Re: Illiterate IE: 4th millennium BCE

From: markodegard@...
Message: 7580
Date: 2001-06-12

--- In cybalist@..., "S.Kalyanaraman" <kalyan97@...> wrote:
> I am appending a long extract from Muhly's article on the Bronze Age
> Setting in view of its importance. While discussing the evolution of
> early bronze age from the 4th milennium BCE, he notes that an
> illiterate Europe was not the source for the transfer of
> technologies very rapidly from western Mediterranean to the Indus
> Valley. He also notes that theories of the long-distance migrations
> ethnic groups such as Indo-Europeans and Hurrians should be

The main theory at present seems to be that IEs learned about metal
from the Caucasus, and that the first Bronze Age culture in Europe,
the Ezero culture (ca 3200 BCE, in Bulgaria) was somehow mediated via
the Steppe from the Caucusus. I have a private theory that IE *albh (=
English 'elf') refers to metal workers.

You have to explain the nature of trade in metal. Did traders make a
round-trip, selling finished goods? Or did the buyers themselves make
the trip (as seems to be the case with Oetzi, the 3150 BCE 'iceman' of
the Italian Tyrol). Oetzi throws a monkey wrench (or actually, an
'arsenical bronze' axe) into the usual understanding of the origins of
the European Bronze Age. And what was 'traded' for metal goods?

There was metal in the Caucasus, and it seems there was long distance
trade in it. If IE speakers traded in it, it's likely they are part of
the international trade network, and likely knew more than one
language. This is one logical place to seek Semitic influence on IE,
as with numerals.

> If so, how could IE be linguistically isolated from the influences
> say Elamite or Sumerian?
> Sarasvati Sindhu Valley civilization (SSVC) was literate as was
> proto-Elam and Mesopotamia in 4th and 3rd millennia BCE. This link
> between literacy and rapidity of metallurgical developments should
> seriously considered.

I doubt that literacy and knowledge of metal working go hand-in-hand.
Rather, the rise of literacy creates a larger market for metal goods,
mostly because writing goes with cities, and cities are RICH.

The IEs, at the last stage of unity, just barely knew about metal.
Copper certainly, and probably silver and maybe gold: but not bronze.
The one undisputed metal word in PIE descends into English as 'ore',
'metal', 'rock that bears metal'. It's hard to say if there were any
PIE smiths.