Proto Indo European

The Proto Indo Europeans

Indo European
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Who Were The Proto Indo Europeans

The Proto Indo Europeans (PIE) was an ancient Eurasian ethnolinguistic group from whom it is believed the Indo-European language groups were derived according to linguistic reconstruction. With archaeology and archaeogenetics of tracing Y-DNA along with linguistic reconstruction, it is believed they lived during the neolithic age and dates ranging from 7800 BCE to 5500 BCE and were carriers for the R1b and R1a haplogroups, with R1b and R1b haplogroup being the most common Y-DNA group in western Europe and even overlapping in the near east around Anatolia specifically. R1a haplogroup being very prevalent in South Asia and the Indian subcontinent, where Indo-Aryan or Indo-Iranian which is part of the Indo-European language tree is present.

R1b and R1a Haplogroups

Proto Indo Europeans R1a R1b
Haplogroup Distribution of R1a and R1b Today

When we look at the autosomal DNA studies carried out, as stated before the paternal Y DNA R1b and R1a are the most common in Europe, and R1a also common in south Asia and expanded from the Russian steppes along with the Indo-European languages. In modern Europeans, they have also detected an autosomal component present in modern Europeans which was not present in Neolithic Europeans, which was introduced by the paternal lineages of R1b and R1a.1Haak, Wolfgang; Lazaridis, Iosif; Patterson, Nick; Rohland, Nadin; Mallick, Swapan; Llamas, Bastien; Brandt, Guido; Nordenfelt, Susanne; Harney, Eadaoin; Stewardson, Kristin; Fu, Qiaomei; Mittnik, Alissa; Bánffy, Eszter; Economou, Christos; Francken, Michael; Friederich, Susanne; Pena, Rafael Garrido; Hallgren, Fredrik; Khartanovich, Valery; Khokhlov, Aleksandr; Kunst, Michael; Kuznetsov, Pavel; Meller, Harald; Mochalov, Oleg; Moiseyev, Vayacheslav; Nicklisch, Nicole; Pichler, Sandra L.; Risch, Roberto; Rojo Guerra, Manuel A.; et al. (2015). “Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe”. Nature. 522 (7555): 207–11. arXiv:1502.02783. Bibcode:2015Natur.522..207H. bioRxiv 10.1101/013433. doi:10.1038/NATURE14317. PMC 5048219. PMID 25731166. The R1a1a (R-M17 or R-M198) subclade of the R1a haplogroup is commonly associated with Indo-European speakers but the subclade R1b1a (P-297) has also been linked to the Centum branch of Indo-European. The data collected shows two separated areas with a high frequency of R1a1, one in Eastern Europe, around Poland and the Russian core, and the other in South Asia, around Indo-Gangetic Plain.

A large, 2014 study by Underhill et al., with 16,244 individuals from over 126 populations from across Eurasia yielded some compelling evidence that R1a-M420 must have originated in the vicinity of Iran2Underhill, Peter A.; Poznik, G David; Rootsi, Siiri; Järve, Mari; Lin, Alice A.; Wang, Jianbin; Passarelli, Ben; Kanbar, Jad; Myres, Natalie M.; King, Roy J.; Di Cristofaro, Julie; Sahakyan, Hovhannes; Behar, Doron M.; Kushniarevich, Alena; Šarac, Jelena; Šaric, Tena; Rudan, Pavao; Pathak, Ajai Kumar; Chaubey, Gyaneshwer; Grugni, Viola; Semino, Ornella; Yepiskoposyan, Levon; Bahmanimehr, Ardeshir; Farjadian, Shirin; Balanovsky, Oleg; Khusnutdinova, Elza K.; Herrera, Rene J.; Chiaroni, Jacques; Bustamante, Carlos D.; et al. (2015). “The phylogenetic and geographic structure of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a”. European Journal of Human Genetics. 23 (1): 124–131. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2014.50. PMC 4266736. PMID 24667786. The specific mutations identified with the R1a haplogroup occurred around 10,000 years B.P. (before present). Its defining mutation (M17) occurred about 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. Pamjav et al. (2012) believe that R1a originated and initially diversified either within the Eurasian Steppes or the Near East and Caucasus region, and Ornella Semino et al. propose a postglacial (Holocene) spread of the R1a1 haplogroup from north of the Black Sea during the time of the Late Glacial Maximum, which was subsequently magnified by the expansion of the Kurgan culture into Europe and eastward3Semino, O. (2000). “The Genetic Legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in Extant Europeans: A Y Chromosome Perspective” (PDF). Science. 290 (5494): 1155–1159. Bibcode:2000Sci…290.1155S. doi:10.1126/science.290.5494.1155. PMID 11073453. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 November 2003. .

