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The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World Hardcover – December 9, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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"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
"A key book."--David Keys, Independent
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Top Customer Reviews
It starts off great with Part I, which is an excellent explanation of the linguistic questions associated with Proto-Indo-European. Anthony offers the latest results clearly and thoroughly. Unfortunately, Part I is only 120 pages long. Part II, 340 pages long, is the real meat of the book. And while Part II has lots of merit, it's not at all what the title or the subtitle suggest. Part II is best summarized as "A thorough summation of the archaeological results from the areas thought to be the homeland of the Proto Indo-European peoples". Here the author departs substantially from the subject matter as suggested by the title, subtitle, and Part I. We are subjected to endless detailed descriptions of archaeological digs all over southern Russia and Siberia. We are told (many times) what the percentage of sheep/goat bones, cattle bones, and horse bones were at every site. We are told the direction in which the bodies were placed in burial, how many flint tools of each type were found, and other details that are surely appropriate for a compendium of archaeological results, but not for the larger synthesis promised by the title and subtitle.
I will concede that the author does thread a larger narrative through the endless site reports. There's a section, for example, on "The Economic and Military Effects of Horseback Riding", which explains the impressive idea that the real impact of horseback riding was that it made it possible for nomads to travel further from the river valleys while grazing their animals.Read more ›
Anthony argues that persistent material culture frontiers tend to coincide with linguistic frontiers. This suggests that a well-bordered material culture horizon ("horizon" being an identifiable pattern regarding archaeological finds) would be home to one or more languages which would be, for the most part, contained within it (or at least it would be bounded on all sides by other languages). However, since this methodology is not fully accepted yet, and since even if accepted it does not provide a 1:1 correlation of language and culture, this work should be read critically. Furthermore, a number of his conclusions appeared to me sufficiently tentative that they could not be accepted without question. This work thus needs to be read as a groundbreaking (and thus somewhat tentative) work rather than a fully authoritative account.
However, despite the above issues, his proposed mappings of Indo-European language groups to archaeological horizons work surprisingly well. In some cases, the mappings seem to be hard to dispute.
I am going to disagree with a number of other reviewers on the value of minutae in the book. While it is true that the book seems to get repetitive at times regarding goat to sheep ratios, horse to cattle ratios, burrial types, etc. there is a great deal of value in providing this information.Read more ›
"Shaping the modern world" is largely limited to asserting that the occupants of the steppes spoke a Proto-Indo-European language and that subsequent speakers of Indo-European languages, like English, Latin, Russian and Hindi, have shaped the modern world. Also, they probably domesticated the horse. The book is definitely not a sweeping analysis of influences from the late Neolithic or Bronze Age to the present day.
What it is, as other reviewers have pointed out, is really two works in one--an introduction to Indo-European historical linguistics and also a review of archaeology in southern Russia from the Neolithic through the Late Bronze Age. Naturally, the link is that the theorized homeland of the Proto-Indo-European speakers is the steppes of southern Russia between the Black and Caspian Seas, the Pontic-Caspian steppes.
Like most reviewers, I think it does cover its two main topics well, and it makes a plausible case for the location of the homeland. Although trained as an archaeologist, Anthony provides a readable account of the development of early Indo-European languages and their theorized source, Proto-Indo-European. That is the first quarter of the book. The remainder is devoted to a detailed survey of current archaeological knowledge of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages in the Pontic-Caspian steppes and surrounding areas. It's pretty dense reading at times.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is way to technical for the average reader. Deals to much around excavations and findings with technical jargon that is wasted on the average well-educated reader.Published 16 hours ago by Jose
I found this book to be very informative and entertaning. The linguistic connections with the archaeology are fascinating, although I am skeptical about how much of... Read morePublished 10 days ago by David L. Johnson
Deeply technical, but necessarily so. This is a fine argument for the Caspian/Pontic origin of Indo-european language and culture, one I find satisfying and convincing. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Matthew Jobin - author of The Nethergrim Series
An essential book for anyone who would understand the most important formative influences
on Bronze- and Iron-age Europe, in clouding the origin of the Khaxars.
I don't buy many physical books, but I'm very happy that I purchased this one. I will read it again and again. Dr. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Martha in Hou
The author is an archeologist who brings together material from his own field and from historical linguistics, to tell the fascinating story of the ancient people who, according to... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Leo Felix
The first half on how our knowledge of Proto-Indo-European was obtained I found very easy to follow and most enlightening. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Rod Harries
In chapter 4 and loving this book. I like how it ties in ideas about language evolution and human migration/culture.Published 7 months ago by drjps