Kalevi Wiik: ”Where did European men come from?”

(Journal of Genetic Genealogy 4/2008, pages 35-85)

Jaakko Häkkinen
(8. November 2008)



I shall briefly discuss the major methodological problems concerning the views of Kalevi Wiik. Wiik’s presentation is mainly focused on genetics, but he still draws some linguistical conclusions from the material.

Wiik writes (page 82):
”It is a commonly accepted idea that the languages of the “ancient mammoth hunters” of northeastern Europe and northwestern Siberia were Finno-Ugric. It is possible that all these men occupied the entire northernmost zone of Europe during the LGM and the period after it. The populations had a common subsistence system and they were genetically homogeneous: they were mammoth hunters and their main Y-chromosome haplogroup was N3.”

Firstly, it is not commonly accepted idea that the languages of the ancient mammoth hunters were Finno-Ugric – this idea is accepted only by Wiik and his proponents. The common proto-language of the Finno-Ugric languages, Proto-Uralic, is 10 000 years younger than the LGM (Last Glacial Maximum). Of course Proto-Uralic had predecessor at the time of LGM, but there is no reason to assume that this pre-proto-language ever covered the whole of Northeastern Europe and Northwestern Siberia.

All the present-day Uralic languages are descendants of Proto-Uralic, which can be dated with the help of Late Proto-Indo-European loanwords to be some 6 000 years old (at most). Uralic expansion has occurred only after this, and it must have started from a narrow ”homeland” – every language spreads initially from a narrow homeland. Furthermore, the languages of Central and Northern Europe prior to Uralic expansion were clearly non-Uralic. So there is no linguistic evidence to support Wiik’s view – his only argument is the genetic paternal lineage N3, as if language would be inherited in genes!

Secondly, there really is no reason to speak about N3 at the time of LGM. According to all newer datings this lineage is less than 10 000 years old (See Rootsi et al. 2006)

Thirdly, the N3-lineage is not so obvious carrier of Uralic expansion (even if we dismiss Wiik’s absurdly early date): it has not been perceived among all the Samoyedic peoples. Actually there doesn’t seem to be a single lineage which could be found among all Uralic-speaking peoples. So we must be careful not to give linguistic labels to the genetic markers.

It is possible that Pre-Proto-Uralic really was present (among some other languages) at the Siberian refuge, but then it cannot have been present at the Ukrainian refuge.

Wiik goes on to the Ukrainian refuge:
”The language of these men may have the same Finno-Ugric language as that of the Siberian refuge; another alternative is that it was Indo-European. The IE branch in question was the East European group consisting of the GBS (Germanic, Baltic, and Slavic) languages. These language spread later (during the recolonization of Northern Europe) to the northern zone then occupied by the FU speakers from the Siberian refuge. The result was a rather strong FU substratum in all the GBS languages.”

Here Wiik has the equally absurd dating for Proto-Indoeuropean: 20 000 years ago there would already have been present only one dialect of Proto-Indo-European! Wiik obviously implies that the cart-related vocabulary, which has regular cognates all over the Indo-European language family and which cannot have emerged before 4000 BC, does not exist. I cannot understand his logic: he ignores all the linguistic evidence and pretends that the genes can tell us what language their carriers spoke!

It would be overestimation to even speak about method here – it is a total lack of scientific method and sound reasoning that we are observing.

Clear evidence for Wiik living on his own planet is his obsession to the claimed Uralic substrate in Germanic. It was ten years ago when this claim was judged as non-substantiated (see sources in Studying the Uralic proto-language), but Wiik still wants to believe in it. Surely a man has right to practice his religion – but we may politely question if the scientific journal is the right forum…

Wiik writes (pages 82-83):
”The men of the Balkan refuge were more likely than those of any other to have spoken an early form of the Indo-European language. The IE language in question would have given rise to the West-European group consisting mainly of the Greek-Italic-Celtic languages. One hypothesis is that IE languages were first brought to Europe by the Early Farmers, displacing what had previously been all non-IE languages, but a more probable scenario is that IE came much earlier with the Haplogroup I men. In either case, the languages of the European Haplogroup I men shifted to the IE languages of the Early Farmers during the Neolithic expansion out of Anatolia. Genetically, the men of the Balkans represent Haplogroup I, which is a further development from the Middle Eastern Haplogroup F.”

We must admit that Wiik surely is consistent with his absurd datings. Furthermore, Balkan actually couldn’t have been Indo-European before the chalcholithic era, because the area swarmed with non-Indo-European languages and cultures. Proto-Indo-European was clearly located in the Pontic-Caspian steppes (See Mallory 1989).

It is great that Wiik has now abandoned the Farming-Indo-Europeans-theory, but quite clearly he missed the point of the critique: he took the wrong direction. Again, Wiik believes that the genes can tell us what language was spoken. I guess the geneticists can hardly wait until Wiik tells them the actual location of the Language Gene in the human Y-chromosome.

Wiik writes (page 83):
”Contrary to the general way of thinking among traditional linguists, it is apparent that language shifts have been common during the time of modern man in Europe, and by comparing the genome and languages one can make detailed assumptions about the language shifts having taken place in Europe.”

Contrary to the general view of Wiik, ”traditionalists” are well aware of the language shifts. It is imbedded in the traditional view (which Wiik doesn’t even understand right), according to which the expansion of every language begins from the narrow ”homeland”. So in all the now-Uralic-speaking areas (except perhaps one) there must have occurred a language shift: these areas were formerly occupied by other languages. The same is also true with all the other expansive language families: Indo-European, Turkic, Semitic, Sinitic etc.

At the end I must warn the English-reading audience that Wiik’s views have null evidence for their support. In Finland (in Finnish and English) his views have been disproved ten years ago, but sadly he is naturally incapable to understand the critique. He believes that if he acts like there doesn’t even exist any linguistic evidence, it really could suddenly disappear and his own views could become more credible. I find this kind of dishonesty most unethical, and that is why I aim to tell the world what Wiik doesn’t want to tell.


Mallory, J.P. 1989:
In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Language, Archaeology and Myth. Thames and Hudson, London / England.

Rootsi, Siiri et al. 2006:
”A counter-clockwise northern route of the Y chromosome haplogroup N from Southeast Asia towards Europe.” European Journal of Human Genetics.




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