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Linguists and archaeologists have used reconstructions of early Indo-European residence strategies to constrain hypotheses about the homeland and trajectory of dispersal of Indo-European languages; however, these reconstructions are largely based on unsystematic and ahistorical use of the linguistic and ethnographic evidence, coupled with substantial bias in interpretation. Here I use cross-cultural data in a phylogenetic comparative framework to reconstruct the pattern of change in residence strategies in the history of societies speaking Indo-European languages. The analysis provides evidence in support of prevailing virilocality with alternative neolocality for Proto-Indo-European, and that this pattern may have extended back to Proto-Indo-Hittite. These findings bolster interpretations of the archaeological evidence that emphasize the “non-matricentric” structure of early Indo-European society; however, they also counter the notion that early Indo-European society was strongly “patricentric.” I discuss implications of these findings in the context of the archaeological and genetic evidence on prehistoric social organization.

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