Priyadarshi, P., 2013, Evidence of Indo-European origins from the Early Holocene pollen studies, linguistics and climatology, Dialogue, July-Sept 2013, Vol 15, No. 1.



Evidence of Indo-European origins from the Early Holocene pollen studies, linguistics and climatology


by P. Priyadarshi




Recent DNA studies have thrown remarkable light on the human migration history over the last 15,000 years. It has revealed that not only man, but animals dependant on man like the domestic mouse, rat, shrew, cow, goat and sheep too have migrated out from India over the last 15,000 years (Priyadarshi 2011, 2012, 2013). No evidence of human arrival into India through the northwest corridor between 13,000 BC and 1,000 BC could be detected from the DNA studies (Sahoo 2006:847).


The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 20,000 BC-16,000 BC) was the time when the earth saw a four thousand years long freeze of the northern temperate regions. Human life remained restricted to the tropical regions like India, Southeast Asia and tropical Africa. Beyond this, man survived in the cold refugia in some places. Some population survived in Southeast Tibet, some parts of China, Franco-Cantabrian refugia, the Balkans, north east of the Black Sea and eastern Central Asia. Thus most of Europe and Asia had become denuded of human population.


Between 16,000 BC and 14,000 BC, climate started improving and human population increased. Better climate promoted better growth of vegetations which constituted the food for man and herbivores both. Rise in herbivore population cased increased availability of pray for hunting, and that too increased the food availability leading to increase in the human population in India just following the LGM (Priyadarshi 2011:137-43).


This population growth of India resulted in a pressure on land resulting in early experiments with food production, ultimately leading to development of farming (Priyadarshi2011:66-90). However, capturing the animals live and keeping them for future food requirement must have started before the onset of the LGM. In India we get concrete evidence of cattle, goat and sheep rearing since the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (Priyadarshi 2013).


Because of all these factors, Indian population soon got saturated after the LGM and a migration was forced by ecological constraints. The first emigrants out of India through the northwest corridor of India have been identified to have carried with them the Y-Chromosomal haplogroup R1a1a and J2b (Underhill 2009; Sahoo 2006; Sengupta 2006; Priyadarshi 2011:91-105; 2012:336-42, 337-Table 1). The J2b seems to have started earlier then the R1a1. It followed a south route and reached Anatolia (Turkey) and from there to Europe. However an important section of these preferred to venture through the sea from the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. The R1a1 started from the Gujarat region at about 14,000 BC, yet its expansion suddenly ceased because of another short 1000 year long mini-glacial period which we know today as the Teleglacial.


Holocene India: Inferences from archaeo-botany, climatology and analysis of the botanical material contained in the Vedas


The human migrations around the start of Holocene (10,000 years back) taking place out of India also carried with it farming and the Indo-European languages (Priyadarshi 2011:43-65). However no re-examination and re-interpretation of the Vedic texts as well as philological material have so far been done systematically to uncover the history of the early and middle Holocene India.  


In the Vedas, particularly the Rig-Veda, we get description of the plants and animals most of which are today characteristically found in the colder regions of the world, particularly Europe. This fact has been considered evidence favouring an Aryan arrival into India from outside (Bhargawa). However it has been wrongly assumed by many authors that the climates of India and Europe have remained the same as they are today, and that the same plants have always grown in the two regions throughout the Holocene. We will examine how far such  views are correct.


Willow (Salix sp; Sanskrit vetasa)


We find in the Vedas, a rich description of the willow tree, which was known then by the Vedic/Sanskrit word vetasa, the Sanskrit cognate word for ‘willow’. The Vedas mention the habitat, the colour (of the golden willow Salix alba), the branching and the medicinal properties of the plant. The plant was used mainly to treat fever and pain. Such description confirms that the Vedic plant vetasa is nothing other than the willow tree (Salix) which contains in it the salicylic acid which is a well-known fever-lowering and pain-relieving drug.


From Mehrgarh sites of the Indus plain, willow pollen has been found in abundance from about the tenth millennium BC up to the fourth millennium BC. Absence of willow pollen beyond that time means that the tree became either extremely rare or extinct from the Indus Valley after the early Harappa period. However the willow species continued to grow in the Himalayan altitudes like Nepal, Kashmir and higher reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  


Willow, although a temperate region plant, has many species which grow only in the tropics (e.g. Salix tetraspermia)[1]. Willows characteristically require wetlands, particularly the alluvial or riparian situations. Such climatic features being absent from the steppes, the willows are not found in the steppe, and were in all likelihood not found there during the Bronze Age or even earlier. This fact gravely frustrates the possibility of the steppe being the homeland of the Indo-European speakers.


Golden willow (Salix alba), a plant mentioned in the Vedic literature (hirayamaya vetasa) and found even today in South Asia (Pakistan) requires a soil of the type “deep, moist loams”, usually located along stream beds and wetlands and cannot tolerate prolonged drought.[2] The loam retains moisture and is a mixture of sand, silt and clay, which is the characteristic soil type of the wetter regions of the Indus-Sarasvati valley civilisation, not a feature of the steppe or the Central Asia. Moreover, the dry climate of the steppe was thoroughly hostile to the growth of the willow.