The Yamnaya Culture

Proto-Indo-European Origins | DNA
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Study of Antiquity and the Middle Ages

According to Jones et al. (2015) and Haak et al. (2015), Yamnaya Culture was exclusively R1b, autosomal tests indicate that the Yamnaya-people were the result of admixture between “Eastern Hunter-Gatherers” from eastern Europe and “Caucasus hunter-gatherers” with each of those two populations contributed about half the Yamnaya DNA. Remains of the “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” have been found in Mesolithic or early Neolithic sites in Karelia and Samara Oblast, Russia, when their DNA was analyzed, three male Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers individuals had their DNA results published. Each was found to belong to a different Y-DNA haplogroup: R1a, R1b, and J. According to Dr. Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge:

The question of where the Yamnaya come from has been something of a mystery up to now […] we can now answer that, as we’ve found that their genetic make-up is a mix of Eastern European hunter-gatherers and a population from this pocket of Caucasus hunter-gatherers who weathered much of the last Ice Age in apparent isolation

Dr. Andrea Manica

Haak et al. (2015) studied DNA from 94 skeletons from Europe and Russia aged between 3,000 and 8,000 years old. They concluded that about 4,500 years ago there was a major influx into Europe of Yamnaya culture people originating from the Pontic-Caspian steppe north of the Black Sea and that the DNA of copper-age Europeans matched that of the Yamnaya.

Possible Migration of R1b into Europe

Proto Indo European Gods And Mythology

The myths and religious beliefs of the Proto Indo Europeans can not be directly attested to because of their antiquity but the reconstruction of their langue and mythology can be made by use of comparative mythologies inherited from the Indo-European languages, Assuming they survived in the daughter languages.

The Proto Indo Europian primary pantheon consisted of a deity called *Dyḗws Ph₂tḗr, the daylight-sky god; his consort *Dʰéǵʰōm, the earth mother; his daughter *H₂éwsōs, the dawn goddess; his sons the Divine Twins; and *Seh₂ul, a solar goddess. There are other deities like thunder or a storm like a god named *Perkʷunos but they may be later additions that were not spread throughout all of the Indo Europian family traditions.

Indo European Sky Father Dyḗus ph₂tḗr
Sky Father

*Dyḗus (lit. “daylight-sky-god“), also *Dyḗus ph₂tḗr (lit. “father daylight-sky-god“), the name*Dyēus stems from the root *dyeu-, denoting the “diurnal sky” or the “brightness of the day”  ultimately deriving from *di or dei- (“to shine, be bright”). Other Indo Europian cognates of concepts of day, sky, and deity from the root *dyeu – suggest that Dyēus was not only the bright sky but considered divine like the Sanskrit dyumán- meaning shining, radiant or heavenly. A vṛddhi-derivative appears in *deywós, the common word for “god” in Proto-Indo-European. In classic Indo-European, associated with the late Khvalynsk culture, *Dyēus also had the meaning of “Heaven”, whereas it denoted “god” in general. Similar to the non-Indo European Sumerian An or Akkadian Anu both meaning sky or heaven, and it’s cuneiform 𒀭 also meaning god as it was used before the names of other gods to show they were deities. The suffix-derivative *diwyós (“divine”) is also attested in Latin, Greek and Sanskrit.

