Tracing the Indo-Europeans

Full Title: Tracing the Indo-Europeans – New Evidence from Archaeology and Historical Linguistics.

Edited by: Brigit Anette Olsen, Thomas Olander, and Kristian Kristiansen

Publisher: OXBOW Books

Published: 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78925-270-5

Pages: 184

Synopsis: Recent developments in aDNA has reshaped our understanding of later European prehistory, and at the same time also opened up for more fruitful collaborations between archaeologists and historical linguists. Two revolutionary genetic studies, published independently in Nature, 2015, showed that prehistoric Europe underwent two successive waves of migration, one from Anatolia consistent with the introduction of agriculture, and a later influx from the Pontic-Caspian steppes which without any reasonable doubt pinpoints the archaeological Yamnaya complex as the cradle of (Core-)Indo-European languages. Now, for the first time, when the preliminaries are clear, it is possible for the fields of genetics, archaeology and historical linguistics to cooperate in a constructive fashion to refine our knowledge of the Indo-European homeland, migrations, society and language. For the historical-comparative linguists, this opens up a wealth of exciting perspectives and new working fields in the intersections between linguistics and neighbouring disciplines, for the archaeologists and geneticists, on the other hand, the linguistic contributions help to endow the material findings with a voice from the past. The present selection of papers illustrate the importance of an open interdisciplinary discussion which will gradually help us in our quest of Tracing the Indo-Europeans.

Review: I was honestly very excited for this book to come out. I pre-ordered it and waited for it and read it as soon as it came in, even though I had promised myself I was not going to buy any books until I finished the ones on my to-read list.

The book sports contributors like J.P. Mallory, and David W. Anthony. It has eight essays besides the Introduction. The text aims to get a more precise grasp of who the Indo-Europeans were, where they came from, and how their language and essential elements of culture came to dominate Europe and large parts of Asia.

The Introduction sets up the rest of the book by talking about the two positions about who the Indo-Europeans were: pastorialists from the Pontic-Caspian steppes or they emerged several millennia earlier as the first agriculturalists from Anatolia.

Through out reading this book I felt that the editors chose mostly the views that sided with the Pontic-Steppes hypothesis. However, these essays gave good reasons for going against the Anatolian hypothesis.

My feelings on this book are a little confused. There were parts of it that I enjoyed, especially the first essay which set up the problem of the IE Homeland beautifully. But for the most part I was a little confused as to what was the new information that we were supposed to get out of this book. It just felt like we were getting disjointed information about different things but the common thread seems to be “Pontic – Steppes”. I really wanted to give this book more than 3 stars…but in the end I just couldn’t. I don’t regret buying it if only for that first essay by Thomas Olander on the problem of the IE Homeland.