The ecological habitat needed for the golden willow matches well that described for the Vedic vetasa tree. For example the Taittiriya Samhita (Yajur-Veda) mentions that the vetasa plant grew in the wetlands: apsujo vetasah (TS Atharva-Veda (10.7.41) too mentions that the golden vetasa grows amid floods. It is possible that the Vedic river Vitastā (Kashmiri Vyeth, Hindi Jhelum) was named after this plant.


There have been recent studies which have noted that the climatic and cultural features described in the Rig-Veda do not match the northwest Indian ones from 1500 to 1000 BC period. In the Rig-Veda, there is no mention of seals, statues, paintings, writing, burnt brick, potter’s wheel, cotton, urban citadel culture etc (Kazanas 2009). In the Rig-Veda the Sarasvati river was wide and full, and the whole region was moist and wet (ibid). This ecological condition, i.e. moist and wet prevailed before 4000 BC as discovered from the palynological studies (Jarrige 2008; Costantini 2000, 2008). Hence a date earlier than 4000 BC is quite reasonable for the period of composition of the Rig-Veda.


This date corroborates well with the palynological evidence of presence of abundant pollens of willow (Salix) from the soils of the region dating before the 3000 BC. In 1997, an extensive palynological examination of Mehrgarh and Nausharo of the Indus Valley region was conducted by Lorenzo Costantini andAlessandro Lentini (2000). Jarrige citing from them notes,

“The results of the pollen analysis show that, from the beginning of the Mehrgarh occupation till the 4th millennium BC, ‘the region was probably dominated by a semilacustrine or humid environment with a riparian vegetation, characterized by Populus, Salix, Fraxinus, Ulmus and Vitis, associated in a typical hydrophytic complex, arranged in dense gallery forests’ ” (Jarrige 2008:151).


Other cold climate forest trees which existed before that time included Populus (poplar), Fraxinus (Ash Tree), Ulmus (elm), Vitis (grape), Abies, Picea, Tsuga, Pinus, Juniperus, Quercus, Tilia and Corylus. Hydrophytic plants included  Cyperaceae, Phragmites, Typha, Alisma, Myriophyllum, and Nymphea (Jarrige:139; Costantini 2008:172). Costantini noted evidence for the presence of oak-forests in the region. There was enough of the evidence for the presence of Tamarix, Palmae, Smilax and Fumaria in the Mehrgarh periods I and II (ibid).


The Old Indo-Aryan cognate word of ‘willow’ is vetasa (Pokorny:1120-22). However there has been an element of ignorance among the philologists about the Indian willow trees. Pokorny thought Vedic vetasa was one of the ‘grass-reeds’ which are in the family gramineae or Poaceae. Griffith, the translator of many Vedas too has taken the same view. Lexicographer Monier-Williams thought that vetasa was the Asian furniture-reed Calamus rotang (rattan palm, cane-reed), which is a climber found in Sri Lanka, South India, Assam, Southeast Asia and West Asia, and which belongs to an entirely different family Arecales. Witzel adopted the latter view.


Witzel claimed that willow is not found in India, nor was it found there when the Aryans arrived. The Aryans thrust the name vetasa on to the ‘reeds’, after finding no willow tree in northwest India. However, we find that all these claims are wrong. Witzel wrote, (Witzel 2005:373),


“Some of them (names of plants) therefore exhibit a slight change in meaning; a few others possibly are applications of old, temperate zone names to newly encountered plants, such as ‘willow’> ‘reed, cane’. Again, this change in meaning indicates the path of the migration, from the temperate zone into India” (brackets added).


He again wrote (2009 Fulltext:5 n32),


“In addition to the birch, the IE word for … ‘willow’ (may be found in) in vetasa > Calamus rotang’ (EWA II 578), if so, then both with change of meaning in the Indian climatic context” (bracket added).


At least 40 species of willow (Salix) are native to northwest India (Pakistan), Nepal, Kashmir and many other high altitude regions of north India, in addition to the species present in Afghanistan.[3] Many species such as Salix tetraspermia are found exclusively in India. In the pre-history too, willow, particularly the “golden willow” was native to the northwest India. And hence the date of the Taittiriya Samhita (Yajur-veda) cannot be later than 3000 BC.


The Vedic Description of Vetasa


The Taittiriya Samhita ( mentions the use of vetasa in curing pain. Willow (Salix) contains salicylic acid, a remedy for fever and pain used in modern medicine too (Jeffreys 2008). This property of willow was known to the ancient Greek, Egyptian and Indian people. However its rediscovery goes to the credit of Edmund Stone (1763 AD). No such pain relieving property has ever been attributed to the grass-reed or the cane-reed. This fact confirms that the Vedic vetasa was nothing else but willow.


Max Muller (p.308) gives details of the charms associated with making of a medicinal drink from the vetasa, which was used to treat a thirsty person with high fever (as described in the AtarvaVeda). The drink was made in a cup made of vetasa (willow), and was stirred by the branches of vetasa. This must have caused the salicylic acid in willow to be dissolved in water, leading to the relief in the symptoms of fever and thirst on drinking the syrup. At the same place, Max Muller mentions some other Vedic texts (viz. TS; Kaushik 40.1-6; AV 3.13) wherein the same process has been described (Muller:308).


