Data interpretation is vulnerable to biasing presumed causality toward first impressions or long-standing, but incomplete presuppositions.
If you identify a natural item (pollen, grain, whatever) whose sample population at any specific time and within a fixed region correlates to human population density, and you radiocarbon date that set of population density data into points on a time graph, you’ll be able to plot a graph of population density like the following (used in various earlier posts).
What do you see in this graph? I and others see the rise and fall of population in this region over time, and assumed the four population collapses contained within the pink backgrounds were mainly due to the four contemporary environmental changes and their fellow travelling Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. That assumption is not entirely wrong—but proclaiming it can introduce a bias in interpretation causing us to overlook another enormous depopulation agent: mass migration. Given that I’m particularly interested in what happened following the 5.9 Kiloyear Event in the Pontic-Caspian Steppes to folks like the Botai sedentary horsemen and predominant nomadic horsemen, and in Southern Mesopotamia to the Ubaid culture which vanished at this time, this leads me to focus upon the Indo-European Migrations.
The Indo-European Migrations were first hypothesized by archaeologist V. Gordon Childe, which hypothesis was later systematically investigated and popularized by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. Dr. Gimbutas correlated mound graves and other archaeological artifactual evidence in the Steppes and boundary areas as indicators of a coherent culture in her Kurgan Hypothesis. She attributed the westward movement of this culture to the destructive replacement of the Old Europe culture. As you can see, Dr. Gimbutas was doyen of the archaeological side of the Proto-Indo-European Hypothesis, which you will see in the prior link was catalyzed by the hypothesizing of a common source between the Indo-European languages and Sanskrit—a fascinating linguistic adventure which has put linguists on the cutting edge of breakthroughs in prehistory.
The heretofore hypothetical Kurgan Proto-Indo-European link to the fall of the Old-Europe culture has now been scientifically transformed from hypothesis to theory by recent DNA studies.
Once again, my archaeological heroes at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago present a seminal video lecture, this time presented by Lord Colin Renfrew, PhD, heretofore challenger of the Kurgan Hypothesis with his own Anatolian Hypothesis. This video of Dr. Renfrew’s lecture was just published last month (November 22, 2017). Enjoy.
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke