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Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins Paperback – January 26, 1990


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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Mr. Renfrew has written this fascinating book to review the subject in general and to advance a revisionist idea about the mode and timing of the Indo-European spread.' Stephen Jay Gould, The New York Times Book Review

'Written for the nonspecialist, this book refreshens the mind with new information, rigorous analysis, scientific scruple, and critical panache.' Thomas D'Evelyn, Christian Science Monitor

'The argument is lively and lucid, and the book deserves a wide readership among specialists and non-specialists alike. It is a daring thesis ... Renfrew is not afraid of dealing with big problems...an attempt to move archaeology forward and to break its isolation ... he has started another of those debates on which progress in archaeology depends.' Richard Bradley, Nature

Book Description

In this book Professor Renfrew directs remarkable new light on the links between archaeology and language, looking specifically at the puzzling similarities that are apparent across the Indo-European family of ancient languages, from Anatolia and Ancient Persia, across Europe and the Indian subcontinent, to regions as remote as Sinkiang in China.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 26, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521386756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521386753
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

In either case, this book is engagingly written and can be understood and enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the subject.
E. Schechter
All of archeology and historical linguistics is glued together with speculation - so, rather than arguing over arcane details it is sometimes good to resort to reason.
Renfrew Fan
Renfrew, however, goes to far in the opposite direction and the work has serious problems, many of which are common to the works of Renfrew's school.
Christopher Culver

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Mayuresh Kelkar on December 19, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book provides an excellent overview of the linguistic issues involved in the Indo-Eurpoean problem. It also rightly claims that migratory theories are mere fantansies. When populations move they must have a reason to do so and they definitely follow some logical processes. The three models postulated by the author for spread of people and/or languages are lot more scientifc than the 19th century invasionst theories.
The author's main thesis is: the Indo-Eurpoean languages have spread all over Europe and Asia from their Urheimat (homeland) in Anatolia (Turkey). He carries his thesis well while describing the spread of languages in Europe and Scandanavia but runs into major problems when dealing with the Indo-Iranian aspect. The present reviwer disagrees with identifying Anatolia as the orginal homeland of Indo-European languages for the following reasons.
1. This is based essentially on the identifcation of the now extinct Hittite as an Indo-European language. The author basically ASSUMES that Hittite must have been spoken in Anatolia as far back as 7000 BCE. However, this assumption is cleary unfounded. The Biblical and Babylonean records , which are largely undisputed, identify Hittite people as relative new comers to the region (around 1500 BCE).
2. Hittie vocabulary has very large proportion of Non Indo-European words which indicate that it was a minor language when it arrived in Anatolia.
3. Comparitive mytholgoy has idenfied many common gods to the Indo-European people. However, the written records found in Hittite mention only one such god Inar (Vedic Indra, Greek Zeus, after Vedic Dayus Pittar)
4. Anatolian Urheimat model runs into major timeline problems with regards to South Asia.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
ARCHAEOLOGY AND LANGUAGE is Colin Refrew's presentation for laymen of the problem of the linguistic affinity of most of the peoples of Europe and ancient Western Asia. Written by a scholar influenced by Britain's current disbelief against historical migrations, Renfrew argues that common linguistic elements spread through the ancient world not through the sudden invasion of a single people, but through the peaceful spread of agriculture out of Anatolia.

On one hand, it is nice to see a challenge to Marija Gimbutas theory, which got increasingly weird the longer she articulated it, that the Indo-Europeans were bloodthirsty patriarchal invaders who swept into matiarchal and peaceful old Europe introducing war. Renfrew, however, goes to far in the opposite direction and the work has serious problems, many of which are common to the works of Renfrew's school. The author has no problem speaking of the occupation of the Carpathian basin by the Magyars, and presumably he believes in recent Turkic migrations, but he refuses to accept migrations in pre-historical times. One of his three points against an South Russian origin is simply "It is a migrationist view." The Indo-Europeans are a people uniquely identified with horsemanship--look at the popularity horses in Greek and Germanic onomastics, and the words for "axle", "yoke", and "horse" itself are common to nearly all branches, so moving over long distances would certainly be within their reach. Yet, Renfrew asserts that there is no evidence that horsemanship was important to ancient speakers of IE languages.

Renfrew is also not a very committed historical linguist.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
Renfrew suggests that the ancient history of Europe may have been much more peaceful than previously supposed, with the Indo-European languages spreading from Anatolia along with the invention of agriculture, rather than being imposed by waves of martial nomadic horsemen from the steppes. But the book made me realize how little we know for sure about these ancient populations -- Renfrew's theories (like those of his colleagues) seem to be largely speculation on the basis of the few physical and linguistic remnants that survive.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 1997
Format: Paperback
Colin Renfrew takes a long time getting to the point here, his point being IE languages could have spread simply as agriculture did so. His points are not compelling. He doesn't do the linguistic footwork necessary to show an origin from the Anatolian plateau. He excludes the Balts entirely from his map of primitive Indo-European peoples. Are we to believe Latvian sprang from the Greek? He DOESN'T do any tracing of crops, much less provide genetic evidence of crop dispersals. The two god things he does get around to actually talking about here: enough of the endless Scythian-Cimmerian-Avar displacements and the almost de rigeur academic nonsense of postulating proto-idioms and then drawing on those fictions for archeological context. He puts the endless calculations of, say, Marija Gimbutas, into a reasonable perspective without demeaning her work. He also convinced me the Scythian semi-nomadic way-of-life spread EAST, not west, which provides some interesting comparisons for me at least between Scythian metal-work and that of modern Tibet, although perhaps I read too much into coincidences of design. An interesting read, but only if you're already interested in Indo-European origins. I really wondered why he didn't mention, amidst all the other criticisms of the historical concept of the Aryans, that the name most certainly means farmer, or more precisely, the guy who ploughs. Geoffrey Vasiliauskas
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