All the Vedic accounts of the vetasa plant match the description of the willow tree and not that of cane-reed or the grass reed. The Rig-Veda (RV 4.58.5) mentions vetasa (willow) as the ‘golden willow’ (hirayāyo vetaso). The ‘golden willow’ or Salix alba is found in northwest India even today, and its twigs are exactly like pure gold in colour.[4] The Vedic vetasa could not have been any reed, whether the Calamus rotang or the ‘grass-reed’. The ‘golden reed’ (as in the translation by Griffith; Phragmites australis aurea) is a grass-reed native to North America and Australia. The grass-reed species that is found in South Asia Phragmites karka (Khagra reed) is different from the ‘golden reed’ of America, and does not fit with the description of vetasa as given in the many Vedic texts. Hence the identification of the golden vetasa as the “golden reed” as done by Griffith is wrong.


The habitat of the vetasa plant, as we get from the Vedic mantras, is amidst waters. Rig-Veda (4.58.5) mentions that the hiranyayao vetaso (golden willow) lives along the brook. Taittiriya Samhita ( too says the same thing (apām va etad pupam yad vetasas).[5] The Atharva Veda writes that the vetasa plant stays within the waters (10.7.41). These descriptions of the vetasa are consistent with the description of the morphology and the habitat of the ‘golden willow’, and not that of a reed.


There are numerous mentions of the ‘willow’ in the Yajurveda. The KṛṣṇYajurveda (or the Taittiriya Samhita, mentions the branches of vetasa (willow). We know that the grass-reeds do not branch, and it is the willow which has numerous branches. The Taittiriya Samhita mentions an eagle sitting in the branches of the ‘golden willow’ (hirayayo vetaso, TS The eagle prefers to sit in the camouflage of the dense branches of trees like the willow. Hence the reference is to ‘willow’ not to the grass-reed.


Philology of willow: Latin salix, English ‘willow’ and Sanskrit vetasa


Witzel relied on the biased Eurocentric philology of vetasa given by others, and did not check whether any modern Indo-Aryan language has a cognate word of vetasa meaning ‘willow’. He as well as Monier-Williams gave the meaning ‘cane-reed’ for Sanskrit vetasa, which was wrong because the later Indo-Aryan derivatives of vetasa like bet, bed etc certainly mean ‘willow’ in languages like Prakrit, Nepali, Kashmiri and Dardic etc. Michael Witzel is also silent about the origin or etymology of the unique Latin word salix (willow). We shall now examine the etymology below.


Salix, sallow


Lat. salix (willow) is a loanword from Germanic (Valpi:415). The cognates are found only in the Celtic and Germanic branches, and that cannot warrant its inclusion as an Indo-European word. Cognates are: M. Irish sail, sa(i)lech, Welsh helyg-en, O. Brit. name Salico-dūnon, Gaul. name Salicilla; O.H.G. sal(a)ha, M.H.G. salhe, Ger. Salweide; O.E. sealh, O.Ice. selja (willow, from *salhjōn). It has been suggested that the source of all these cognates is the Saxon root *sal meaning ‘black’ (Valpi:415), and at PIE level *sal2 meaning ‘salt’, ‘grey’, ‘saliva’ etc. These roots have no specific semantic feature which could be associated with the willow tree, and clearly the etymology suggested is wrong. The sound resemblance between the Saxon sal, PIE sal and the tree salix is only superficial, and gives no idea of the etymology of the word salix.


If we think laterally, we find that, in all probability, the cognate words of salix represent an older linguistic substratum of Europe. The Altaic words like Tungus-Manchu *ǯalikta and Uralic like Finnish salava, jalava and Hungarian szilfa meaning ‘elm’ are enough evidence to suggest this fact (see Starostin’s Database).




The other word which needs discussion is Sanskrit ‘vetasa’. Its cognates mean willow in Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Germanic and Greek branches. However in the Slavic languages of the steppe the cognates do not mean ‘willow’ but ‘branch’ and ‘twig’.


Lith. Inf. vūti, vytìs (acc. vỹtį; willow rod), ablaut. žil-vìtis (grey willow), Ltv. vīte (branch, tendril), vîtuõls (willow), O.Pruss. witwan (willow), apewitwo (willow of the river-banks); Old Church Slavonic větvь (twig, branch), O.C.S. viti, vitь (a loan word from Lith. vytìs),  Russ. vítvina (twig, branch, rod), Sloven. vitika (ring); Avestan vaēiti (willow, willow-stick); Gk. τα (itea); O.Ice. vīðir, O.E. wīðig; M.L.G. wīde, O.H.G. wīda all meaning ‘willow’ (Pokorny: 1120-1122).


If the Indo-European had originated within Europe in the Ukrainian steppe, how did the cognates of ‘willow’ like Slavic vítvina (twig) and Latin vitis (grape-vine) etc lost the meaning ‘willow’? Latin vitis does not mean ‘willow’ but vine. Contrasting this, Sanskrit vēta-, vētasá, vētra etc all are cognates to this group of words, and their derivatives mean ‘willow’ in northern Indo-Aryan languages even today.


