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In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  671 ratings  ·  41 reviews
An archaeological and linguistic monograph on the origins and expansion of the Indo-European
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 1st 1991 by Thames & Hudson (first published January 1st 1989)
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 ·  671 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indo-european
This is the third time that I read this book since I bought it last year. Every time I read it I discover something new. Its an amazing book for anyone interested in the Indo-Europeans.

The book is written from the point of view of an archeologist who has knowledge of historical linguistic methods. For dating the author uses dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating. He tells the story of how the Indo-Europeans where discovered, and then takes you on a journey to find out who are they in Asia, and
Generally speaking, I don't read toward any purpose, I read just to read. But now and again I read to learn something. When I do, though, I very rarely read a book cover-to-cover, but rather flip around gathering bits like an unsystematic magpie. I have books I've owned for decades, on topics I'm fascinated by, which I've probably not read the majority of, and certainly have never read in sequence, or even thought about doing so. But for whatever reason, I did read this book front to back. I tri ...more
This is the first full book I have ever read on the Proto-Indo-Europeans. I picked it up because I wanted to learn more about what life was like the PIE world, particularly their religion and culture. However, this book was not really about that; it was mainly about the PIE homeland problem (that is, determining where the PIEs originated, and hopefully matching them up with an archeologically attested culture if possible). So this isn't quite what I was looking for, but it was interesting noneth ...more
Aug 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
While superseded to some degree by David W. Anthony’s The Horse, the Wheel and Language, J.P. Mallory’s In Search of the Indo-Europeans is fine reading for those interested in the people who spoke the ancestor of most tongues of Europe and western Asia. While scholars have carefully reconstructed a proto-language, the identity of its speakers and their geographical origin remain a mystery, and J.P. Mallory shows what is currently thought in the field.

Mallory begins by tracing the historical deve
Douglas Summers-Stay
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I flipped through this book about 20 years ago, but read it cover to cover for the first time this week. There is something I find enchanting about the Indo-Europeans. They are a kind of ghost-people, neither fictional nor historical. We know them only through the traces they left behind not in the world, but on the ideas that we call language. Yet those traces are indisputable and broadly established.
The Indo-Europeans are the people, whoever they were, whose language would eventually evolve i
This book (an essential resource in the field) excels for its breadth of coverage, and its scholarly caution: the major theories are given attention, and even where the author favors one solution as more likely than another, adequate space is always given to counter-arguments which have been proposed for a given issue.(Were the Indo-Europeans ultimately, via the migrating Indo-Aryans, ultimately responsible for the introduction of the horse-drawn chariot to the Near East; how does Dumezil's theo ...more
Lee Drake
Feb 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
This wasn't the greatest book in the world. Mallory basically argues through holes in Indo-European theories. While it ties together archaeological and linguistic evidence, it is ultimately unsatisfying and doesn't really take a strong stance on when, where, and how all these languages spread.
Nov 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Sometimes interesting treatment of the people whose language is now spoken in all its derivatives by some two billion people, from India and Iran to the Americas. Horsemen, herders, pastoral nomads, poets, the Indo-Europeans came out of the mists of history and named the world.
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
According to Wikipedia there are 445 living languages that share a common Indo-European ancestry, and over 40% of humanity speaks one of them as their mother tongue. For centuries people have noticed similarities in words widely separated by time and space, leading to an assumption that they must have derived from a single source in the distant past. For example, the English word “mother” is reflected in Latin “māter”, Ancient Greek “mḗtēr,” Sanskrit “mā́tṛ,” Celtic “māthir,” Tocharian (an extin ...more
Koen Crolla
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Comparison with its spiritual successor, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, which I read last year, is inevitable, so let's dispense with it: In Search of the Indo-Europeans covers pretty much the same ground in pretty much the same way (starting with a brief introduction to the language, and then combining that with a survey of archaeological evidence to go over a bunch of hypothetical locations for the PIE homeland before eventually settling on the Pontic-Caspian steppe) and is more engaging ...more
Chitram Banerjee
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book covers the story of emergence and evolution of the alleged proto indo european (PIE) language and culture. The author, in his time (and even now) was ( and still is somewhat) current in the archaeological and philological domains of research.

