37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The origins of proto-Indo-European in some detail.
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...
Published on 21 April 2008 by Andrew Mitchell
61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but long-winded and lacks anthropolgical descriptions
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...
Published on 11 Jan 2010 by Wilmington
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The origins of proto-Indo-European in some detail.,
This review is from: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World (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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite the book to end all argument,
This review is from: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World (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. This leaves him constantly flitting between using culture or using language to describe the same thing, even within one sentence - pretty much an archaeological (and scientific) no-no. I just wish that he could have separated the two. This would have better helped him both to make his case and to see the flaws in it. More than anything else this will cause the book to date as new evidence becomes available.
61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but long-winded and lacks anthropolgical descriptions,
This review is from: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World (Hardcover)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. Instead of comparing pottery styles, that are obviously not related to ethnicity and language as he explains many times in the first part of the book, I wish he could have compared body height and built, head shape, facial and cranial morphology, hair colour, and so on. He doesn't do it because he thinks that Indo-European languages spread almost exclusively through cultural contact and elite dominance, rather than through substantial migrations (this is stated in the last pages chapter 6 and in chapter 14). I am surprised that he would still hold such a position in 2007, when Y-DNA haplogroups had already clearly established a undeniable genetic connection (namely the dominance of haplogroups R1a and R1b) between all the Indo-European speakers from Western Europe to South Asia. Anthony does not mention genetic studies once, except to say in chapter 6 that the flow of Y chromosome was very low at English/Welsh border so that the two regions contrasted in gene pools. This is not even correct; there is a clinal east-west gradation from Wales to East Anglia, and Y-DNA is western England is about as much Celtic as Germanic.
I do not want to sound too negative. The book is interesting, especially for those with little prior knowledge about Indo-European studies. It can however be long-winded, both in the archaeological descriptions (use more data tables and less prose, please) and the tedious way in which he is defending things that hardly controversial any more, like the value of historical linguistics or the geographic location of the Indo-European homeland. I already agreed with all that before opening the book, so I found it was pointless and irrelevant for me.
The author makes some interesting analogies between Neolithic Europe and Native Americans and Africans. But he is obviously not a linguist and makes basic mistakes in his European examples. The French pronunciation of "cent" is not "sohnt" (p. 25). The final "t" is silent and it sounds more like "san" than "sohn" ("sohn" is how SaŰne, the river, is pronounced). It may sound trifle, but it is not when the example is used to compare the evolution of the pronunciation of the Indo-European word for "hundred". Similarly, but about history this time, Anthony writes (p. 106) : "After the fall of Rome German speakers moved into the northern cantons of Switzerland, and the Gallic kingdom of Burgundy occupied what had been Gallo-Roman western Switzerland. The frontier between them still separates ecologically similar regions within the modern state that differ in language (German-French), religion (Protestant-Catholic), architecture, the size and organization of landholdings, and the nature of the agricultural economy." This is wrong on many levels. Burgundy was a Germanic kingdom, not a Gallic one. Protestantism doesn't date from the 6th century, but the 16th century ! The Catholic-Protestant border is not between French and German speakers. French-speaking Swiss are Protestant, while their neighbours in France are Catholic. German-speaking Swiss are both Protestant and Catholic, depending on the canton, and most South Germans and Austrians are Catholic, like the French. The cultural differences are sometimes stronger between France and French-speaking Switzerland than between French- and German-speaking Swiss. The architecture looks Swiss everywhere in Switzerland. This is the kind of little details that I noted all along the first part of the book which tend to discredit a bit Anthony. Apart from that this book is still worth reading if you want to learn the basics about the Indo-European homeland and its archaeology. But keep in mind that you won't learn anything on the topic related to genetics or anthropology.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful intellectual adventure in archaeology and linguistics,
This review is from: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World (Paperback)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.)
Second, a series of stunning technological inventions increased their mobility and speed over unprecedented ranges. Not only did the wheel make its appearance, but so did the wagon and eventually the chariot. This reinforced PIE economic power and, particularly with the chariot and the newly acquired ability to ride horses instead of just eating them, made them a formidable military power as well. They were able to protect themselves as well as raid others and then beat a hasty escape. The need to protect herds also enhanced the status of male warriors. Finally, as their herds grew to enormous proportions, PIE sought new grazing areas, spurring further spreading west, northwest, and southeast.
