Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins (Anglais) Broché – 26 janvier 1990
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'Written for the nonspecialist, this book refreshens the mind with new information, rigorous analysis, scientific scruple, and critical panache.' Thomas D'Evelyn, Christian Science Monitor
'The argument is lively and lucid, and the book deserves a wide readership among specialists and non-specialists alike. It is a daring thesis … Renfrew is not afraid of dealing with big problems...an attempt to move archaeology forward and to break its isolation … he has started another of those debates on which progress in archaeology depends.' Richard Bradley, Nature
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In the year 1786, an English judge, serving in India at the High Court in Calcutta, made a quite extraordinary discovery. Lire la première page
Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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The author's main thesis is: the Indo-Eurpoean languages have spread all over Europe and Asia from their Urheimat (homeland) in Anatolia (Turkey). He carries his thesis well while describing the spread of languages in Europe and Scandanavia but runs into major problems when dealing with the Indo-Iranian aspect. The present reviwer disagrees with identifying Anatolia as the orginal homeland of Indo-European languages for the following reasons.
1. This is based essentially on the identifcation of the now extinct Hittite as an Indo-European language. The author basically ASSUMES that Hittite must have been spoken in Anatolia as far back as 7000 BCE. However, this assumption is cleary unfounded. The Biblical and Babylonean records , which are largely undisputed, identify Hittite people as relative new comers to the region (around 1500 BCE).
2. Hittie vocabulary has very large proportion of Non Indo-European words which indicate that it was a minor language when it arrived in Anatolia.
3. Comparitive mytholgoy has idenfied many common gods to the Indo-European people. However, the written records found in Hittite mention only one such god Inar (Vedic Indra, Greek Zeus, after Vedic Dayus Pittar)
4. Anatolian Urheimat model runs into major timeline problems with regards to South Asia. The earliest Neolithic settlement has been discovered in Mehargarh (Eastern Pakistan) dating around 6500 BCE. This is thought to be almost four times larger than its contemporary in Anatolia (Catal Hayuk). The wave model of spread of agriculture cannot acount for this fact, given the enormous distance between the two.
Few scholard will dispute the strong archeological trail of the spread of agriculture from Anatolia to Europe. However, there is no proof to equate that with the spread of languages.
On one hand, it is nice to see a challenge to Marija Gimbutas theory, which got increasingly weird the longer she articulated it, that the Indo-Europeans were bloodthirsty patriarchal invaders who swept into matiarchal and peaceful old Europe introducing war. Renfrew, however, goes to far in the opposite direction and the work has serious problems, many of which are common to the works of Renfrew's school. The author has no problem speaking of the occupation of the Carpathian basin by the Magyars, and presumably he believes in recent Turkic migrations, but he refuses to accept migrations in pre-historical times. One of his three points against an South Russian origin is simply "It is a migrationist view." The Indo-Europeans are a people uniquely identified with horsemanship--look at the popularity horses in Greek and Germanic onomastics, and the words for "axle", "yoke", and "horse" itself are common to nearly all branches, so moving over long distances would certainly be within their reach. Yet, Renfrew asserts that there is no evidence that horsemanship was important to ancient speakers of IE languages.
Renfrew is also not a very committed historical linguist. His presentation of family trees is overly simplistic, with flat-out inaccuracies such as saying that German is descended from Gothic and all of the Slavonic languages from Old Church Slavonic. He seems to be quoting mostly from introductory handbooks of comparative IE linguistics instead of speaking from deep personal familiarity. The only authorities I would really trust to present this material are either amazing polymaths who are simultaneously excellent archaeologists and linguists, or archaeologist-linguist collaborations.
If you are interested in the fascinating question of IE origins and the various solutions which have been proposed, I'd recommend J.P. Mallory's IN SEARCH OF THE INDO-EUROPEANS, which is not perfect but does a good job of showing many viewpoints.
The latest genetic evidence of which I am aware includes studies both of the Y chromosome and of mitochondrial DNA, and both seem to agree in the broad picture that they paint: that modern Europeans are in the main a combination of three groups:
(1) an early paleolithic population that separated into a eastern and a western branch during the last ice age
(2) a later paleolithic group that settled in central Europe
(3) neolithic farmers, late mimmigrants from the Middle East, who spread out along the Mediterranean coast
Archaeologically, there seems to have been only one movement of importance that could plausibly be associated with the spread of Indo-European: the movement of the Danubian farmers that seems to correspond to the genetic population (2) plus smaller elements of population (3) from whom they presumably learned agriculture. Indo-European words seem to indicate a level of culture that would be appropriate for the Danubian farmers: the knowledge of grain and grape crops, livestock, metal, wheeled vehicles, and forts, but not cities, weights and measures, irrigation, or an advanced mathematical system. The Indo-European number seven, for example, is apparently borrowed from Semitic, which argues against mathematical sophistication. Judging from the apparent lack of words for them, the early Indo-Europeans do not seem to have been aware of any non-European animals except leopards, which were abundant in neighboring Anatolia. Claims have been made that they had words for monkey, elephant, and even snow leopard, buth they seem to be doubtful: the claimed words for monkey, for example, are almost certainly borrowed from Semitic.
Profressor Renfew of course advocates an Anatolian rather than a European origin for Indo-European, and it is harder to comment on specifically that aspect of his thesis. Indo-European apparently did not, as he notes, have a word for olive, nor, one might add, for fig, pomegranate, or antelope, as one might expect from a group originating in Anatolia, but it seems impossible to rule it out. Perhaps the Danubian farmers got not merely their knowledge of farming, but their language as well, from immigrants.