Federation designated
Arkhaim and its environs a protected site. In subsequent
years a scientific campus was built, along with
tourist facilities, and in 1999 an impressive Museum of
Natural History and Man was under construction. Arkhaim
has become a center for followers of the occult
and Russian supernationalists, a theater of, and for, the
absurd and dangerous. It is argued that it was constructed
to reproduce a model of the universe; that it was built
by King Yima, as described in the Avesta, the sacred book
of the Zoroastrians (Medvedev 1999); that it was a temple
observatory; that it was the birthplace of Zoroaster, who
is buried at Sintashta; that it is the homeland of the
ancient Aryans; and that it is the earliest Slavic state.
The swastika, which appears on pottery from Arkhaim,
is proclaimed a symbol of Aryanism. Visitors come to
pray, tap energy from outer space, worship fire, be cured,
dance, meditate, and sing. “We Slavs,” writes Zdanovich,
the director of excavations, “consider ourselves to be
new arrivals, but that is untrue. Indo-Europeans and
Indo-Iranians had been living here [in the southern Urals]
since the Stone Age and had been incorporated into the
Kazakhs, Bashkirs, and Slavs; such is the common thread
linking us all” (quoted in Shnirelman 1998, 1999).
Shnirelman (1995:1) writes that nationalist concerns
in the former U.S.S.R. are creating “an explicitly ethnocentric
vision of the past, a glorification of the great
ancestors of the given people, who are treated as if they
had made the most valuable contribution to the culture
of all humanity.” The wave of nationalism in Russia has
given rise to numerous publications of highly dubious
merit. Thus, a monograph published by the Library of
Ethnography and sanctioned by the Russian Academy of
Science, Kto Oni i Otkuda (Chesko 1998), claims the
Arctic to be the original homeland of the Vedas and Russian
the language with the closest affinity to Sanskrit.
This heightened nationalism projects a mythical and majestic
Slavic past in which the archaeology of Arkhaim
plays no small part. Geary, discussing ethnic group formation
(1999:109, my emphasis), states:
The second model of ethnogenesis drew on Central
Asian steppe peoples for the charismatic leadership
and organization necessary to create a people from a
diverse following. . . . these polyethnic confederations
were if anything more inclusive than the first
model [in which ethnic formation followed the identity
of a leading or royal family], being able to draw
together groups which maintained much of their
traditional linguistic, cultural, and even political organization
under the generalship of a small body of
steppe commanders. The economic bases of these
confederations was semi-nomadic rather than sedentary.
Territory and distance played little role in defining
their boundaries, although elements of the
confederation might practice traditional forms of agriculture
and social organization quite different from
those of the steppe leadership.
In a similar vein one might imagine the Andronovo
culture as consisting of “polyethnic confederations”
which had varying archaeological expressions—Alakul,
Petrov, Abashevo, “the country of towns,” etc.—each
maintaining its “traditional linguistic, cultural, and even
political organization.” The identification of the Andronovo
culture as a singularity, in both a cultural and
a linguistic sense, transforms the multiple and the complex
into the singular and simple. In considering the history
of the peoples of the steppes, whether it be the confederation
of the Huns, the Goths, or the Sarmatians,
Patrick Geary is at constant pains to point out that “polyethnicity
was obvious” and that “ethnic labels remained
significant . . . but they designated multiple and at times
even contradictory aspects of social and political identity”
(1999:117, 125). As Barth (1969) long ago pointed
out, ethnic groups are subjective, constructed, and situational,
embedded in political and economic relations.
Ethnicity is a changing phenomenon that attains its
greatest expression in situations of conflict, competition,
and cultural change (Jones 1997).
The Bactrian Margiana Archaeological
A major contender for Indo-Iranian identity and a relatively
new actor on the archaeological stage of Central
Asia is the Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex,
discovered and named by Victor Sarianidi (1976:71)
through excavations in Afghanistan in the late 1970s (for
70 F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
references see Klochkov 1999). “Bactria” was the name
given by the Greeks to northern Afghanistan, the territory
around the Amu Darya River, while Margiana (Margush)
was a Persian province of the Achaemenid empire
whose capital was Merv, in present-day Turkmenistan.
Sarianidi (1998a, b) not only identified the Bactrian Margiana
complex as Indo-Iranian but isolated what he believed
to be distinctive Proto-Zoroastrian cultural characteristics
in the archaeological record.
Following five years of surveys and excavation at the
important site of Delbarjin (Kushan/Buddhist) in Afghanistan,
a new publication was initiated specifically
to report on this work: Drevnii Baktria. In the first volume
Sarianidi (1976) published his excavations in the
Dashly Oasis, with the initial identification of the Bactrian
Margiana complex. In the following year (1977) he
published the first extensive synthesis of his work in
Afghanistan. His excavations at Dashly III uncovered a
round building interpreted as a temple. The Dashly III
culture was reconstructed along Mesopotamian lines; a
temple community presided over by a “chief priest”
eventually gave way to kingship as the communal sector
became privatized. The large round building, which had
a buttressed outer wall, was the focus of the community,
with radial streets leading to it. This “temple,” with
dozens of rooms indicating domestic functions, was believed
to have housed 150–200 people. Numerous bronze
compartmented seals were recovered but no sealings.
The seals were attributed the same function as in Mesopotamia—
securing doors and stored and transported
Sarianidi concluded that the Dashly III settlements
were self-sufficient communities managed as temple estates.
He specifically drew a parallel between them and
the Uruk community of Mesopotamia and suggested that
a few elements found ready parallels in the Rigveda and
the Avesta: cattle breeding, fire temples, circular and rectangular
fortresses, animal burials, and the presence of
camel (Sarianidi 1984).
Excavations at the Dashly Oasis, Togolok 21, Gonur,
Kelleli, Sapelli, and Djarkutan have provided extraordinarily
rich documentation of material remains and architectural
exposures, as well as a chronological sequence
for the Bactrian Margiana complex (for a review
see Askarov and Shirinov 1993). The very extensive horizontal
exposure at each of these sites—a signature of
Soviet archaeology—is almost as impressive as the monumental
structures discovered in them, all identified as
either temples, forts, or palaces. Sarianidi (1990, 1998b)
states that Gonur was the “capital” of the complex in
Margiana throughout the Bronze Age. The palace of
North Gonur measures 150 m by 140 m, the temple at
Togolok 140 m by 100 m, the fort at Kelleli 3 125 m by
125 m, and the house of a local ruler at Adji Kui 25 m
by 25 m. Each of these formidable structures has been
extensively excavated. While they all have impressive
fortification walls, gates, and buttresses, it is not always
clear why one structure is identified as a temple and
another as a palace. Nor is there a clear signature or
architectural template within the complex; in fact, each
building is unique, save for the fact that all are fortified
by impressive walls and gates. The majority of the objects
recovered are ascribed simply to a major feature
(e.g., “the palace at North Gonur”). However, when a
complex feature such as the so-called priestess burial at
Togolok 1, where two bulls and a driver may have been
sacrificed, is excavated, a full contextual analysis is
Sarianidi (1990) advocates a late-2d-millennium chronology
for the Bactrian Margiana complex, describes it
as the result of a migration from southeastern Iran, and
identifies it as Indo-Iranian, with objects, beliefs, and
rituals ancestral to Zoroastrianism. An impressive series
of specific parallels in pottery, seals, stone bowls, and
metal types is found with sites in Baluchistan and with
Tepe Yahya, Shahdad, and the Jhukar culture of late Harappan
times. There is absolutely no doubt, as is amply
documented by Pierre Amiet (1984), of the existence of
Bactrian Margiana material remains at Susa, Shahdad,
and Tepe Yahya, but there is every reason to doubt that
these parallels indicate that the complex originated in
southeastern Iran. The limited materials of this complex
are intrusive in each of the sites on the Iranian Plateau
as they are in sites of the Arabian peninsula (Potts 1994).
Although ceramics from the Andronovo cultures of the
steppe have been found at Togolok 1 and 21, Kelleli, Taip,
Gonur, and Takhirbai, Sarianidi (1998b:42; 1990:63) is
adamant in opposing any significant Andronovo influence
on the Bactrian Margiana complex: “Pottery of the
Andronovo type does not exceed 100 fragments in all of
southern Turkmenistan.” As rigorous approaches to data
retrieval were not practiced, this figure must be merely
impressionistic. Kuzmina and Lapin (1984) suggest that
drought dried up of the delta of the Murghab River, making
possible an incursion from the steppes by Andronovo
warrior tribes that put an end to the Bactrian Margiana
complex. By the middle of the 2dmillennium all its sites
had been abandoned, for reasons that remain elusive.
The question of the nature and the extent of interaction
between the Andronovo cultures of the steppe and
the sedentary farmers of Bactria and Margiana is of fundamental
importance. As noted, the two archaeological
entities are distinctive in their material culture and synchronous,
and both have been identified as Indo-Iranian.
Decades ago, in his excavations at Takhirbai 3, V. M.
Masson (1959) suggested that during the first half of the
2d millennium there was a high degree of interaction
between the steppe nomads and the sedentary farmers
of Bactria and Margiana. This has been resoundingly confirmed
by the highly productive archaeological surveys
undertaken recently by the Turkmen-Russian-Italian
surveys in Margiana (Gubaev, Koshelenko, and Tosi
1998). Erdosy (1998:143) has recently observed that “the
greatest desideratum is a clearer understanding of spatial
relationships, the one area of archaeological research that
has been seriously neglected by Soviet scholarship.”
Archaeological surveys in the Murghab area have documented
hundreds of settlements with Bactrian Margiana
complex, post–Bactrian Margiana complex, and incised
coarse ware (a generic Andronovo ceramic), and
lamberg-karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 71
therefore there is little doubt that the interaction of peoples
from the steppes with their sedentary Central Asian
neighbors was both extensive and intensive, if not always
peaceful. Sarianidi (1999) acknowledges this interaction
and now argues that Andronovo-type vessels have
been found only in rooms used for the preparation of
haoma-type drinks in Margiana. He concludes that the
Bactrian Margiana complex is Indo-Aryan and the Andronovo
Iranian but that as Proto-Zoroastrians the two
have cultic rituals in common.
Clearly, the surveys in the Murghab region indicate
that it was what Mary Louise Pratt (1992:6–7) calls a
contact zone—“the space in which peoples geographically
and historically separated come into contact with
each other and establish on-going relations, usually involving
conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and
intractable conflict” and characterized by “radically
asymmetrical relations of power.” While the relationship
between people from the steppes and those of the Bactrian
Margiana complex and its successors remains undefined,
the fact that all fortified their settlements is
suggestive. The surveys highlight that archaeological
cultures, no less than modern ones, are not distinct “cultures”
or “ethnic groups,” what Geertz (2000:234) calls
“lumps of sameness marked out by limits of consensus,”
but permeable mosaics of interacting similarities and
Evidence for the interaction of settled farmers and the
Andronovo culture also comes from the excavations in
southern Tadjikistan at Kangurttut (Vinogradova 1994),
where Andronovo ceramics were recovered. Vinogradova
suggests that “infiltration of the Andronovo tribes to the
south was relatively slow” and peaceful, allowing a “settling
down and dissolution” of the steppe population into
that of the farming oases (Vinogradova 1994:46).
The extensive metallurgy of both the steppe cultures
and the Bactrian Margiana complex is well documented
(Chernykh 1992). The types that characterize the two
are entirely distinctive. From her study of the Bactrian
Margiana metals N. N. Terekhova concludes that techniques
of casting and forging were utilized in the production
of objects manufactured from copper-arsenides,
