Episode 10: Early Indo-European Migrations

The emergence of the first Indo-Europeans and the early migrations of these steppe herders is examined.  The specific advantages favoring the expansion of these people is explored in detail.


Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

37 thoughts on “Episode 10: Early Indo-European Migrations

    • Hi Ian,

      Over the past few months, I have been re-recording some of the early episodes because they were originally recorded at a sampling rate that causes problems with some streaming media players. So far, I have re-recorded Episodes 5-9. So I think you are hearing the transition from my current voice back to my original voice when you get to Episode 10. I think my presentation was a little ‘hit and miss’ on those first dozen or so episodes.

  1. Did some research into lactose tolerance. Most of the world’s population does NOT have lactose tolerance, or at least not much. “Around 75% of the world’s adults can’t drink a lot of milk.” http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask135

    “Overall, about 75 percent of the world’s population, including 25 percent of those in the U.S., lose their lactase enzymes after weaning. ” http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/what-is-lactose-intolerance

    Also see, https://www.nature.com/news/archaeology-the-milk-revolution-1.13471

    • I appreciate the pronunciation feedback. A pronunciation correction never hurt anyone, but as you can probably imagine, I get a lot of feedback about my accent and the way I pronounce certain words. I issued a couple of disclaimers in the early episodes of the podcast regarding pronunciation issues. I love feedback about the content of the podcast – even corrections when I get things wrong. However, I don’t generally correct an episode, or even address pronunciation differences, unless they are crucial to the content presented to the episode.

      • Sure, I understand that. I made these comments just so that others who are new to this might know the correct pronunciations. I know that there are words that I have only read but never heard spoken that I devise my own pronunciation for and only later learn the word is not pronounced as I have pronounced it in my head. : – )

  2. A few more pronunciation items from the former Near Eastern Neolithic archaeologist: The city of Uruk is pronounced OO-ruk. The city of Ur is pronounced OOR or Ur (Er).

    As always, thanks for the informative podcasts. They are great!

  3. Fascinated by all this history of English, who were these proto-Indo Europeans. My wife and I have twice listened to Seth Lehrer’s series and yet I am still learning new material through your podcasts. I have been expecting you to touch more on archeology and DNA results to help corroborate the notion of where these people originated and lived. I have a recollection that the water level in some major body of water has been precipitously dropping due to drought and that structures and sunken boats that are 4,000 years old are appearing along the receding shore lines. I think it was the Black Sea, but am uncertain. Do any recent discoveries shed light on these early pronto folk?

    • Hi Doug. At the time I prepared this episode (late 2012), there was no major DNA study to corroborate the steppe homeland presented in the podcast. However, in 2015, a DNA study was released that confirmed a significant migration from the steppe region into western Europe during the same general time period that the PIE languages were spreading throughout Europe and South Asia. I discussed this study in a later episode around the time it was released. I also discussed it in some detail in a bonus episode at patreon.com/historyofenglish.

  4. Just curious, why does the inclusion of a technology word in a language help fix the origin date? The word television doesn’t fix the origin of the English language to the 1900’s.

    Great podcast!

    • Hi Mark,

      My understanding is that it is simply a matter of definition. By definition, the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) vocabulary consists of the words that have been reconstructed from the modern Indo-European languages using the comparative method. Since words associated with certain technologies are part of that vocabulary, then PIE would have been spoken at the time that technology existed. There was certainly an older version of PIE (pre-Proto-Indo-European) that existed before that technology was invented, but by definition, that proto language pre-dated PIE (in the same way that Proto-Germanic preceded Old English and Modern English).

  5. You mentioned a book on episodes 9-10 but I can’t find the episode notes for the title and author. The map is there, together with a link to the podcast so I think I have found the right place.

    PS I am a latecomer to the podcast and am really enjoying it. I studied linguistics so you are adding and updating to what I learned way back when.

    • I think you are referring to “The Horse, The Wheel and Language” by David W. Anthony. It was one of my main sources for many of those early episodes about Indo-European migrations.

  6. Kevin, talk about coming late to the party! I am just beginning your podcast, and enjoying it immensely. It makes my hour long walk with my dog quite pleasant. You state you are not a linguist or historian, but you should be!!! You are certainly a great teacher. I understand you are an attorney (makes me feel a bit prouder of my profession). You have taken a complex subject and made it understandable to the layperson, and a joy to listen to. Thank you so much for all your efforts in this podcast!!1

    • Thanks for the link! Obviously, the video makes quite a few assumptions about the early migrations, but so did I when I presented the material in the podcast. 😉

  7. Hey, I’m really enjoying the podcast but in this episode the cut is overlapping the words a little and it got really hard for me to listen. I think that some pauses between the sentences are good. Please don’t edit them out.

    • I think there may be an issue with your streaming player. To my knowledge, there is no overlapping. I listen back to every episode before posting, and I haven’t received this feedback from any other listeners. If you can give me an example at a specific point and time in the episode, I’ll check it.

      • Hey Kevin.
        I’m sorry. I read another comment where you talk about the sampling rate, and I think my problem was related to that. I’m using Spotify now and the problem was solved.
        Thanks for replying though.

  8. I love the tone of this; you give the impression that you believe your audience is as informed as you are and we’re just having a chat about a fascinating subject. I feel cleverer just being here! Thank you very much.

  9. Really great stuff, Kevin …. as a ‘hack’ archeologist, this episode answered so many questions. What extra reading/listening can you recommend for this period ?

    Thanks again … and I am really enjoying the series !


    • As I’ve noted in these episodes, I recommend “The Horse, The Wheel and Language” by David W Anthony. You might also check out “In Search of the Indo-Europeans” by J.P. Mallory.

  10. just discovered your site. Even though I’ve had a lifelong interest in the subject and have gathered lots of information over the years I’ve never had such a clear and organized presentation. Not an episode goes by that I don’t feel that I’ve learned something new and valuable.
    A thought regarding the milk tolerance that showed up coincidentally in the three distant populations (Indo Europeans, Arabs and Tutsis) shortly after they started herding: perhaps we are dealing with a recessive gene that was carried by all humans but that offered no survival advantage until the group started herding, at which time those individuals that had the gene AND access to milk were stronger and healthier and so the gene expression in the community increased.

  11. Hello! Just wondering if you could post a citation for the research on lactose tolerance conferring an advantage on the early Indo-Europeans. I’d like to track this down, but can’t find it using keywords on Google Scholar. Thank you! Fantastic episode!

    • Hi Loretta. There is a very good discussion about lactose tolerance among the original Indo-Europeans in the book, “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution,” by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.

  12. Hello! I’m from Iran and after listening to the History of Persian Podcast (still on-going) became interested in the Indo-European languages. These early episodes have been great, even though they are, understandably, mainly focused on the western branches. Thanks!

  13. Just started listening after the podcast «Things you Missed in History Class» mentioned your podcast. I’m thrilled there are so many episodes, as I’m enjoying this so much. Thanks!

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