Proto Indo European earth mother
Mother earth Figure source https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9444845
According to some traditions, this deity might have been the wife to the Sky God, although this is not attested throughout all Indo-European mythologies

The earth goddess, *Dʰéǵʰōm, is portrayed as the vast and dark house of mortals, in contrast with her consort *Dyḗws Ph₂tḗr, the bright sky, and *Dʰéǵʰōm herself might not be considered goddess “of” but the earth itself, again reminiscent of the Sumerian An “sky, heaven” and Ki “earth” coupling. She is associated with fertility and growth, but also with death as the final dwelling of the deceased. The duality is associated with fertility, as the crop grows from her moist soil, nourished by the rain of Dyēws. An epithet applied to the soil in Indo-European poetic traditions is *Pléth₂wih₁ the “Broad One” ; from *pléth₂us, “flat, vast, broad”. cognates appear in Prithvi, the Vedic earth-goddess, in the Greek nymph Plataia, and almost likely in the Gaulish goddess Litavis. it is for also attested in linguistically related poetic expressions that associate the two roots dʰéǵʰōm and *pléth₂wih₁: Avestan ząm pərəϑβīm “broad earth”, Sanskrit kṣā́m … pṛthivī́m “broad earth” and Old Hittite palḫiš … dagan-zipaš “broad … earth[-genius]

*Dʰéǵʰōm, the earth goddess, or more likely the embodiment of the earth itself as the goddess and not the goddess “of“, is the Proto Indo Europeans portrayal of the vast dark abode of mortals and death, dealing with the final dwelling of those deceased. Again reminiscent of the non-Indo European Sumerian culture where Ki, meaning the earth is the consort of ski God “An”. *Dʰéǵʰōm is associated with fertility and agriculture, as *Dyḗus ph₂tḗr send the rains for crops to grow in her rich moist soil/ An epithet applied to the soil in Indo European traditions is *Pléth₂wih₁ the “Broad One”; from *pléth₂us, “flat, vast, broad”. Cognates appear as Prithvi, the Vedic earth-goddess, in the Greek nymph Plataia, and likely as the Gaulish goddess Litavis. She is also attested in linguistically related poetic expressions that associate the two roots dʰéǵʰōm and *pléth₂wih₁: Avestan ząm pərəϑβīm “broad earth”, Sanskrit kṣā́m … pṛthivī́m “broad earth” and Old Hittite palḫiš … dagan-zipaš “broad … earth[-genius]. in Vedic, Greek, and Old Norse ritual expressions she can be seen in the root *plh₁u- “much” as in “much nourishing“. Similar expressions of the width of the land or earth are attested in the greek Gaia: “wide-bosomed” Γαῖ᾽ εὐρύστερνος, “wide-pathed” χθονὸς εὐρυοδείης and “vast” πελώρη,

A Proto-Indo-European epithet, reconstructed as *dʰéǵʰōm dʰṇgu-/dʰengwo-dark earth“, is also attested in several traditions. The formula dankuiš daganzipaš “dark genius of the earth” is frequent in Hittite literature; it was used particularly to remain to the underworld, but sometimes also the earth’s surface. Other reflexes are found in Greek γαîα μέλαινα / Gaia Melaina “black earth”, in Albanian dhe të zi “black earth”, in Slavonic *črnāyā zemyā “dark earth” or in Old Irish domun donn “brown earth”.

Proto Indo European Myths

There is both linguistic and thematic evidence of inherited motifs not only found in Indo-European myths, but some of these carry over into Semitic and Sumerian as well. I’m not saying that it is a fact that these are the same myths but that they have obvious similarities. Like a story portraying a mythical figure associated with thunder and slaying a multi-headed serpent, and the release of torrents of water that had previously been pent up, a creation myth involving two brothers, one of whom sacrifices the other in order to create the world, and probably the belief that the underworld was guarded by a watchdog sometimes with multiple heads and could only be reached by crossing a river.