native copper, and, very rarely, copper-tin bronze. In the
latter category 26 objects were analyzed and proved to
contain from 1 to 10% tin.
N. R. Meyer-Melikyan (1998) has analyzed floral remains
recovered from the monumental complex at Togolok
21: “fragments of stems, often with leaves, pollen
grains, anterophors, microsporangia, and scraps of megasporia
skin and parts of fruit” (p. 203) found in large
pithoi in rooms 23 and 34. She concludes that the remains
belong to the genus Ephedra. Sarianidi is thus
afforded the opportunity of following a number of scholars
who believe that ephedra was the essential ingredient
in haoma or soma, the mildly intoxicating drink referred
to in the sacred books of the Indo-Iranians, the Rigveda
and the Avesta. The presence of ephedra at Gonur is
taken by Sarianidi as further testimony to the Indo-Iranian
and Proto-Zoroastrian identity of the Bactrian Margiana
complex, along with the presence of fire temples,
fire altars (which he compares to pavi, Zoroastrian altars),
and particular mortuary rituals (animal sacrifice).
Sarianidi (1998b) now accepts, albeit with misgivings,
the higher chronology for the Bactrian Margiana complex
advanced in the mid-1980s by a number of scholars. A
series of radiocarbon dates collected by Fredrik Hiebert
(1994) at Gonur offers unequivocal evidence for the dating
of the complex to the last century of the 3d millennium
and the first quarter of the 2d millennium. A new
series of radiocarbon dates from Tepe Yahya IVB-4, where
Bactrian Margiana imports were recovered, confirms the
late-3d-millennium dating for the beginnings of the complex
(Lamberg-Karlovsky 2000). Sarianidi (1999:78)
writes, “The first colonists from the west appeared in
Bactria and Margiana at the transition from the 3d to the
2d millennium b.c.” However, his insistence upon dating
Gonur to 1500–1200 b.c. flies in the face of his own
C14 dates, which average 300–500 years earlier.
Of equal significance is Sarianidi’s new perspective on
the origins of the Bactrian Margiana complex. At numerous
sites Sarianidi identifies altars, fire temples, the
importance of fire in mortuary rituals, fractional burials,
burials in vessels, and cremation, and in chamber 92 at
Gonur a dakhma—a communal burial structure associated
with Zoroastrian mortuary practice, in which the
dead are exposed—is reported. Animal burials including
camel and ram were recovered from Gonur and other
Bactrian Margiana sites. At North Gonur the “Tomb of
the Lamb” contained a decorated metal macehead, silver
and bronze pins with elaborately decorated heads, an ornamental
ivory disc, and numerous “faience” and bone
pieces of inlay. Sarianidi interprets this as evidence for
the transition from human to animal sacrifice, even
though there is no unequivocal evidence for human sacrifice
either on the steppes or in Central Asia. Mortuary
rituals, architectural parallels (particularly in what Sarianidi
calls “temples”), and above all, stylistic similarities
in cylinder seals all converge to suggest to him that
Bactria and Margiana were colonized by immigrants
from the Syro-Anatolian region (1998a:76, 142). He traces
this migration in two directions: (1) across the Zagros to
Elam and Susa, where there are numerous Bactrian Margiana
parallels (Amiet 1984), from there to Shahdad and
Yahya, where again such materials are found (Hiebert
and Lamberg-Karlovsky 1992), and finally to Baluchistan
and (2) north of Lake Urmia and along the Elburz Mountains
to Hissar in period IIIB and finally to the oases of
Bactria and Margiana. Unfortunately, there is scant evidence
to support the notion of an extensive migration
from Syro-Anatolia to Bactria and Margiana in the archaeological
Architectural similarities are exceedingly generalized,
and the parallels to time/space systematics are weak.
Thus it is suggested that a text from Qumran referring
to animal sacrifice, the “Tomb of the Lamb” at Gonur,
and a “Ligabue vessel” said to have come from an illegal
excavation at Shahdad that is vaguely associated with
the Aegean “prove the real historical link of the tribes
that immigrated from the west with the Mycenean-Minoan
world” to Bactria and Margiana (Sarianidi 1998a:
72 F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
44). Sarianidi believes that the evidence provided by the
seals is conclusive—that they derive their thematic inspiration
and style from the Syro-Anatolian region and
that their motifs and composition are of “undisputed
Hittite-Mitannian origin” (1998a:143). One gets the impression
that he has chosen the Syro-Anatolian region
as the homeland of the Bactrian Margiana complex in
order to situate it within the geographical region in
which the first Indo-Aryan texts were recovered and thus
strengthen his Indo-Aryan claim for it (Sarianidi 1999).
In a treaty between a Hittite and a Mitanni king from
the 15th century b.c., the latter swears an oath by a series
of gods who are major Indic deities: Mi-it-ra (IndicMitra),
Aru-na (Varuna), In-da-ra (Indra), and Na-sa-at-tiya. In
another text a man named Kikkuli counts from one to
nine in Indic numerals and is referred to as an assussanni
(Sanskrit asvasani-), a trainer of horses and specialist in
chariotry. In yet another text, Indo-Aryan words are used
to describe the colors of horses. Finally, the Mitanni word
marya is precisely the same word as the marya referred
to in the Rigveda with the meaning “warrior”. This evidence
has led to the consensus view that an Indo-Aryanspeaking
elite of chariot warriors imposed themselves
on a native Hurrian population to form a ruling dynasty
that endured for several centuries (Mallory 1989).
(Ghirshman [1977] attempted to identify the arrival of
the Indo-Aryans in the region of the Hurrians (northern
Syria) by linking them with Habur Ware and black and
grey wares, but this untenable argument was elegantly
refuted by Kramer [1977].) These texts indicate that by
the 16th/15th centuries b.c. a separate Indo-Aryan language
had already diverged from a putative Indo-Iranian
linguistic entity. Thus, the split of the Indo-Iranian languages
into Iranian and Indo-Aryan must predate the
14th and 15th centuries b.c., perhaps by as much as 500
years, and this is where linguists generally place it.
The vast majority of the Bactrian Margiana seals contain
motifs, styles, and even material that are entirely
foreign to the repertoire of seals from Syro-Anatolia,
Mesopotamia, the Gulf, and the Indus (Baghestani 1997).
They are of a thoroughly distinctive type and are to be
seen as indigenous to the Central Asian Bronze Age
world and not as derivative from any other region. They
have been found in the Indus civilization, on the Iranian
Plateau, at Susa, and in the Gulf. Amiet (1984) and Potts
(1994) have documented the wide distribution of Bactrian
Margiana–complex materials, and it is in this context
that the specific parallels to the Syro-Anatolian region
are to be appreciated. The wide scatter of a limited
number of artifacts does not privilege any area as a homeland
for the complex. The very limited number of parallels
between the Bactrian Margiana complex and Syro-
Anatolia signifies the unsurprising fact that, at the end
of the 3d and the beginning of the 2d millennium, interregional
contacts in the Near East brought people
from the Indus to Mesopotamia and from Egypt to the
Aegean into contact.
The idea of a distant homeland and an expansive migration
to Central Asia is difficult if not impossible to
maintain, but the origin of the Bactrian Margiana complex
remains a fundamental issue. Although some scholars
advance the notion that it has indigenous roots, the
fact remains that its material culture is not easily derived
from the preceding Namazga IV culture. Its wide distribution,
from southeastern Iran to Baluchistan and Afghanistan,
suggests that its beginnings might lie in this
direction—an area of enormous size and an archaeological
terra nullius. In fact, the Bactrian Margiana complex
of Central Asia may turn out to be its northernmost
extension, while its heartland may lie in the vast areas
of unexplored Baluchistan and Afghanistan.
Ahmed Ali Askarov (1977; Askarov and Shirinov 1993)
has excavated two important settlements of this complex
in Uzbekistan: Sapelli Depe and Djarkutan. The recent
syntheses of these excavations (Askarov and Shirinov
1993) offer an abundance of illustrations of the
architecture, ceramics, and material remains recovered.
The walled settlement of Djarkutan covers an area of
approximately 100 ha and features a fortress, almost
completely excavated, of more than 3 ha. The architecture
and material inventory firmly place Djarkutan and
Sapelli Depe within the Bactrian Margiana cultural context.
Askarov, following Sarianidi, places Djarkutan in
the second half of the 2d millennium b.c. and describes
palaces, temples, and fire altars as related to a Proto-
Zoroastrian world.
Askarov pays special attention to a large structure at
Djarkutan, over 50 by 35 m, identified as a “fire temple.”
This structure contains extensive storage facilities and
a large paved central room with a raised podium in its
center that is believed to be the seat of the “sacred fire,”
as well as other rooms containing “fire altars.” This impressive
building is explicitly described as Proto-Zoroastrian.
At both Djarkutan and Sapelli Depe, extensive
excavation has uncovered dozens of structures and numerous
graves, but because there is little attribution of
materials to specific rooms and/or structures one can
only summon a vague notion as to how many building
levels there are at a single site. My own visits to Gonur,
Togolok, and Djarkutan confirm that each of these sites
has multiple building levels, but the publications present
the data as being essentially from a single time period.
Even though Sarianidi points out that Gonur had 2 m of
accumulation and Taip 2.5 m, the stratigraphic complexity
and/or periodization of these sites is left unexplored.
Thus, the internal development and chronology
of the complex still await definition. Askarov reconstructs
social stratification at Djarkutan, from aristocrats
to slaves, within a state-structured society. He identifies
both sites as inhabited by Indo-Iranian tribes which, he
believes, played an important role in the later formation
of Uzbek, Tadjik, and Turkmen nationalities.
The settlement pattern around Djarkutan and Sapelli
mirrors that of the sites excavated by Sarianidi. A large
settlement with impressive “temples” and/or “palaces”
is surrounded by smaller agricultural villages. After Sapelli
was abandoned for reasons unknown, the site, particularly
the region about the “temple,” was used as a
cemetery. A total of 138 graves were excavated. Raffaele
Biscione and L. Bondioli (1988) report that females outlamberg-
karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 73
numbered males by three to two. While both male and
female graves contained numerous ceramics, metals, and
stone vessels, females were accompanied by an average
of 15.5 objects and males by 7.5. Two male graves, however,
stand out from all the rest in number of objects and
in placing the dead in wooden coffins.
Striking evidence for interaction between the Bactrian
Margiana complex and the steppe cultures is reported
from the salvage excavation of an elite tomb discovered
along the upper Zerafshan River in Tadjikistan (Bobomulloev
1999). Excavation of this tomb yielded the burial
of a single male, accompanied by a ram, psalia identical
to those recovered from Sintashta, a bronze pin terminating
with a horse figurine, and numerous ceramics of
Bactrian Margiana type. This striking association in a
single tomb underscores the existence of a paradox. On
the steppes there is ample evidence for the use of horses,
wagons, and chariots but an exceedingly scant presence
of Bactrian Margiana material remains, while in Bactrian
Margiana communities there is scant evidence for steppe
ceramics and a complete absence of horses and their
equipment or their depiction. Such an asymmetry in the
distribution of these highly distinctive cultures would
seem to suggest a minimum of contact between the two.
The fact that representative communities of both cultures
(e.g., Arkhaim and Gonur) are heavily fortified suggests
the need of each community to prepare for conflict.
The extent of the conflict that existed within these distinctive
cultures as well as between them remains unknown.
The almost complete absence of evidence of contact
between the Bactrian Margiana complex and the cultures
of the steppe is made the more enigmatic by the evidence
of settlement surveys. Gubaev, Koshelenko, and Tosi
(1998) have found numerous sites of the steppe cultures
near Bactrian Margiana settlements. The evidence therefore
suggests intentional avoidance. Clearly this situation,
should it be correctly interpreted, requires theoretical
insights that await elucidation.
Iron Age Settlements in China
In the 2d century b.c., Zhang Qian, a Chinese envoy
stationed in the western provinces, compared the agrarian
and nomadic polities of Xinjiang, and Nicola Di-
Cosmo (2000) finds those Iron Age settlements similar
to the Bactrian Margiana complex sites with respect to
