This essay reviews three recent works on the history of the Eurasian steppes.. 1 They all touch in different ways on the fundamental challenge of how one can discern cultures and ethnicities from the archaeological record. In particular, they touch on the related problems of the origins of pastoral nomadism (and specifically of horse riding in the Inner Asian steppe) and of the Indo-European languages. David Anthony’s The Horse, the Wheel and Language , tackles these two themes directly. It offers a superb, highly readable, and up-to-date survey of what archaeology and historical linguistics can tell us about the history of the Central Eurasian steppes. Anthony has been a participant in these debates for some time and, though he is fair to alternative positions, he also ends up re-asserting his own conviction that: a) the Indo-European languages originated in the region north of the Black Sea in the fourth millennium BCE; and: b) the early spread of Indo-European languages was closely linked to the spread of pastoral nomadism. Christopher Beckwith’s Empires of the Silk Road takes a strong and clear position on both issues in what is really a synoptic history of ‘Central Eurasia’. Such a history has
Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2011
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