a more classical version of the Indo-European migration map without the Caspian
Origins and Geography
concerns for integrating
factors of time (date of languages) and space
(location of the speakers when they entered history)
call for a re-evaluation
of all models."
[Carol F. Justus, Indo-European Document Center]
Theory of Symmetric Expansion
first part of the article may still be valid)
A new alternative theory is being created to reconcile historical data (Where
do we first see the Indo-Europeans in historical record?) with linguistic and
geographic evidence (Where should the Indo-Europeans have traveled before we first
see them in historical record?). The theory attempts to integrate these two different
aspects of Indo-European studies into one visual representation.
is based on two assumptions:
Any kind of demographic migration proceeds in symmetric, circular waves.
Therefore, each ethnic group or language should have a focus for an outward
wave expansion, which has a form of a primary, circular wave on a smooth surface.
After this primary wave runs into an obstacle, secondary circular waves are formed
with new radial migrations spreading in all directions from that point. (This
is roughly an equivalent of the Huygens-Fesnel principle in wave optics where
all wave processes are described in this way).
All radial lines denoting these wave migrations should be superimposed on local,
(paleo)climatic, and (paleo)geographic data to produce meaningful results.
In other words, peoples travel only where the (paleo)climate and (paleo)geography
allow. They cannot migrate just anywhere across mountains, deserts, or countries
occupied by other ethnic groups. Therefore, out of a total number of possible
radial routes, only a small number of routes are taken in real life.
Moreover, these actual migration routes may often coincide with the high population
density areas of today, since people could have first travel approximately
along the same lines they settle down and live for centuries or thousands of years
afterward (this is true if we assume for simplicity that there were no drastic
climatic or geographic changes over the past 5000 years).
two key ideas are corroborated by data from historical record, e.g.
expansion of Ancient Rome (from the city of Rome outward, -- the Mediterranean
(2) the expansion of Greek culture (from the Aegean Sea outward along
all sea routes to Sicily, Spain and the Caucasus)
(3) the growth of the Chinese
civilization (from a small region near the Huang He outwards) (fig. below)
(4) the growth of Persian Empire (from Media outward) (fig. below)
expansion of Egyptian civiliztion (from the Upper Nile to Nubia in the south and
Canaan in the north)
inverted night illumination maps were used because they supposedly reflect the
actual population densities both at present and during the antiquity.]
first figure (based on Earthlights, NASA) shows the expansion of the Chinese civilization
from the Han Dynasty level (c. 1000-1500 BC) to the late Zhou level (by 350 BC)
and to modern times (1700 AD). Even though the Chinese civilization may look assymetrical
at first sight, a closer examination reveals slow symmetrical expansion from the
region near the lower Huang He, which proceeded using only geographically feasible
routes and areas.
The second figure demonstrates that the location of
Media approximately coincides with the center of the Persian Empire at its maximum,
so by tracing the borders at any period we can possibly predict the location of
its craddle near the Caspian Sea.
Similar maps may be created for other
instances, e.g. tracking the location of the homeland of the Roman Empire to northern
In some cases (such as North America the conquest of the Wild West, and
Russia -- the conquest of Siberia, the expansion of Austronesian and Bantu languages)
the expansion seems asymmetrical and lop-sided, but this can be explained using
of the second postulate: the absense of free land at one side forbids the spread
in the direction in question.
Temporal considerations for the wave motion
present wave theory (as applied to the Indo-European studies) suggests that the
Indo-Europeans might have travel at a predictable speed in various directions.
This is further supported by the fact that the time of arrival of the Indo-Europeans
to the utmost eastern and western points is nearly the same, which probably implies
a gradual expansion from a common center at roughly the same rate.
example, the Lusitanians arrived in Portugal by c. 500 BC, which is about at the
same time as the Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka (543-482 BC, the Prince Vijaya
legend). The arrival of Aryans in Mohenjo-Daro around 1800-1700 BC is matched
by the migration period of the Hellenic tribes to northern Greece about 1600-1800
BC, especially if one takes into consideration the differences in distance required
to migrate around the Black Sea, as well as other factors that may affect the
rate of migration.
