Paleolithic Continuity Theory
The Paleolithic Continuity Theory (or PCT, Italian La teoria della continuità), since 2010 relabelled as the Paleolithic Continuity Paradigm (or PCP), is a hypothesis
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. The term derives from the Greek, ὑποτιθέναι – hypotithenai meaning "to put under" or "to suppose". For a hypothesis to be put forward as a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it...

 suggesting that the Proto-Indo-European language
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 (PIE) can be traced back to the Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

, several millennia earlier than the Chalcolithic or at the most Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 estimates in other scenarios of Proto-Indo-European origins. Its main proponent is Mario Alinei
Mario Alinei
Mario Alinei is Professor Emeritus at the University of Utrecht, where he taught from 1959 to 1987, currently living in Impruneta, Italy. He is founder and editor of Quaderni di semantica, a journal of theoretical and applied semantics...

, who advanced the theory in his Origini delle Lingue d’Europa, published in two volumes in 1996 and 2000.

The PCT posits that the advent of Indo-European languages should be linked to the arrival of Homo sapiens
Archaic Homo sapiens
Archaic Homo sapiens is a loosely defined term used to describe a number of varieties of Homo, as opposed to anatomically modern humans , in the period beginning 500,000 years ago....

 in Europe and Asia from Africa in the Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

. Employing "lexical periodization", Alinei arrives at a timeline deeper than even that of Colin Renfrew's Anatolian hypothesis
Anatolian hypothesis
The Anatolian hypothesis is also called Renfrew's Neolithic Discontinuity Theory ; it proposes that the dispersal of Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in Neolithic Anatolia...


Since 2004, an informal workgroup of scholars who support the Paleolithic Continuity Theory has been held online. Apart from Alinei himself, its leading members (referred to as "Scientific Committee" in the website) are linguists Xaviero Ballester (University of Valencia) and Francesco Benozzo (University of Bologna
University of Bologna
The Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna is the oldest continually operating university in the world, the word 'universitas' being first used by this institution at its foundation. The true date of its founding is uncertain, but believed by most accounts to have been 1088...

). Also included are prehistorian Marcel Otte
Marcel Otte
Marcel Otte is a professor of Prehistory at the Université de Liège, Belgium. He is a specialist in Religion, Arts, Sociobiology, and the Upper Palaeolithic times of Europe and Central Asia....

 (Université de Liège) and anthropologist Henry Harpending
Henry Harpending
Henry C. Harpending is an anthropologist and population geneticist at the University of Utah, where he is a distinguished professor...

 (University of Utah
University of Utah
The University of Utah, also known as the U or the U of U, is a public, coeducational research university in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. The university was established in 1850 as the University of Deseret by the General Assembly of the provisional State of Deseret, making it Utah's oldest...


General lines

The framework of PCT is laid out by Alinei in four main assumptions:
  1. Continuity is the basic pattern of European prehistory and the basic working hypothesis on the origins of IE languages.
  2. Stability and antiquity are general features of languages.
  3. The lexicon of natural languages, due to its antiquity, may be "periodized" along the entire course of human evolution.
  4. Archaeological frontiers coincide with linguistic frontiers.

The continuity theory draws on a Continuity Model (CM), positing the presence of IE and non-IE peoples and languages in Europe from Paleolithic times and allowing for minor invasions and infiltrations of local scope, mainly during the last three millennia.

Arguing that continuity is "the archeologist's easiest pursuit," Alinei deems this "the easiest working hypothesis," putting the burden of proof on competing hypotheses as long as none provide irrefutable counter-evidence. Alinei also claims linguistic coherence, rigor and productivity in the pursuit of this approach.

Historical reconstruction

Associated with the Paleolithic Continuity Theory (PCT) is the historical reconstruction proposed by Alinei, which suggests that Indo-European speakers were native in Europe since the paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

. According to this reconstruction, the differentiation process of languages would have taken an extremely long time; by the end of the Ice Age the Indo-European language family had differentiated into proto Celtic
Celtic languages
The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family...