size, fortifications, oasis environments, subsistence patterns,
and processes of nomadic-sedentary interaction.
Zhang Qian wrote of 24 “walled towns” in Xinjiang that
served as “capitals,” and DiCosmo calls these nomadic
settlements “city-states.” Wutanzli consisted of 41
households containing 231 individuals, of whom 57 were
capable of bearing arms; Yanqi was among the most populous,
with 4,000 households containing 32,100 individuals
and an army of 6,000. Chinese sources identify these
political entities as guo, traditionally rendered in England
as “state.” Each guo was a political formation with
a recognizable head, a bureaucratic hierarchy, and a military
organization. The Chinese texts indicate that the
pastoral nomads maintained a larger military-to-civilian
ratio than their agrarian neighbors.
The scale of the pastoral nomadic “empire” in the late
Iron Age is attested by the Wusun of Xinjiang’s Tarim
Basin, with a population of 630,000 and an army of
188,800 (DiCosmo 2000:398). To theWusun can be added
the pastoral-nomadic Saka, Yuezhi, and Xiongnu and the
later Mongol confederations, each of which affected the
political organization of Eurasia on a continental scale.
Relationships between nomadic and sedentary communities
were typically hostile; the Chinese sources suggest
that insufficient food supplies resulted in competition
and conflict over agricultural resources. When
nomadic polities were strong, they extracted tribute from
their more sedentary neighbors, thus ensuring the need
for an extensive military presence in return for a sufficient
and regular food supply (see also Jettmar 1997). It
is entirely possible that in the Bronze Age the sedentary
Bactrian Margiana complex and the pastoral-nomadic
Andronovo cultures formed an “ideal type” (in the Weberian
sense) of sociopolitical foundation that is mirrored
in these later Chinese texts.
Archaeological and Linguistic Correlations
The archaeologist A. L. Netchitailo (1996) refers to all
the archaeological cultures on the steppes as belonging
to what he calls “the European community.” This view
can be interpreted as inclusive, in which case Altaic- and
Ugrian-speakers become European, or exclusive, in
which case they played no role on the steppes. I argue
for a different interpretation entirely—that the bearers
of any of the variants of the Andronovo culture and the
Bactrian Margiana complex may have spoken Indo-Iranian
but may just as readily have spoken a Dravidian
and/or an Altaic language. Contemporary methodologies,
linguistic or archaeological, for determining the
spoken language of a remote archaeological culture are
virtually nonexistent. Simplified notions of the congruence
between an archaeological culture, an ethnic group,
and a linguistic affiliation millennia before the existence
of texts is mere speculation, often with a political
agenda. Archaeology has a long way to go before its methodology
allows one to establish which cultural markers,
pottery, architecture, burials, etc., are the most reliable
for designating ethnic identity.
Some scholars, both linguists and archaeologists, subscribe
to the notion that the Dravidians migrated from
the Iranian highlands to South Asia, where they came
into contact with the Indus civilization (Witzel n.d.);
others even suggest that the horse and the camel were
introduced into Iran by the Dravidians (Allchin 1995:31;
Kenoyer 1998:78). The Bactrian Margiana complex could
have been Indo-Iranian, Dravidian, Altaic, or any combination
of the three. If, say, it was Dravidian, then
which archaeological culture represents the others? Central
Asia has either too many languages and too few archaeological
cultures or too few languages and too many
74 F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
archaeological cultures to permit an easy fit between
archaeology and language.
Archaeologists and linguists share a difficulty in confronting
and identifying processes of convergence and
divergence. Migrations result in linguistic and cultural
divergence, giving rise to the family-tree model of language
formation, while seriation, the establishment of a
“genetic” relationship between two objects in distinctive
material cultures, indicates cultural divergence in the
archaeological record. Convergence—the coming together
of two distinctive languages and/or cultures—is
a more recent linguistic concern that is completely ignored
in archaeology. Archaeological cultures either progress,
change because of internal social processes (rarely
demonstrated), or, more typically, are altered by external
factors (population pressure, climate change, migration/
diffusion, etc.). The Australian linguist R. M. W. Dixon
(1997) has given new life to the importance of linguistic
convergence, first advocated by Trubetskoy (1968 [1939]).
Dixon (1997:3) convincingly argues that migrations,
which trigger linguistic (and cultural) divergence, are
rare, the more normal situation being linguistic, and I
daresay cultural, convergence:
Over most of human history there has been an equilibrium
situation. In a given geographical area there
would have been a number of political groups, of
similar size and organisation, with no one group
having undue prestige over the others. Each would
have spoken its own language or dialect. They
would have constituted a long-term linguistic area,
with the languages existing in a state of relative
This would seem to describe the archaeological cultures
of the steppes from the Pit Grave to the Andronovo culture(
s). Given the increasingly large number of divisions
and subdivisions of the generic Andronovo culture(s),
with evidence for no one group’s having “undue prestige
over the others,” there is no reason to believe that they
all shared an Indo-Iranian language. From the millenniadeep
common roots of the Andronovo culture(s) and before
that the related Timber Grave culture(s), processes
of both convergence and divergence (archaeologically indicated
by the eastward migrations of the Andronovo
culture[s]) allow for the presence of not only Indo-Iranian
but other language families as well.
Clearly, the idea of the convergence of cultures, that
is, the assimilation of local populations by incoming peoples,
is very poorly developed in archaeology. The problem
of identifying convergence in an archaeological or
linguistic framework is highlighted by Henning’s (1978)
attempt to identify the Guti as the “first Indo-Europeans.”
At ca. 2200 b.c. the Guti invaded Mesopotamia
and brought down the powerful Akkadian empire. They
are identified in the texts as mountain people, probably
from northwestern Iran, who ruled Mesopotamia for approximately
100 years. Archaeologists have been unable
to identify a single fragment of material culture in Mesopotamia
as belonging to the Guti, and the Akkadian
(western Semitic) texts contain no loanwords identifiable
as Indo-European. Except for their name and their activities
as recorded in the Mesopotamian texts, the Guti
are all but invisible. Henning (see also Narain 1987) suggests
that after their conquest of Mesopotamia they migrated
to the east, where Chinese texts refer to them, as
the Yue¨ -chih (the phonological equivalent of “Guti” in
Chinese). In the first half of the 2d millennium there is
not a shred of archaeological evidence for a migration
from Mesopotamia to China, nor is there a parallel in
the realm of the Yue¨ -chih for a Mesopotamian-Gutian
material culture. This does not negate the Guti (Yue¨ -
chih) identity but merely underscores the fact that convergence
can virtually obliterate the ability to distinguish
previously distinctive entities, whether cultural or
Russian scholars working in the Eurasiatic steppes are
nearly unanimous in their belief that the Andronovo culture
and its variant expressions are Indo-Iranian. Similarly,
Russian and Central Asian scholars working on the
Bactrian Margiana complex share the conviction that it
is Indo-Iranian. The two cultures are contemporary but
very different. Passages from the Avesta and the Rigveda
are quoted by various researchers to support the Indo-
Iranian identity of both, but these passages are sufficiently
general as to permit the Plains Indians an Indo-
Iranian identity. Ethnicity is permeable and multidimensional,
and the “ethnic indicators” employed by
Kuzmina can be used to identify the Arab, the Turk, and
the Iranian, three completely distinctive ethnic and linguistic
groups. Ethnicity and language are not so easily
linked with an archaeological signature.
Furthermore, archaeology offers virtually no evidence
for Bactrian Margiana influence on the steppe and only
scant evidence for an Andronovo presence in the Bactrian
Margiana area. There is certainly no evidence to support
the notion that the two had a common ancestor. There
is simply no compelling archaeological evidence for (or,
for that matter, against) the notion that either is Indo-
Indo-Iranian is a linguistic construct with two
branches, one of which went to Iran and the other to
northern India. The time of their arrival in these new
homelands is typically taken to be the 2d millennium
b.c. Not a single artifact of Andronovo type has been
identified in Iran or in northern India, but there is ample
evidence for the presence of Bactrian Margiana materials
on the Iranian Plateau and in Baluchistan (e.g., at Susa,
Shahdad, Yahya, Khurab, Sibri, Miri Qalat, Deh Morasi
Ghundai, Nousharo [for a review see Hiebert and Lamberg-
Karlovky 1992]). It is impossible, however, to trace
the continuity of these materials into the 1st millennium
and relate them to the known cultures of Iranian-speakers—
the Medes or the Achaemenids (or their presumed
Iron Age ancestors [see Ghirshman 1977, Young 1967]).
The only intrusive archaeological culture of the 2d millamberg-
karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 75
lennium that directly influences Iran and northern India
is the Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex, but it
cannot be linked to the development of later 2d- and 1stmillennium
archaeological cultures on the Iranian
The identity of the Indo-Iranians remains elusive.
When they are identified in the archaeological record it
is by allegation rather than demonstration. It is interesting
that the archaeological (and linguistic) literature
has focused entirely upon the Indo-Iranians, overlooking
the other major linguistic families believed to have been
inhabiting the same regions—the Altaic, the Ugric, and
the Dravidian. Each of these has roots in the Eurasiatic
steppes or Central Asia. The fact that these language
families are of far less interest to the archaeologist may
have a great deal to do with the fact that it is primarily
speakers of Indo-European in search of their own roots
who have addressed this problem.
In an interesting “Afterword” to Sarianidi’s Margiana
and Protozoroastrianism, J. P. Mallory asks, “How do we
reconcile deriving the Indo-Iranians from two regions
[the steppes and the Central Asian oases] so different
with respect to environment, subsistence and cultural
behavior?” (1998a:181). He offers three models, each of
interest, none supported by archaeological evidence, one
of which is that the Bactrian Margiana complex was
Indo-Iranian and came to dominate the steppe lands,
serving as the inspiration for the emergence of fortified
settlements such as Sintashta in the southern Urals.
Thus, an external source is provided for the development
of the “country of towns” and with it a linguistic affiliation.
Mallory admits that this model is unlikely. His
conclusion is that the nucleus of Indo-Iranian linguistic
developments formed in the steppes and, through some
form of symbiosis in Bactria-Margiana, pushed southward
to form the ancient languages of Iran and India (p.
184). It is, however, that “form of symbiosis” that is so
utterly elusive!
Linguists too often assign languages to archaeological
cultures, while archaeologists are often too quick to assign
their sherds a language. Denis Sinor (1999:396), a
distinguished linguist and historian of Central Asia,
takes a position that more might consider: “I find it impossible
to attribute with any degree of certainty any
given language to any given prehistoric civilization.”
The works I have mentioned in this piece offer archaeological
data of great interest and importance, and all
their authors identify the archaeological cultures with
which they are working as Indo-Iranian. Linguists cannot
associate an archaeological culture with words, syntax,
and grammar, and archaeologists cannot make their
sherds utter words. We need a third arbiter, which may
or may not offer some degree of resolution to the relationships
between archaeological culture and language.
Perhaps that arbiter will be in our genes. To date only a
few mitochondrial and Y-chromosome studies of Eurasian
populations have been undertaken (Voevoda et al.
2000). Eliza Khusnutdinova and her team at the Uta Research
Center are conducting pioneering DNA studies
in the Volga-Urals region of Russia. In the context of a
renewed fashion of relating archaeology, culture, and language
it is well to remember that neither sherds nor
genes are destined to speak specific languages, nor does
a given language require a specific ceramic type or genetic

