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The Horse The Wheel and Language

How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World


David W. Anthony

Copyright 2007 Princeton University Press


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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.





Another Short Quote From the Book

Proto-Indo-European, the linguistic problem, became “the Proto-Indo-Europeans,” a biological population with its own mentality and personality: “a slim, tall, light-complexioned, blonde race, superior to all other peoples, calm and firm in character, constantly striving, intellectually brilliant, with an almost ideal attitude toward the world and life in general.” The name Aryan began to be applied to them, because the authors of the oldest religious texts in Sanskrit and Persian, the Rig Veda and Avesta, called themselves Aryans. These Aryans lived in Iran and eastward into Afghanistan-Pakistan-India. The term Aryan should be confined only to this Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. But the Vedas were a newly discovered source of mystical fascination in the nineteenth century, and in Victorian parlors the name Aryan soon spread beyond its proper linguistic and geographic confines. Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race (1916), a best-seller in the U.S., was a virulent warning against the thinning of superior American “Aryan” blood (by which he meant the British-Scots-Irish-German settlers of the original thirteen colonies) through interbreeding with immigrants “inferior races,” which for him included Poles, Czechs, and Italians as well as Jews—all of whom spoke Indo-European languages (Yiddish is a Germanic language in its basic morphology). p.9



A previous issue's short quote from this book

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