Italic languages
The Italic subfamily is a member of the Indo-European language family. It includes the Romance languages derived from Latin , and a number of extinct languages of the Italian Peninsula, including Umbrian, Oscan, Faliscan, and Latin.In the past various definitions of "Italic" have prevailed...

Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

Baltic languages
The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe...

 speakers occupying territories within or close to their traditional homelands. The rate of change accelerated when (Neolithic) social stratification and colonial wars began. Summarizing:
  1. The colonial expansion of the Celts started much earlier than La Tene and proceeded (generally) from West to East, not vice versa.
  2. The Mesolithic cultures of Northern Europe are identified with already differentiated Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Uralic groups.
  3. Scandinavia was colonized by Germanic groups "only" after deglaciation, and was better able to preserve its original character in isolation. Germany, in contrast, suffered fragmentation as a result of the Neolithic appearance of the Linear Pottery culture
    Linear Pottery culture
    The Linear Pottery culture is a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic, flourishing ca. 5500–4500 BC.It is abbreviated as LBK , is also known as the Linear Band Ware, Linear Ware, Linear Ceramics or Incised Ware culture, and falls within the Danubian I culture of V...

    , and developed a wealth of dialects.
  4. The prehistoric distribution of proto-languages akin to Italic was an important factor underlying the current distribution of Romance languages throughout Europe.
  5. The Slavic languages originated in the Balkans
    The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

     and became linked with the Neolithic expansion. This group would be especially identified by the Baden culture
    Baden culture
    Baden culture, ca 3600 BC-ca 2800 BC, an eneolithic culture found in central Europe. It is known from Moravia, Hungary, Slovakia and Eastern Austria...


The Paleolithic Continuity hypothesis reverses the Kurgan hypothesis and largely identifies the Indo-Europeans with Gimbutas's "Old Europe." PCT reassigns the Kurgan culture (traditionally considered early Indo-European) to a people of predominantly mixed Uralic and Turkic stock. This hypothesis is supported by the tentative linguistic identification of Etruscans
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

 as a Uralic, proto-Hungarian people that had already undergone strong proto-Turkish influence in the third millennium BC, when Pontic invasions would have brought this people to the Carpathian Basin. A subsequent migration of Urnfield culture
Urnfield culture
The Urnfield culture was a late Bronze Age culture of central Europe. The name comes from the custom of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns which were then buried in fields...

 signature around 1250 BC caused this ethnic group to expand south in a general movement of people, attested by the upheaval of the Sea Peoples
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

 and the overthrow of an earlier Italic substrate at the onset of the "Etruscan" Villanovan culture
Villanovan culture
The Villanovan culture was the earliest Iron Age culture of central and northern Italy, abruptly following the Bronze Age Terramare culture and giving way in the 7th century BC to an increasingly orientalizing culture influenced by Greek traders, which was followed without a severe break by the...



In introduction to PCT Mario Alinei
Mario Alinei
Mario Alinei is Professor Emeritus at the University of Utrecht, where he taught from 1959 to 1987, currently living in Impruneta, Italy. He is founder and editor of Quaderni di semantica, a journal of theoretical and applied semantics...

 argues, following Cavalli Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza is an Italian population geneticist born in Genoa, who has been a professor at Stanford University since 1970 .-Books:...

, that the distribution of genetic markers largely corresponds to that of languages. He further contends that 80% of Europe's human genetic material dates back to the Paleolithic, and cites Bryan Sykes
Bryan Sykes
Bryan Sykes is a former Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford and a current Fellow of Wolfson College.Sykes published the first report on retrieving DNA from ancient bone...

 in claiming that only a fifth of European DNA can be traced back to neolithic incomers.

A 2009 study comparing mitochondrial DNA lineages of late hunter-gatherers, early farmers, and modern Europeans found large differences between the three groups. In particular, 82% of hunter-gatherers had maternal lineages that are rare in modern central Europeans.

