University of Sheffield, U.K.
Abstract. In my contribution, I evaluate Richard Indreko's hypothesis about the origin and settlement of the Finno-Ugrian peoples in the light of contemporary archaeological and genetic evidence. First, I consider the intellectual and political context of Indreko's original publication, and discuss the weaknesses of the culture historical approach and the normative concept of culture, which provided the conceptual framework within which Indreko operated. I then go on to compare and evaluate Indreko's original hypothesis against three other hypotheses relating to the original homeland and dispersal of Finno-Ugrian speakers in the light of most recent archaeological and genetic findings. I conclude that Indreko's original model remains alive and thought-provoking, but untested. Modern archaeological assessment of his hypotheses leads inevitably to the conclusion that archaeological evidence is far too multifaceted and complex to be simply interpreted as representing group identity such as ethnicity. Equally, prehistoric archaeology alone cannot prove linguistic hypotheses, although it can provide secondary, supporting or contradicting evidence. All suggestions that identify archaeological cultures with specific ethnic or linguistic groups must retain the status of speculative hypotheses of relative veracity until a carefully considered combination of archaeological, genetic and linguistic data are brought to bear upon them in a methodologically sophisticated assessment.
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