Common Myths of Indo European Cultures

Creation Myths

  • Primal Cow Creation Myth, The World made from the Body of a Giant Bovine
  • Birth of the Horse Twins from the grain/horse mother
  • Danu killed and cut open to produce a river 
  • Time gives birth to the Sun and the Moon
  • Birth of the Horse Twins from the grain/horse mother

Cyclic or Seasonal Myths

  • *Perkunos, a Storm God loses his “weapon of power” then uses it to kill winter
  • Cloud/cows stolen from the Sun God by the Wind God and then returned 
  • Dying Corn God, dies and is reborn, causes seasons 
  • Uncle Water (Apam Napat or Neptune) melts the ice and releases the water causing flooding

Quest

  • Quest of the golden apples of immortality, usually by a Wind God

Many Proto-Indo-European myths in which Gods or even Goddesses teach culture or the “arts of civilization” similar to the mee of Sumer to humans are found in all cultures. The culture myths of the Prot Indo Europeans tell how the Culture Gods taught humans how to make fire, the proper way to kill and butcher an animal (sacrifice), religious rituals and law codes, smithing, weaving, plowing, and healing. Culture Gods like Prometheus and Loki are often an intermediate position between Gods and humans. They are certainly godlike, but they often die or are tortured by the other Gods for their friendliness to humans. Nevertheless, they are often revived and worshiped like regular Gods. These gods have sometimes been seen as Smith Gods, a subset of the Culture Gods. Some scholars compare the Greek Prometheus with Hindu Pramanthu.

The telling and listening to the myths are said to confer a blessing on the listeners. The text of the Táin Bó Cúailnge has a colophon that reads “A blessing be upon all such as shall faithfully keep the Táin in memory as it stands here and shall not add any other form to it.” Telling myths is also considered a way to praise and honor the Gods so myths are often recited or sung especially at festivals for a particular God. This behavior is extremely widespread among the Indo-Europeans and it is important for understanding the Proto-Indo-European religion, but scholars have generally ignored it. The telling or performance of myths was apparently the original impetus for the tradition of Greek drama at the festivals of Dionysus, although, by the time we have a written record of the dramas, they are not restricted in subject matter to the myths of any particular God.

The Battle With The Serpent or Dragon

Zeus vs. Typhon

One common Proto Indo European myth which can be found among almost all Indo-European mythologies is a battle ending with the slaying of a serpent, usually a dragon of some sort

  • Thor vs. JörmungandrSigurd vs. Fafnir in Scandinavian mythology;
  • Zeus vs. TyphonKronos vs. OphionApollo vs. PythonHeracles vs. the Hydra and LadonPerseus vs. Ceto, and Bellerophon vs. the Chimera in Greek mythology;
  • Indra vs. Vrtra in the Rigveda;
  • Krishna vs. Kāliyā in Bhagavata mythology;
  • Θraētaona, and later Kərəsāspa, vs. Aži Dahāka in Zoroastrianism and Persian mythology;
  • Perun vs. Veles, Dobrynya Nikitich vs. Zmey in Slavic mythology;
  • Tarhunt vsIlluyanka of Hittite mythology;
  • Beowulf vs. the dragon in Anglo-Saxon literature

There are also analogous myths from neighboring mythologies: Anu or Marduk vs. Tiamat in Mesopotamian mythology; Ra vs. Apep in Egyptian mythology; Baal or El vs. Lotan or Yam-Nahar in Levantine mythology; Yahweh or Gabriel vs. Leviathan or Rahab or Tannin in Jewish mythology; Michael the Archangel and, Christ vs. Satan (in the form of a seven-headed dragon). The hero or god verse a dragon or serpent is present in almost every culture, for me this shows a possible time in the ancient past an original source for these myths. The myth symbolized a clash between forces of order and chaos (represented by the serpent), and the god or hero would always win (except in some mythologies, such as the Norse Ragnarök myth). It is, therefore, most probable that there existed some kind of dragon or serpent, possibly multi-headed (cf. Śeṣa, the hydra, and Typhon) and likely linked with the god of underworld and/or waters, as serpentine aspects can be found in many chthonic and/or aquatic Indo-European deities, such as for example the many Greek aquatic deities, most notably Poseidon, Oceanus, Triton, Typhon (who carries many chthonic attributes while not specifically linked with the sea), Ophion, and also the Slavic Veles. Possibly called *kʷr̥mis, or some name cognate with *Velnos/Werunos or the root *Wel/Vel – (VS Varuna, who is associated with the serpentine naga, Vala and Vṛtra, Slavic Veles, Baltic velnias), or “serpent” (Hittite Illuyanka, VS Ahis, Iranian azhi, Greek ophis and Ophion, and Latin anguis), or the root *dheubh – (Greek Typhon and Python).

