- Paperback: 568 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (August 15, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 069114818X
- ISBN-13: 978-0691148182
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 146 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World Paperback – August 15, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In this study of language, archeology and culture, Hartwick College anthropology professor Anthony hypothesizes that a proto-Indo-European culture emerged in the Ponto-Caspian steppes 4,000 years ago, speaking an ur-language ancestor to the Romance, German and Slavic family of languages, Sanskrit and modern English. Citing discoveries in the Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan made possible only after the fall of the Iron Curtain brought together Soviet and western scientists, Anthony combines evidence from radioactive dating, demographic analysis of migration patterns, linguistic analysis and the study of epics such as the Iliad and the Rig Veda to substantiate his contention. Central to his thesis is the role of the horse, originally domesticated for food and first ridden to manage herds; only later, with the development of the chariot, were they ridden during combat. Anthony provides a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of his subject, complete with a history of relevant research over the past two centuries (including evidence and opinion that counter his own, such as the now-discredited Aryan race hypothesis). A thorough look at the cutting edge of anthropology, Anthony's book is a fascinating look into the origins of modern man.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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
"A key book."--David Keys, Independent
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Top customer reviews
I wish I could say the book's style is as good as its idea. However, once past the first few chapters, the idea bogs down in a welter of sometimes conflicting evidence from several sites whose names and relative dates I couldn't remember. Instead of photographs, archaeological drawings and maps are used, which convey little to the layman. For example, there are many line drawings of pots and tools in cross section, where photos would have communicated much more. The technical lingo is equally daunting: the mouth-breaking phrase "Proto-Indo-European" is about the simplest. Instead of a popular science book, it turns into a doctoral thesis.
What Anthony's idea needs is a popularizer, something akin to Isaac Asimov explaining physics. I look forward eagerly to reading THAT book.
It's been nearly a decade since the author published this book. In that time, the book has received considerable praise and some detraction, and is credited for the Kurgan Hypothesis revision. Additional evidence, genetic and otherwise, has confirmed the author's speculations -- at least confirmed as much as is possible with 5000 years of separation and minimal evidence.
I've minimal disagreement with most of the author's speculations and conclusions, and his arguments have weathered time and improved technology well. I understand the need for rehash and documentation which seems to have annoyed many layman readers. I found several "explanations" humorous, especially the author's petulance on the subject of the "first use of the chariot" (and his numerous "jibes" after initial explanations). I felt the author somewhat "hidebound" when he so quickly passed off the benefits of genetics -- it appears that acceptance of linguistics into archaeology and anthropology doesn't always open the doors to newer fields and technology.
There are so many questions yet unanswered, others to be refined. Genetics will be one key, as it provides physical evidence as does grave site remains. What cultural imperatives drove these Steppe people, people that went from hunter/gatherers along forested areas to Steppe herdsmen, to becoming the primary language and culture over so much of Eurasia? How were they organized and in what numbers? What happened between the speculated diaspora from the Steppes to recorded history?
Several of these questions are being researched -- no doubt more will be over time. As someone with interest in genetic genealogy and cultural anthropology, I hope the wait for answers won't be too long...
Mr. Anthony begins the book with an argument regarding the reconstruction of a dead language lacking any written record. It might seem highly doubtful, but the process of regression from written 'daughter' languages (now spoken by half of the world's population) finally convinces me that if not proven, it is, at least, a working hypothesis which can aid in dating various cultural innovations, migrations, developments, borrowings, and the like. The book is now 10 years old; the author makes clear that at publication, the hypothesis was not universally accepted.
And, in fact, most of the book is given over to citing the material (archeologic finds) evidence of the various 'peoples' of the steppes and the adjoining ‘cultures’ to show such dynamics and tie them to the evolution of (and from) the Proto-Indo-European language into the languages spoken by those in the West. If you are so inclined, you can spend quite a bit of time learning (or at least reading about) the nuances separating those who might decorate the pottery with cord impressions or comb impressions or perhaps those who “temper” (never explained; I presume ‘alloyed’) their clay with shells particles or other contaminants (why is also never explained).
Regardless, I bought the book as a result of the cover blurb:
“How Bronze Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the Modern World”
If you are tempted to buy the book based on that, do not do so; the claim is never directly addressed in the book. Or even indirectly.
There is no claim or evidence that the (hypothesized, origin) language alone had identifiable enduring effects. Certainly the invention of the wheel was seminal to Western development, and not a universal human invention (no New World civilization happened upon it), but there is nothing to show it was invented by the steppe riders as opposed the Old Europe sedentarists. Horse domestication was clearly disruptive to the local cultures and probably an innovation of the steppe peoples, but there is scant evidence ‘shaped the modern world’. The chariot was in all likelihood developed by the riders, but it was merely one advanced weapon until superseded by cavalry armed with compound bows; the next advanced weapon.
For context (prior reading), I’d recommend:
English: Meaning and Culture
Empires of the Silk Road
The overlap is somewhat limited, but both do a better job of addressing this book's cover blurb.
And as an continuing gripe, having read other archeological tomes, I'd like to add this suggestion to the (various) authors:
LEARN HOW TO COMMUNICATE YOUR FINDINGS GRAPHICALLY!
We'll pick the illustration on page 372, showing a settlement's peripheral defenses, with some arbitrary gray lines tossed in here and there for reasons that must be amusing to the author, but help the reader in no way to see which way is 'outside or 'inside''. The illustrations regarding the horse dentition are equally confusing.
For pete's sake, what high school kids learn as a sophomore can't be hard for you to learn:
"Basic Drafting: A Manual for Beginning Drafters" https://www.amazon.com/Basic-Drafting-Manual-Beginning-Drafters/dp/1412096766/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493647842&sr=1-2&keywords=drafting+book
Get with it!