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david anthony
Anthropology Department, Hartwick College,
Oneonta, N.Y. 13820, U.S.A.
( 11 ix 01
Central Asian/steppe archaeology needs ambitious,
large-scale studies like this one, but inevitably such summaries
contain inaccuracies, which I cannot address in
detail. I will address only four broad issues.
1. The indigenist claim for a local evolution of the
Sintashta-Arkaim complex east of the Urals is supported
by virtually no archaeological evidence. Sintashta-Arkaim
developed around 2100/2000 calb.c. out of the Late
Middle Bronze Age cultures of the Don-Volga region—
Late Poltavka, Abashevo, and Potapovka—and
was clearly intrusive east of the Urals. It established new
economic, ritual, and typological patterns in the northern
steppes that were inherited and elaborated in the
Andronovo and Timber Grave horizons; together these
created one cultural horizon from the Carpathians to the
Tien Shan. The earliest dates for Timber Grave and Andronovo
are about 1900/1800 calb.c. Petrovka is earliest
Andronovo and later than Sintashta-Arkaim, stratified
above Sintashta deposits at Ust’e and Krivoe Ozero.
2. The Andronovo horizon is not as weakly defined as
Lamberg-Karlovsky says. Andronovo displays similar
graves, bronze weapons and tools, ornaments, house
types, and settlement types. Andronovo communities
shared decorative motifs, aesthetics, and broadly similar
agro-pastoral economies. Two major variants quickly
emerged: a more conservative Alakul (northern steppes)
and an innovating Federovo (eastern Kazakhstan); Federovo
may well reflect the adoption of Andronovo customs
by various local ethnic groups. But the spread of
Indo-Iranian languages did not require the spread of a
single ethnic group. Like the Scythian-Saka horizon of a
later era, the Andronovo horizon was almost certainly
polyethnic but still could represent a single set of related
Indo-Iranian dialects. The recitation of hymns at public
sacrificial feasts described in the Rigveda was probably
the medium through which Indo-Iranian dialects were
linked to the spread of the Andronovo mortuary ritual
3. There are many similarities between Sintashta or
Andronovo customs and those of the Avesta and the Rigveda.
The Vedic and Avestan people were pastoralists—
milk and butter were the symbols of prosperity and,
with cattle and horses, the proper offerings to the gods.
They used chariots and celebrated war. Their only im76
F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
portant female deity was Dawn. The Andronovo people
had an agro-pastoral economy, used chariots, and regularly
buried their young men with status weapons. The
mortuary ceremonies described in the Rigveda included
both cremation (as in Federovo) and kurgan graves (typical
of Andronovo). One hymn (Rigveda 10.18) describes
a covered burial chamber with posts holding up the roof,
walls shored up, and the chamber sealed with clay—a
precise description of Sintashta and Andronovo grave
pits. In the Rigveda, sacrificed cattle and horses have
their limbs carefully cut off and laid out, a custom typical
of Andronovo graves. The irrigation farmers of the Bactrian
Margiana complex had no horses or chariots, lived
in brick-built walled towns (the abode of the enemy Others
in the Rigveda), had an important female deity, and
did not build kurgan cemeteries or place cattle limbs in
their graves. Their connection to the Rigveda and the
Avesta is based entirely on supposed “fire temples” and
ritual deposits of ephedra—the soma of Vedic rituals. But
soma was not known among other Indo-European
groups, so Indo-Iranians probably adopted it from an eastern
culture. The Indo-Iranian word for the soma plant
(ancu) was borrowed from a non-Indo-European substrate
language along with words for “brick,” “plowshare,” and
“camel” (Lubotsky n.d.). The language of the Bactrian
Margiana towns might well have been that substrate.
Andronovo people lived on the outskirts of these towns,
and Andronovo pots were placed in the temple rooms
where soma was used. About 1650–1500 b.c. all of these
towns were abandoned, and pastoral economies spread
across Iran. A group of chariot warriors appeared among
the Mitanni in northern Syria whose personal names and
oaths referred to deities and concepts central in the Rigveda
and whose language was a dialect of the Sanskrit
of the Rigveda. The peculiar gods (Indra), some myths,
and dialect of the Rigveda probably developed among a
southern Andronovo population during centuries of interaction
with the Bactrian Margiana complex prior to
the Indic spread across Iran (Mitanni) and Pakistan. Iranian
dialects probably entered Iran later.
4. DNA rarely helps to connect archaeology with language.
Language boundaries and material culture boundaries
coincide under some circumstances, but these ethnolinguistic
frontiers are almost never genetic—people
marry across them. Material-culture frontiers that persist
in one place over many centuries are usually ethnolinguistic.
This happens at sharp ecological boundaries,
where contrasting subsistence, settlement, and
prestige systems generate a cultural frontier that can persist
for long periods. Persistent ethnolinguistic frontiers
also occur at the edges of regions recently colonized by
substantial numbers of long-distance migrants (Brittany/
France, England/Wales, French/German Switzerland).
The ecological frontier between the river deltas of southern
Central Asia/Iran and the deserts and steppes was a
persistent cultural-economic boundary between 5000
and 1500 b.c. and therefore probably a linguistic frontier
as well. Given their core vocabulary of ecological terms,
Indo-European languages had to originate north of this
line, but the spread of Indo-Iranian languages southward
after 1650–1500 b.c. seems to have resulted in the replacement
of the earlier urban tradition with an assortment
of pastoral regional groups, not one intrusive culture.
The principles that connect language and material
culture are complicated and not applicable to every situation.
Still, it is by investigating such principles (see,
e.g., Cordell 1997, chap. 11), rather than depending on
the false hope of DNA, that we will increase our understanding
of the archaeology of language.
yannis hamilakis
Department of Archaeology, University of
Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, U.K.
( 19 ix 01
This important, closely argued case study adds to the
growing literature demonstrating that ethnic identifications
(and their linguistic equivalents) are rarely
tightly divided and defined and their links with material
culture not subject to homologically exact correlations
(cf. Jones 1997: 119–27). And I am in full agreement with
Lamberg-Karlovsky’s description of ethnicity as a fluid
construct rather than a fixed, primordial reality.
Being unfamiliar with the specific chronological and
social context of this paper, I will limit my comments
to the broader issues of the production of archaeological
pasts in the present, ethnicity and nationalism, and the
politics of identity.My feeling is that this study does not
go far enough. A critique of archaeology as a device that
produces essentialist typologies of community identities
with their assumed material-culture isomorphism
should not simply question the lack of empirical support
of the exercise; it should expose and undermine its ontological,
epistemological, and political foundations. The
phenomena that Lamberg-Karlovsky critiques are not
simply a matter of “nationalist bias” which can be
avoided by adopting a presumably neutral, objectified
approach. All attempts to tell stories about the past are
implicated in the discourse of identity (cf. Friedman
1992); moreover, the construction of (often static and
typologically fixed) identities is intrinsic to the foundation
of the enterprise of archaeology. Indeed, at least
in European contexts, archaeology as an independent discipline
owes much to the dominant discourse of identity
in modernity that is nationalism. Accordingly, concepts,
methodologies, and terminology often carry with them
this heritage, despite the recent sophisticated developments
in both theory and methodology. Lamberg-Karlovsky’s
paper does not seem to be immune to this, as
his use (albeit with qualifications) of the concept of “archaeological
culture” (a key notion of static, primordialist
ideas of ethnicity) reveals.
Our critique of essentialist narratives in archaeology
should be part of a broader interrogation of the nature
of archaeological enquiry, the methodologies and theoretical
concepts deployed (including the use of terminology),
and the political roles in which archaeological
discourses and practices are involved today. I have suggested
elsewhere (Hamilakis 1999) that archaeology
lamberg-karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 77
should be seen not as the pursuit of the “truth” about
the past on the basis of a supposedly preexisting archaeological
record but rather as cultural production, dealing
with stories and narratives about the past in the present—
that is, as discourse (logos) on ancient things and
as a framework of practices, institutions, and narratives
intricately linked to the present. In this sense, archaeologists
produce the “archaeological record” out of existing,
fragmented traces of the past, a process which is
subject to the tensions and dynamics of the present. The
interrogation of essentialist narratives on the past such
as the invention of fixed ethnic and linguistic groups
becomes, therefore, part of the broader interrogation of
the genealogy, social history, and political economy of
the archaeological enterprise. Furthermore, the narrative
strategies deployed in the production of archaeological
stories, the emplotment of material traces, events, and
processes into a single narrative—in other words, the
metahistory of the archaeological enterprise (cf. White
1972)—should be part of this broader project of critique
(cf. Pluciennik 1999), a prerequisite for the production
of alternative, more open and reflexive archaeologies.
This project cannot proceed by ignoring the political
and power dynamics of both the genealogy of essentialist
discourses on identity and their present-day implications
and effects. Ethnicity and nationalism, despite their semantic
differences, are part of the same discourse on
identities, and ethnic categories imposed upon the past
are often produced by relatively recent national discourses
and practices. These power dynamics are often
played out in broader global contexts and are linked to
present-day power asymmetries. As Lamberg-Karlovsky
notes, in this case the selection of “Indo-Iranian” as an
ethnic linguistic group (amongst many others) upon
which claims are made on behalf of prehistoric social
groups is curious and demands explanation. The fact that
the producers of this narrative are themselves speakers
of Indo-European languages is undoubtedly a relevant
factor, but it is important to trace the links (some implied
in the text but not explored) of this archaeological production
with present-day political dynamics in the region
not only in terms of competing nationalisms but
also in terms of global negotiations of power, for example,
claims to the political, economic, and cultural
Western “Indo-European” present.
Does the application of techniques such as DNA analysis
provide a solution to these problems, as Lamberg-
Karlovsky seems to imply? I doubt it. Ontologically, any
claim to the authority of an assumed objective arbitrator
is bound to be inadequate unless it examines the “regimes
of truth” that have produced that authority (cf.
Foucault 1980). Besides, group identities, as Lamberg-
Karlovsky himself notes, are fluid and flexible and not
always necessarily linked directly to genetic associations
(cf. Pluciennik 1996).
Epistemologically, the problems of DNA analysis in
archaeology are severe, despite its enormous potential in
elucidating certain issues about the past (cf. Brown and
Pluciennik 2001). And politically, a discourse which
moves the debate on past and present identities onto the
ground of genetics, devoid of social processes, is dangerous
and potentially explosive.
johann knobloch
Sprachwissenschaftliches Institut der Universita¨ t
Bonn, An der Schlosskirche 2, D-53113 Bonn,
Germany. 17 ix 01
The basic technological vocabulary of the Indo-European
languages can in many cases be shown to go back to the
Neolithic. Wilhelm Schulze has shown that the Latin
words ficta sive picta forma are equivalent to the Tocharian
tseke si peke si pat arampat, meaning “the
beauty of a work of art or a painting.” The Neolithic
String Ware culture tied twisted strings around a soft,
newly formed clay vessel, and the impressions of these
strings were filled out with white color to produce ornament.
The grooved wares that developed from this
achieved rather elaborate decoration, as regular impressions
were produced with corresponding grooves. Along
with this there is also a group of nasal verbs in Latin
with similar forms, namely, fingo, fingere ‘mould from
clay’, stringo, stringere ‘tie’, stinguo, stinguere ‘[originally]
stick or prick’, and pingo, pingere ‘paint’. 1
philip l. kohl
Department of Anthropology, Wellesley College,
Wellesley, Mass. 02481, U.S.A. (
17 ix 01
Lamberg-Karlovsky has written an important and timely
article critiquing the tendency, particularly—though by
no means exclusively—among certain Russian archaeologists,
to assign linguistic affiliations and/or ethnic
identities to prehistoric peoples whose “cultures” are
known to us solely on the basis of material remains. He
is cognizant of the historical abuse of archaeology for the
purpose of making such questionable identifications. He
explicitly notes some contemporary extreme examples
in which once again fanciful and dangerous reconstructions
of the remote past are made in order to glorify a
superrace of Aryans or Indo-Iranians. His criticisms are
well-made and pointed, including the observation that
such misguided attempts necessarily exclude other peoples
(Turks, Finno-Ugrians, etc.) whose distant ancestors
also undoubtedly roamed some part of the Eurasian
steppes during Bronze Age times. In the current age of
