By Nelson CABEJ/
About 2,000 BC, or about the time of transition from Neolithic to Bronze era in Balkan Peninsula, an interruption is observed in the development the of Neolithic civilization, characterized by substantial changes in the material and spiritual culture, as well as in socio-economic relations, of the inhabitants of the Western Balkans. These changes are attributed to the arrival of migrant populations from Pontic steppes, based on archaeological observations and conclusions drawn from the discovery of a series of elements of a that civilization, which in a certain time period transcend the boundaries of the initial Pontic region to spread into adjacent regions. Hence the name Typenfront (fom German front of types). These steppe elements arrived neither only once nor in precisely determined times, hence it can be spoken more than one Typenfront1.
Long time ago archaeologists have discovered an interruption in the development of the Mediterranean Neolithic culture in Western Balkans, which now is by consensus explained with the massive migrations of Indo-European populations from the East, which expanded over the whole European continent, leading to assimilation of the autochthonous Pre-Indo-European populations. The actual status of knowledge on the prehistory of Illyrians doesn’t allow us to have a definite opinion on the route the Indo-European tribes continued to reach the Western Balkans. Based on the fact that “the Maliq culture is older, compared to cultures developed in its north and a little later than south cultures”, other students have drawn the conclusion that “we must search for the route of arrival of ancestors of Illyrians by the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, from the south and the south”2.
At a time when the northern/north-eastern origin and southern/southeastern origin of ancestors of Illyrians deserve the status of working hypotheses, the migration route and the time of arrival of the Indo-European ancestors of Illyrians is a great and essential question for the ethnogenesis of Illyrians. However, whatever the truth about their arrival route may be, it doesn’t affect the theoretical foundations of the already crystallized view about the formation of the Illyrian ethnos.
In the last centuries of the 3rd millennium BC, large migrations of Indo-European populations took place in a vast area comprising all of Europe and Asia. These migrations may have been consequences of natural disasters (draught, earthquakes, or other catastrophic phenomena), which is proven to have occurred at that time in Near East, Asia Minor and Caucasus. According to French archaeologist Claude Schaffer (1898-1982) such catastrophes of continental dimensions caused annihilation of a number of flourishing ancient cities3. Three centuries later, i.e. about 2,000 BC, these regions experienced a new catastrophe that, according to him, must have been an exceptionally strong earthquake that destroyed more than 350 cities.
Archaeological evidence on the time of the Indo-European migration satisfactorily agrees with the indirect evidence deriving from a linguistic judgment based on comparison of differences and similarities between various Indo-European languages with changes between neo-Latin (Romance) languages, whose time of development and divergence from Vulgar Latin is known. The earliest documented Indo-European languages are Anatolian, Iranian and Greek. Based on the above, linguists have figured that their divergence from Proto-Indo-European must have begun before 2,000 BC, but the degree of their semblance suggests that their separation must have begun before 3,000 BC.
Stratigraphic evidence presented by Schäffer strikingly concurs temporally with the archaeological evidence on the waves of migration of populations from the East to Europe bringing about interruption of the native European culture. This evidence indicates that about 2300 BC, a large wave of migrations began from the Euro-Asian steppe, whose most distinctive archaeological remain is burial in tumuli (tombs or mounds). The first wave affected West Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece and Western Anatolia. The second great wave that took place about 2,000 BC involved Western and South Balkans, including Albania. The new immigrant population is also known as ‘kurgan people’ because of the way they buried heir dead in graves under tombs or tumuli, piles of earth, rocks, gravel etc. This well-organized people of herdsmen and farmers became ancestors of the Indo-European peoples of Europe4.
The part of the kurgan people of the second wave of migration that settled in the Western Balkans assimilated the indigenous Mediterranean population, and served as the nucleus of the ethnic grouping that later came to be known as Illyrians. This view is supported by the fact that archaeological evidence from the Illyrian territory shows that the disintegration of the autochthonous Neolithic culture in the western part of Balkans occurred about 300 years later than the other parts of Balkans and the Danube basin5. The abrupt change and interruption that is observed in the development of the Neolithic culture consists mainly in the appearance of:
- The corded ware (Schnurkeramik or French ceramique cordeé),
- The long flint knives in graves,
- The fighting stone hatchets,
- The graves and tombs,
- The depots of copper tools.
With the second wave of migration of the kurgan people may be explained the great enigma of numerous place names of Central Europe, which most linguists in the first half of the 20th century believed to have been of Illyrian origins6, 7. Now most linguists believe these place names are related to the first waves of the Indo-European migrants, but the view on the northern origin of Illyrians makes plausible an Illyrian origin of these place names.
