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

Princeton University Press
17
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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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About the author

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.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 26, 2010
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Pages
568
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ISBN
9781400831104
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / General
Language Arts & Disciplines / General
Social Science / Archaeology
Technology & Engineering / General
Technology & Engineering / History
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Content protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Although there are many publications which discuss the history of the ancient horse, few focus their attention on the origin and development of the various breeds. Most publications examine the horse’s contribution to human history through its role as transport facilitator and military machine, and concentrate mainly on subjects such as the origin and development of chariot and cavalry equipment and changes in military tactics over time.

This book examines what happened when humans took the horse from the wild and domesticated it for their own use. This focus was taken as it was felt that the understanding of the huge role which the horse played in human history can only be improved by gaining an understanding of the equally huge role which humans played when they took horses from the wild and, through many hundreds of years of daily interaction, cross-breeding, and training, facilitated the development and spread of many breeds across the ancient world.

This book takes as its chronological focus the Greco-Persian world of the second and first millennia BC. This time period was selected for examination as it was during these two millennia that the vital role which the horse was to play in human history became fully apparent. The second millennium BC saw the development of the vast chariot forces which were to form an important part of the armed forces of numerous lands, from Mycenaean Greece in the West to India and China in the far East, while the following millennium saw the gradual replacement of chariots with cavalry forces, which continued to play a vital role in military warfare right up until the beginnings of the twentieth century AD.

Part One traces the history of the horse from its evolution to the development and spread of chariot and cavalry forces. Parts Two and Three examine the famous horse-breeding regions of the ancient world and, through an analysis of archaeological, iconographical, and literary evidence, attempts to determine why these regions were famed for horse breeding and what were the physical characteristics and given attributes of the various breeds.

This book introduces Proto-Indo-European and explores what the language reveals about the people who spoke it. The Proto-Indo-Europeans lived somewhere in Europe or Asia between 5,500 and 8,000 years ago, and no text of their language survives. J. P. Mallory and Douglas Adams show how over the last two centuries scholars have reconstructed it from its descendant languages, the surviving examples of which comprise the world's largest language family. After a concise account of Proto-Indo-European grammar and a consideration of its discovery, they use the reconstructed language and related evidence from archaeology and natural history to examine the lives, thoughts, passions, culture, society, economy, history, and environment of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Our distant ancestors had used the wheel, were settled arable farmers, kept sheep and cattle, brewed beer, got married, made weapons, and had 27 verbs for the expression of strife. The subjects to which the authors devote chapters include fauna, flora, family and kinship, clothing and textiles, food and drink, space and time, emotions, mythology, religion, and the continuing quest to discover the Proto-Indo-European homeland. Proto-Indo-European-English and English-Proto-Indo-European vocabularies and full indexes conclude the book. Written in a clear, readable style and illustrated with maps, figures, and tables, this book is on a subject of great and enduring fascination. It will appeal to students of languages, classics, and the ancient world, as well as to general readers interested in the history of language and of early human societies.
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