subjectivity and relativism, how does one deal with an
“alternative reading” of the past that excludes other alternative
Similarly, I find myself in broad agreement with his
critique of the dominant linguistic-divergence model (a
multibranched tree with its trunk rooted in a mythical
homeland) and his suggestion that we concentrate on the
fusion of languages rather than on their division. If cultures
are never made but always in the making, as many
1. Translated by Lynn E. Roller.
78 F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
contemporary theorists would argue, then the same is
manifestly true for languages, and the search for ultimate
origins—cultural or linguistic—is largely illusory. The
Bronze Age archaeology of the western Eurasian steppes
is striking in the overall uniformity of materials, shared
technologies, and burial rites (e.g., pit grave, catacomb
grave, timber grave) stretching across vast distances; people
were communicating with one another, exchanging
metals and occasional exotic luxury goods, and sometimes
physically moving from one area to another. It is
not surprising that they were able to communicate with
each other through some shared koine´ . Such a shared
system of communication does not require a peculiarly
gifted people to spread across and dominate this vast
interconnected zone.
Many interpretations of the archaeology of the Eurasian
steppes suffer from anachronistic reasoning or what
might be termed the Genghis Khan syndrome (even
though the Great Khan came from the wrong ethnic
group!). That is to say, current reconstruction of the subsistence
economies on the western steppes during Bronze
Age times unequivocally demonstrates that the classic
mixed-herd mounted pastoral nomadism that characterized
the steppes during historic times and that has been
amply documented by ethnographers was not yet in
place. Aside from the question as to when horses were
first domesticated and ridden, peoples were dominantly
herding cattle, not tending flocks of sheep and goats
(with an occasional Bactrian camel tossed in). Rather
than noble conquering warriors capable of devastating
anything in their path, the Bronze Age peoples of the
western Eurasian steppes were impoverished cowboys in
ponderous ox-drawn carts seeking richer pasture and escape
from the severity of the climate, particularly the
increasingly harsh winters they experienced as they
moved eastwards across the rapidly filling steppe. This
story cannot be followed in detail here, but it is relevant
to the northern component of the Bactrian Margiana archaeological
complex that is discussed by Lamberg-Karlovsky.
He has reason to suggest that the “origins” of
this complex may ultimately be documented in southern
Afghanistan or Pakistani Baluchistan, as opposed, say, to
the western origins favored by Sarianidi or the northern
origins favored by Kuzmina.
But perhaps this question has been incorrectly posed
(and, paradoxically, contradicts Lamberg-Karlovsky’s
own cogent critique of linguistic and ethnic origin tales).
What I mean is that our concept of archaeological cultures
or entities that are larger than cultures but somehow
related (like the Bactrian Margiana complex) must
be flexible and reflect complex reality and constant
change. Archaeological cultures should not be viewed as
homogeneous or growing like plants from single seeds;
they are always heterogeneous and constantly in the
making. The archaeological record clearly shows an interaction
between the world of the steppes and the settled
agriculturalists on the plains of Bactria and Margiana.
As Lamberg-Karlovsky’s review of some of this
evidence suggests, it is very hard to assess the scale and
significance of this contact. This, unfortunately, will
probably always be the case precisely because the archaeological
signature of what is steppe and what is sown
will remain blurred in this area of contact. I believe this
record already documents perfectly a process of assimilation
of peoples from the north with sedentary agriculturalists
who already participated in a greater cultural
tradition with millennia-old roots extending back into
southern Turkmenistan and Baluchistan. These northern
cowboys changed their way of life and their material
culture when they entered this more developed sedentary
world. From this perspective, it is not surprising that
steppe ceramics are not found farther south on the Iranian
plateau but recognizable Bactrian Margiana–
complex materials are. We cannot identify who produced
them or what language they spoke, but the
processes of assimilation, movement, and interconnection
that can be traced reveal how intimately integrated
this Bronze Age world was.
ja´ nos makkay
Institute of Archaeology, uri-utca 49, H 4250 Budapest
I, Hungary ( 13 ix 01
This paper is an inspiring introduction to the problems
not only of Indo-Iranian origins but also of the results of
recent Russian excavations in the southern part of the
former Soviet Union. My comments relate to details and
to general questions.
1. Reliance on migrations was not “typical of Russian
archaeological interpretations.” Childe learned from his
visit that Soviet archaeologists’ explanations did not appeal
to “undocumented external factors,” and therefore
he devoted more space to Soviet theories of in situ cultural
evolution (Trigger 1980:92, 157; Klejn 1994).
2. The theory of linguistic convergence has failed to
meet the requirements of the comparative method (Watkins
1995:4). Trubetskoy was an adherent of Soviet occult
supernationalism, including the suggestion that the
closest relative of Sanskrit was Russian (see Matthiassen
1985, Reiter 1991, Troubetskoy 1991), and neither he nor
anyone else has ever spelled out the details of the theory.
3. That the ancestor of the Indo-Iranian languages may
“find its material counterpart in the Cucuteni-Tripolye
culture of the Ukraine” has long been one of Renfrew’s
convictions (1987:95–98). In fact, the origins of the
Yamna or Kurgan culture lie in local antecedents between
the Dnieper and the Volga, one of which, as Lamberg-
Karlovsky points out, was the Mariupol group. The
Yamna-Kurgan and the Tripolye-Cucuteni are distinguished
by their long separate local development on opposite
sides of the Dnieper (Makkay 1992a). Renfrew
(1999:281) now acknowledges “a continuous and apparently
unbroken archaeological, and presumably ethnic,
development east of the Dnieper from the earliest Kurgan
period to the appearance of the Iranian-speaking Sarmatians.”
The continuity precludes an origin of the
Yamna in the Late Neolithic Tripolye-Cucuteni cultural
4. The Pit Grave, Catacomb Grave, Timber Grave, and
lamberg-karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 79
Andronovo cultures represent chronological stages or (for
the Andronovo) territorial variants. Their sequence and
absolute dating are crucial to Indo-Iranian prehistory.
The wider connections of the Catacomb Grave culture
contradict any dating of it to the 3d millennium b.c. A
complete Late Tripolye bowl found in the Aul Uliap cemetery
(in Adigey territory), kurgan grave 4, grave 10, has
a very well-dated counterpart from Tripolye territory: in
the Usatovo I cemetery (the last phase of the Tripolye
sequence), grave 12/2 yielded a typical Maikop vessel
(Makkay 1992b). Such connections are typical of the Tripolye,
Sredni Stog, and Early Yamna cultures, making
the contemporaneity of particular phases of them quite
certain: early Sredni Stog is equated with Tripolye B, Late
Sredni Stog with Tripolye C1 and C2 (the Usatovo phase),
Early Yamna with Tripolye C2-Usatovo, and Classic
Maikop with Late Tripolye (Makkay 1992a). Grave 4 of
a 3.5-m-high kurgan at Krasnogvardeisk in the northern
Caucasus has yielded a contracted skeleton securely
dated to the early or early middle phase of the Maikop
culture. Four of the six vessels found with it are paralleled
by pottery forms from the Maikop royal burial. A
cylinder seal made of jet is the first indication of the
symbolic use of the cylinder north of the Caucasus and
is in all probability a local imitation of North Mesopotamian–
North Syrian prototypes dated to about the middle
of the 3d millennium b.c. at the earliest (Makkay
1994). Therefore only an absolute dating of Late Tripolye
to the 26th–27th centuries is plausible. This contradicts
recent absolute datings of the (post-Sredni Stog) Yamna
phases to the 4th or even 5th millennium b.c. and suggestions
of long-distance trade between the Uruk IV system
and the Trans-Caucasian Maikop cultural area
around the middle of the 4th millennium b.c. (Sherratt
5. I agree that the Russian arguments are not enough
to indicate the ethnic and linguistic identity of the Andronovo
remains. Chlenova (1984) shows a correspondence
between Iranian place-names and the distribution
of the Timber Grave, Andronovo, and related cultural
groups. Place-names of Indo-Aryan character are scattered
or absent in that area. The distribution of Scythian
and related cultures around the middle of the 1st millennium
b.c. neatly covers the same area. The Altaic
protolanguage is much more a matter of imagination
than one of comparative linguistics (see Miller 1991), and
it is axiomatic in Uralic studies that groups speaking
Uralic (Finno-Ugric, etc.) dialects never lived either
south of the forest (taiga) belt or in Central Asia during
the millennia after the retreat of the ice sheet.1 I therefore
favor a tentative identification of Andronovo (and related
groups) with quite early Iranian dialects, of course with
most of Lamberg-Karlovsky’s important reservations and
1. There is one exception—the later protohistory of Proto-Hungarian,
the speakers of which migrated south from the West or East
Uralic taiga belt around the middle of the 1st millennium a.d.
Renfrew (1992:2) is right when he writes that the ultimate (i.e.,
pre-Mesolithic) origins of the Uralic family may well lie in the areas
that are now steppe lands.
Lamberg-Karlovsky’s critical approach to the supernationalist
wave now inundating the new Russian empire
is very important. However, I consider the fortified
sites of the “country of towns” to have been sacred enclosures,
local variants of much earlier and partly contemporary
parallels found in the more western areas of
the Central European Linear Pottery culture and its descendants
(Makkay 2001).
6. Childe’s remark about the attitude toward undocumented
external factors in Soviet archaeology seems
to correspond well with Lamberg-Karlovsky’s observations
during his visits to Gonur, Togolok, and Djarkutan:
unexplored stratigraphic sequences, the nearly total lack
of stratigraphic periodization of 2.5 m of accumulation,
etc. Most of the excavations and publications in the area
of the Bactrian Margiana complex seem to me short of
detailed scientific values. Therefore the observations of
a colleague from abroad may greatly benefit those at
j . p. mallory
School of Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s
University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
( 12 ix 01
There are at least two issues raised by this wide-ranging
paper that seem to invite comment. The first concerns
what I take to be critical hyperbole regarding the identification
of either the steppe cultures or the Bactrian
Margiana complex with Indo-Iranian. While we may
agree that there is no one-to-one relationship between
material remains and language, there are still degrees of
geo-linguistic plausibility. For example, that Altaic,
Ugric (I think Lamberg-Karlovsky must mean Finno-
Ugric here), and Elamo-Dravidian have equal claims on
the areas involved with Indo-Iranian is not impossible
but surely not very probable. From the earliest written
testimony of the 1st millennium b.c. it appears that almost
the entire region discussed was occupied, according
to tribal and personal names and the occasional item of
vocabulary, by the eastern branch of Iranian (Mallory and
Mair 2000, Mallory n.d.).We can chart the later evidence
for Turkish (Altaic) presence in this area, so it is at least
very unlikely that Andronovo was Altaic. I know of no
one who assigns the Finno-Ugric languages to the steppe
lands (the reconstructed vocabulary of all the branches
is adamantly arboreal and reflects largely a hunting-gathering-
fishing economy, with later Indo-Iranian loanwords
providing our earliest evidence of stock breeding
and agriculture [see Napolskikh 1997]). That the Bactrian
Margiana complex was Elamo-Dravidian is possible (see
below), but making the steppe cultures Elamo-Dravidian
(up to the end of Andronovo at ca. 900 b.c.?) would require
an archaeological performance of Von Da¨niken–
like proportions to get the Indo-Iranians from wherever
one wants to stash them for several millennia to
their historical locations. The same goes for making the
Andronovans a language family that became extinct before
we have any written evidence. The only way (logi80
F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
cally) out of this corner is either to accept Renfrew’s
(1987:189–97) “Plan A,” which sees linguistic continuity
in India and Iran from the spread of the Neolithic (a
position that he himself has rightly abandoned [e.g., Renfrew
1999:280–81]), or to assume that the Indo-European
homeland itself was in South (Misra 1992) or Central
Asia (Nichols 1997), models which throw up other problems
so enormous that they make the Indo-Iranian issue
look like child’s play. Andronovo and the Bactrian Margiana
complex really do appear to be the only game(s) in
town, and Lamberg-Karlovsky has indicated why they
appear to be mutually exclusive solutions, neither capable
of resolving the problem by itself. There is no single
culture (using the word in the widest—even most
unjustified—sense) that can link the Indus, Iran, Central
Asia, and the steppe lands together.
As Lamberg-Karlovsky indicates, a solution that rests
on some “form of symbiosis” between the steppe tribes
and the Bactrian Margiana complex remains “utterly elusive.”
For some time I have tried to inch forward on this
front because I too have felt the inadequacy of employing
the spread of material culture as proxy evidence for linguistic
movement. The problem here is not just the longrehearsed
criticism against assuming that potsppeople/
