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Ancient tribe Indo-Europeans - Ancestry and origin

Indogerman studies

In 1816, the German Franz Bopp (1791-1867), in his book "Über das Conjugationssystem der Sanskritsprache in Vergleich mit dem dem dem dem der griechischen, lateinischen, Persian und deutschischen Sprache" ("On the conjugation system of the Sanskrit language in comparison with that of Greek, Latin, Persian and Germanic"), provided methodical proof of the kinship of these languages and thus founded German Indo-European studies. The term "Indo-Germanic" is oriented towards the geographically most distant language groups of the (pre-colonial) distribution area, the Indo-Aryan languages in the southeast (with Sinhala in Sri Lanka) and the Germanic languages with Icelandic in the northwest.
The Indo-European languages are regarded as genealogically related, i.e. as "daughter languages" of a "mother tongue", the no longer preserved Urindogermanic. This Indo-European original language is the common forerunner of the Indo-European languages, which has not been documented, but has been made accessible by linguistic methods. It is one of the most important achievements of linguists since the beginning of the 19th century to have plausibly reconstructed the vocabulary and grammatical structure of this original language to a large extent from the investigation of the similarities and systematic differences of the Indo-European languages. The reconstruction is mainly based on common features of the grammatical forms and on related words.
While for this language family in the German language usage the designation remained with "Indo-Germanic", internationally the designation "Indo-European" is more common. Accordingly, the original language is then called "Proto-Indo-European". The spatial and temporal classifications of this language are to be regarded as speculative. Based on word stems common to all Indo-European languages, ethnolinguistics, in cooperation with archaeology, attempts to determine the Indo-European's area of origin and to relate it to prehistoric peoples or cultures. However, in the question of a primordial homeland, a distinction must always be made between a hypothetical language-historical reconstruction of local influences in the context of the formation of the earliest comprehensible Indo-European root words and, in contrast, an identification of people, language and space (theory of continuity).
Some hypotheses are significantly influenced by nationalism or have been appropriated by an ideology (e.g. in National Socialism).
Linguists who describe a proto-language often try to find archaeological evidence for that proto-language, and sometimes (but less often) archaeologists who describe a culture try to find linguistic evidence in the absence of historical data. This does not alter the fact that a relationship between proto-languages and cultures is in principle hypothetical, so that while it is possible to speak of societies in general and the community of speakers of the linguistically reconstructed proto-language may have been wholly or partly the bearers of the archaeological culture in question, it cannot be said with certainty that these societies were one people or that their language was limited to the cultural level.

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Region of origin and settlement areas

The common features of the known Indo-European languages ultimately presuppose common linguistic precursors and a geographically narrower or more limited "original homeland" or a certain area of expression in which the original language may have originated or at least was actually spoken at a certain historical point in time.

This region of origin has been sought in the Near East, the Caucasus, but also in various other regions. Geographical limitations, which are based one-sidedly on either archaeological or language-historical comparative or human genetic data, allow for several alternatives. In an interdisciplinary evaluation of the available data, however, most of the original home hypotheses proposed by the individual disciplines are ruled out.

The spread of agriculture from Asia Minor to Europe has been directly related to the spread of Indo-European populations and their languages. Chronological problems arise in this attempt at explanation. Arable farming, the spread of which had begun in southeastern Europe in the 7th millennium BC, reached Eastern Europe around 5500 BC, at a time when Indo-Germanic peoples were already living there. This is indicated by the continuity of settlement between the Don and the Volga and northwest of the Caspian Sea.

On the other hand, findings from archaeology, historical-comparative linguistics and human genetics can be casually correlated if one starts from the thesis that the Indo-Germanic peoples originally settled in Eastern Europe and that the population groups resident there migrated in several waves to Western Europe on the one hand, to Central Asia and beyond to the Iranian highlands and India. The Baltic region is a zone of early Indo-European expansion, which started from the lowlands of the Volga. Very old linguistic traces can still be found there in the names of rivers and waters.

In the original settlement area of the Indo-Germanic peoples a complex sequence of different cultural layers can be seen in the horizon of time (Elshan culture of the 7th millennium BC, Samara culture about 6000-5000 BC, Khwalynsk culture in the steppe and forest belt of the middle Volga between 5000 and 4500 BC, Sredni Stog about 4500-3350 BC).

The Indo-Germanic population groups had cultural and linguistic contacts with neighbouring peoples at an early stage. Among the oldest contacts are those with the Uralians of the forest zone north of the Indo-European original homeland; they date back to the 6th millennium B.C. In the 5th millennium B.C., the contacts of the Indo-Germanic people with their neighbours in the south, the Caucasians, began. The earlier contacts of Indo-European steppe nomads with the Old Europeans in the north-western coastal region of the Black Sea (region of Varna in Bulgaria) also fall into this period.

The names that the early Indo-Germanic people and their local groups gave themselves are only partly known (Aryans). The distribution area of Indo-European peoples and languages extends from Western Europe to the Indian subcontinent and China (Tarim Basin). In the course of the expansion the originally proto-Indo-European complex increasingly dissolved into regional gravitations with special cultural and linguistic development.

The spread of the Indo-Germanic peoples

In the scientific community there is also intensive discussion of how the language and culture of the Indo-Germanic people spread in the later Indo-Germanic or Indo-Aryan language area (language contact). The ideas range from an invasion of the Indo-Germanic peoples into Europe and India, to a gradual infiltration and mixing, to the mere passing on of language and cultural achievements without significant genetic exchange.

According to the Kurgan Hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, the Indo-Germanic people moved westward, southward and eastward in several waves between 4400 and 2200 BC. She sees a long drought as the trigger.