Third, according to Kennedy, PIE developed a political system based on 2 customs that enabled them to incorporate local peoples relatively peacefully, with the adoption of PIE dialects and intermarriage eventually mixing the populations. On the one hand, with their wealth and economic system, PIE developed client-master relations with locals, in effect incorporating them into a lower rank of their hierarchy. This was accomplished to their mutual advantage, trading prosperity for peace and stability. On the other hand, there was a system of guest-host relations, also to promote peace and sharing, in particular in feasts given by PIE to prove the superiority of their economic-agricultural system. In this way, over thousands of years, PIE dialects spread to autochtons as they were absorbed into a quasi-political order. Though Anthony did not quite prove to my satisfaction that this was accomplished without depending on a great deal on warfare, I admit it is possible it happened non-violently.
By 3200 BC or so, the PIE had created a gigantic diaspora of related but independent regions. With the perfection of bronze smelting, the relative uniformity of the many groups facilitated trade, initiating an unprecedented era of prosperity that lasted through 2000 years, to the iron age. It was during this time that PIE split into Celtic, Italic, Germanic, Indo-Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic groupings (to name a few!), eventually leading to the modern languages that a full 70% of the world speaks today. This is absolutely wonderful stuff for the brain, a rare intellectual adventure. You can also gain a deep understanding of the Bronze Age, though little of the culture can be known with any specificity. It is also a primer on historical linguistics, lucidly written, that examines the structure of PIE languages; for example, its grammar is elaborately structured to reflect time and action, which is not the case with other basic root languages (Hopi, for example, incorporates one's assessment of the accuracy of a source of information into its grammar, shaping thought in an entirely different way).
That being said, this is a very academic book. THere are long passages where seemingly obscure points are proven. They can be tedious to the uninitiated and easily skipped. For myself, I dislike long descriptions of graves and pottery shards, of which there are very many; the same goes for the linguistic reconstruction of PIE, which necessitates long discussions of word roots and their evolution into modern usages. Of course, to be scientific, these arguments must be made. To his credit, Anthony always brings the reader back to remind us of where he is going and what it means, which make the book a consistent pleasure.
I recommend this book with the greatest enthusiasm. It is also beautifully written and has plenty of personal observations, such as his efforts with his wife to prove that horses were ridden by gauging wear on horse's teeth, that are funny and instructive.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour de Force,
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant,
This review is from: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World (Paperback)if you need to find out that our linguistic ancestors sacrificed dogs at the winter solstice then this is for you - and an amazing ancient take on the horsemeat-eating scandal!. An absolutely fascinating joy to read, but some parts aren't easy and require a lot of concentration - but worthwhile learning usually does! I feel happier and more grounded in my own glorious history afrer reading this.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conclusive placing of the Urheim,
fished and gathered local herbs.
The book gives solid overviews of linguistic facts as well as archaeological, not the least because the author has gone deeply into original Soviet and Russian excavation reports,inclduing a discussion of C14 dates. Based on this Anthony achieves a sometimes surprisingly close fit between the two sorts of facts. In doing so he draws on the most recent archaological and anthropological theories of culture change, migration and language change.
In addition there are up to date discussions of nomadism, domestication of the horse (Anthony has done primary research here), and the beginning of horse riding and the use of chariots.
The book is well documented science, and any serious student of the subject, as well as any interested and motivated amateur should be able to read it. For those neither lingusts nor archaeologists the book gives a good insight in the methods.
It is not the final book on the spread and development of Indo-European, it only goes to a point; it discusses the spread from the 'Urheim', but not the further spread into Europe, India and the Middle East, but it does tell other workers, where to start. We may hope to see morer works on this, as
well written and researched as this, e.g. on how the Italic, Celtic, Germanic and Balto-Slavish branches moved to the areas and cultures, where we find them at the dawn of written history and how to explain the complicated relationship between them.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A foundation course,
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly detailed and concise,
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and very readable summary,
This review is from: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World (Paperback)I have been reading books about this period/ this subject for a few years now. Amongst them I have read specific books on the Hittites and Colin Renfrew's book on the Indo-Europeans. But this one is without doubt the best I have read so far. The clarity! The detail (without being overdetailed)! It is a great read. Not to be read all at once (by me) but in bite-sized chunks. I can highly recommend it to anyone interested in this period.
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The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony (Paperback - 26 July 2010)