Proto Indo European myths
Heintz Joseph the Elder, The Rape of Persephone, circa 1595

Related to the dragon-slaying myth is the “Sun in the rock” myth, in which a warrior hero or a deity splitting a rock where the Sun (Seh2ul with a genitive form *Sh2-en-s,4appears as Sanskrit Surya, Avestan Hvara; Greek Helios, Latin Sol, Germanic *Sowilo (Old Norse Sól; Old English Sigel and Sunna, modern English Sun), Lithuanian Saulė, Latvian Saule; Albanian Diell.) or Dawn (*H2eus(os)An extension of the name may have been *H2eust(e)ro, but see also the form *as-t-r, with intrusive -t- [between s and r] in northern dialects”. Anatolian dialects: Estan, Istanus, Istara; Greek, Hestia, goddess of the hearth; Latin Vesta, goddess of the hearth; in Armenian as Astghik, a star goddess; possibly also in Germanic mythology as Eostre or Ostara; and Baltic, Austija.">5continued in Greek mythology as Eos, in Rome as Aurora, in Vedic as Ushas, in Lithuanian mythology as Aušra ‘dawn’ or Auštaras (Auštra) ‘the god (goddess) of the northeast wind’, Latvian Auseklis, the morning star (Lithuanian Aušrinė, ‘morning star’); Ausera, and Ausrina, goddesses of dawn or of the planet Venus; Hittite, assu ‘lord, god’; Gallic Esus, a god of hearths; Slavic, Iaro, a god of summer. The form Arap Ushas appears in Albanian folklore, but is a name of the Moon. See also the names for the Sun which follow. An extension of the name may have been *H2eust(e)ro, but see also the form *as-t-r, with intrusive -t- [between s and r] in northern dialects”. Anatolian dialects: Estan, Istanus, Istara; Greek, Hestia, goddess of the hearth; Latin Vesta, goddess of the hearth; in Armenian as Astghik, a star goddess; possibly also in Germanic mythology as Eostre or Ostara; and Baltic, Austija.) was imprisoned. Such a myth is preserved in Rigvedic Vala, where 6Ushas and the cows, stolen by the Panis were imprisoned, connected with other myths of abductions into the netherworld such as the mysteries of Eleusis connected with Persephone, Dionysus, and Triptolemus and again also similar to the Sumerian goddess Inanna.

Proto Indo European Religious Terms

  • *isH1ro ‘holy’
  • *sakro- ‘sacred’ (derived from *sak- ‘to sanctify’)
  • *kywen(to)-- ‘holy’
  • *noibho- ‘holy’
  • *preky-- ‘pray’
  • *meldh-- ‘pray’
  • *gwhedh-- ‘pray’
  • *H1wegwh-- ‘speak solemnly’; [*uegwh--,]
  • *ĝheuHx-- ‘call, invoke’ (perhaps English god < *ĝhu-to- from ‘that which is invoked’, but a derivation from *ĝhu-to- ‘libated’ from *ĝheu- ‘libate, pour’ is also possible).
  • *kowHxei-- ‘priest, seer/poet’
  • *Hxiaĝ- ‘worship’
  • *weik- ‘consecrate’ (earlier meaning perhaps ‘to separate’), [*ueik--]
  • *sep- ‘handle reverently’
  • *spend- ‘libate’
  • *ĝheu- ‘libate’ and *ĝheu-mņ ‘libation’
  • *dapnom ‘sacrificial meal’ from *dap-
  • *tolko/eH2-- ‘meal’ (at least late PIE)
  • *nemos ‘sacred grove’ (used in west and center of the IE world)
  • *werbh-- ‘sacred enclosure’

Various schools of thought exist regarding possible interpretations of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European mythology. The main mythologies used in comparative reconstruction are Indo-Iranian, Baltic, Roman, and Norse, often supported with evidence from the Celtic, Greek, Slavic, Hittite, Armenian, Illyrian, and Albanian traditions as well.