In other words, the symmetric expansion is natural,
whereas the asymmetric one should somehow be explained and accounted for. In many
older theories of the Indo-European Urheimat, the focus was commonly dislocated
to one side, often being placed near the author's own homeland. Such are some
of the Northern Europe hypotheses or the Out-of-India theory. It's important to
note that this kind of nationalistic subjectivism must be excluded from further
research, and this can be done using the current symmetry approach.
Caspian Sea Hypothesis (see "Notes"
far as the Proto-Indo-European origins are concerned, the present representaion
shows that the initial migration focus of the IE expansion must be located in
the Caspian Sea region most likely, in the area of present day Dagestan,
Azerbaijan or the Province of Gilan in northern Iran. This conclusion comes from
backtracking all routes symmetrically to one central point in space and time.
The three large concentric circles on the large map show how this was done. (Comment:
the Caspian Sea hypothesis could be oversimplified, as the Eurasian continent
has no symmetric shape.)
Also note that the Caucasus mountains
would serve as a natural barrier for the separation of PIE dialects. The PIEs
that remained to the north of Azerbaijan in Dagestan (Russia)
could have preserved the ancient consonant system and remained Centum, while the
group that lived along the Caspian coast to the south of Azerbaijan
in Gilan (Iran) acquired the palatalization charactaristcs and became Satem.
(Of course, if the distinction between Centum and Satem dates back to the
period of the intial split, and is not, at least partly, a later development).
in time indicates that the Indo-European nation might have still existed as a
single unity until 3000 BC (The dating is very uncertain,
but the present version of this theory is not sufficiently elaborated for temporal
We suggest that the reasons for the expansion
were mainly technological. The IEs could have had a better technology,
and this is why they were able to spread their language over such and enormous
that the conquest of the Americas, Australia and Siberia by the Spanish, French,
English or Russian invaders during the 17-19th centuries is nothing but a continuation
of the same ancient Indo-European expansion (!), which this time was brought about
by the invention of modern ships and firearms. By analogy, the technological reasons
for migration could also have been significant in the past.
we suppose that the most plausible explanation (aside from the theories of sudden
climatic changes) could be linked to the invention of the horse-drawn wheeled
cart or horse-drawn chariot, an event that constituted a tremendous
technological advancement to the whole of the PIE proto-civilization allowing
ancient tribes to gradually migrate in all directions searching for new farming
territory. (Not necessarily correct, but this technology
principle might still be valid)
Indeed, we know that the horse
was probably domesticated between the Dniepr and the Don around 4200-3500 BC (The
Sredny Stog Culture), while the wheel seems to be invented in Sumer c. 3300-3100
BC. As you can easily see, the imaginary expansion circle (according to the present
theory of wave expansion) for these two technological inventions seem to overlap
in the area of the Caspian Sea at just about the same time as the mass migration
of IEs supposedly began there, that is, circa 2900 BC.
seems to be a proven fact that the Indo-Europeans already used horses at this
period of time, so if they discovered the wheel manufactured by Sumarians (who
used only donkeys and oxen at the time e.g. earliest depictions c. 2600
BC, Ur), they could quickly adapt the new invention to horses, thus creating the
wheeled horse-drawn cart a very effective means of transportation of the
time. (The other possibility being that the wheel was their own invention). In
this way, they were able to spread all over Eurasia. In other words, the horse
came from the north, the wheel came from the south, and the only narrow passage
where they could have possibly met is the west coast of the Caspian Sea (!).
