On a First Reading of Mallory.
Mark Odegard <Odegard@means.net>
Odegard at means.net
Fri Feb 5 03:12:00 UTC 1999
I've been immersed for the past couple days in J.P. Mallory's book,
_In Search of the Indo-Europeans_.
Lots of questions have been answered, most of them of the 'where did
that idea come from' species. It's a persuasive book. For the few
(if any) of you who have not read him, I affirm it is *required*
reading. I did not find it particularly difficult, though for someone with
zero introduction to linguistics, Indo-European studies and
archeology, this book would be forbiddingly difficult. There is,
however, a lot of information to assimilate, especially names and
dates. After you've read him, you instantly see that everyone is
more or less quoting him -- even if they disagree with him.
Anyway. As y'all know, he refuses to come out plainly in favor of a
Dneiper-Donets-Sea of Azov PIE homeland (Sredny Stog culture,
4500-3500), but simply points to it as the most logical candidate.
These are the folks who domesticated the horse and invented the bit.
This region as the homeland, however, leads to some other problems.
Mostly, we're required to accept the model of Aryan hordes invading
the Danube basin. He mentions some evidence of this (demise of the
LBK culture and domestic copper production concurrent with the
appearance of kurgans (steppe style burials) in the region, but
never makes the obvious conclusion. As for the Anatolian problem, he
carefully points out that an entry via the western shore of the Black
Sea fits the bill best while attempting to keep a personal distance
for such an assertion.
MCV prefers an older homeland, centered in the Danube basin. If I
remember this right, this is a position held by someone named
Georgiev. For myself, this feels right. Except for the historically
understood Magyar intrusion, this region has *always* been IE, and
meets all the particulars for what the earliest vocabulary suggests,
as well as providing the kind of geography that encourages wide lingustic
divergence in a relatively confined space.
Mallory intimates that NOT placing the IE homeland out on the Steppe
brings up an 'Indo-Iranian problem', i.e., explaining how I-I
developed and extended itself as it did. Mostly, Sredny Stog is not
particularly agricultural, and seems to have gone from Neolithic
hunter-gathering to pastoral nomadism without any evidence of serious
agriculture intervening, whereas LBK in Hungary was agricultural --
and there is no transitional culture that links the two beyond trade links.
My head is a little overheated at all this new and as-yet undigested
One thing though. It's my impression that the Steppe was essentially
*empty* before the domestication of the horse. There were thousands
of miles of steppe with only a few stray hunter gatherers. And way
back then, Central Asia was less desertified. It must have been
paradisical, a golden age, a time when you, your brothers, your
horses and your stock could ride unchallenged clear to Mongolia and
North China. In historic terms, it would have been all in the blink
of an eye, the only real restraint on expansion being the ability of
themselves and their animals to reproduce. The Cavalli-Sforza number
for agriculturalist spread is about 1 km per year on average. On
horseback, the spread could have been an average of 1 km per *week*.
I'm thinking it wasn't Indo-Iranians who filled the Steppes, but
undifferentiated Indo-Europeans, at least at first. The IIs came
later, with new and improved technology (something to do with
bronze, I think), and probably, a better-structured social system.
My mind is overheated. I'm speculating into areas I'm not really
qualified for. Still, it's a wonderful topic.
I have his _The IndoEuropeanization of Europe_ on order. After this,
what's the next book?
Mark Odegard mailto:odegard at means.net
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