Everywhere in Central and Western Europe Indo-Germanic migrants met non-Indo-Germanic populations. These were gradually displaced, assimilated, or regional mixed cultures such as that of the Celtiberians emerged, with a fusion of non-Indo-European (Iberians) and Indo-European (Celts) elements.

Old Europeans

The theory of pre-Indo-European Old Europe depends on the assumption that the spread of the Indo-European language was accompanied by the physical immigration of a new population. Therefore, pre-Indo-Germanic European cultures are called "Old European".

The "Old Europeans" were early farmers who settled in Europe in the Neolithic period. They are pre-Indo-Germanic population groups, whose distribution in antiquity can be determined with the help of the findings of human genetics. The peoples of that time have left their genetic "fingerprint" in the genome profile of later populations.

Among the pre-Indo-Germanic peoples of Old Europe are (partly also of Anatolian origin):

- the Basques,

- the Etruscans,

- the Pelasgians,

- the Leleges,

- the Iberians,

- the Ligurians (uncertain),

- the Rhaetians,

- the Sikanen,

- the Elymians,

- the Minoans,

- the Lusitanians (questionable),

- the band ceramists,

- the Vinca culture

and others.

They are considered to be older than the Celtic tribes, but were assimilated by them for the most part before they were in turn romanized, especially linguistically, by the Italians. Others, such as the Pelasgians and Leleger, were allegedly assimilated by Greek tribes or, like the Basques, continue to exist as a linguistic unit to this day.

The Kurgan migrations

Numerous Indo-Germanists tried to determine the original home of their bearers by analysing the plant and animal names common to some Indo-Germanic languages, which are therefore part of the Indo-Germanic original language. These approaches have been criticized because of the frequent changes of meaning. However, the common plant and animal names indicate middle or temperate latitudes and, due to loan words, early contacts with speakers of Uralic and Altaic languages.

These considerations and language analyses point in the Kurgan Hypothesis, which is today in the majority, to an area in southern Russia as a centre of propagation, to cattle herders who were no longer hunter-gatherers and - analogous to corresponding terms in the basic Indo-European language - presumably practised rudimentary agriculture. Common Indo-Germanic terms for agriculture, such as plough, as well as for transport, such as wheel, cart, and yoke, suggest that the Indo-Germanic tribes spread only after they took over cart transport (initially pulled by oxen). According to this, they could not have been the carriers of the first arable crops which migrated from Asia Minor to Europe in the Old Neolithic, but rather relatively late (ca. 3600-2600 B.C.) migrants. Already in the 7th millennium BC, the dry climate north of the Black Sea had led to desertification of the landscape. The southern Russian steppe was created at that time. The people of the region adapted their way of life to the barren environment, they became cattle nomads. First the horse was tamed, then the wild bull, goat and sheep. These cattle nomads were Indo-European. Around 5500 B.C. the knowledge of the cultivation of land with non-Indo-European farmers from the west reached the region of the cattle nomads. The steppe soil was not very fertile, and larger areas were needed to cultivate the land than on the fertile soils further west. The area through which the cattle nomads moved with their herds was gradually narrowed. The pressure to settle in the west caused the nomadic population further east to migrate gradually. These extensive migrations of the cattle nomads are called "kurgan migrations" in reference to the visible signs of the burial of their warrior elite, monumental burial mounds ("kurgan"). There were three kurgan migrations:

- Kurgan I: between ca. 4500 and 4300 B.C.; destination areas: Area of the Suvorovo Culture (Moldavia, lower course of the Danube in Romania, northeast Bulgaria), Danube valley, southern Hungary;

- Kurgan II: ca. 3500 B.C.; target areas: Inland areas in the Balkans beyond the river valleys, reaching as far as the Alpine region;

- Kurgan III: ca. 3100-2900 B.C.; destination areas: Adriatic coast, Albania, North and Baltic Sea coast, Baltic States and southern Scandinavia.

With the third wave, Indo-Germanic peoples reached as far as Albania and northern Greece. There their culture overlapped with that of the old-established population. In the period between 2300 and 2200 BC, i.e. towards the end of the early Helladic period, the decisive cultural upheaval took place. At that time, a certain ethnocultural profile was formed in that region, which later became Greek.

The Kurgan hypothesis postulates a rapid social upheaval, to which the older Neolithic cultures in large parts of Europe, which have been comprehensible since the 7th millennium BC, fall victim. The socially non-stratified and presumably matrilineal peasant cultures are overlaid by a patriarchal and feudally structured Indo-Germanic conqueror layer, which, due to its warlike and technological superiority and despite considerable numerical inferiority, asserts its language and social structure.

The Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas is controversial for a variety of reasons, as are all other hypotheses about the Indo-Germanic homeland. There is a debate in archaeology as to whether the Kurgan cultures were really pastoral nomads, what role horseback riding or equestrian warriors may have played in the assumed expansion of the Kurgan people to south-eastern and central Europe, and whether there is sufficient evidence for an immigration of Kurgan people as possible speakers of Indo-European. Linguistic and genetic evidence for the presumed migration movement is also discussed.

The hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, however, fits best with the linguistic finding that the Indo-Germanic people did not come to Europe at the beginning of the Neolithic, but only advanced westward in a relatively late period in the 3rd millennium BC. With these presumed migrations, the horse also spread westwards again.

A genetic study published in 2015 by researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston supports Gimbuta's theory. The researchers identified two waves of immigration to Europe. First, between 5000 and 6000 BC, the first farmers came from the Middle East via Anatolia. After 4000 B.C. there must have been a massive immigration from the southern Russian steppes.

According to the Kurgan Hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, the Indo-Germanic people moved westward, southward and eastward in several waves between 4400 and 2200 BC. She sees a long drought as the trigger, which modern geologists could only recently explain by the end of the hitherto unknown East Mediterranean monsoon from 7000 to about 4500 BC.

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