language but that there are clear instances, the
Indo-Iranians being a case in point, in which there is no
hint of the distribution of any archaeological assemblage
that might correlate with the distribution of the target
language group. The situation is so dire that we can’t
even make the type of mistake Lamberg-Karlovsky
warns us about!
Working from first principles, it has seemed to me that
archaeologists engaged in tracing linguistic entities need
to concentrate on the archaeological manifestation of
language shift, and this may be independent of the trajectories
of material culture (Mallory 1992, 1998b). Language
shift may occur in some obvious instances of subsistence
differences, for example, the Neolithic models
posed by Renfrew (1987) and Bellwood (2000), but in
many instances I suspect that we are dealing with language
shift due to social differences that are not obvious
in the archaeological record.
Impressed by Ronald Atkinson’s (1994) treatment of
the spread of the Acholi in Uganda, I think that we
should be looking for evidence for competing social organizations
and attempting to predict which would most
likely bring about linguistic shift and expansion. Lamberg-
Karlovsky (1994) has already reviewed the ethnohistorical
evidence for suggesting that the Bactrian Margiana
complex might have been organized as a khanate.
The four-tiered political system evident in Central Asia
in historical times bears a close resemblance to the fourtiered
political structure reconstructed for Proto-Indo-
Iranian by Emile Benveniste (1973). What is of considerable
interest is the highest tier, the one which would
incorporate the greatest number of people—the *da´syu
(Old Indic dasyu, Avestan dahyu). In a recent study Lubotsky
(n.d.), this term has been regarded as a non-Indo-
European substrate term that was borrowed into Proto-
Indo-Iranian along with a series of other words associated
with religion (words for “priest,” “magic,” deities, and
even “soma”). Lubotsky has suggested that these words
may have had a Central Asian source, and it seems to
me that the Bactrian Margiana complex, with its elaborate
(to a steppe pastoralist) ritual architecture, would
make a plausible candidate (and if Elamo-Dravidian, we
might at least hope for some lexical correlations between
the putative loanwords and their proposed sources; otherwise,
these people may have spoken a language that
has not survived).My current model, admittedly no more
supported by archaeological evidence than the previous
discussion alluded to by Lamberg–Karlovsky, is to assign
some form of Indo-Iranian identity to the Andronovo but
see their expansion southward in terms of their adoption
of both political and religious concepts (including material
manifestations of these concepts) from the Bactrian
Margiana complex. The spread of Indo-Iranian languages
then would be through the vector of the Andronovo culture
on the steppe but by way of the Bactrian Margiana
complex to its south. Steppe tribes that came into contact
with the Bactrian Margiana complex would be required
to retain their language (Indo-Iranian) but would
gain a more incorporative social organization from their
neighbours as well as a series of religious concepts and
practices, perhaps in the same way that the Acholi of
Uganda retained their Luo language but gained from their
Bantu neighbours the more incorporative chiefdom system
which permitted them to carry both their new social
organization and their own language to the north (Atkinson
1994). Both the social and the religious organization
(see Erdosy 1995) of Bactrian Margiana–complexinspired
Indo-Iranians would then become the vector for
language spread southward. Obviously, all of this would
require far more intimate relationships between the Andronovo
and the Bactrian Margiana complex than the
existing distribution of “mutually exclusive” material
culture would permit, and what is clearly at stake, as I
suspect Lamberg-Karlovsky would agree, is our confidence
in our ability to read the record of social processes
from the archaeological record.
sandra l. olsen
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 4400 Forbes,
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213, U.S.A. (olsens@ ix 01
Archaeolinguistics is in many ways still in its infancy,
and by its nature it must rely on extensive cooperation
among linguists, archaeologists, cultural and physical
anthropologists, historians, and others. Comprehensive
collaboration and coordination of data are arduous.
Cross-disciplinary communication is rarely even adequate;
the various disciplines depend upon quite disparate
types of evidence to perform their reconstructions,
and it is unclear to what degree there is comparability
among the different data sets; and it has not been established
that there are strong correlations between shifts
in one data set and those in another in a particular time
or place. There is often a tacit acceptance that suites of
lamberg-karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 81
cultural traits, including language, move in unison
across the landscape as though they were people. Innumerable
historical and modern examples could be given
to contradict that assumption, of course, but at the same
time, patterns often do emerge. As prehistorians and linguists,
we have to decide when the patterns are sufficient
to support a particular model. Such decisions will always
be subjective to some extent, and thus there will continue
to be compelling arguments for competing models.
Part of the problem is that there are so many different
ways in which language and culture can be transferred
from one region to another or from one group of people
to the next. Although many of the problems may never
be resolved, we can definitely improve upon our current
As Lamberg-Karlovsky points out, before we can fully
assess the utility of our methods in reconstructing the
growth and spread of languages, much more groundwork
needs to be laid for local chronologies. Chernykh (1992:
296–97) draws attention to the fact that it can be difficult
to demonstrate internal transformations of a culture over
time. Before any attempts can be made to link language
to artifacts, it is necessary to understand whether change
represents one culture’s own gradual transformation or
the introduction of new elements through invasion, migration,
or other means. More often, it is a blending of
the indigenous with the intruding society. Which language
dominates depends upon the circumstances.
We also need to understand regional spheres of shared
cultural identities better temporally and spatially. For
example, it is becoming clear that a “Geometric Comb-
Impressed Pottery” cultural sphere existed in the foreststeppe
from the southern Urals eastward to northern Kazakhstan
during the Eneolithic or Copper Age of the 4th
millennium (Matyushin 2000, Shorin 1999). This included
the Surtanda, Tersek, Botai, and several other cultures.
Shared traits include relatively large settlements
(3 to 9 hectares) of rectangular houses, cord- and combimpressed
pottery with geometric designs such as
hatched triangles, a biface-dominated lithic industry, and
an economy emphasizing horses and possibly other domesticated
herbivores. It appears likely that this cultural
sphere emerged out of a Neolithic in the Urals and then
spread eastward with the advent of livestock husbandry.
These semisedentary herders then may have developed
into the nomadic pastoralists conveniently lumped together
as the Andronovo by many prehistorians. The
meridianal migration patterns that persisted among the
Kazakh herders until 1929 were initiated during the
Bronze Age. Although the subsequent Iron Age cultures
of Kazakhstan, such as the Saka, continued using the
same migration patterns and buried their important leaders
in kurgans even larger than those of their immediate
predecessors, their material culture differed dramatically.
The Iron Age cultures are generally understood to
be Indo-Iranian, so whether they emerged out of the Andronovo
or came from the outside is quite an important
issue. There is a small amount of evidence for the development
of “animal-style” art in the Late Bronze Age
of Kazakhstan, but it does not really begin to flourish
until the Iron Age. The exquisitely comb-impressed
Bronze Age pots are succeeded by the poorly made plainware
vessels of the Iron Age. Large metal cauldrons and
stone and bronze censors appear, and gold objects become
remarkably abundant in the more important kurgans. At
least three so-called gold men have now been found in
Kazakhstan. Mythological beasts including the sphinx,
the griffin, and the winged horse become prevalent icons.
To date, only horned horses are visible icons in the
Bronze Age of Kazakhstan, if the petroglyphs at Tamgaly
are indeed Bronze Age.
It would seem necessary first to establish whether the
Andronovo evolved into the Iron Age cultures, were replaced,
or were absorbed by external forces before it is
possible to state that the Andronovo were Indo-Iranian
as Kuzmina (1994) believes. The fact that they practiced
meridianal migration of the same livestock over the
same territory is not adequate support for the idea of a
smooth indigenous transformation from the Bronze Age
to the Iron Age or a common language stock. The Kazakhs
speak a Turkic language and until recently used
the land in much the same way as the Andronovo did.
We do not assume that the Andronovo spoke a Turkic
language because we know that the Kazakhs have a fairly
recent history in this region.
Much exciting archaeological investigation is currently
being undertaken in Kazakhstan as elsewhere, so
I am optimistic that future scholars will be better
equipped to flesh out our rather sketchy models for the
spread of languages. For now, it is important that more
surveys and settlement-pattern studies be implemented,
that thorough analyses of artifact technology, style, and
raw-material sources be conducted, and that communication
across disciplines and political borders be
colin renfrew
Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge,
Cambridge CB2 3D2, U.K. ( 3 ix 01
Lamberg-Karlovsky correctly states that “ethnicity and
language are not easily linked with an archaeological
signature,” and he is certainly right that, if it is assumed
that the prototypes for the Indo-Iranian languages
reached the Iranian plateau and the Indian subcontinent
from the north, then the archaeological mechanism of
their transmission remains deeply mysterious. Yet at the
same time there are few serious scholars of Indo-European
today who would situate an Indo-European homeland
in the Indian subcontinent, and therefore such a
transmission seems likely to have taken place. Many
scholars today would situate Proto-Indo-Iranian in the
Eurasian steppes at about the time of the Andronovo
culture. Yet Sarianidi has indeed suggested that there are
features of the Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex
at about the same time which could be relevant to
the issue.
However, the problem does have to be set in a wider
context, and Lamberg-Karlovsky oversimplifies when he
82 F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
asserts that “the PIE community split into two major
groups. One group migrated west to Europe and became
speakers of Indo-European . . . while the other headed
east to Eurasia to become speakers of Indo-Iranian.”
Many Indo-Europeanists would today agree that the first
of many splits was between Proto-Anatolian and “narrow”
Proto-Indo-European (see Drews 2001) and that the
branching off of Indo-Iranian came rather later, as Ringe
and Warnow have shown (Warnow 1997). Moreover, the
populations of the steppe lands in the 1st millennium
b.c. and for some centuries after (Sarmatians, Scythians,
Saka, Khotanese, Sogdians, et al.) spoke languages which
were in most documented cases within the Iranian subfamily.
This is one strong argument why the earlier
steppe populations, for instance, of the Andronovo culture,
may well be thought to have spoken a Proto-Iranian
or Proto-Indo-Iranian language or languages. Yet at the
same time it should be borne in mind that one important
eastern Indo-European language— Tocharian—does not
belong to the Indo-Iranian subfamily. Any acceptable solution
will need also to account for that circumstance.
Mallory (1998b) summarizes the problems very well
in his contribution to the publication of the Philadelphia
conference organized by Victor Mair, in which Hiebert
(1998) also draws attention to the potential relevance of
the Bactrian Margiana archaeological complex. Mallory
indicates a series of three “fault lines” of geographical
significance: the Dniester-Dnieper line, the Ural line,
and the Central Asian line (separating the steppes from
the Iranian plateau), of which the third is particularly
It is in my view evident that these problems will not
be resolved until there is a clearer appreciation that in
the steppe lands the horse was not used for military purposes
until harnessed to pull the spoked-wheel chariot
in the early 2dmillennium b.c. (Kuzmina 1994, Anthony
and Vinogradov 1995) and not ridden in warfare until the
end of the 2d millennium (Kuzmina 1994, Renfrew
1998), although, as Lamberg-Karlovsky states, it is documented
as a mount for messengers some centuries earlier
in the Near East (see Oates n.d.). As Levine (1999)
has shown, the domestication of the horse was a complex
process in which cavalry came millennia after
The problem remains one of the most puzzling in Indo-
European studies. I suspect that the presence of Indo-
Aryan (not Indo-Iranian) in the Mitanni texts gives a hint
that Proto-Indo-Iranian is to be set rather earlier than
some have placed it, perhaps in the 3d millennium b.c.
There is no reason that the Bactrian Margiana archaeological
complex should not be part of the story: it could
well have contributed soma to the Indo-Iranian cultural
tradition of India without its populations’ speaking an
Indo-European language. So perhaps Lamberg-Karlovsky
presents us with a misleading dichotomy in setting the
Bactrian Margiana complex and the Andronovo culture
into a kind of antithesis. Both may well be part of the
story. He is surely right to stress its complexity in his
