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The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World Hardcover – 9 Dec 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (9 Dec. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691058873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691058870
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16.4 x 3.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 613,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Winner of the 2010 Book Award, Society for American Archaeology

"David W. Anthony argues that we speak English not just because our parents taught it to us but because wild horses used to roam the steppes of central Eurasia, because steppedwellers invented the spoked wheel and because poetry once had real power. . . . Anthony is not the first scholar to make the case that Proto-Indo-European came from this region [Ukraine/Russia], but given the immense array of evidence he presents, he may be the last one who has to.... The Horse, the Wheel, and Language brings together the work of historical linguists and archaeologists, researchers who have traditionally been suspicious of each other's methods. [The book] lays out in intricate detail the complicated genealogy of history's most successful language."--Christine Kenneally, The New York Times Book Review

"[A]uthoritative . . . "--John Noble Wilford, New York Times

"A thorough look at the cutting edge of anthropology, Anthony's book is a fascinating look into the origins of modern man."--Publishers Weekly (Online Reviews Annex)

"In the age of Borat it may come as a surprise to learn that the grasslands between Ukraine and Kazakhstan were once regarded as an early crucible of civilisation. This idea is revisited in a major new study by David Anthony."--Times Higher Education

"Starting with a history of research on Proto-Indo-Europeans and exploring how this field for obvious reasons assumed an ethno-political dimension early on, leading PIE scholar Anthony moves on to established facts . . . then shifts his focus to the interrelation of the three essential elements of horse, chariot, and language and how the first and second provided the means for the spread of Indo-European languages from India to Ireland. The bulk of the book contains the factual evidence, mainly archaeological, to support this argument. But a strength of the book is its rich historical linguistic approach. The combination of the two provides a remarkable work that should appeal to everyone with an interest not just in Indo-Europeans, but in the history of humanity in general."--K. Abdi, Dartmouth College, for CHOICE

"David Anthony's book is a masterpiece. A professor of anthropology, Anthony brings together archaeology, linguistics, and rare knowledge of Russian scholarship and the history of climate change to recast our understanding of the formation of early human society."--Martin Walker, Wilson Quarterly

"The Horse, the Wheel, and Language brings together the work of historical linguists and archaeologists, researchers who have traditionally been suspicious of each other's methods. Though parts of the book will be penetrable only by scholars, it lays out in intricate detail the complicated genealogy of history's most successful language."--Christine Kenneally, International Herald Tribune

"The Horse, the Wheel and Language maps the early geography of the Russian steppes to re-create the lost world of Indo-European culture that is as fascinating as any mystery novel."--Arthur Krim, Geographical Reviews

"In its integration of language and archaeology, this book represents an outstanding synthesis of what today can be known with some certainty about the origin and early history of the Indo-European languages. In my view, it supersedes all previous attempts on the subject."--Kristian Kristiansen, Antiquity

From the Back Cover

"If you want to learn about the early origins of English and related languages, and of many of our familiar customs such as feasting on holidays and exchanging gifts, this book provides a lively and richly informed introduction. Along the way you will learn when and why horses were domesticated, when people first rode horseback, and when and why swift chariots changed the nature of warfare."--Peter S. Wells, author of The Battle that Stopped Rome

"A very significant contribution to the field. This book attempts to resolve the longstanding problem of Indo-European origins by providing an examination of the most relevant linguistic issues and a thorough review of the archaeological evidence. I know of no study of the Indo-European homeland that competes with it."--J. P. Mallory, Queen's University, Belfast


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By King Pendrawr on 1 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
Since the 1980s David Anthony has been an expert on Balkan and Steppe Archaeology, as well as working on the origins of horse riding. This is his Magnum Opus. I doubt that you'll see its like (certainly from him) again.

And what a work! By covering almost every angle he manages to get, as far as anyone can, to the root of Indo-European origins with his discussion of horses, wheels, wool and chariots. The first half of the book is a gripping roller coaster, fascinating to anybody who has an interest in Proto-Indo-European, its age(s) and place(s). The argument presented essentially backs up the "Ukrainian steppe pastoralist" origin story of Marija Gimbutas, while doing its best to demolish (quite effectively) the current alternative , Colin Renfrew's "Turkish original farmer" origin story.