wheel is indeed known to the Kura-Araxes archeological culture in the South Caucasus
(3200-2500 BC). The earliest known spoke-wheeled chariots date from c. 2000-1800
BC (Sintashta-Petrovka findings southeast of Magnitogorsk, see map) which seems
to coincide with the advances of Proto-Tocharians near the Urals in 1900-1800
data that support this view
Geography and plant &animal life data seem to corroborate
the Caspian Sea hypothesis. The classic requirements for the names of "salmon"
and "beech" are fulfilled. Indeed, salmon live in the Caspian, and beech
forests abound in the area. Interestingly, the preservation of many other lexemes
denoting natural life and resources can be explained just as well.
language: birch, beech, pine, oak, hornbeam, cedar, aspen/poplar, willow,
cherry, apple, maple, alder, hazel, nut/chestnut/walnut, elm, linden, ash, yew;
horse, sheep, pig, ox, cow, sow; wolf, bear, wild boar, deer, fox, lynx, lion,
antelope, wild ox (bison), squirrel, beaver, otter, mouse, tortoise, snake, salmon;
bird, eagle, crow, thrush, grouse, crane, goose (swan); bronze, copper
Dagestan: oak, pine, hornbeam, birch, beech, maple, poplar, black alder,
willow, cultivation of cherries, apples, apricots, pears, melons, wheat, rice;
European bison (aurochs), mountain goat, roe deer, chamois, bear, deer, leopard;
wild turkey, partridge, jackdaw, eagles; coal, iron ore
beech, oak, and pine forests; cultivation of wheat, persimmon, wine grapes; Alpine
meadows in the mountains used for pasture; bear, roe deer, mountain goat, wild
boar, lynx, leopards, European bison (wisent), fox, porcupine, bat, rabbit, weasel,
wildcat, badger, gazelles, jackals, hyenas, dormouse, rat, squirrel, snakes (viper);
extensive pastures for sheep, cattle, and goats;
prey birds, pheasent,
flamingo, waders, pelican, partridge, turtledove, grouse, ringdove, vulture, owl,
partridge, ortolan, spoonbill, kingfisher, pigeon, heron, geese, cranes, ducks,
iron ore, copper, zinc, lead, salt
Gilan and the Elburz
region: beech, oak, and hornbeam (ironwood) forests, conifers (cedar), wild
fruit trees (almond, pear, pomegranate, walnut), silk tree, walnut, pistachio,
plane, alder, yew, acacia; cultivation of tea, olives; wolf, fox, bear, mountain
goats, red mountain sheep, roe deer, rabits, gerbils, Caspian tiger, hyena, leopard,
deer, gazelles, lynx, snakes, lizards; waterfowl; coal, iron ore, lead, zinc
Caspian Sea: sturgeon (and its varieties), salmon, pike, perch, carp,
herring, mullet, sprat, tortoises, porpoise, Capian seal, pelicans, swans, flamingos,
herons, egrets, sandpipers, partridges, various migratory birds
few remaining words (hazel, elm, linden, ash, beaver, otter) should be added to
the common list just as well, because linden, ash, and elm should grow in the
Caucasus and could be lost in the lists above due to incomplete information; beavers
and otters were hunted and exterminated in modern times, while their original
habitat was larger covering most of Europe and Asia. In other words, this looks
like almost one-to-one correspondance.
please note a remarkable preservation of the word "salt" throughout
most IE languages L sal, Gr. hals, Sans. salila, Latv sals, Rus. sol',
Germ. salt. (The salt is found in abundance around the Caspian due to sea level
variations and intense evaporation)
The territory of Caucasian Albania has been inhabited
for more than a million of years. Copper needles and other artifacts appear in
Azerbaijan and eastern Georgia by 4000 BC. In 3300-2200BC, Dagestan is the location
of the Kura-Araxes culture that extended over all of the Lesser Caucasus to Armenia.
It was characterized by farming and live-stock raising economy, and the use of
Unlike the IE culture, the Kura-Araxes was also characterized
by the cults of hearth, sun, aurochs, depictions of helixes and other apparently
purely Caucasian features, therefore it should be rather considered as Nakh-Dagestanian.