It is noteworthy that migration waves from the East were not the only to affect the demographic-ethnological situation in Western Balkans. According to Luis Pericot García (1899-1978), another great migration in the opposing direction, is that of the Bell Beak culture developed in the Iberian Peninsula towards the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. By the end of the 2nd millennium BC, they migrated from Spain toward the Central Europe and Danube Basin. According to Alois Benac, the migration of the Bell Beaker people also affected slightly Illyrian territories in the Western Balkans.
Discovery in central Italy of the same time of fighting hatchets and some ceramic elements resembling those of Balkans make it impossible to deny the possibility of another smaller Indo-European migration in the Bronze Age Balkans. However the process of fusion with, and assimilation by, the steppe immigrants of the native population of the Western Balkans was completed a little after the 2,000 BC8. Several centuries of the process of the fusion and assimilation of the Indo-European immigrants and autochthonous Mediterranean population led to formation of a new Illyrian language According to Crossland this occurred in the beginning of the Bronze Age, beginning from a dialect of the Indo-European linguistic continuum by the middle of the 3rd millennium BC9 .He believes the nomadic life of the steppe immigrants enabled the preservation for centuries of an homogenous linguistic continuum, in distinction from the inhabitants of the permanent settlements engaged in farming and husbandry in the Danube and other areas of the Western Balkans. He thinks and argues that, unlike the case of the written languages, like Latin, e.g., for speakers of an unwritten language, development of a new language from a dialect takes about 5 centuries.
There is no doubt, however, that the migration waves from the east represent the most important ethnic element of the future Illyrian people. Assimilation of the native Mediterranean population led to formation of the substrate from which emerged the people that during the Bronze Age must be considered as Pre-Illyrians.
The proven Indo-European origin of Illyrians is related to the question on the ancient homeland of their Indo-European ancestors. Where did these ancestors live before reaching the Western Balkans?
While historiography is silent, other disciplines, linguistics, archaeology, ethnography and anthropology can considerably contribute to elucidating the Illyrian prehistory. Certainly ethnographical studies can shed some light and anthropology in the era of DNA sequencing also can contribute to revealing unknown aspects of the Illyrian prehistory despite the relative high racial homogeneity of the Indo-European populations and the ethnic mergers that associated the formation of peoples in history.
However, linguistics and archaeology, like before remain the major sources of knowledge on the prehistory of Illyrians. The comparative linguistics finds in the inherited words of Albanian the most important ancient documents and monuments of the prehistory, while archaeology can provide good clues about the movement of cultures and peoples.
One reliable way for determining the pre-Balkanian homeland of ancestors of Illyrians would be the discovery of the possible relationships of Albanian with other languages or group of languages of the Indo-European family, whose localization at the prehistory would have been known.
For the first time Gustav Meyer10 (1850-1900) discovered some German-Albanian concordances, as well as a considerable number of concordances of Albanian with the Balto-Slavic languages. This evidence led Vittorio Pisani to the conclusion that among the Indo-European elements of Albanian exist words that are attested to most of Indo-European languages and a certain number of ancient elements that according to V. Pisani link it to the languages of the northern center of Europe.
Linguists as Norbert Jokl11 (Jokl, N. (1929). Zur Vorgeschichte des albanischen und Albaner. Wörter und Sachen XII, 63-91), Ernst Fraenkel12(1931). Baltisch und Illyrisch. Indogermanische Forschungen 48, p. 267), Eqrem Çabej13, 14 (Cabej, E. (1965). Stand und Aufgaben der albanischen Wortforschung. Studia Albanica I, 9-29; Çabej, E. (2008). Hyrje në Historinë e Gjuhës Shqipe. Pjesa e Parë, Çabej, Tiranë, p. 24-33)), Ana. V. Desnitskaia15 (Десницкая, А.В. (1956). Древние германо-албанские языковые связи в свете проблемы индоевропейской ареальной лингвистики. ВЯ 6, 24-43), etc. have identified a considerable number of Baltic-Albanian concordances.
- Alb. baltë ‘mud, slush’; Lithuanian balà ‘swamp, mire, morass’
- Alb. brin/brir ‘horn’; PIE *bhr-no, *bhrentos -; Latvian briedis ‘deer, stag’, Old Prussian braydis ,deer’.
- Alb. eshkë/veshkë ‘kidney’; Lithuanian inkstas ‘kidney’.
