(Chapter VI, section 1)

Race, Languages, and European Peoples

In the preceding chapters, we have found it necessary to use archaeology as a system of landmarks by which to chart the movements of human groups and their relationships with one another; this study of race in terms of culture was essential. Ideas are originated, diffused, and conserved by people, and people interbreed. A complete and sudden replacement of one culture by another implies a drastic change of personnel, while a gradual merging of a new culture with an old one must equally imply the survival, at least in part, of the older population. By following these rules we have seen that racial and cultural movements are truly connected, and in no instance in which the skeletal record is adequate could any contradiction be seen.

The subject of this book, however, is race, not culture; although culture in the archaeological sense has been a valuable guide. But once we arrive at the period of history it is no longer necessary to deal exclusively with pots and axes and methods of burial; we may consider people as linguistic and political groups, with known names and ethnic relationships. This has already been possible with the civilized nations of preclassical antiquity, such as the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Babylonians, and to a certain extent with the Cretans and Hittites, whose writings have so far furnished little or nothing in the way of documentary information, as well as with the early ancestors of the Greeks.

The peoples of central and northern Europe did not learn to write until relatively recent times-in most instances well after the beginning of the Christian era, and in some cases only within the current millennium.

But their identities are in many instances known to us from the writings of the classical geographers and historians, and, in the Dark Ages, from Arabic sources as well. Farther east, in central Asia, the diligence of Chinese historians has been of great assistance. In our study of the early part of the Iron Age, archaeology will still be needed; but by the time of the Christian era it will be possible, for our purposes, to dispense with it almost completely, for in treating fully historical and living cultures, language serves as the best-known, most easily designated, and most convenient framework available for the creation of units suitable for racial study.

Heretofore, we have said little about language. The speech of the peoples with whom we have dealt has been unknown to us in almost all instances. The exceptions are few: The Egyptians, as we well know, spoke a language of the Hamitic stock, with considerable Semitic influence. The Babylonians and Assyrians spoke Semitic, while the Sumerian language, although it can be read, has not yet been related with certainty to any other known tongue or linguistic family.1 During the third millennium, therefore, Hamitic and Semitic languages were used by civilized peoples, as was the still unclassified Sumerian.

Besides these known linguistic groupings found in antiquity, there was another group or rather collection of languages spoken in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. These included Lydian, and its probable derivative Etruscan; languages of the Caucasus, some of which still survive; a few languages of the Himalayas, such as Burushaski;2 and a whole group in Greece and the Aegean Islands, if not farther west, known to us almost entirely by place names. Cretan may possibly have also belonged to this class of languages.

A school of linguistic experts headed by the late Professor Marr, and championed in the English-speaking world by Dr. Ephraim Speiser,3 would group all of these languages together, including a whole row of extinct tongues stretching around the so-called "Fertile Crescent" from Syria to Elam. The name given this group is "Japhetic," coined to complete, with Hamitic and Semitic, a Biblical trinity. The living examples of this alleged class or family of languages, notably Georgian and Circassian, employ a number of sounds unfamiliar to the Indo-European, Semitic, and Hamitic families, and reminiscent of American Indian languages.

No one denies the wide distribution and importance of these languages in ancient times, but there is serious doubt that they may be united into a single stock comparable to Semitic, Hamitic, Indo-European, etc. It is more likely that this grouping includes a number of independent families, but at present it is too early to say what these may be; especially since most of them are extinct and will never, in all likelihood, be resuscitated. At any rate, it is probable that some of the seafarers of the Late Neolithic and of the Bronze Age who migrated westward along the Mediterranean

[Map: Iron Age Races of Europe, before Huns and Turks (a) (b)]

to Italy, the Italian islands, and Spain, and thence to Britain, France, and Scandinavia, spoke languages derived from the eastern Mediterranean. It is furthermore possible that modern Basque may be the only survivor of this linguistic migration; but this suggested relationship, referred to in the preceding chapter, must by no means be accepted as a certainty.

We do not know the languages of the Early Neolithic swineherds who introduced a food-producing economy to Spain and western Europe, including the lake shores of Switzerland, and we are not likely to find out. We do not, furthermore, know what medium the Danubians who performed the same pioneering function in another quarter used. The speech of the Corded people is equally unknown, and the old idioms of the Palaeolithic survivors in the far north, of the midden dwellers of Denmark, and of the Azilian survivors in Switzerland, are far past reconstruction. In Europe we must start as late as the Iron Age in our attempt to allocate languages to cultural or racial groups.