useful review.
andra´ s ro´ na-tas
Cso¨ rsz u. 1, H-1123 Budapest, Hungary
( 13 ix 01
Lamberg-Karlovsky argues that the more or less contemporaneous
Andronovo and Bactrian-Margiana archaeological
complexes are different archaeological cultures
and that we have no way of determining the language
spoken by the bearers of a remote archaeological culture.
From this he concludes that these cultures could have
been Indo-Iranian, Dravidian, Altaic, or any combination
of the three. As a linguist who uses linguistic data for
historical reconstruction, I agree with his methodological
approach and have learned a lot from his paper, but
I have some comments to add.
1. The type of human language that linguists deal with
developed in the Neolithic Age. Stability of grammatical
structure requires long-term feedback for which the sociological
conditions were not present in the Palaeolithic
and Mesolithic, when small groups were constantly on
the move. Linguistic families could have been consolidated,
from whatever antecedents, only in the Neolithic.
This excludes the possibility of any such “megaprotolanguage”
as the Nostratic school.
2. There are serious problems in determining the chronology
of the Common Altaic protolanguage. The question
is not whether an Altaic protolanguage existed but
how shared linguistic material due to early contacts can
be distinguished from that inherited from the supposed
Common Altaic. Whatever the answer to this question,
it is very unlikely that in the chronological range of Andronovo
and the Bactrian Margiana complex a Common
Altaic (still) existed. This means that the possible languages
of the bearers of these archaeological cultures can
only be Turkic or Mongolian (for several reasons I would
exclude Manchu-Tunguzian and other supposed Altaic
languages such as Korean or Japanese).
3. The cultures reflected by the lexical stocks of the
Turkic and Mongolian protolanguages had highly developed
animal husbandry with horses, limited knowledge
of agriculture, and almost no signs of sedentarism.
Turkic or Mongolian could be connected with the Bactrian
Margiana complex only if we were to suppose that
after the dissolution of that complex they lost the lexical
groups that must have been present in it. This is unlikely.
Both Proto-Turkic and Proto-Mongolian could,
however, reflect a culture like the Andronovo.
4. The Andronovo population could have spoken languages
belonging to other linguistic families. The linguist
can prove the existence of a multilingual society
by demonstrating early linguistic contacts from the period
under discussion (2d millennium b.c.) that do not
contradict the cultural background reflected by the archaeological
material. At present historical-linguistic efforts
in Altaic studies have been successful in going back
to the last few hundred years of the 1st millennium b.c.
(see Ro´na-Tas 1991, 1998). The gap between the middle
of the 2d and the middle of the 1st millennium b.c. is
bridged only by vague hypotheses with a handful of
starred forms.
lamberg-karlovsky Archaeology and Language F 83
5. There are, as far as I know, no contemporary studies
on early contacts between Ancient Turkic and Tocharian
(Ro´ na-Tas 1974, on which see Reinhart 1990, and Ro´ na-
Tas 1991) or between Ancient Turkic and Iranian (not to
speak of Indo-Iranian [see Ro´na-Tas 1988]). This is not
the case with Finno-Ugric (Korenchy 1972, Joki 1973,
Harmata 1977, Re´dei 1986).
6. Though language may be one of the most important
indicators of ethnic identity, ethnos and language-speaking
community are by definition two different entities
that may be but are not necessarily identical (see Ro´ na-
Tas 1999:5–15).
7. Replacing the great gaps in our knowledge with unfounded
theories (in most cases biased by ideology)
would interfere with the hard daily work of linguistic
reconstruction. Future work will be aided by surveys like
that of Lamberg-Karlovsky.
c. c. lamberg-karlovsky
Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A. 9 x 01
I am grateful for the informative and challenging responses.
It is not surprising that the majority continue
to hold the view that the bearers of the Andronovo culture
spoke Indo-Iranian. Consensus is not, however, the
hallmark of all responses. Anthony sees the Andronovo
originating in the Don-Volga region and migrating eastward,
while Sandra Olsen suggests that the Surtanda,
Botai, and other cultures from the southern Urals to
northern Kazakhstan “may have developed into the nomadic
pastoralists conveniently lumped together as Andronovo.”
Anthony (1995; see also Anthony and Vinogradov
1995) has written that the Sintashta-Petrovka
culture was the first Eurasian steppe culture to display
traits central to the culture of the Indo-Iranians. He believes
that specific attributes of that culture were later
carried into India and Iran by the VedicAryans. He makes
direct comparisons between the sacred text of the Rigveda
and the archaeological record recovered from the
Sintashta-Petrovka culture—horse sacrifice, the burial of
carefully segmented parts of the horse’s body, chariotry,
and sumptuary burial goods. Identifying the Sintashta-
Petrovka culture as Indo-Iranian and relating it to the
Vedic Aryans is linking an archaeological culture of ca.
1900 b.c. with a text written about 1,000 years later. (For
a comprehensive and well-balanced study of horses, chariots,
and Indo-Europeans in the context of archaeology
and linguistic paleontology, see Rauling 2000.)
Anthony subscribes to a linear progression of cultures
that begins with the Sintashta-Petrovka and gives way
to a wide variety of “major variants,” including the “conservative”
Alakul and the “innovating” Fedorovo. What
troubles me is that, on the one hand, he characterizes
the Andronovo as having a cultural “commonality,” a
sort of primordial, unchanging culture, inhabiting the
regions from southern Russia to China throughout the
2d millennium, while on the other hand he asserts that
the Andronovo consists of a mosaic of cultures (Alakul,
Fedorovo, Sintashta-Petrovka, etc.). Assertions of this
sort in the literature, whether English or Russian, are
rarely supported by demonstrations of the material differences
(i.e., types and styles) that characterize the supposedly
distinctive Andronovo cultures. Philip Kohl’s
comment is pertinent here: “Archaeological cultures
should not be viewed as homogeneous or growing like
plants from single seeds; they are always heterogeneous
and constantly in the making.” Perhaps it is my lack of
belief in relating the Sintashta-Petrovka with the Rigveda,
separated as they are by 1,000 years and almost as
many miles, or in the alleged homogeneity of the Andronovo
that Anthony finds “inaccuracies” in myarticle.
Hamilakis thinks that I do not go far enough in criticizing
the ontological, epistemological, and political
foundations of archaeology. I think that he goes too far
in arguing that archaeology is merely “a cultural production,
dealing with stories and narratives about the
past in the present.” We have all been subjected to postmodernist
rhetoric, and Hamilakis is treading wellplowed
terrain. The past can be as real as the chariots
and wagons recovered and the reconstructed agro-pastoralist
economy of the steppes. Over the past century
archaeology has done far more than tell political “justso”
stories. Its enormous contributions and successes
may be found in any good introductory text.
Kohl closes his thoughtful comment by stating that
the evidence suggests how “intimately integrated this
Bronze Age world was.” But was it? Why, then, the relatively
sharp boundaries that divide the distribution of
the material culture in neighboring territories—that of
the steppes from the Bactrian Margiana culture or that
of the Indus from the cultures of the Iranian Plateau or
the culture of Mesopotamia from that of the Gulf? In
reality material remains from one culture are rarely
found in a neighboring one. When such an object is found
it is typically an elite commodity—a seal, a fragment of
statuary, or an elaborately carved stone bowl. One might
also note that there is an asymmetry in the distribution
of these foreign goods. Thus, steppe materials are found
in the Bactrian Margiana complex but not the reverse;
Indus materials are found in Mesopotamia, but the reverse
is extremely rare; Bactrian Margiana remains are
found on the Iranian Plateau and in the Indus Valley but
not the reverse. Such asymmetrical distributions are
probably significant, but their meaning remains elusive.
It is important to emphasize that the materials evidencing
such contact, wherever they are found, are quantitatively
rare. The Mesopotamian texts, our only literate
source, are almost completely silent on the extent of
their “intimate integration” with the “other.” Texts do
refer to a trade in textiles and grain, which, as neither
survives in the archaeological record, may balance the
apparent asymmetry in trade relations and amplify its
limited evidence. The archaeological record, however,
certainly supports the conclusion that trade emphasized
elite goods in a context of their scarcity. Globalization
84 F current anthropology Volume 43, Number 1, February 2002
characterizes our own day, and therefore, not surprisingly,
archaeologists entertain the reality of Bronze Age
“world systems,” a direction pioneered by Philip Kohl.
If one looks to the limited nature and even more limited
quantity of the elite materials traded, then the opposite
side of the economic coin suggests an obstinate isolationism
rather than an “intimately integrated” Bronze
Age. Perhaps the relatively slow pace of change, whether
in the Andronovo or in the Indus Valley, is due to such
isolation. As Jared Diamond (2000:25; see also 1999) has
observed, “In any society except a totally isolated one,
more innovations are brought from the outside not conceived
within . . . competition between human societies
that are in contact with each other is what drives the
invention of new technology and the continued availability
of technology.” In archaeology this view flies in
the face of what is au courant, namely, “world systems”
that attempt to bring Bronze Age cultures, on a continental
scale, into an integrated sphere of economic
Makkay (2000) has recently reviewed the literature regarding
the relations between Sintashta, Mycenae, and
the Carpathian Basin and the early Iranians. Here he offers
a complex series of chronological equivalences that
relate specific phases of the Tripolye, Sredni Stog,
Yamna, and Maikop cultures. There is a difference of
almost a millennium between Makkay’s chronological
reconstruction and recent C14 dates, a fact that ensures
controversy. Makkay’s correlations are often made on
single artifacts of presumed stylistic/typological similarity
distributed over a vast region and frequently of
dubious provenance. Clearly, the jury is still out regarding
the dating and correlations that tie the cultures of
the west (Tripolye) to those of the Caucasus (Maikop)
and the Eurasiatic steppe (Yamna).
Mallory enriches and expands the discussion beyond
Indo-Iranian concerns. I am in agreement with his broad
perspective and find his suggestion of looking at competing
institutions to identify the one most likely to
bring about linguistic shift and expansion an appealing
one. However, competing institutions within distinctive
cultures are likely to engender conflict and even warfare,
and between the Andronovo and Bactrian Margiana complex
there is little evidence to suggest either. Unfortunately,
processes of cultural assimilation, acculturation—
indeed, the very nature that brought about culture
contact—are undertheorized. Until we can comprehend
such processes in specific archaeological contexts, questions
of language shift and expansion remain moot. Mallory,
along with many linguists and not a few archaeologists,
has a penchant for equating a single
archaeological culture with a single language. Is it not
possible for peoples of the past to resemble their modern
counterparts in Central Asia and the steppes, where two
or three languages are the norm, where Tadjiks (Iranianspeakers)
marry Uzbeks (Turkic-speakers) and their children
speak Russian?
Renfrew suggests that I create a “misleading dichotomy
in setting the Bactrian Margiana complex and the
Andronovo culture into a kind of antithesis.” This is
precisely what I meant to do. In their environmental
settings, subsistence economies, and material cultures,
the Andronovo and the Bactrian Margiana complex could
not be more different. Renfrew favors an Indo-Iranian
identity for the Andronovo, and he fully realizes that
there is not a shred of evidence that identifies the Andronovo
with the traditional homeland of the Indo-Iranian-
speakers either on the Iranian Plateau or in South
Asia. There is, however, clear evidence for a Bactrian
Margiana presence on the Iranian Plateau (Amiet 1984,
Hiebert and Lamberg-Karlovsky 1992) and in South Asia
(Jarrige 1993, n.d.). In fact, the extensive evidence for
Bactrian Margiana materials recovered from Susa, Shahdad,
Yahya, Khinaman, Sibri, Nausharo, Hissar, etc.,
might make it the prime candidate for Indo-Iranian arrival
on the Iranian Plateau. The problem is that the
distinctive material culture of the Bactrian Margiana
complex utterly vanishes, apparently completely assimilated
by the indigenous cultures of the Iranian Plateau.
In this context one might borrow a valuable concept advanced
by Renfrew and suggest that the Indo-Iranianspeaking
Bactrian Margiana complex represented elite
dominance and the indigenous peoples, although in the
majority, adopted their language. How would one verify
such a concept in the archaeological record?
Ro´ na-Tas appears to avoid the Indo-Iranians entirely
and suggests that both Proto-Turkic and Proto-Mongolian
could “reflect a culture like the Andronovo.” Such
diversity among the Andronovo appeals to me. Framing
the question as what language the Andronovo spoke is,
I believe, misdirected. The Andronovo was made up of
many cultures subject to constant change; some may
have spoken Indo-Iranian, others Proto-Turkic, and yet
others Proto-Mongolian, and, pace Mallory, there may
have been an occasional Finno-Ugric-speaker among the