- Alb. gardh ‘fence’; PIE *gʰórdʰos<*gher ‘to grasp, enclose’; Lithuanian gardas ‘pen, enclosure’,
- Alb. hedh; throw; PIE *(s)keud; Lithuanian skudris, skandrus; Latvian skaudrs ‘sharp, acute’.
- Alb. resh; Lithuanian rasá
- Alb. kur ‘when’; PIE *kʷur; Lithuanian kur̃;
- Alb. pellg ‘pond’ – Lithuanian pelke ‘swamp, marsh, pond’.
- Alb. push ‘fluff’; Lithuanian paustis.
- Alb. reth/rath ‘circle, wheel’; PIE*(H)rothos ‘wheel’; Lithuanian ratas ‘wheel, circle’.
- Alb. shark (a woolen shepherd mantle); PIE *sker ‘cut’; Lithuanian sharkas
- Alb. thinjë – Lithuanian šemas ‘grey-blue’) and širmas ‘grey’.
- Alb. shlligë (nepërkë) ‘adder’;PIE *sel ‘to sneak, creep’; Lithuanian sliēkas ‘earthworm’ (Lumbricus terrestris/Aporrectodea longa).
- Alb. tarok (dem)- PIE*tew-,*tu- ‘to swell’, with a suffix*-ro. Lithuanian taũras; Old Prussian tauris,
- Alb. thekë/thak; Lithuanian šaka ‘branch’.
17 Alb. thëngjill coal’; Lithuanian anglis ‘coal’.
- Alb. ujë ‘water’; PIE *wódr̥,*wédōr; Lithuanian ûdens
- Alb. ujk/ulk ‘wolf’; PIE *wĺ̥kʷos; Lithuanian vilkas.
- Alb. ulërij ‘to yell, shout, cry’; PIE– Lithuanian ululóti.
- Alb. valë ‘wave’; PIE *wel-,*wl̥- ‘to turn, to roll, to curl’; Lithuanian vilnis; Latvian vilna;
- Alb. vang ‘rim’; PIE *wak- ‘crooked’ Lithuanian vanga ‘crooked, bent’
- Alb. var ’hang’; Lithuanian vora ’file, line, queue, row’.
- Alb vegë; Lithuanian vingis (përkulje), Latvian vanga (dorë e enës)
- Alb. verras ‘cry’ – Lithuanian verkti ‘cry, weep, shed tears’.
- Alb. vise ‘places’; Lithuanian vietà; Latvian vieta.
- Alb. vjel ‘harvest (verb)’; Lithuanian valau ‘harvest’.
- Alb. i zi ‘black’; PIE *jodiia; Lithuanian juodas’black’, žilas
Illyrian-Albanian-Baltic correspondences are not limited to the words but extend to the place names, word formation, especially in place name suffixes (-st, -opes, -ant, -ur, -is)16 (Krahe, H. (1931). Baltisch und Illyrisch. Indogermanische Forschungen 48, p. 267) and in the names of their deities17 (Biezais, H. (1986). Geschichte und Struktur der balto-slavischen Religion. Anthropos 81, 1/3, 151-176). Lithuanian gods Deivas, Perkunas and Velinas and the Latvian gods Dievs, Perkons and Vels , which Biezais considers respectively as the gods of creation, ruling and fertility, seem to correspond to the ancient Illyrian-Albanian gods Deiwa (Hesych’s Deipatyros), Perëndia and Belenus.
Although these lexical correspondences, as interpreted by these scholars, suggest earlier prehistorical neighborhood relationship rather than genetic relationship or common origin of the Indo-European ancestors of Illyrians with the Baltic or Germanic peoples, nothing certain can be said of which of the following alternatives may be more probable.
- Illyrians or their ancestors inhabited a territory that exceeded their known historical territory, as indicated by ancient Greek and Roman ancestors, a view that would be close to the already rejected theory of Pan-Illyrism.
- Indo-European ancestors of Illyrians in their migration route towards west, or in temporary settlements, in the course of their migration, have been in contact with the Baltic peoples, Lithuanians and Latvians.
- The territory of the Baltic peoples, in the period of the Indo-European migration might have been more south to the known historical territories of Illyrians.
Some of the well known Albanian-Germanic lexical correspondences are:
- Albanian barrë ‘burden’; PIE *bhorna; Gothic, Old German and Old Icelandic barn ‘child’; Albanian të jesh me barrë – Old English beon ‘mid baerne’.
2.brin/brir’horn’; PIE *bhr-no; Swedish dialectal brindo; Norwegian bringe.