Today the members of the white race speak languages of the following linguistic stocks: Semitic, Hamitic, Indo-European, Ural-Altaic,4 Euskanan (Basque), and various languages of the Caucasus and Himalayas, which it would be futile to attempt to classify here. At present the two most important are Indo-European and Ural-Altaic. Yet in antiquity, while civilization of the first water was in the hands of Hamites, Semites, and Sumerians, all Indo-European and probably most Ural-Altaic speakers, if they existed as such, were illiterate barbarians.

Indo-European languages are spoken by more white people today than are all of the others put together, several times over. People speaking Indo-European languages have monopolized the cultural advances of modern science; but it must not be forgotten that, as late as the Middle Ages, Semites, Turks, and Chinese were more advanced than the majority of Indo-European speakers. The linguists tell us that the Indo-European speakers did not initially domesticate one useful animal, or one cultivated plant.

Linguistically, Indo-European is probably a relatively recent phenomenon, which arose after animals had been tamed and plants cultivated. The latest researches find it to be a derivative of an initially mixed language, whose principal elements were Uralic, called element A, and some undesignated element B which was probably one of the eastern Mediterranean or Caucasic languages.5 The plants and animals on which the economy of the early Indo-European speakers was based were referred to in words derived mainly from element B. Copper and gold were known, and the words for these commodities come from Mesopotamia.

Somewhere in the plains of southern Russia or central Asia, the blending of languages took place which resulted in Indo-European speech. This product in turn spread and split, and was further differentiated by mixture with the languages of peoples upon whom it, in one form or other, was imposed. Some of the present Indo-European languages, in addition to these later accretions from non-Indo-European tongues, contain more of the A element than others, which contain more of the B. The unity of the original "Indo-Europeans," could not have been of long duration, if it was ever complete.

They split, perhaps very early, into two groups, designated by the treatment of the palatal explosives of the K group. Among one branch, the so-called Satem, this was changed to spirants (S); the other, called Centum, preserved the original form of this sound, which also prevailed in the A or Finno-Ugric element. Centum speech became divided into a number of branches, of which surviving members are Keltic, Germanic, Italic, and Hellenic; Satem includes Slavic and Baltic, Armenian, Indic and Iranian, and probably Thracian,6 in the sense of a contributing factor in modern Albanian. Others, such as Ligurian, Illyrian7 and Tokharian B (all Centum), have long been extinct.

On the whole, the Indo-European languages have been spoken by people who combined agriculture with animal husbandry, who were organized into a patrilineal society with at least the germs of a differential class system, and who worshipped an Olympian pantheon of Gods. The initial formation of the Indo-European linguistic stock by blending does not antedate the age of metal; the common culture of the earliest Indo-European speakers, insofar as it existed as a unit, had much in common with those of both the peoples of the Aegean and Asia Minor on the one hand, and of central Asia on the other. The mythology of the Altaian Turks, for example, is so nearly identical with that of the early Scandinavians that some close association in the not far distant past is necessary.8 Furthermore, the ritual of the horse sacrifice9 is so integral a part of the religion of both Indo-European and Altaic-speaking peoples that recent diffusion alone cannot explain the identity.

Indo-European languages as we know them must have come from easternmost Europe or western central Asia at no very remote time. Their spread over most of Europe, and subsequently over the western hemisphere, Australia, and large segments of Asia in which they were originally not at home, is part of a general movement of expansion in which both race and culture have played their roles. Yet we cannot with complete assurance associate any one culture earlier than the Iron Age with any specific form of Indo-European speech. Although Homer's heroes fought with bronze weapons, we are not sure exactly when and by what agency the pre-Dorian Greek dialects arrived in the racially and culturally composite Hellenic world; nor do we know exactly who brought Na~ili speech to Asia Minor.

One whole school of European archaeologists and linguists associates the Corded people with the diffusion of Indo-European speech.10 Nehring, in a recent work of great detail and authority, would make the Danubians the original Indo-Europeans.11 He would explain the Altaic cultural similarities by dividing the Indo-European culture and vocabulary into two elements: (1) an early horizon in which the ox was the most important domestic animal economically, and agriculture of primary importance; (2) a later horizon of indirect Altaic inspiration, in which the horse was supreme and agriculture secondary.

At the moment the evidence is growing that certain forms of Indo-European speech were very ancient in more than one part of the Mediterranean basin. Whatmough has definitely identified Ligurian as Indo-European,12 and Ligurian was very old in Italy and in the Rhóne Valley. Sapir sees in Philistine a form of Indo-European;13 and would make the ark of the covenant a spirit-placing on wheels like the portable wicker shrines of the later Mongols. But neither of these identifications need carry us back earlier in history than the time of the troubles in Mesopotamia at the end of the third millennium, when northerners caused restless nights to the Babylonian kings, and the Hyksos invaded Egypt. It was after these disturbances that the chariot first appeared in Libya; hence, the first southward burst of horse-nomads may have affected both shores of the Mediterranean, whatever languages they brought with them.