The origin of paternal lineages remains difficult to prove because modern science is unable to extract Y-DNA haplogroups from Paleolithic samples. However, the recent analysis of Arredi, Poloni and Tyler-Smith (2007) suggests that R1b-M269
Haplogroup R1b (Y-DNA)
The point of origin of R1b is thought to lie in Eurasia, most likely in Western Asia. T. Karafet et al. estimated the age of R1, the parent of R1b, as 18,500 years before present....

, the most common western European haplogroup, may have entered Europe only in the Neolithic.


Alinei's Origini delle Lingue d’Europa was reviewed favourably in 1996 by Jonathan Morris in Mother Tongue
Mother Tongue (journal)
Mother Tongue is the yearly periodical of the Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory and was established in 1995. Its goal is to encourage international and interdisciplinary information sharing, discussion, and debate among geneticists, paleoanthropologists, archaeologists, and...

, a journal dedicated to the reconstruction of Paleolithic language, judging Alinei's theory as being
"both simpler than its rivals and more powerful in terms of the insights it provides into language in the Meso- and Palaeolithic. While his book contains some flaws I believe that it deserves to be regarded as one of the seminal texts on linguistic archaeology, although given its lamentable lack of citation in English-language circles, it appears that recognition will have to wait until a translation of the original Italian appears."

Morris's review was reprinted as the foreword to the 2000 edition of Alinei's book.

Renzi (1997) sharply criticized Alinei's book, refuting in particular the claim of the presence of Latin and of its different territorial forms in Italy in the 2nd millennium BC. Renzi argues that this theory would subvert firmly established concepts of Romance philology and dialectology, such as the concepts of substratum
In linguistics, a stratum or strate is a language that influences, or is influenced by another through contact. A substratum is a language which has lower power or prestige than another, while a superstratum is the language that has higher power or prestige. Both substratum and superstratum...

, vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...

 and so on.

Alinei's theory was again critically reviewed by Adiego Lajara (2002):

See also

  • Indo-European substrate hypotheses
    Indo-European substrate hypotheses
    The term pre-Indo-European languages relates to several non-classified languages that existed in prehistoric Europe and South Asia before the arrival of bearers of Indo-European languages....

  • Proto-Indo-European language
    Proto-Indo-European language
    The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

  • Proto-Indo-Europeans
    The Proto-Indo-Europeans were the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language , a reconstructed prehistoric language of Eurasia.Knowledge of them comes chiefly from the linguistic reconstruction, along with material evidence from archaeology and archaeogenetics...

  • Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses
    Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses
    The Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses are designed to explain the origins of the Proto-Indo-European language and the people. The identity of the Proto-Indo-Europeans has been a recurring topic in Indo-European studies since the 19th century. Many hypotheses for an Urheimat have been...

  • Indigenous Aryan Theory
  • Regional Continuity Model
  • Polygenism
    Polygenism is a theory of human origins positing that the human races are of different lineages . This is opposite to the idea of monogenism, which posits a single origin of humanity.- Origins :...


  • Adams, Jonathan and Otte, Marcel. "Did Indo-European Languages spread before farming?" Current Anthropology
    Current Anthropology
    Current Anthropology is a peer-reviewed anthropology academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press and sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Founded in 1959 by the anthropologist Sol Tax...

    , 40, No. 1. (February, 1999), pp. 73–77.
  • Alinei, Mario. "An Alternative Model for the Origins of European Peoples and Languages: the continuity theory". Quaderni di Semantica 21, 2000, pp. 21–50.
  • Alinei, Mario (2002). "Towards a Generalized Continuity Model for Uralic and Indo-European Languages" in The Roots of Peoples and languages of Northern Eurasia IV, edited by K. Julku.
  • Alinea Mario. "Interdisciplinary and Linguistic Evidence for Palaeolithic Continuity of European, Uralic and Altaic Populations in Eurasia". Quaderni di Semantica, 24, 2, 2003.

External links

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