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Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins (Anglais) Broché – 26 janvier 1990


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Revue de presse

'Mr. Renfrew has written this fascinating book to review the subject in general and to advance a revisionist idea about the mode and timing of the Indo-European spread.' Stephen Jay Gould, The New York Times Book Review

'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

Présentation de l'éditeur

In this book Colin Renfrew directs remarkable new light on the links between archaeology and language, looking specifically at the puzzling similarities that are apparent across the Indo-European family of ancient languages, from Anatolia and Ancient Persia, across Europe and the Indian subcontinent, to regions as remote as Sinkiang in China. Professor Renfrew initiates an original synthesis between modern historical linguistics and the new archaeology of cultural process, boldly proclaiming that it is time to reconsider questions of language origins and what they imply about ethnic affiliation--issues seriously discredited by the racial theorists of the 1920s and 1930s and, as a result, largely neglected since. Challenging many familiar beliefs, he comes to a new and persuasive conclusion: that primitive forms of the Indo-European language were spoken across Europe some thousands of years earlier than has previously been assumed.


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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
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88 internautes sur 98 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Another failed effort to locate the Indo European Urheimat 19 décembre 2000
Par Mayuresh Kelkar - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
The book provides an excellent overview of the linguistic issues involved in the Indo-Eurpoean problem. It also rightly claims that migratory theories are mere fantansies. When populations move they must have a reason to do so and they definitely follow some logical processes. The three models postulated by the author for spread of people and/or languages are lot more scientifc than the 19th century invasionst theories.
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.
39 internautes sur 41 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Archaeologist with little linguistic training tries to tacke it all 31 août 2005
Par Christopher Culver - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
ARCHAEOLOGY AND LANGUAGE is Colin Refrew's presentation for laymen of the problem of the linguistic affinity of most of the peoples of Europe and ancient Western Asia. Written by a scholar influenced by Britain's current disbelief against historical migrations, Renfrew argues that common linguistic elements spread through the ancient world not through the sudden invasion of a single people, but through the peaceful spread of agriculture out of Anatolia.

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.
23 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Interesting but very speculative 6 octobre 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Renfrew suggests that the ancient history of Europe may have been much more peaceful than previously supposed, with the Indo-European languages spreading from Anatolia along with the invention of agriculture, rather than being imposed by waves of martial nomadic horsemen from the steppes. But the book made me realize how little we know for sure about these ancient populations -- Renfrew's theories (like those of his colleagues) seem to be largely speculation on the basis of the few physical and linguistic remnants that survive.
26 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
book ponders its way towards a theory of bumkin farmers 29 décembre 1997
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Colin Renfrew takes a long time getting to the point here, his point being IE languages could have spread simply as agriculture did so. His points are not compelling. He doesn't do the linguistic footwork necessary to show an origin from the Anatolian plateau. He excludes the Balts entirely from his map of primitive Indo-European peoples. Are we to believe Latvian sprang from the Greek? He DOESN'T do any tracing of crops, much less provide genetic evidence of crop dispersals. The two god things he does get around to actually talking about here: enough of the endless Scythian-Cimmerian-Avar displacements and the almost de rigeur academic nonsense of postulating proto-idioms and then drawing on those fictions for archeological context. He puts the endless calculations of, say, Marija Gimbutas, into a reasonable perspective without demeaning her work. He also convinced me the Scythian semi-nomadic way-of-life spread EAST, not west, which provides some interesting comparisons for me at least between Scythian metal-work and that of modern Tibet, although perhaps I read too much into coincidences of design. An interesting read, but only if you're already interested in Indo-European origins. I really wondered why he didn't mention, amidst all the other criticisms of the historical concept of the Aryans, that the name most certainly means farmer, or more precisely, the guy who ploughs. Geoffrey Vasiliauskas
16 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
reasonable if not compelling 21 décembre 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Judging from the reviews posted so far, this appears to be a topic over which there is heated disagreement. Notwithstanding the assertions that Professor Renfew's rejection of mass migrations is nothing more than a political agenda, however, there really do seem to be reasons to doubt whether the spread of Indo-European into Europe was the result of a late immigration.
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.
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