Linguistic Aspects of the Indo-European Urheimat Question by Dr. Koenraad Elst


Linguistic Aspects of the Indo-European Urheimat Question


From the viewpoint of an Indian Urheimat hypothesis, the most important factor explaining the high fragmentation of IE in Europe as compared to its relative homogeneity in North India is the way in which an emigration from India to Europe must be imagined. Tribes left India and mixed with the non-lE-speaking tribes of their respective corners of Central Asia and Europe. This happens to be the fastest way of making two dialects of a single language grow apart and develop distinctive new characteristics: make them mingle with different foreign languages.

Thus, in the Romance family, we find little difference between Catalan, Occitan and Italian, three languages which have organically grown without much outside influence except for a short period of Germanic influence which was common to them; by contrast, Spanish and Rumanian have grown far apart (lexically, phonetically and grammatically), and this is largely due to the fact that the former has been influenced by Germanic and Arabic, while the latter was influenced by Greek and Slavic. Similarly, under the impact of languages they encountered (now mostly extinct and beyond the reach of our searchlight), and whose speakers they took over, the dialects of the IE emigrants from India differentiated much faster from each other than the dialects of Indo-Aryan.



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   DŃGHŪ                                                                  Kárlos Kūriákī

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Indo-European Time Line


Far East Kingdoms Central Asia
  Indo-Europeans-Time Line


Scholars first noticed similarities between Indian Sanskrit and Latin and Greek in the sixteenth century, as Europeans came into contact with India. But it was the British Asiatic Society in eighteenth century India under Sir William Jones that compared words across the three languages and found remarkable similarities. From this it was deduced that a common Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root lay at the heart of all three languages and their peoples, linking them back to an ancestral homeland that was probably located in the sweeping expanse of the Russian Steppes of Central Asia. Scholars disagree about this, although the steppes north of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea are the favoured location. Others suggest the original Indo-European homeland was Anatolia in around 7000 BC.

How they got there is unknown, but India was one of the first places to be colonised by early humans after they left Africa. Some scholars propose that there never was an Aryan migration into India from the north, while others believe implicitly in it. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle, in that some of the first peoples in India continued to migrate north (as they certainly did east, to populate China and South East Asia). Eventually, some of these peoples could have become the early Indo-Europeans in the steppes to the north and east of the Caspian Sea. Unfortunately, proof for this is almost impossible to come by.

Various groups of Indo-European peoples migrated out of Central Asia in the third millennium BC, pushed westwards and southwards by a combination of climate change, population movements, and perhaps pressure from other peoples further east. Their language broke down into dialects that can be divided into twelve branches, ten of which contain surviving languages. Very briefly, these are the Anatolians (the Hittites, Luwians, and Lydians), the Balts (such as the Latvians and Lithuanians on the eastern Baltic Sea coast), Celts (who once dominated Central and Western Europe), the Germanic peoples (who originate from Old Norse and Saxon peoples), the Greeks (most notably the Mycenaeans), the Illyrians (of the northern and eastern Adriatic coast, surviving in Albania), the Indians (the Aryan peoples), the Iranians (in the form of the Persians and Scythians), the Latins (embodied by the Romans), the Slavs (who came to dominate Eastern Europe after the fall of the Roman empire), the Thracians (of northern Greece and the Balkans which also includes Armenian), and finally the Tokharians (in north-west China, closely related to the Anatolian, Celtic, and Latin branches).

Indo-Europeans account for some of the world's most notable ancient languages, including Greek, Latin, Pali, Persian, and Sanskrit. Many of the most important modern languages in the world are Indo-European, such as Bengali, English, French, German, Hindi, Russian, and Spanish. More than half of the world's population speak one or more of these languages, either as a mother tongue or a business language.
c.4000 - 3000 BC
 Between these dates, Proto-Indo-Europeans emerge in Central Asia to form a homogenous people who all speak the same general language. In the third millennium BC, groups begin to migrate west and south, beginning a fragmentation that sees them occupy large swathes of Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. One of the first groups to arrive in Europe form the Comb Ceramic and Corded Ware cultures which settle on the Baltic coast to become the later Latvians and Lithuanians.
c.2800 BC
 Groups of Indo-Europeans first begin migrate into Greece, blending in with the indigenous populations to later form Mycenaean culture.
c.2350 -2300 BC
 The Gutians, possible Indo-European tribes in the Zagros Mountains, are first mentioned, and go on to dominate southern Mesopotamia for a century. In the same period, Indo-European tribes in the form of the Luwian peoples settle in Anatolia.
c.2200 - 1700 BC
 A Bronze Age culture emerges in Central Asia between modern Turkmenistan and down towards the Oxus. It is known as the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, or Oxus civilisation, and is peopled by Indo-European tribes.

This king's tomb in the Indo-European settlement in the Karakum (modern Turkmenistan) contains a valuable horse to accompany him into the afterlife  

 Climate change from around 2000 BC onwards greatly affects this civilisation, denuding it of water as the rains decline. The people are forced to migrate southwards, with some groups penetrating into central Anatolia as the Hittites, who conquer the indigenous peoples over the course of a century, and the Kaskans. Other groups cross the Afghan rivers and the Hindu Kush mountains and enter India between 1700-1500 BC. They eventually form their own kingdoms there such as Magadha, plus Kalinga and Kauravas. The most easterly group are later identified as the Yeuh Chi in Chinese writings, and they later migrate into Afghanistan and India as the Kushans.
c.1600 BC
 The Luwian peoples of Anatolia emerge into history divided into two groups; the Arzawans to the west and the Kizzuwatnans in the east. The poorly-attested peoples of Ishuwa, Karkissa, and Lukka are probably also Indo-Europeans. The Mycenaeans also emerge into history at this time, in Greece and Cyprus. Around the same time, an Indo-Aryan group, perhaps part of the migration towards India, arrives in northern Mesopotamia to rule the Hurrians as a warrior class called the Mitanni.
c.1450 BC
 The Indo-European Phrygians begin to infiltrate into Bithynia in western Anatolia from the Balkans. Within about two and-a-half centuries they create their own kingdom in western Anatolia. Various other Indo-European peoples also populate the area, such as the Thracians.
c.1200 - 900 BC
 Social collapse and a dark age engulf the Middle East. During this period, various tribal groups found new cities and kingdoms, among them the Medians and Persians on the Iranian Plateau. Celtic groups spread over Central and Western Europe and reach Britain, where they push back the indigenous population and settle in the fertile south and east. They also later infiltrate into Ireland.
8th century BC
 An Indo-European people known as the Armenians first enter Anatolia from northern Mesopotamia, migrating into the region around Lake Van which will be their homeland for the next 2300 years.
6th century BC
 The Indo-European Bactrians are conquered by their cousins, the Persians.

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