Colin Renfrew’s hypothesis on the Near-Eastern origin of the original Indo-European people: an evaluation
University of Paris I
When it appeared in 1987 1, the book of the British archaeologist Colin Renfrew, Archaeology & Language. The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, did not come out of nowhere, contrary to what its significant media impact might lead one to believe. This chapter argues that it was situated within a continuous scientific tradition that goes back to the very origins of the Indo-European question and concludes that the considerable impact in the academic world and among the broader public of Colin Renfrew’s hypothesis, and its association with the defenders of the ‘big tree’, together with its genes, have made it into the currently dominant theory in Anglo-Saxon media, up to the point where the archaeologist James Mallory, a defender of the steppic hypothesis, considered his own cause to be provisionally lost, at least on the media front. In contrast, amongst strict Indo-Europeanists, whether they are linguists or archaeologists, at least amongst those who believe it to be possible to locate the original birthplace, notwithstanding different scientific traditions that are specific to each country, the steppic theory has the support of the majority.