Further than this, although the European willow is black or dark grey, giving it the Latin name salix (from sal=black, Valpi:415; dark-grey Pokorny:879), many cognates of the willow in European languages mean ‘gold’ or ‘golden’ which is consistent only with the Vedic tree ‘golden willow’, and not with the European black or grey coloured willow. Examples are: Old English wīr (copper wire, wavy jewellery), M.L.G. wīre (metal wire), O.H.G. wiara (gold-wire) etc (Pokorny:1120-22). From this has come the Engllish word ‘wire’ having the flexibility and yellow colour both from the Vedic golden willow.


One can think that a wire may be made of iron too, and the main semantic element of these cognates comes from the ‘flexibility’ of the willow. Yet it is worth remembering that the older metal was copper, iron came much later; and also that classically wires are made of copper, not of iron.


Clearly the word wire (or its ancestor) was coined in the Copper-/ Bronze-age of North and Central Europe owing to the semantic elements “red-yellow colour” and the “flexibility” common to the Vedic golden willow and the copper-wires.


Sanskrit u, vīĮu (strong) seems to be related with Proto-Indo-Aryan u (bamboo, willow) and its derivative Kashmiri vīr, vīrü (white willow; CDIAL 12091). Turner gives some other cognate words from the Indo-Aryan branch having the meaning ‘willow’:


Proto-Indo-Aryan vēta (CDIAL 12097), Pashai-Dardic vei, wēu (willow), Dardic bīk (willow), Shina-Dard bĕu, bĕvĕ (willow); Proto-Indo-Aryan veta-daṇḍa (willow-stem, CDIAL 12098); From Sanskrit vetasa (CDIAL 12099), Prakrit vēdasa, vēasa (willow), Ashkun-Kaffiri  wis (willow), Kashmiri bisa (willow), Lahnda bīs, Nepali baĩs (willow), Dameli-Kafiri-Dardic bigyē (willow), Proto-Indo-Aryan *vēu–, vētrá–. *vētuka—(willow).


Other Indo-Aryan cognates meaning ‘willow’ and listed by some other authors are: Assamese bheha (salix), Punjabi bed (willow, Salix types, Singh:110); Nepali beu (Turner Nepali:456), bais, biu (Turner Nepali:458). Persian cognates meaning willow are: bada, bīd, bed, bīdī, bīde (Steingass:165, 217-8).


The examination of the cognate words meaning ‘willow’ as provided by Turner from the modern and extinct Indo-Aryan languages reveals that the real meaning of the Old Indian or Vedic vetasa was ‘willow’. We note above that the Prakrit, Northwest Indo-Aryan (Dardic), Kashmiri, Lahnda, Nepali and Assamese cognates of ‘willow’ do actually mean ‘willow’. Hence the Eurocentric stand taken by these scholars, that the meaning ‘willow’ was lost from the cognate words after the Aryan arrival into India cannot be supported.


We may also conclude that the willow (Salix sp) was native to the Indus-Sarasvati region up to the fourth millennium BC. Golden willow (Salix alba) described well in the Vedic texts grew along the rivers in moist soil. As described in the Yajur and the Atharva Vedas, it was used for medicinal purposes for the treatment of pain and fever because of the salicylic acid content of it. However it became extinct from the Indus-Sarasvati plains following the fourth millennium BC, when the region became drier. It fixes the dates for composing the three Vedas discussed here (Rig, Yajur and Atharva) before 3,000 BCE. This view is consistent with other studies done in the field (Kazanas 2009).


Other Trees


Unlike vetasa, where we have philological identification with ‘willow’, many Sanskrit/ Vedic tree names have not been identified with the modern trees, whether European Indian,  so far–neither philologically nor biologically. This needs to be sorted out if we wish to understand the Vedic history, and fix its correct chronology.


There is a huge confusion in the names of the European trees, except only a few like the birch. We can note that there is a fluidity and confusion of names in between the three commonest trees of Europe viz. alder, elm and juniper (Pokorny: 302-304). This indicates that the Indo-European speakers did not originate in or near Europe otherwise they should not have confusion in naming the three principal European trees.









Birch (Betula) is known in Sanskrit by the name bhurja, and is found in the Himalayan districts of India, wherever annual snowfall occurs. It is said that birch cannot grow in the absence of any annual snowfall. It is possible that the tree was widespread in India during the Last Glacial Maximum and also during the Teleglacial. However after circa 7,000 BC, plains of India did not receive regular annual snow fall. Hence the tree must have become extinct from the Central India and the Indus plains during later Holocene. Hence mention of the


Witzel claimed that the birch tree is found all the way from India to Europe (Witzel 2009:51). However this claim is baseless. Although birch grows in the northernmost part of Siberia region, and also in Mongolia, and in the Ukrainian forest lands, it does not grow in the steppe proper and there is a great discontinuity between the Himalayan birch forests and the north European birch forests (Hytteborn:74 Fig 2.22a & b). Yet they are known by the variants of the same ancient name even today in all the regions of Indo-European speech. This favours an older date for Indo-European migration when birch grew in the forests all the way from India to Europe, and then it must have been a very cold period. This fact too fixes the date of IE linguistic migration to before 4000 BC.


