Milk and the Indo-Europeans
Romain Garnier |
Université de Limoges and Institut Universitaire de France
Benoît Sagot |
Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique
Recent evidence from archaeology and ancient DNA converge to indicate that the Yamnaya culture, often regarded as the bearer of the Proto-Indo-European language, underwent a strong population expansion in the late 4th and early 3rd millennia BCE. It suggests that the underlying reason for that expansion might be the then unique capacity to digest animal milk in adulthood. We examine the early Indo-European milk-related vocabulary to confirm the special role of animal milk in Indo-European expansions. We show that Proto-Indo-European did not have a specialized root for ‘to milk’ and argue that the IE root *h2melg̑- ‘to milk’ is secondary and post-Anatolian. We take this innovation as an indication of the novelty of animal milking in early Indo-European society. Together with a detailed study of language-specific innovations in this semantic field, we conclude that the ability to digest milk played an important role in boosting Proto-Indo-European demography.
Keywords: Indo-European, etymology, DNA, archaeology, Yamnaya culture
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