Some deities, like the weather god *Perkʷunos or the herding-god *Péh₂usōn, are only attested in a limited number of traditions – Western (European) and Graeco-Aryan, respectively – and could therefore represent late additions that did not spread throughout the various Indo-European dialects.

Resources

More can be found on the Proto Indo Europeans from the following sources

Proto Indo European Pantheon

Proto Indo European Religion

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  • 1
    Haak, Wolfgang; Lazaridis, Iosif; Patterson, Nick; Rohland, Nadin; Mallick, Swapan; Llamas, Bastien; Brandt, Guido; Nordenfelt, Susanne; Harney, Eadaoin; Stewardson, Kristin; Fu, Qiaomei; Mittnik, Alissa; Bánffy, Eszter; Economou, Christos; Francken, Michael; Friederich, Susanne; Pena, Rafael Garrido; Hallgren, Fredrik; Khartanovich, Valery; Khokhlov, Aleksandr; Kunst, Michael; Kuznetsov, Pavel; Meller, Harald; Mochalov, Oleg; Moiseyev, Vayacheslav; Nicklisch, Nicole; Pichler, Sandra L.; Risch, Roberto; Rojo Guerra, Manuel A.; et al. (2015). “Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe”. Nature. 522 (7555): 207–11. arXiv:1502.02783. Bibcode:2015Natur.522..207H. bioRxiv 10.1101/013433. doi:10.1038/NATURE14317. PMC 5048219. PMID 25731166.
  • 2
    Underhill, Peter A.; Poznik, G David; Rootsi, Siiri; Järve, Mari; Lin, Alice A.; Wang, Jianbin; Passarelli, Ben; Kanbar, Jad; Myres, Natalie M.; King, Roy J.; Di Cristofaro, Julie; Sahakyan, Hovhannes; Behar, Doron M.; Kushniarevich, Alena; Šarac, Jelena; Šaric, Tena; Rudan, Pavao; Pathak, Ajai Kumar; Chaubey, Gyaneshwer; Grugni, Viola; Semino, Ornella; Yepiskoposyan, Levon; Bahmanimehr, Ardeshir; Farjadian, Shirin; Balanovsky, Oleg; Khusnutdinova, Elza K.; Herrera, Rene J.; Chiaroni, Jacques; Bustamante, Carlos D.; et al. (2015). “The phylogenetic and geographic structure of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a”. European Journal of Human Genetics. 23 (1): 124–131. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2014.50. PMC 4266736. PMID 24667786
  • 3
    Semino, O. (2000). “The Genetic Legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in Extant Europeans: A Y Chromosome Perspective” (PDF). Science. 290 (5494): 1155–1159. Bibcode:2000Sci…290.1155S. doi:10.1126/science.290.5494.1155. PMID 11073453. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 November 2003.
  • 4
    appears as Sanskrit Surya, Avestan Hvara; Greek Helios, Latin Sol, Germanic *Sowilo (Old Norse Sól; Old English Sigel and Sunna, modern English Sun), Lithuanian Saulė, Latvian Saule; Albanian Diell.
  • 5
    continued in Greek mythology as Eos, in Rome as Aurora, in Vedic as Ushas, in Lithuanian mythology as Aušra ‘dawn’ or Auštaras (Auštra) ‘the god (goddess) of the northeast wind’, Latvian Auseklis, the morning star (Lithuanian Aušrinė, ‘morning star’); Ausera, and Ausrina, goddesses of dawn or of the planet Venus; Hittite, assu ‘lord, god’; Gallic Esus, a god of hearths; Slavic, Iaro, a god of summer. The form Arap Ushas appears in Albanian folklore, but is a name of the Moon. See also the names for the Sun which follow. An extension of the name may have been *H2eust(e)ro, but see also the form *as-t-r, with intrusive -t- [between s and r] in northern dialects”. Anatolian dialects: Estan, Istanus, Istara; Greek, Hestia, goddess of the hearth; Latin Vesta, goddess of the hearth; in Armenian as Astghik, a star goddess; possibly also in Germanic mythology as Eostre or Ostara; and Baltic, Austija.
  • 6
    Ushas

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