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In Search of the Indo-Europeans Paperback – April 1, 1991

4.1 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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From the Back Cover

With the skill of a forensic scientist, Dr. Mallory traces the immediate origins of each of the Indo-European peoples of Europe and Asia. By comparing their languages he demonstrates their common cultural heritage, and through the technique of comparative mythology he examines their earliest beliefs.

About the Author

J.P. Mallory is an Irish-American archaeologist, a world expert on ancient linguistics, and Emeritus Professor at Queen's University Belfast. He is the author of The Origins of the Irish and In Search of the Indo-Europeans, and coauthor of The Tarim Mummies. He lives in Belfast.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; New edition edition (April 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500276161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500276167
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
IN SEARCH OF THE INDO-EUROPEANS is essential reading for those interested in the people who spoke the ancestor of most tongues of Europe and western Asia. While scholars have carefully reconstructed a proto-language, the identity of its speakers and their geographical origin remain a mystery, and J.P. Mallory shows what is currently thought in the field.

Mallory begins by tracing the historical development of European comparative linguistics, and then examines the various branches of the Indo-European language family first in Asia, then in Europe. However, the most useful portion of the book begins when Mallory attempts to reconstruct as well as one can the actual cultural and social traits of the Indo-Europeans based on the proto-language they spoke. He shows how horses must have been very important within such a culture, asserts that the people must have lived within certain geographical boundaries based on their common vocabulary, and even postulates Proto-Indo-European religious rituals. Unlike Watkin's HOW TO KILL A DRAGON, Mallory does not give much space to concepts of comparative Indo-European poetics.

The last third of Mallory's work is concerned with the Indo-European homeland problem, the eternal conundrum for those who would apply comparative linguistics to actual archaeology. Mallory favours the Russian steppes or Ukraine, as do most scholars, and argues quite well against the usual alternative theory of an Anatolian origin. I felt, however, that his placement of the Indo-Europeans could have been more substantial than it was if he had worked in more evidence of contact with speakers of the Uralic languages.
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Format: Hardcover
Who were the INDO-EUROPEANS? According to British linguist J.P. Mallory, their language was the proto-type of the languages spoken by over 2 billion people today. He also says the Indo-Europeans should not be confused with the `Aryans' claimed to be the progenitors of the Third Reich. Mallory suggests the Indo-Europeans appear to have been a pastoral nomadic group who lived in the Pontic-Caspian region (Steppes of Mother Russia) sometime between the second and fifth millenium BC from whence they diffused.

Mallory employs paleolinguistics to show how several dozen modern languages are descended from a `Proto Indo-European' mother tongue that came to dominate many other languages (not all) of the European-Asian land mass. He uses the work of archeologists to support of his theory. In a nutshell, he mostly disagrees with Colin Renfrew, while mostly agreeing with Marija Gimbutas. Renfrew apparently has posited the idea that the changes archeologists see in the successive layers of excavated sites are the result of internal innovation and successive technological change (folks keep reinventing the wheel), where Gimbutas seems to subscribe to the notion that hostile horse-riding kurgan-building invaders from the steppes mowed down the peaceful matriarchial civilizations of their neighbors. Mallory suggests paleolinguistics supports the idea that the languages of Europe and Asia which resemble each other did not spring up independently of one another and it is not likely that the civilizations that sustained them did either.
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Format: Paperback
j p mallory follows the linguistic, archeological and historical trails in a stringently analytical, yet very readable fashion. The evidence is scattered over many languages, but Mallory appears to be very familiar with the Russian, German, French, English, and other monographs and scholarly articles. His erudition wears well, sprinkled with wit and insight over several hundred pages of close reasoning and informed speculation. Although he agrees essentially with the Gimbutas thesis that the kurgan steppe zone was the PIE homeland, he gives other theses a proper hearing. A book to read and re-read. It is on my night-table and very well-thumbed.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Mallory (who is an Amercan) is the Prof. of Archaeology at Queens University Belfast, and for many seasons has been leading the excavations of Eamhain Macha at Navan, which was the prehistoric capital of the province of Ulster in No. Ireland.
This book is a highly readable introduction to a subject that is extremely complex, difficult and controversial (as other reviewers have pointed out below). They have also noted that it is a few years old.
I suspect that those who wrote negative reviews may be working in the field and are well abreast of the very latest currents in thinking and "politics" regarding this subject. Such debates are always raging among scholars, and it is important that they do. However, they do not necessarily need to greatly concern the reader who is looking for a general and accessible introduction to the subject which discuses the major finds, the geography involved, and the central debates and problems concerning the subject, etc.
This book is a rare and vaulable find for the "educated amateur" who is so often faced with a choice of impossibly esoteric academic books, and works that are more of the coffee-table variety, lacking scholarly "meat". Prof. Mallory also has a very engaging and lively writing style that is effortless to read. While the author presumes intelligence and a high general level of education, he does not presume that the reader has a subtle and esoteric knowledge of Indo-European archaeology/anthropology. (I am not saying it is an "easy read", but that it is not tortuous, like many academic books).
This book is a classic, and it deserves to be.
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