The dates of the earliest certain appearances of Indo-European are about 1900 B.C., when the Našili dialect which was incorporated into Hittite entered Asia Minor. The earliest Greek probably entered Hellas at the same time. About 1400 B.C., the ancestors of the Aryans of India were crossing the passes of Afghanistan into the Indus Valley, and some six hundred years later, their relatives the Iranian ancestors were founding the Persian empire. From roughly 1000-900 B.C. onward, as the earliest possible date, the bearers of the Hallstatt culture in central Europe were spreading the use of iron, and the Hallstatt people almost certainly spoke lllyrian. In Italy, the Villanova people were without reasonable doubt diffusing Italic speech in the peninsula, while some forms of Illyrian were introduced by a number of peoples, among whom were probably the Veneti.

All of these Indo-European speakers, from 900 B.C. onward, were associated in some way with the diffusion of iron metallurgy from a center which is still to be determined. The most commonly proposed location is northern Anatolia and the Caucasus;14 whatever the history of the diffusion of Indo-European speech in the past, with the advent of iron, certain branches of it seem to have spread with great rapidity. The Hallstatt period in central Europe was followed by that of La Tčne, the Late Iron Age, which lasted from 500 B.c. to the time of Christ; and this was the period of Keltic expansion and Keltic dominance, earlier than but parallel to the spread of Roman power and of Latin in the Mediterranean. After the phenomenal and immoderate scattering of the Kelts, who were destined to survive linguistically only on the western European fringe, far from their center of dispersion - the Germanic peoples began, in the days of the Roman empire, their swelling and pushing, from Denmark, southern Sweden, northern Germany, Holland, and the Norwegian coast. This reached every country in Europe and also North Africa. Unlike the spread of the Kelts, it was to achieve, in many quarters, linguistic and cultural permanence.

The expansion of the Germans was followed by that of the Slavs, the youngest of the Indo-Europeans to effervesce in an orgy of numerical increase and of migration. This took place in full historic time, in the seventh and eighth centuries of our era, but, unfortunately, the light of history was dim in the part of Europe in which most of their expansion occurred.

The foregoing digression into the field of comparative linguistics has a direct bearing upon the problem of the racial complexion of present day Europe. While it is not our primary purpose to discover the physical type or types of the undivided Indo-European ancestors, if they were ever actually undivided, it will be possible to find the common racial denominator, homogeneous or mixed, of the Iron Age spreaders of Indo-European speech and the accompanying cultures over Europe and parts of Asia. Once we have isolated the common factor, we may hope to locate its position in the roster of racial types previously known to us - for it must have been some type or types with which we have already become familiar in the earlier part of our study, and not a deus ex machina conjured up by linguists and politicians.


1 The supposed kinship between Sumerian and Finno-Ugrian cannot easily be evaluated, owing largely to the gap of over three millennia between the known forms of each. Both groups are agglutinative, but the grammatical structure of Sumerian also has ver bal prefixes, often with personal tone, unknown in modern Finnic or Ugric. Sumerian, like modern Finnic, Ugric, and Turkish, seems to have vowel harmony. In vocabulary there are few similarities. On the whole, this relationship cannot at the moment be proved or disproved. -Personal communication from Dr. J. Dyneley Prince. See also the Prolegomena of his Materials for a Sumerian Lexicon.

2 Lorimer, D. L., The Burushaski Language.

3 Speiser, E., Mesopotamian Origins.

4 Concerning the question of Ural-Altaic unity, see Chapter VII, p. 223.

5 Uhlenbeck (AA '37) refuses to identify element B, or to call it specifically Caucasic. Nehring, however (Nehring, A., WBKL, vol. 4,1936, pp. 7-229), feels certain that B is one of the group of which Caucasic may form a part.

6 Lowman, G. S., Language, vol. 8, 1932, p. 271.

7 This may also be a factor in modern Albanian.

8 Chadwick, Nora K., JRAI, vol. 66, 1936, pp. 75-112.

9 Koppers, W., Anthropos, vol. 24, 1929, pp. 1073-1089; WBKL, vol. 4, 1936, pp 279-411.

10 That headed by Kossinna, who would likewise derive Indo-European speech from the Baltic. See Kossinna, G., Ursprung und Verbreitung der Germanen.

11 Nehring, A., WBKL, vol. 4, 1936.

12 Whatmough, J., The Foundations of Roman Italy.

13 Sapir, K, JAOS, vol. 56, 1935, #2, pp. 272-281.

14 Wainwright, G., Antiquity, vol. 10, 1936, pp. 5-24.