3 bun ‘shepherd hut in mountain’ and buj ‘stay overnight, sleep-over’; Gothic bauan, Old Icelandic bua, Old German bur ‘dwelling, chamber’, Old English bur ‘room, hut, dwelling, chamber’ and bu ‘live, stay’,.
- dhi ProtoAlbanian*diga; PIE *díks ‘goat’; Old High German ziga ‘goat’(Meyer, G. (1891). Etymologisches… p.. 85).. Te resemblance of the Albanian word dhi with the dialectal Greek Doric díza (δίζα) is explained with the Illyrian component of Dorians.
- gjalmë ‘string, lace, shoelace’; PIE *sey; Old German seil, Old Saxon sel, Old English sal.
- halë ‘fishbone, awn, bristle’; PIE *skel ‘cut’; Gothic skalja ‘tile’; Old German scala ‘awn’.
- helm ‘poison’; PIE *s(kel) ‘to cut’ (Pokorny, J. (1959). Op cit. p. 924); Old German scalmo ‘disease, plague’; skelmo-‘kufomw’(Çabej, E. (1963). Studime rreth etimologjisë së gjuhës shqipe. Buletinii Universitetit Shtetëror të Tiranës 1, p. 116).
- hedh ‘throw’; PIE *(s)keud; Old Saxon skiotan; Old German skiozan; Old English scēotan “throw, strike”. compare also lithuanian skudris, skandrus; Latvian skaudrs ‘rapid agile’.
- lë/la ‘’leave’; PIE *ladnō ‘tired’; Old English letan; Old Saxon latan; Old German lāzzan. Only in Albanian and German exist the differentiated series of forms in the meaning of leaving, abandoning or fatigue.
- (i, e) lehtë ‘light’; PIE *legṵh – *lengṵh; Gothic leihts, Old german liht(i), Old English léoht, Old Icelandic lettr.
- lesh ‘wool’; PIE *pleus ’shkul lesh’; Old German-vlius; Dutch – vlies; Old English flēos.
- miell ‘flour’; PIE melo ‘grind’; Old German melo, melaues; Old Icelandic mjal; Old English melu.
- mund ‘can’; PIE mehndh ‘to pay attention to’; Old German muntar ‘industrious’; Gothic mundrei ‘goal, aim’.
- re; Protogermanic *rauki; Old German rouh; Old Saxon rōk; Old Icelandic reykr-tym.
- shparr (an oak species, Quercus conferta); Old German and Old Saxon sparro; Middle german sparre ’beam, pillar’; Old English spere; Old Icelandic spari, sparri; Old Icelandic spar ‘spear’.
- shpreh ‘to express’; PIE *spreg- ‘to speak’; Old German sprehhan; Old Saxon and Old English sprēcan ‘he speaks’.
- lapë; Old German lappo ‘hanging piece of skin’; Old Saxon lappo ‘skirt or flap of a garment’; German Lappen ‘rag, cloth’.
- flakë, flakëroj ‘flicker, glimmer’; Old German vlackern; German flackern ‘ flicker, glimmer’.
- flatër, flatroj, flutur, fluturoj; PIE*pëlëdʰ; German flattern ’flutter’; English flutter, flitter.
- shlligë ‘adder’; PIE *sel ‘to sneak, creep’; Old German slango; German Schlange ‘snake’.
Resemblances also exist between Albanian and Germanic languages in the typologic formation of the archaic scheme of preterite tense. Striking similarities also exist in the internal flexion, in the change and alternation of vowels (Umlaut) in the formation of the plural. For example:
Alb. plak-pleq (old man – old men); German Pack-Päcke ‘pack-packs’
Alb. dash-desh ‘ram – rams’; German Nacht-Nächte ‘night–nights’
Alb natë-netë; German Gast-Gäste ‘guest – guests’.
Alb. thes-thasë ‘sack-sacks’; German Sack-Säcke ‘sack – sacks’
Also compare verb Old Albanian and Old German paradigms:
Old Albanian Old German
1st person *flatio flas(I speak) faru (I go)
2nd person *flatis flet (you speak) feris (you go)
3rd person *flatit flet (he, she speaks) ferit (he, she, it goes)
Unlike other regions of Balkans, such as the territory of Romania and the central part of the Balkan Peninsula, beginning from the Morava Valley down to the Aegean and the Near East where the historical evolution of the native population shows an interruption due to immigration of foreign populations, in the period of transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, in the Illyrian regions of the West Balkans is observed a two millennia-long period of uninterrupted development, what clearly rejects the probability of immigration of foreign populations in this region18.