Oak (Quercus)


There is palynological evidence that Quercus sp. (oak) grew in the upper level of the Kachi plain of the Indus Valley region up to 4,000 BC (Costatini:173). It grows in the Himalayas even today. In the Jammu region oak was in abundance since the beginning of Holocene up to 2000 BC, following which it declined owing to aridity (Trivedi and Chauhan 2009). It has not been clarified whether the oak pollens found from Mehrgarh and Nausharo belong to the ‘cork-tree’ proper or some related species within the oak (Quercus) genus. If the early Holocene Quercus was cork-yielding oak (Quercus suber or Q. variabilis etc), then its likelihood of the bark-yielding bhoja becomes greater. There is a folk belief in India that the leaves or the bark of the bhoja tree were used for writing texts (books). Whether or not, cork was there one thing is clear palynologically that some oak (Quercus) species must have grown in India.


Contrasting beech, which invaded the Central and North Europe only lately (vide infra), the oak (Quercus) has been present in the North Europe since the beginning of the Holocene. In the Alps region, oak arrived at 10,500 BC, even before the end of the Teleglacial period (Finsinger 2006). At Lago Piccolo site of the Alps, evidence of oak (Quercus) has been found from 11,300 BC (ibid:615, Table 1).


However it is a mystery why there is no common word for oak tree in the European languages. Crystal (1987:296) notes that there is little evidence of a common word for ‘oak’ in Europe, which is a common European tree, and even the national tree of many of the European countries.


Crystal’s statement can be justified by the following list of words meaning ‘oak’ in many European languages. There is no cognate relationship even within the same branch, say Italic, of the IE family.


Latin quercus, glans, robur, sūber, aesculeus, ilex (holm-oak), ilignum,  French chȇne, Romanian stejar, Portugese carvalho, Spanish roble; Albanian lis, drushk, artikuj; Proto-Celtic *dari(k)-, Irish dair, darach; German eichen, eiche; Greek phegos, phagos, drys, balanidia, Old. Greek balano-s; Croatian hrasto; Lithuanian azuolas, azoulinis.


Application of the generic word daru (Sanskrit tree) to ‘oak’ in several languages of Europe like Irish (dair), Albanian (drushk) and Greek (drys), indicates that this was a common tree at many the places of Europe at the time of IE arrival, yet there were confusions in identification caused by interrupted distribution.


The Old Greek word balano-s is a cognate of baruna (Hindi) or varuā (Sanskrit), an Indian tree    (Monier-Williams; Turner CDIAL 11314). The word balano-s has no cognate in any European language.


Turner (CDIAL) provides a list of words meaning oak in Indo-Aryan languages. Out of them Sanskrit karahāa >Hindi kharhar, karahār (oak; CDIAL 2802) seems to the cognate of carvalho (Portugese, oak).


On the other hand, the Latin word quercus (oak) may be a cognate of Sanskrit kua > Dardic kaék (Oak; CDIAL 3228), rather than of Sanskrit parkaī, although the latter has been claimed to be so by Pokorny (p. 822-823). Such possibilities need serious examination. 


The reason for this variability of the names of oak is the erratic presence of the oak in many regions of Europe. For example, Oak disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula about 5000 BC and again reappeared about 2,500 BC (Issar:41). If the Indo-European arrival to the Iberian Peninsula took place between these dates, i.e. 5,000-2,500 BC there would be no Indo-European cognate for this tree in the Spanish language, simply because there would be no oak in Spain then.


It is beyond the scope of this article to list the dates of appearance and disappearance of the oak tree in each and every region of Europe. It is because of this disappearance and reappearance that there is no uniformity in the naming of oak, and we get chȇne in French, carvalho in Portugese and roble in Spanish for oak—names which were given to the tree as and when it arrived in the region.


If the Sanskrit word bhoja is accepted as a cognate word of Greek phagos (oak; both bhoja and phago-s mean to eat), then the following words too may be cognates of bhoja:


Dialects of Kafiri and Dardic wzu (oak), bōñǰ, bonz (oak), bŭc̣h, bŭc̣ (Platanus tree); Kurd. būz (elm); Hindi bã̄j, Kumauni (Pahari Hindi) bã̄j (oak), Nepali buk (oak tree), bã̄jh, (Echinocarpus, a tree of Tilia family; see CDIAL 11209;  12067; Witzel 2001:51n).


This possibility becomes more plausible if we take into account the Nostratic protagonist Blapek’s  finding that the ultimate source of phagos (and also of Latin fagus) is Nostratic with meaning “tree with edible fruits” (2000; cited in Witzel 2005:394, n176). However it is also possible that bhoja was a different tree in India, and on arrival to Greece, the word was thrust on to the oak tree. But the other possibility too remains that the oak was known as bhoja in northwest India during the beginning of Holocene, and when the northwest Indians went to Greece they identified oak as bhoja or phagos. Hence the PIE reconstructed for the words phagos is *bhāǵo-s, which is very close to the Sanskrit word bhoja.


