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Lecture | This Time for Africa!

Ethnolinguistic parallels between Indo-Europeans and the traditional Nuer

Friday 12 May 2023
This Time for Africa!
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


There are a number of striking cultural parallels between reconstructed early Indo-European language communities, especially Indo-Iranians, and East African pastoralist societies. As noted already by V. Gordon Childe (1926: 84): “the state of things observed among many of the cow-keeping tribes of the Sudan and other parts of Africa approximates most closely to the primitive Aryan economy.” Bruce Lincoln in his book Priests, warriors and cattle (1981) pointed out compelling parallels between the mythologies of Indo-European groups and the traditional Nuer as described by Evans-Pritchard (1940; 1956). In this talk for TTFA we will compare a number of Nuer and Indo-European societal practices to explore how they can help elucidate certain etymological problems and aid the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European in general.


Childe, Vere Gordon. 1926. The Aryans: a study of Indo-European origins. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.

Evans-Pritchard, Edward Evan. 1940. The Nuer: A description of the modes of livelihood and political institutions of a Nilotic people. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Evans-Pritchard, Edward Evan. 1956. Nuer Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Lincoln, Bruce. 1981. Priests, warriors, and cattle: A study in the ecology of religions. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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