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The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World

The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World

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By (author) David W. Anthony

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  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 576 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 216mm x 43mm | 930g
  • Publication date: 9 December 2007
  • Publication City/Country: New Jersey
  • ISBN 10: 0691058873
  • ISBN 13: 9780691058870
  • Illustrations note: 3 halftones. 86 line illus. 16 tables. 25 maps.
  • Sales rank: 186,326

Product description

Roughly half the world's population speaks languages derived from a shared linguistic source known as Proto-Indo-European. But who were the early speakers of this ancient mother tongue, and how did they manage to spread it around the globe? Until now their identity has remained a tantalizing mystery to linguists, archaeologists, and even Nazis seeking the roots of the Aryan race. "The Horse, the Wheel, and Language" lifts the veil that has long shrouded these original Indo-European speakers, and reveals how their domestication of horses and use of the wheel spread language and transformed civilization.Linking prehistoric archaeological remains with the development of language, David Anthony identifies the prehistoric peoples of central Eurasia's steppe grasslands as the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European, and shows how their innovative use of the ox wagon, horseback riding, and the warrior's chariot turned the Eurasian steppes into a thriving transcontinental corridor of communication, commerce, and cultural exchange. He explains how they spread their traditions and gave rise to important advances in copper mining, warfare, and patron-client political institutions, thereby ushering in an era of vibrant social change. Anthony also describes his fascinating discovery of how the wear from bits on ancient horse teeth reveals the origins of horseback riding. "The Horse, the Wheel, and Language" solves a puzzle that has vexed scholars for two centuries - the source of the Indo-European languages and English - and recovers a magnificent and influential civilization from the past.

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Author information

David W. Anthony is professor of anthropology at Hartwick College. He is the editor of "The Lost World of Old Europe" (Princeton). He has conducted extensive archaeological fieldwork in Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

Review quote

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

Flap copy

"If you want to learn about the early origins of English and related languages, and of many of our familiar customs such as feasting on holidays and exchanging gifts, this book provides a lively and richly informed introduction. Along the way you will learn when and why horses were domesticated, when people first rode horseback, and when and why swift chariots changed the nature of warfare."--Peter S. Wells, author of "The Battle that Stopped Rome""A very significant contribution to the field. This book attempts to resolve the longstanding problem of Indo-European origins by providing an examination of the most relevant linguistic issues and a thorough review of the archaeological evidence. I know of no study of the Indo-European homeland that competes with it."--J. P. Mallory, Queen's University, Belfast