Still, the IEs may be somewhere near, for example, they may be located to the
south or even below the sea level. In some theories, the Kura-Araxes is identified
with the homeland of Proto-Anatolian speakers, an idea that seems to be supported
by the current symmetric expansion theory.
very short list of archealogical findings has been added to demonstrate that artifacts
typically associated with IEs (rich burial sites, catacombs, wheel, horse, early
bronze and copper tools) tend to show up in the target region as part of the Kura-Araxes
Derbent (Dagestan), Bronze Age agricultural communitities, c. 3000 BC
2) Velikent (near Derbent, Dagestan), site discovered in the 19th century, burial
catacombs (no mounds), numerous ceramic vessels, models of wheels, bronze axes,
knives, hews; jewelry, early layers c. 3000-2500 BC, most layers c. 2500-2000
3) Kultupe (Nakhichevan, on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan),
a figurine of horse and horseman, c. 3000 BC
Baba-Dervish (Azerbaijan), dugout huts, bone and stone objects, furnaces, wheat
and barley cultivation, weaving, pottery, figurines of wheels, aurochs, clay models
of woman, c. 3000-2000 BC
3) Paleoclimatic evidence:
the Caspian Sea level influence
The Caspian Sea is an inland body of water
located in a deep depression and separated from the ocean at least since the end
of the Ice Age or earlier. It is characterized by regular regressions and transgressions
due to natural climatic changes, so its level and shoreline vary constantly with
the time. As the graph shows, in 4200 BC the level began to fall. It reached its
historical minimum of -36 m (-115 ft) (c. 3000 BC, and then it slowly began to
rise again until it reached the present day mark of -29 m (-93 ft) by 2700 BC.
Coincidentally, the split of IE dialects matches the strongest demonstrated decline
in the last 15 000 years (!). Therefore, we arrive at the idea of the Caspian
Sea Bridge that seems to explain how the PIEs could have spread to India in the
3rd millenium BC.
G. Kasymov, The Caspian Sea, 1987]
1) 4000-3300 BC: the PIEs migrate to Dagestan from the
Pontic steppes riding on horseback along the western, narrow, plane Caspian shore
formed by the dried up sea bed. 2) 3300-3000 BC: Bronze Age agricultural settlements
are formed near Derbent (Dagestan). The wheel is invented in Sumer (or independetly
by the PIEs) and reaches the area of Azerbaijan largely improving the PIE technology.
3) 3000-2500 BC: Using new technology the IEs begin to spread to the north, south
and along the Kura estuary as the sea level begins to rise again. By the time
a new regression starts in 2500 BC, the PIEs must have already advanced far enough
from their original habitat.
map of the Indo-European expansion
from the viewpoint
of the Caspian
the map below might contain some errors, it shows how the Indo-European migrations
could have proceeded in principle (So far, I have not found any similar detailed
representation elsewhere). (As of 2007: most dates, except
the well-established ones (black color) are probably too recent)
a more standard version of the Indo-European migrations map without the Caspian
Arrows were carefully placed around natural obstacles and along suitable trails
which supposedly coincide with the areas of dense population of today. A number
of other factors (such as the presence of foreign tribes or ancient kingdoms,
winter temperatures, migration along shortest and quickest routes) were also taken
into consideration. When fully elaborated, this type of map based on the ideas
of circular expansion is supposed to predict the IE migration routes with considerable
region: the expansion focus (the late Caspian Urheimat)
yellow: probable early migrations from 3000 to 2000 BC
migrations from 2000 to 1000 BC
light blue: late migrations since 1000
red: areas occupied by foreign nations
black dots: ancient
symbols of wheel: regions where the wheel was first found or
symbols of horse: probable regions of horse domestication
c. 4000-3000 BC
where and when the Indo-Europeans are almost definitely first seen in historical