Many of the words listed by Pokorny as cognates of ‘beech’, and by Turner as cognates of Sanskrit vṛkṣa, may in fact be the cognate words of Sanskrit bhoja, with meanings changed after arrival into Europe. Examples are: German Buche, O. Icelandic bōk, O.E. bōc, English ‘book’, O.H.G. buoh;  Slavic buz; Shina (Dardic) bŭc̣h, bŭc̣ etc meaning different tree/ plant products in different languages (see CDIAL 11209 vanj;  12067 vka; Pokorny:107-8).


The meaning ‘oak’ was retained only in the Greek language and has been lost from the other European languages. The cognates have been applied to name ‘beech’, ‘elm’, ‘elder’ and many other trees in the other European languages (see Pokorny:107-108).


Beech (Fagus sylvestica)


Beech is a European tree of temperate climate, and not found in India. It has been claimed that the reconstructed PIE *bhāǵo-s (Pokorny:107-108) meant beech in the Aryan homeland, and that there is no cognate word for beech in Sanskrit. That means the Indo-Aryans came to India from steppe, and lost the word for beech altogether after not finding the tree in India—this is the argument (Witzel 2001:51 note120; 61 note 146).


However beech is not found east of the famous beech line running through Poland and Romania (Bolte 2007; Thieme 1954:16, cited in Witzel 2001:51,61). That means beech is not found in the steppe, the claimed homeland, which is located much to the east of the beech line.




Fig. The beech line passing through Poland and Romania, East of which beech tree is not found



Witzel claimed that the beech was found in the steppe, much to the east of the modern beech-line, at the Atlantic period about 5,500 to 3,000 BC (Witzel 2001:51 n120; 61 n146). This is a clear case of concoction. The archaeological evidence from palynology has proved that the beech was found only in South France, South Italy and the south Balkans (Greece, Macedonia etc) before 3000 BC (Tonkov; Feurdean). The much later expansion of the beech tree was from south (Balkan Peninsula) to north and from west (France) to east, not from east to west. It has also been proved archaeologically that the steppe never had beech over the last 12,000 years and the nearest beech forests in the mountains of Ukraine and Romania had beech only over the last 4000 years (since about 2000 BC). Thus the claim can be proved bogus on the basis of sound material evidence.


It is an example how the Eurocentric authors have thus taken recourse to deception and concoction to write whatever they wanted to prove, and the thing was accepted as fact by others. The great difficulty for history was that the hard evidence was circumvented by lies.


Witzel tells another untruth in the same article that the beech tree is not found in Greece, and adds that the word for beech tree fagus (Latin) was adopted in the Greek language to mean ‘oak’ because Greece is a beech-less country (2001:51, 61; 2005:394). This is again a huge concoction and deception. Forest survey reports from Greece mention that beech is found there in plenty (Bergmeier 2001). Archaeology too proves that the Balkan Peninsula, in which Greece is located, is the oldest home of beech in Europe (vide supra).


Thus the beech tree has been found in Greece since at least 12,000 years back, and has expanded only recently to other places. Unfortunately, Elst contradicted Witzel’s logic well, yet did not notice the concoction in his story.[6] Clearly the Greeks never had the identification problem for ‘beech’ because had been there always. We can say that the Greek word phagos (oak) has not changed its meaning on arrival of IE in Greek, rather the Latin fagus is a borrowing into Latin (Gk phagos, oak > L. fagus) with associated change of meaning, and it was applied to name a different tree ‘beech’ in the Latin language, because of disappearance of the oak from the Latin speaking regions about 5,000 BC. Hence we can date the arrival of Indo-European into the South-West Europe to a date between 5000 and 2,500 BC.


Beech (Fagus sylvatica) survived the Last Glacial period in Europe only at three small locations namely the refugia in Southern France, southern Italy and the Balkans (Bartsch:425). Its northward expansion started about 8000 BC, and it was very slow to move northward, taking 7000 years to reach Germany (Bartsch:425). It reached north Spain by 3000 BC (Davis 1994:186), and reached northern Balkans by 2000 BC (Tonkov). It arrived into Romania by 2,700 BC, but established itself in the forests only by 1300 BC (Feurdean 2001:135-36). From southern France, Fagus reached Salonnes (North-East France) by 1000 BC (Riddiford 2012, Fig. 4b).


Beech reached its modern limits in the northern parts of Europe only about 1000 years back. It is not found east of Poland (Bolte 2007) and it never reached the steppe. Other than Western Europe, it is also found in Turkey (Fagus orientalis), China (several species) and Japan (F. japonica).


Hence we can conclude that the knowledge of the tree ‘beech’ at 4000 BC, or even 1500 BC, in the steppe region is not possible. Thus even if this is accepted that beech was the PIE bhāǵo-s, this philological evidence goes against steppe being the Indo-European homeland. The fact from archeo-geography about absence of beech in North Europe, Germany, Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia at about 4000 BC rules out these countries from being the place of origin of the Indo-European languages at 4,000 BC.


