For some pieces on my Substack I’ve been re-reading a lot of the stuff on the ancient genetics and archaeology of Eurasia as they relate to Indo-Europeans. This means I get a different view from usual…as it’s more synoptic. I’m not entirely clear on the dates or archaeology, but here is what I’ve concluded: the Indo-European expansions can be partitioned into “waves.” That is, they weren’t a simple “demic diffusion” where disease (against their rivals) and reproductive excess generated a continuous expansion across their range.
So here’s what I get
1 – An “early phase” where Yamna people push west (Kurgan) and become Corded Ware, and east (far) and become Afanasievo. Date this to right before 3,000 BC, but pretty much “completes” in Europe by 2900-2800 BC, as the broad zone of Central and Northeast Europe is dominated by these people (there are still debates on whether Afanasievo became the “Tocharians”; I think they did)
2 – ~2500 BC, 400-500 years after the initial push west, Indo-European populations push beyond their limits on the Rhine, and breakthrough past the mountains ringing the Southern European peninsulas. The dates are often vague in the south, but it looks to be around 2500 to 2000 BC. For example, the Neolithic farmer descended Remedello Culture in northern Italy ends about 2400 BC. The Bell Beaker Indo-Europeans seem to have arrived in Ireland and England at just about this time, perhaps a century after they came to dominate France.
Though there were obviously islands of exception (often quite literally as in Sardinia and Crete), Europe by 2000 BC was Indo-European.
3 – The third wave dates to after 2000 BC, and it is the “Asia reflux.” Populations used the forest-steppe zone as a stepping stone out to the east. Derived from the same synthesis between Yamna and European farmer as Corded Ware, these populations seem ancestral to the Indo-Iranians. Slavic-speaking people (or the ancestors of those people) occupied the western fringe of this expansion zone, and by the Iron Age had begun to move east, marginalizing Indo-Iranians across much of their core European territory.
It seems that Indo-Iranians had pushed into the margins of northeast Iran, Khorasan, by ~2000 BC. In the period between 2000-1500 BC they clearly began to occupy their historical core zones in Iran and India. Obviously, Indo-European Iranians are present in western Iran by 1000 BC in the historical record, though Indo-European Mitanni are present by 1540 BC at the latest in Syria and northern Iraq.
The Iranians also moved into the Tarim basin, so the cities of the west and southern edge were Iranian-speaking (the cities of the north and east were Tocharian).
What explains these pulses? I don’t know totally, but we know a few things:
– There are star phylogenies on the Y chromosomal associated with these migrations. R1b, R1a, and I1. I think the last is due to the assimilation of non-Indo-European men in Europe, but the first two are clearly primal. The Indo-Europeans were clearly very patrilineal.
– The last, Asian, migration clearly has something to do with chariots and horses. The coincidence in timing seems too much. But the earlier migrations were before chariots (I believe). But, the horse does seem to have come with Indo-Europeans, so there was a level of mobility involved.
– The “Bell Beaker” motif seems to have emerged among non-Indo-Europeans in Iberia, and spread to Indo-Europeans, who expanded outward. I think we’re seeing something related to religion.
Unfortunately for I suspect that the Indo-European advantage was “social technology”, not material technology. Social technology is hard to infer in a preliterate society.
Question for readers: Can you nail down the chronology better? Those who know archaeology?