Bronze Age Horse Riders

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
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I have just finished: The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony.

Thoroughly enjoyed this tome, as he attempts to identify the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European, where horses were likely first to be domesticated, the appearance of wagons and chariots (Interesting evidence that they were developed first on the steppe and later introduced to the city and nation states of Asia Minor and beyond.)

Chock full of archaeological data and diagrams, especially as he tries to piece together the numerous and complicated cultural changes over about 2000 years in the steppes and surrounding territory.

Starts with a nice discussion of the linguistic evidence, and where this might point to where the first proto-Indo-Europeams might have come from, then goes on to present his own research on Horse teeth wear caused by bits, and the archaeological evidence that pinpoints domestication. And the final third tries to paint a narrative of how these speakers moved/migrated/interacted and eventually spread languages such as Germanic, Celtic, Hittite, Old Indic, Persian etc. .

It gets a tad dry and academic near the end; as he tries to summarise a huge amount of work on various cultures that flourished and disappeared circa 3000-1800 BCE on the steppes, but I found it fascinating how much we know about people who a lot of the time were likely nomadic herders.

Definitely a recommendation if you are interested in the archeology and history of the ancient world.
 
That's good to hear. I've had the book sitting on my shelf for years now and just haven't had the uninterrupted time I want to dedicate to this book.

The Tarim Mummies by J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair is also really good, if you like this sort of thing.
 
That's good to hear. I've had the book sitting on my shelf for years now and just haven't had the uninterrupted time I want to dedicate to this book.

The Tarim Mummies by J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair is also really good, if you like this sort of thing.
I have Elizabeth Wayland Barbers The Mummies of Ürümchi's - and have read it decades ago - I should perhaps give it a re-read and see how it holds up, because Anthony does state that there had been a great deal of progress over the past decade when he wrote the book, which is about where Barber's book came out.
 
I've read both Barber's and Mallory's books on the Tarim Mummies. They complement each other. Barber's book focuses a great deal on the fabric of the mummies, Mallory deals with almost everything else.

I would love if someone wrote an updated book on Otzi the Iceman. The one I have is ancient (Iceman by Brenda Fowler published in 2000) and doesn't cover any of the new discoveries (obviously).
 
I found it an interesting source for research material but with some key flaws:
 
I found it an interesting source for research material but with some key flaws:
I didn't get the he was taking 'personal swipes' at others from my reading. But I fully admit to not be up to speed with the totality of the subject, so I don't know if he was majorly dissing anyone else in the field from his ideas and content. For example., I don't know how well the ideas of Marija Gimbutas have stood up to time and intervening new discoveries.

I would say that I would go and look them up....but with 60+ other books waiting to be read anyway, that ain't going to happen anytime soon ;). (Although I have put Susanna Forrest's The Age of the Horse into my next 'to read' mini-pile - however that seems much more of a fluff read, not an academic one!)

I didn't find it boring, and I'm more of general reader - yes there is a lot of discussion about the various cultures as we come into the historical period that is paced a bit slow - but I think steppe archaeology is his speciality, and there is a hard logic as he tries to connect up the emerging Indo-European language family with archaeological findings - there's a lot of ground to get to the Rig Veda.
 
Marija Gimbutas: Marija Gimbutas - Wikipedia
Mainstream archaeology dismissed Gimbutas's later works. Anthropologist Bernard Wailes (1934–2012) of the University of Pennsylvania commented to The New York Times that most of Gimbutas's peers believe her to be "immensely knowledgeable but not very good in critical analysis. ... She amasses all the data and then leaps from it to conclusions without any intervening argument." He said that most archaeologists consider her to be an eccentric.

David W. Anthony has praised Gimbutas's insights regarding the Indo-European Urheimat, but also disputed Gimbutas's assertion that there was a widespread peaceful society before the Kurgan incursion, noting that Europe had hillforts and weapons, and presumably warfare, long before the Kurgan. A standard textbook of European prehistory corroborates this point, stating that warfare existed in neolithic Europe and that adult males were given preferential treatment in burial rites.
 
I don't know how well the ideas of Marija Gimbutas have stood up to time and intervening new discoveries.

Oh, she identified the PIE homeland back in the the 1950's, so her original ideas are bound to be subject to revision - but her overall thesis has been accepted by mainstream archaeology. However, she was always something of an outsider and a woman as well in a man's discipline, so there's tended to be some negative perceptions of her. It's depressing to see, but some modern archaeologists appear to insist on putting her down in order to try and show themselves as superior, in a way that never happens with male establishment figures even when they are completely wrong.

Susanna Forrest's The Age of the Horse into my next 'to read' mini-pile
Sounds like an interesting book - I'll take a look. :) Some of the academic works are too academic, focused only on the stones and bones of archaeology and refuse to conjecture about the actual people (something Gumbutas did and modern archaeologists are only just daring to try, such as Francis Pryor of Time Team fame).

I didn't find it boring, and I'm more of general reader
Glad you didn't! I was just hoping for more of a connection between the Steppe and European Bronze Age archaeology. I don't find much good coverage of the period for general reading.

quoted Wikipedia
One of Gumbutas's contentions is that European societies were more egalitarian before the Bronze Age, but her ideas are sometimes dismissed by some men as too feminist. It's not an academic objection, just a social bias.
 
Btw, @Venusian Broon, my apologies if it came across as denigrating your comments on the book - I was simply providing an additional perspective, the way we would on a normal book discussion. I'm actually really glad you enjoyed it because I found it much heavier going than I expected! And it truly is a remarkable resource for steppe archaeology - I don't know of anything comparable.
 
If you are looking for more books on "The Steppe" (more or less), I've come across the following that I found interesting:

Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present by Christopher I. Beckwith [who has a new book out in January 2023: The Scythian Empire: Central Eurasia and the Birth of the Classical Age from Persia to China]

The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe by Barry Cunliffe [with lots of pictures]. I liked this author's The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, as well as Europe Between the Oceans 9000 B.C - AD 1000. He has also published a book By Steppe, Desert and Ocean, but I haven't read it yet.

Amazons by Adrienne Mayor, also Poison King by Adrienne Mayor.
 
Btw, @Venusian Broon, my apologies if it came across as denigrating your comments on the book - I was simply providing an additional perspective, the way we would on a normal book discussion. I'm actually really glad you enjoyed it because I found it much heavier going than I expected! And it truly is a remarkable resource for steppe archaeology - I don't know of anything comparable.
I think one of the takeaways from reading it was just how much we actually know about, what I mistakenly thought were ephemeral societies. Partly it seems, from reading between the lines that we are still trying to integrate Soviet and later era work that was carried out by Russian and Ukrainian archaeologists who had different perspectives to Western ones, but it blew me away a bit!

Anyway, it's absolutely fine to have an opinion, we all have one at least ;).

I rarely give out reviews of any book, as I really have no idea what is going to tick boxes or what other readers might enjoy about any work, fiction or not - but this definitely floated my curiosity boat and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I thought 'what the hell' :). I should have been a bit more transparent that this was a bit more on the 'academic' and less on the 'pop' end of the scale, and that I was dipping into a subject area that I was in no way expert.
 

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