Re: Gimbutas.

From: John Croft
Message: 3006
Date: 2000-08-08

Mark asked

> Dear Piotr, thank you very much. I thought Glen & John might have
found it interesting and I'd liked to hear their opinion. I agree
all your objections (many of which I had heard from you or others
before or thought of myself), but it's the combination of the
linguistic & archeol.evidence that fits with Gimbutas' theory, esp.
Sherrat's maps in Cunliffe ed.1994 "Oxford ill.prehist.of Europe" OUP
of how the beakers dispersed over Europe. The dispersal of the
out of Ukraine over Europe was the most obvious "movement" in
archeology. Cavalli-Sforza says a gradient with its centre in Ukraine
was the 3d most important gradient in European gene distributions
most important has its centre in the middle East, the 2d in Lapland,
the 4th in Greece, the 5th in Biskaya). If the western branch of PIE
(Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Celto-Italic) is linguistically a unity
the Slavic languages later still in contact with Ukraine), most of
C-S's 3d gradient & of the dispersal of IE languages over Europa
coincide with the beaker cultures, although I know this is not your
favorite idea. Some comments below.

Mark, you asked for my opinion. Well here goes.....

There is significant arguement over the degree to which "Beaker
Culture" is a significant unity, as it generally covers two distinct
cultural assemblages.

1. The TRB or "Funnel Necked Beakers", called by V.Gordon Childe as
"Battle Axe" cultures after a very destinctive stone axe made to copy
a copper prototype. These cultures certainly did start just north of
the steppe zone in the Ukraine and spread as far as the North Sea.
has been suggested from microcrystaline deposits found in Funnel
Beakers that they were associated with the drinking large amounts of
honey mead. It used to be proposed that they were an adstratum.
Certainly in Denmark, North Germany and southern Scandinavia, they
were the first full "neolithic" culture after the Ertebolle people
("Folkish"), which developed in situ out of the Mesolithic Swiderian
culture. They were also the first (and last) group to have extended
from Ukraine into the Baltic region, and have been credited as
introducing the Balkan IE languages into that region. The problem
with this identification is that these people also involve the
Fatyanova culture complex, which is located in what in historical
times was clearly Finno Ugric. Fatyanova culture extended into
Estonia and Finland and is usually accepted as the arrival of the
Finnish cultures (over a Swiderian sub-stratum).

2. The Bell-Beaker culture, associated with the introduction of
working technologies throughout Western Europe and the Western
Mediterranean. Bell beakers are first attested in Spain, and they
spread from there to Sicily and Southern Italy as well as travelling
up the river valleys north of the Pyrenees. Copper hoards are found
quite often in association with the first generation of Pan-European
style Bell Beakers, and wrist guards and arrow heads also show an
increase. Everywhere Bell Beakers are found, pollen analysis shows
increase in the growing of barley, and it has been suggested that the
Bell Beakers were Beer Drinkers. Some have found the first wave of
the Bell Beaker folk to be the last wave of "Atlaniker" peoples,
speaking a Berber related Afro-Asiatic language, found by some as a
substratum under Celtic.

In the region from the Rhine to the Elbe, north of the Alps (The
Celtic Urheimat) these two cultures seemed to fuse, and there is then
a secondary wave that moved across the Channel into Britain.
Thereafter the "Pan European" Style of Bell Beakers splinters into a
large number of local variants. It used to be thought that these
Beaker folk were itinerant smiths, who came to reside within local
neolithic cultures (The late First Western group - makers of the
megaliths), marrying local women and often rising to situations of
local pre-eminence. The Wessex Culture, possibly a unified polity
stretching from Pembrokeshire to the Salisbury Plain, and thence to
Britanny (The builders of stage III at Stonehenge), were the results
of such a hybrid culture.

Today, further archaeological work has disputed these "migrationist"
theories. It is now thought that the spread of "Beakers" of both
types represents the spread of a cultural fashion, rather than the
movement of particular ethnic groups. The recent Origin of Human
Society, for instance, argues that the previous "collectivist" and
egalitarian neolithic cultures began at this time to produce social
stratification, as competition over limited resources (land hunger
caused by the late neolithic population increase) increased rewards
agression. The construction of hilltop fortifications, from which
bands could organise cattle raids, or capture slaves, saw the
appearance of a social structure divided into three groups - slaves,
peasant commoners and warrior aristocrats. Chiefs were successful
based upon their ability to hold a warband together through their
generous distribution of largess (captured war booty, or by the
of local craftsmen). The construction of the "chief's hall" capable
of holding all male members of a warband (and when women were
involved, their wives and daughters), quite often marks the shift to
this new kind of society. Excessive ("binge") consumption of
and the ability to "hold liquor" also became a mark of status (hence
the proliferation of beer, mead, and the recepticals for holding it).
Brewers became an important adjusct alongside smiths in the chiefs
retinue and the power of the chief was marked in his ability to "keep
the beer/mead flowing".

Endemic warfare became the characteristic of this "chiefdom", and the
spread of chiefly kurgan, tholoi, barrows or tumuli throughout Europe
and the steppes showed the burrial places of especially successful
chiefs, theiur families and principle retainers.

This is precisely the kind of society that could create a social
cleavage between "noble" and "commoner", a cleavage which would be
emphasized by speach, dress, behaviour and customs. Into this
cleavage, an adstratum language could play an important role, and
endogamy within the class of aristocrats would promote a pan-European
"cultural style" (be it Funnel or Bell Beaker" folk). In such
circumstances IE languages from the East could spread rapidly as
elites sought to compete with their neighbours for the latest
in dress, weapons, behaviour and language. Pre-existing substratum
languages would be kept for the domestic sphere, and amongst the

This social form appeared immensely enduring. It survived in the
realm of "inner Eurasia" - stretching from Ireland to the Tarim Basin
from the Age of the Beakers to the spread of the large land based
Empires - Archaemenid, Hellenistic, Chinese and Roman. Features of
survived even the progressive "Turkification", so the "patronage
alliance" and continuous distribution of surplus was a feature even
the Steppe Empires of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan.

This was the world in which different Indo-European elite groups
travel far, impose themselves on and intermarry with the pre-existing
elites, and seemingly make cultural shifts that occurred almost
overnight. The rapid spread of the Gothic peoples from Scandia to
Black Sea, the rapid "Anglicisation" of South East Britain (Cerdic of
the West Saxons had a Celtic name), and the spread of Slavs
the Balkans and Central Europe under the Avars, are all cases in

Archaeologically, it seems such trends extended backwards to the
spread of the Urn-Field cultures (1300-1100 BCE), the spread of the
Haalstaat and La Tene Celtic cultures, and the spread of Germans
from the Amber Coasts in late Celtic times.

Hope this helps