Philologically too, a common word for beech lacks in the European languages. Only some of the Germanic languages have in common the cognate words meaning ‘beech’ e.g. E. ‘beech’, German Buche, Icelandic beyki etc. Otherwise, there is complete irregularity in the naming of this tree. Some examples are:


Greek oxya; Spanish haya, French hetre, Portugese faia, Romanian fag; Albanian ah (all meaning ‘beech’).


On the other hand, the listed cognates of PIE bhago-s mean different trees in different languages of Europe , for example:


German Buche (beech), Greek phago-s (oak), Russian buz (elder tree), Icelandic beykir (cooper) etc. 



People have considered Celtic (Gaul) bāgos too to be cognate of Latin fagus or ‘beech’. However this is in all likelihood, a loan word from Greek or Latin and other Celtic languages do not share this word for beech:


Irish feá, fáibhile (beech), Welsh ffewydden (beech).


On the other hand, words for ‘beech’ in the non-IE languages Hungarian (bükkfa) and Finnish (pyokki) are closer to the Germanic words for beech.


Turner thinks, in case of Indo-Aryan languages, that many of the names of the forest tree (which resemble German Buche etc) are no cognates of PIE *bhāǵo-s at all, but are derived from Sanskrit vṛkṣa (see CDIAL:12067):


Sanskrit vṛkṣa (tree), Pali vaccha (tree), Prakrit vakkha; Ḍumaki bīk, Dameki (Dard) bigyē˜ˊs (willow), Tirahi (Dard.) brīč, Maiya (Dard.) bic̣h (pine tree), Shina (Dard. gil) bŭc̣h, bŭc̣ (plane or Platanus tree), Kohistani (Dard) bīc̣h (Pinus excels); West Pahari (Kochi) bīkh (tree), Nepali buk (oak tree). To this list we can add Hindi (rural) biriccha, Vajjika (Bihari) birīch (tree). Clearly the cognates have meanings from any ‘tree’ to pine, oak, platanus and willow.


In fact many of these are very similar to the following: Slav. *buza-, *bъzъ– (elder tree sambucus), Russ. buz, Slovac bɛz, Russ. dial. boz, Kurd. būz (a kind of elm).


It may be claimed that the resemblance of the words buc, bikh etc of Turner’s list to similar sounding words from Pokorny’s list is co-incidental. However some of the Germanic words are certainly from Sanskrit vṛkṣa e.g. German Viereiche (oak) and OHG fereheih (oak). At the beginning of Holocene when the Indians reached the Central Europe (as R1a1a, Underhill 2009), the oak was there already. Hence the word vriksha (vṛkṣa, tree) got applied on to them.




A conifer tree within the same order as pine (Pinales) is not found in the inhabited regions of India, although it grows in the remote heights of the Himalayas (1800 meters to 3000 meters; Costantini:172) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and India, and has been named Juniperus wallichiana or indica (Hook and Thomson 1874:537, cited in Adams:208). The tree is no more remaining in the memory or awareness of the people living in the Indian plains, and the Indian name of the tree has been lost, making any philological identification difficult.


However, the pollen studies of the archaeological remains prove that juniper was present in the Kachi plain of the Indus Valley until the end of the fourth millennium BCE (Costantini:171-72) and was widely growing in the Himalayan foot-hills. We have the following material to arrive at a philological identification:


Vedic kadru (Taittiriya Samhita, Sanskrit kedara (a tree, listed in the Dictionary by Monier-Williams, but not identified so far); Greek kedros (juniper), Latin cedar (pine); Lith. kadagỹs, O.Pruss. kadegis (juniper) indicate the Indo-European status of the kadru or kedara tree. But which tree was known as kadru or kedara: Juniper or pine? Both of them were present in India then.


The Old Church Slavonic word kadilo means ‘incense’ (Pokorny: 537). This indicates that the original kedara was juniper, because it is the juniper whose wood is used as incense-wood for Vedic rituals in Nepal and many parts of north India. The Indian Himalayan tree Deodar which is a pine, has been given the scientific name Cedrus deodara. The genus name Cedrus too is a cognate of Sankrit kadru and kedara. In our view, the ancient Indian kedara was juniper.



Kikkar (Acacia)


Kikkar, kīkara (Hindi, Punjabi etc Acacia arabica tree), Proto-Indo-Aryan *kikkara (CDIAL 3151). It is possible that the word kīkaa used in the Rig-Veda, describing region where “cows did not yield much milk” refers to a region where the kīkara plant grew in plenty. This region has been identified as Magadha (South Bihar and Jharkhand), and this tree grows as wild weed in plenty in Jharkhand and South Bihar. The Sanskrit word kińkarāla meaning the same plant Acacia may be the Sansktized form of the Proto-Indo-Aryan word *kikkara.


Pokorny preferred not to include the Indo-Aryan cognates in this list. Thus he gives the cognates as:


PIE k̂ik̂er- pea (Pokorny: 598); Armenian siseṙn (chickpea); Greek-Macedonian kikerroi, Greek krios (chickpea) <*kikrios; Lat. cicer (chickpea); Lith. keke (grape), Ltv. k”ekars (shine), Ltv. k”eḱis (umbels like cumin, coriander; grape),  Lithuanian and Latvian cekulis (flamingo plant, tassel, jute, tussock grass), cecers (frizzy hair); Czech  čečeřiti (to make shaggy or frizzy); Albanian (*k”ekar) kokër (grain, bean).