However, after an interesting chapter on the origins of horse-riding, the second half of the book is a painstaking blow by blow account of the archaeology of steppe cultures between 5000 and 2000 BC. Even for an obsessive like me I struggle not to fall asleep while reading it. Ultimately it is aimed at academics who argue against the steppe origins of Indo-Iranian and Tocharian. Unless you're up with those arguments it will bore you to tears. To be fair Prof Anthony never professed to making a block-buster, just to making his case. All the same, the book's title should really have been subtitled "how bronze age riders from the Eurasian steppe shaped Western and Central Asia".

However, my major issue with the book is that Prof Anthony (like Jim Mallory) does not seem to be able to see the world from outside his own argument. He believes, almost religiously, that Andronovo culture = Indo-Iranian language. Sure it's a reasonable case but it's a long long way from being proved.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Mitchell on 21 April 2008
Format: Hardcover
A very detailed and convincing book that almost certainly explains the origins of proto-Indo-European people and languages in the Pontic Ukraine. All links to surrounding cultures and languages and their links to PIE are discussed in minute detail. This is a very thick book which needs to be read twice to really understand fully. The only critisism is that Anthony does not summarise or give enough maps to help the quick reader, but there are enough maps and illustrations to provide detail to the dedicated reader with an interest in PIE.

Essentially the Northern Black Sea was the source of a steppe people who had first mastery of horses wagons and later chariots and copper smelting all of which gave them advantages over neighbouring peoples. PIE slowly spread over time through a combination of assimilation domination and conquests, using PIE as a type of networking language. The steppes initially provided a fast means to transmit that culture with the aid of the horse, and the Steppes had a unique advantage of having access to the 4 origins of civilisation in the Balkans the Middle East, Eurasia and China. More detail is given to the Eastern PIE peoples like the Tocharians and Indo-Iranians, than to the origins of European languages.
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67 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Wilmington on 11 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I had long been interested in the spread of Indo-European languages, and wanted to know more about the lifestyle in the Indo-European homeland of the Eurasian steppe, and confront it with other contemporary cultures in Europe and the Middle East. David Anthony does a good job at reviewing the archaeological evidence for the steppe culture, the North Caucasus, Central Asia, the Carpathians and East Balkans, but does not explain how people lived in other regions where IE languages spread, not even nearby Anatolia.

I would have liked to see a review of the archaeological sites of the Unetice, Tumulus and Urnfield cultures of Central Europe (the forerunners of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures), so as to determine how Proto-Celtic cultures related to the steppe cultures. Unfortunately there isn't a single mention of any of them, even though the author spends two whole chapters to discuss the Central Asian cultures of the same period (Andronovo, Sintashta, Bactria-Margiana). I don't suppose I am the only European reader more interested in the Italo-Celtic and Germanic branches of Indo-European civilization than in the Indo-Iranian one.

One of my main interest was to compare the anthropological features of steppe people with those of territories supposedly invaded by the Indo-Europeans. I chose this book because its author is a professor of anthropology (and not archaeology or linguistics). I was very disappointed as Pr. Anthony does not give any anthropometric measurement of the skeletons in the sites studied, apart from a brief and very basic distinction between wide-faced and low-skulled steppe people and the narrow-faced high-skulled people of Old Europe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 27 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though this is a book that advances a highly complex set of academic arguments - that the spread of proto-indo-european languages was not accomplished by violence, that linguistic methods can supplement the physical evidence to pinpoint its origins and fundamental splits - it is also highly readable for interested laymen. I myself cannot judge his ideas against the evidence, but I learned an immense amount about the transition from the late neolithic to the bronze ages, where a single population divided and moved into both Europe and S Asia, disseminating a root language, technologies, a new economic and agricultural system, and finally an innovative socio-political system. The essence of Anthony's argument, in my reading, is that all these interacted to produce a relatively peaceful expansion.

First, in 5500 BC, the proto-indo-europeans (PIE) were small bands of foragers based in the Pontic-Caspian riverrain and seaside regions. While neolithic agricultural techniques were spreading, PIE adopted herding techniques of grass-eating species, enabling them to convert previously useless steppe grasses into animal protein. This vastly increased their range of potential living spaces. Horses, in particular, represented a good food source: they could paw through snow to grass, rather than depend on their noses like sheep, which preferred to starve than scrape their tender snozes as winter wore on. This hugely increased their wealth and nutritional options, expanding their population, prestige, and power. In this way, they became a significant cultural force. (Interestingly, it appears that 2 offshoots - the Hittite language groups and the Tocharians - split off prior to this, around 4500-4000 BC.
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