Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World Paperback – August 15, 2010
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The conclusions of the book are stated clearly in Chapter 17, pages 458-470. (If you don't like pots, bones, mud and horses' teeth that much, you could start with Chapter 17.) First, the author leaves very little doubt that PIE was spoken in the steppes area just north of the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains (illustrated on page 84), and the time-range was about 4500 to 2500 BCE. This contradicts some other theories I have heard (like 7000 BC in Anatolia), but the arguments for the Pontic-Caspian steppes at the later time are overwhelming. (See pages 43-48 for a clear explanation of why an Anatolian origin is not credible.)
Second, it seems to me that the author has made the very persuasive case that the success of the indo-european languages arose initially from some technology developments which gave the PIE speakers great mobility and also great wealth. By combining pastoralism (herding sheep, goats, cattle and horses) with transport by wagons, and the individual mobility and herding efficiency of horseback riding, the PIE speakers were able to build up huge wealth in the form of mobile year-round food (the animals) and various animal products, such as sheep-wool. The steppes area provided huge grasslands to feed the animals, and longer-range mobility meant that the sizes of herds were not limited to the amount of feed within a narrow area. Also, since agricultural and hunter-gatherer people did not use the open plains between the rivers much, there was a very much under-utilized resource which could be exploited. (See pages 461-462.)
But then a third conclusion is that the PIE speakers did not propagate their language group by breeding like rabbits. The language group must have been spread by the "prestige effect", or the "elite dominance" effect. (See page 464.)
Thus the PIE and IE speaking peoples obtained their food and wealth from the steppes, which provided a kind of east-west corridor, perhaps analogous to the way that the Mediterranean provided a corridor for the spread of the Greeks and Phoenicians at a later time. But instead of ships, the PIE speakers had mobile herds, wagons and horses, by which they were able to spread their technology, culture and language along the length and breadth of the Steppes corridor. (The author does not draw any analogy with the Mediterranean, but this seems to be almost implicit.)
There are a hundred other conclusions to be drawn from this book, including many big surprises. I'll resist the temptation to spoil those surprises for you. Perhaps I'll just say that the author mentions numerous historical turning points which were triggered by climate change, particularly when the climate became both cooler and drier. (You can find these in the index under "climate change".)
One of the best things about this book is the very generous provision of maps. There are so many books on archaeology and history which are almost ruined by the lack of maps to make sense of thousands of place-names. This book does not have that fault. If I had to find something negative about this book, it must be the extensive end-notes, which oblige you to keep two markers in the book while reading because so much important material would be missed otherwise. Most of the end-notes could have been incorporated into the main text or included as foot-notes.
Even though this book is not "pop science" (because most casual readers would not be able to cope with so many pots, bones, horses' teeth and grave-maps), it is almost completely self-contained because of the numerous maps and explanations of technical terms. So if you seriously want to know where the Indo-European "439 languages and dialects spoken by about three billion people" came from (to quote wikipedia), this is the book.
Anthony uses evidence from archaeolinguistics, from oft-overlooked Russian steppe archaology, and his (and his wife's) own pioneering work on bit-wear markings in ancient horse teeth to make his case. He cites Native American linguistics and archaeology to help bolster his case when appropriate, along with the well-studied history of British colonization of North America -- and does so quite convincingly.
Anthony writes in a learned, but accessible style with an occasional witticism to keep the text from being overly-dry. Perhaps my only criticism would be his neglecting to compare the spread of Indo-European with that of the Turkic languages across Eurasia -- which was also accomplished wih stunning celerity (in historical terms), and also caused enormous cultural shifts which are still visible today. Perhaps he could do so in the second edition!
The book is concerned not just with language but civilization, in its broadest and least precise interpretation. Technology and the impact of this on the mobility of the peoples using it also figures largely in this reading of linguistic history.
Though not a simple read, it was a very satisfying one.
Recommended for readers of linguistic and ancient history.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.