According to Nicholas G.L. Hammond (1907-2001)19 based on the kurgan expansion or the spread of the tumulus burials believes the Indo-European ancestors of Illyrians arrived in the modern Albanian-speaking territories between 2500 and 2,000 BC. However, the earliest Balkan tumuli are found in the region between Niš (Nish) and Belgrade and are dated from 2,000 BC. A tumulus of this time is found in Pappulia. Further these tumuli follow a route that goes through the Kaçanik Pass, Macedonia, Servi and Thessaly. In the same route, north of Ostrovo, is found a double tumulus and another further south, in Keronea (Aya Marina). To this group also belong 25 tumuli discovered in Pazhok in 1964, dated from 1,800-1,700 BC20 (Islami, S. and Ceka, H. (1964). Nouvelles donées sur l’antiquité illyrienne en Albanie. Studia Albanica 1, 95). Based on the distribution pattern of tumuli in Balkans (no tumuli of this age are discovered in eastern Balkans), it may be inferred that the settlement of the first Indo-European ancestors of Illyrians occurred in 1,800-1,700 BC.
- Garashanin, M.V. (1971). Nomades des steppes et autochtones das le Sud-Est européen à l’epoque de transition du néolithique a l’age du bronze”. In Studia Balcanica 5. Sympossion: L’ethnogenese des peuples balkaniques. Sofia, p. 9-14.
- Anamali, S. and Korkuti, M. (1969). Problemi ilir dhe i gjenezës së shqiptarëve në dritën e kërkimeve arkeologjike shqiptare. Studime Historike 1, 115-142 (121).
- Benac, A. (1964). VorIllyrier, Protoillyrier, und UrIllyrier. In Symposium sur la délimitation territoriale et chronologique des Illyriens à l’époque Préhistorique. A. Benac (ed.). Sarajevo, Akademija nauka i umjetnosti B i H , pp.59-94.
- Gimbutas, M. (1979). The three waves of the Kurgan people into Old Europe, 4500- 2500 B.C. Archives suisses d’anthropologie générale 43, 113-137.
- Benac, A. (1964). cit. p. 79. However, Włodzimierz Pajakowski (1934–1992), while admitting that the ancestors of Illyrians reached their known historical territories by the end of the 3rd millennium BC, insists that these ancestors “belong to the most ancient waves of the Indo-European expansion in the Balkan Peninsula. He believes that the arrival of ancestors of Illyrians must be considered closely related to the beginnings of the Indo-Europianization of Balkans and Asia Minor (Pajakowski, W. (1981). Ilirowie. Poznan).
- Pokorny, J. (1936). Zur Urgeschichte der Kelten und Illyrier. Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 20, 315–352.
- Krahe, H. (1949). Ortsnamen als Geschichtsquelle. Winter, Heidelberg Universitätsverlag.
- Garashanin, M.V. (1971). cit.
- Crossland, R. A. (1971). The position of the Indo-European language-family. In Studia Balcanica. Sympossion L’ethnogenese des peoples Sofia 1971, p. 225-236.
- Meyer G. (1891).in Etymologisches Wörterbuch der albanischen Sprache. Trübner, Strassburg.
- Jokl, N. (1929). Zur Vorgeschichte des albanischen und Albaner. Wörter und Sachen XII, 63-91.
- Frankel, E. (1931). Baltisch und Illyrisch. Indogermanische Forschungen 48, p. 267.
- Çabej, E. (1965). Stand und Aufgaben der albanischen Wortforschung. Studia Albanica I, 9-29;
- Çabej, E. (2008). Hyrje në Historinë e Gjuhës Shqipe. Pjesa e Parë, Çabej, Tiranë, p. 24-33.
- Десницкая, А.В. (1956). Древние германо-албанские языковые связи в свете проблемы индоевропейской ареальной лингвистики. ВЯ 6, 24-43.
- Krahe, H. (1931). Baltisch und Illyrisch. Indogermanische Forschungen 48, p. 267.
- Biezais, H. (1986). Geschichte und Struktur der balto-slavischen Religion. Anthropos 81, 1/3, 151-176.
- Garashanin, M. (1971). cit.
- Hammond, N.G.L. (1972). Varrime me tuma në Shqipëri dhe problemet e etnogjenezës. Studime Historike 4, 117-124.
- Islami, S. and Ceka, H. (1964). Nouvelles donées sur l’antiquité illyrienne en Albanie. Studia Albanica 1, 95.