on 3 March 1999
Archaeology and Language attempts to account for the early history of the Indo-European languages from an archaeologist's viewpoint. Colin Renfrew begins by claiming that archaeologists and linguists have come to accept a mythical view of Indo-European linguistic history, because they have accepted each other's conclusions without verifying them. His new hypothesis is based on a more realistic consideration of the processes that caused language change, and leads to an integrated understanding of European prehistory. In a survey of previous and current research, this book sent me on an armchair journey through vast stretches of time (from 6000BC to the Roman era) and space (across Eurasia from Ireland to India). Renfrew keeps his feet on the ground by constantly referring to the real human events that underlie the grander and more abstract concepts of history.
With little prior knowledge, I understood not only the theory being presented, but also some of the scholarly atmosphere in which archaeologists and linguists work. There are plenty of detailed references for deeper study, but the book works as a self-contained story. The consistency and simplicity of the new model kept me interested until the last page.
on 21 August 2011
It was good to read this classic again. I could not put it down until I had finished and since then have been referring to it frequently in the light of more recent ideas: it lives up to their scrutiny. I did find it repetitive at times, though, as if repetition could somehow give more weight to the hypotheses put forward and, curiously, these suggestions are precisely the book's strength. I recommend it to everyone who has a serious interest in European prehistory from the Neolithic throught to the Iron Age.