Table of contents

Acknowledgments xi PART ONE: Language and Archaeology 1 Chapter One: The Promise and Politics of the Mother Tongue 3 Ancestors 3 Linguists and Chauvinists 6 The Lure of the Mother Tongue 11 A New Solution for an Old Problem 15 Language Extinction and Thought 19 Chapter Two: How to Reconstruct a Dead Language 21 Language Change and Time 22 Phonology: How to Reconstruct a Dead Sound 24 The Lexicon: How to Reconstruct Dead Meanings 32 Syntax and Morphology: The Shape of a Dead Language 36 Conclusion: Raising a Language from the Dead 38 Chapter Three: Language and Time 1: The Last Speakers of Proto-Indo-European 39 The Size of the Chronological Window: How Long Do Languages Last? 39 The Terminal Date for Proto-Indo-European: The Mother Becomes Her Daughters 42 The Oldest and Strangest Daughter (or Cousin?): Anatolian 43 The Next Oldest Inscriptions: Greek and Old Indic 48 Counting the Relatives: How Many in 1500 BCE? 50 Chapter Four: Language and Time 2: Wool, Wheels, and Proto-Indo-European 59 The Wool Vocabulary 59 The Wheel Vocabulary 63 When Was the Wheel Invented 65 The Signifi cance of the Wheel 72 Wagons and the Anatolian Homeland Hypothesis 75 The Birth and Death of Proto-Indo-European 81 Chapter Five: Language and Place: The Location of the Proto-Indo-Europe an Homeland 83 Problems with the Concept of "the Homeland" 83 Finding the Homeland: Ecology and Environment 89 Finding the Homeland: The Economic and Social Setting 91 Finding the Homeland: Uralic and Caucasian Connections 93 The Location of the Proto-Indo-European Homeland 98 Chapter Six: The Archaeology of Language 102 Persistent Frontiers 104 Migration as a Cause of Persistent Material-Culture Frontiers 108 Ecological Frontiers: Different Ways of Making a Living 114 Small-scale Migrations, Elite Recruitment, and Language Shift 117 PART TWO: The Opening of the Eurasian Steppes 121 Chapter Seven: How to Reconstruct a Dead Culture 123 The Three Ages in the Pontic-Caspian Steppes 125 Dating and the Radiocarbon Revolution 126 What Did They Eat? 128 Archaeological Cultures and Living Cultures 130 The Big Questions Ahead 132 Chapter Eight: First Farmers and Herders: The Pontic-Caspian Neolithic 134 Domesticated Animals and Pontic-Caspian Ecol ogy 135 The First Farmer-Forager Frontier in the Pontic- Caspian Region 138 Farmer Meets Forager: The Bug-Dniester Culture 147 Beyond the Frontier: Pontic-Caspian Foragers before Cattle Arrived 154 The Gods Give Cattle 158 Chapter Nine: Cows, Copper, and Chiefs 160 The Early Copper Age in Old Europe 162 The Cucuteni-Tripolye Culture 164 The Dnieper-Donets II Culture 174 The Khvalynsk Culture on the Volga 182 Nalchik and North Caucasian Cultures 186 The Lower Don and North Caspian Steppes 188 The Forest Frontier: The Samara Culture 189 Cows, Social Power, and the Emergence of Tribes 190 Chapter Ten: The Domestication of the Horse and the Origins of Riding: The Tale of the Teeth 193 Where Were Horses First Domesticated? 196 Why Were Horses Domesticated? 200 What Is a Domesticated Horse? 201 Bit Wear and Horse back Riding 206 Indo-European Migrations and Bit Wear at Dereivka 213 Botai and Eneolithic Horseback Riding 216 The Origin of Horse back Riding 221 The Economic and Military Effects of Horseback Riding 222 Chapter Eleven: The End of Old Europe and the Rise of the Steppe 225 Warfare and Alliance: The Cucuteni-Tripolye Culture and the Steppes 230 The Sredni Stog Culture: Horses and Rituals from the East 239 Migrations into the Danube Valley: The Suvorovo-Novodanilovka Complex 249 Warfare, Climate Change, and Language Shift in the Lower Danube Valley 258 After the Collapse 260 Chapter Twelve: Seeds of Change on the Steppe Borders: Maikop Chiefs and Tripolye Towns 263 The Five Cultures of the Final Eneolithic in the Steppes 265 Crisis and Change on the Tripolye Frontier: Towns Bigger Than Cities 277 The First Cities and Their Connection to the Steppes 282 The North Caucasus Piedmont: Eneolithic Farmers before Maikop 285 The Maikop Culture 287 Maikop-Novosvobodnaya in the Steppes: Contacts with the North 295 Proto-Indo-European as a Regional Language in a Changing World 299 Chapter Thirteen: Wagon Dwellers of the Steppe: The Speakers of Proto-Indo-European 300 Why Not a Kurgan Culture? 306 Beyond the Eastern Frontier: The Afanasievo Migration to the Altai 307 Wagon Graves in the Steppes 311 Where Did the Yamnaya Horizon Begin? 317 When Did the Yamnaya Horizon Begin? 321 Were the Yamnaya People Nomads? 321 Yamnaya Social Organization 328 The Stone Stelae of the North Pontic Steppes 336 Chapter Fourteen: The Western Indo-European Languages 340 The End of the Cucuteni-Tripolye Culture and the Roots of the Western Branches 343 Steppe Overlords and Tripolye Clients: The Usatovo Culture 349 The Yamnaya Migration up the Danube Valley 361 Yamnaya Contacts with the Corded Ware Horizon 367 The Origins of Greek 368 Conclusion: The Early Western Indo-European Languages Disperse 369 Chapter Fifteen: Chariot Warriors of the Northern Steppes 371 The End of the Forest Frontier: Corded Ware Herders in the Forest 375 Pre-Sintashta Cultures of the Eastern Steppes 385 The Origin of the Sintashta Culture 389 Warfare in the Sintashta Culture: Fortifications and Weapons 393 Tournaments of Value 405 Sintashta and the Origins of the Aryans 408 Chapter Sixteen: The Opening of the Eurasian Steppes 412 Bronze Age Empires and the Horse Trade 412 The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex 421 The Opening of the Eurasian Steppes 435 The Srubnaya Culture: Herding and Gathering in the Western Steppes 437 East of the Urals, Phase I: The Petrovka Culture 441 The Seima-Turbino Horizon in the Forest-Steppe Zone 443 East of the Urals, Phase II: The Andronovo Horizon 448 Proto-Vedic Cultures in the Central Asian Contact Zone 452 The Steppes Become a Bridge across Eurasia 456 Chapter Seventeen: Words and Deeds 458 The Horse and the Wheel 459 Archaeology and Language 463 Appendix: Author's Note on Radiocarbon Dates 467 Notes 471 References 507 Index 547