Talking Neolithic - Recovering the Language of the First European Farmers

Research project by postdoc Guus Kroonen, funded by grants from FKK (Danish Council for Independent Research | Humanities) and the Danish Council for Independent Research Sapere Aude career programme DFF-Ung Eliteforsker 2012.

During his research project, Guus Kroonen will perform a historical linguistic investigation of the interaction between two defining cultural events in European prehistory:

  1. the arrival of agriculture from the Near East
  2. the invasions of the Indo‐European speaking pastoralists from the Pontic‐Caspian steppes

New findings suggest that evidence of this interaction can be found at the far end of both of these two cultural expansion waves, i.e. in Southern Scandinavia. In this region, speakers of Germanic may have preserved elements of the invading farmers’ language in their vocabulary.

By harvesting this linguistic data, a new source of knowledge regarding the peopling of Europe can be exploited and added up to the results from archaeology and human population genetics. The evidence could indicate, for instance, that the spread of agriculture was indeed at least partly driven by a population movement, and not merely be the result of cultural diffusion, thus providing an answer to an old archaeological dilemma.

Additionally, the evidence is expected to contain important clues on the linguistic background of the people that were part of the process behind the introduction of agriculture to Scandinavia.