The kikkar (Acacia) fruits are legumes like the chickpeas, and both belong to the same family Leguminoecea. Acacia’s inflorescence is umbel, hence Latvian k”eḱis (umbel). Its flowers look like tassel or spike of tussock grass (hence Latvian cekulis tussock grass). Thus we find that it is the Acacia plant which has some feature in common with the rest in the group. Hence the original meaning tree was Acacia


Mulberry (Morus)


Mulberry is a sub-Himalayan Indian tree which has also been traditionally grown in China and Japan. With the silk trade the tree has spread to Central Asia, Near East, Spain, North and East Africa, South Europe and the Americas.[7] It was never grown, nor even known, in the steppe. Therefore philological evidence for the presence of mulberry in the Indo-European homeland proves beyond doubt that the place of origin of the IE languages was in the India, and certainly rules out the steppe. 


There are at least two possible PIE reconstructions for the mulberry tree. Presence of reconstructable PIE root means the IE homeland was at a place where mulberry grew. One is *moro of Pokorny, and the other *brahma (of this author).


Pokorny’s Eurocentric bias becomes obvious when we note that he does not give the meaning ‘mulberry’ for the PIE *moro-, but gives instead the ‘blackberry’. He also omits the Sanskrit word madhura-vka (mulberry, lit. ‘sweet tree’; CDIAL 14733) from the list of the cognate words of *moro-. He proposes that the cognates (of *moro-) originally meant the ‘blackberry’, however they acquired the additional meaning ‘mulberry’ on arrival to South Europe, where mulberry was found (Pokorny:749). However, archaeobotany tells us that the mulberry was not found in Europe when the arrival of the IE speakers to South Europe took place. In Latin there are two words, morus means only mulberry, however mōrum means ‘mulberry’ and ‘blackberry’ both (Valpi: 271). Hence it is the ‘blackberry’ to which the name was applied later and the *moro- was originally the name of the ‘mulberry’ tree, which was before the silk-trade, a tree confined to India and China.


The English word ‘mulberry’, Welsh merwydden (mulberry), French murier (mulberry), Old High German mōrbere (mulberry) point out to the fact that PIE *moro- was philologically ‘mulberry’ not the ‘blackberry’.


PIE moro- (blackberry, as per Pokorny; mulberry[8]; Pokorny:749); Sanskrit madhura-vka (mulberry-tree; not in Pokorny’s list, however Turner notes it: CDIAL 14733); Armenian mor, mori, moreni (blackberry); Gk. moron (μρον, mulberry, blackberry); Welsh merwydden (mulberry); Lat. mōrum  (mulberry, blackberry), Spanish morera (mulberry), French murier (mulberry); O.H.G. mūr-, mōrbere, M.H.G. mūlber (mulberry); Lith. mõras (mulberry). An Indian tree Artocarpus lacucha, which belongs to the mulberry family (Moraceae) and has identical fruits and leaves to the mulberry, is called madar in Assamese and Bengali  languages (CDIAL 9849; madhura>madāra).


Fraxinus or Ash Tree


The Frāxinus tree (Latin, ash-tree) which is a first class firewood and burns with bright light with little smoke, has been considered present at the PIE stage by the name *bherəĝ- or *bhrēĝ- (Pokorny:139-140), which is a clear cognate of the Rig-Vedic word bhgu, which was a group of men specializing in lighting, burning and preserving fire (RV 1.58.6; 6.15.2).


Clearly the Rig-Vedic bhgu- must have been named after this tree’s name which is one of the best firewood. In the Rig-Veda the word bhgu has been used in the context of car (ratha) building (RV 4.16.20), indicating that the same specialists could also make carts from this wood. It is known that not the wheel of cars, but the bodies of cars were built from this wood in Europe because of the flexibility of the wood. Obviously, when the tree became extinct in India, the particular tree, as the meaning of the term, was lost, and the word bhgu came to be remembered only for the specialists who worked with this wood. The English word ‘bright’ is the cognate of bhgu. Hence we need to fix the date of the Rig-Veda before 4000 BC, after which this tree was not found in the northwest India.



CDIAL: A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages. See Turner.

RV Rig-Veda,

TS Taittiriya Samhita




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[1] accessed 28 May 2013.

[2] Goden Willow , accessed 30 May 2013.

[3] All accessed 28 May 2013

[4] Golden Willow in Pakistan:


[5] vetas (willow) is the flower of the waters. Here the context is that of the golden willow.

[6] Koenraad Elst,

[7] Sanchez, M.D., World Distribution and Utilization of Mulberry, Potential for Animal Feeding, Food and Agriculture Organization document, Electronic Conference on Mulberry for Animal Production.

[8] Pokorny gives meaning ‘blackberry’ which cannot be supported on the basis of available philological material, and ‘mulberry’ should be the meaning of the PIR root-word.