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 David W. Anthony

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ISBN-10: 0691058873

ISBN-13: 9780691058870

Pub. Date: 11/19/2007

Publisher: Princeton University Press

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


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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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

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The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
NSALegal More than 1 year ago
The early chapters' focus on language is fairly absorbing, and goes by well, even if the points might go a little further than the proof can support. The specific language examples are thought-provoking. The sections on the horse are not quite as satisfying, but there are still interesting ideas related here. The biggest flaw of the book starts sneaking in around Chapter 8, when the names assigned to cultures fly in with a somewhat confusing presence, and little authorial guidance as to how the non-specialist should rank them, or keep them all in mind. By the time you reach chapter 11, it starts to feel like a long slog of pottery sherd descriptions, place names, kurgans and the idea that there were a lot of little settlements all over the Eurasian steppes. The author undoubtedly knows what he's talking about; a little more context (or means to orient the non-specialist reader) and thematic focus would have helped.
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MichaelWV More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I thought it would illuminate prehistoric language and thought, as in Old Testament times, and shifts in values with cultural changes. There was some of that: pastoral nomads of 5000 BCE felt they had a contract with the Gods and could make demands on them. (Curiously, Egyptians in their golden millenium felt the same entitlement.) The various cultures speaking Proto-Indo-European extended the same obligations among mortal classes, including host vs. guest and conquerer vs. client. This early social contract was lost in Christianity. The paradox is that the culture required young men to raid nearby settlements for cattle. It is a technical book, amply documented with maps and illustrations but still leaving a layman like me with questions: Were those female carvings the first pornography? (That seems to have been lost in Christianity too.) What was all the red ochre in the grave sites for? What is an oblast and why does my dictionary not have the word? PIE's could not write, but could they not count either, even though they were great traders? (That would seem to explain why they did not invent money, but how could they measure the right proportion of tin to copper in their bronze?) There is interesting discussion of horses progressing from a mere source of protein to beasts of burden to mighty chariot steeds. Another paradox is that a nomadic culture pioneered metal smelting and created a bronze and iron industry that made it rich. Their wealth and military power created prestige that accounts for the success of their language, which spread and morphed into seventy modern languages. Proto-Indo-European descendant languages are now spoken by a majority of the people on Earth. All this is proved in exhaustive detail, mostly from the analysis of potsherds. Anthony mentions the irony that garbage pits survive longer than temples and palaces. Grave sites were the other archeological lode. Other remnants of Proto-Indo-European culture are in the languages we speak today, from which linguists have identified thousands of words from the mother of all mother tongues, revealing partially what they thought and talked about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not have punch expected not worth buying