The book is written as a progressive unfolding of various clues and possible deductions, just as a detective novel does. But to contrast, here is no final solution. The author often bends upon some solutions than the others, which he himself states
Jan 12, 2020 added it
Shelves: history
Maybe this a forlorn hope, and maybe I'm rash for admitting it, but I'd like to see a rehabilitation of the term "Aryan." It has no intrinsic connection to fascism or any doctrine of racial supremacy. Like the ancient eastern symbol of the swastika, "Aryan" was appropriated and perverted by the Nazis. It originally referred to a vast Eurasian language family, most of whose speakers are not and have never been blonde, blue eyed Germanic peoples. "Indo-European" is such a clunky substitute. "Aryan ...more
More like a college textbook than general overview. Solid work, but it's 30 years old. I suggest The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World as a more recent review of the evidence, even though it has a specific theory to support. ...more
Chris Godwin
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Chris by: ADF
I really enjoyed this work by J.P. Mallory which is an important read for those who are looking to know more about the cultures of their ancestors. Mallory initially enumerates the various IE cultures starting from Asia and ending with the Celts.

I really enjoyed his understanding of the PIE religion relating to the horse and cattle raiding. I found the parts about the stone axes and PIE burials very fascinating. When Mallory tested the Georges Dumezil’s Tripartite theory I began to see the vario
To be honest, I didn't actually read this book all the way through--I kinda skimmed it and studied the charts and photos. Fascinating stuff, though, and I may read it more completely at a later date. It seems a rather scholarly work, a little dry perhaps, unless you're really into archeology and historical linguistics.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Although I have been in interested in what I guess you could call historical linguistics for a long time, this is the first full book I've read on Indo-European.

I found the first 2/3 of the book to be great. Although the book is relatively old, the linguistic analysis of Proto Indo-European is impassioned, humorous, clear, and engaging. It really is edifying to have the antiquity, the victory, and the vast oneness of the Indo-European languages presented before you. Inspiring stuff.

The introduct
Curt Hopkins Hopkins
I've never been so glad to finish a book. Not because it was bad -- far from it -- but because it was so dense. The archaeological sections were especially rough because, unlike the linguistic terms, I'd never heard of the cultures the author explored. If you're interested in where the languages spoken by half the world's population come from, and what the cultural elements are that define that original culture (horses, tripartition, etc.) this is a great introduction. He always uses the epilogu ...more
Роман Вашурин
Excellent, in-depth introduction to the subject.

Some established interest in the topic is probably required to not fall asleep reading through detailed discussions of contemporary (with the book publication) theories and intricacies of inter-cultural relations.

The only statements I was able to identify as out of date were ascribing earliest horse riding to Crimea (cheekpieces found there were later re-dated to 1st millenium BC and labeled invasive) and mentioning discontinuities in eneolithic ar
Leon O'Flynn
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a little dated now, for example he makes a number of references to Soviet scholars- long gone. The key point of the book for me was thinking about origins and how the various groups of people around the world connect, and how that movement was made. Not a easy read or something you want to start when sleepy!!!
Jul 24, 2019 added it
I couldn't finish this book. I felt the writing to be too dense for a layperson. It felt as if the book mandates at least a fundamental knowledge of the field before picking it up. A lot of ancient places/cultures which I have no knowledge of popped in and out of discussion at such a pace that it tired me out. Gotta start with something simpler, hence leaving it unrated.
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While I skimmed chapters 7 and 8, I found this book to be incredibly informative and much more accessible than Anthony’s “The Horse, the Wheel, and Language”.
Matthew Young
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Linguistic approach, good introduction to the topic. I would have liked genetics to have played a bigger role in Mallory's analysis, and it is becoming old, given the rapid evolution of its field.
Jun 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read for ADF dedicant path.

Mostly archeology, some language, very little myth.

Lots of descriptions of what kinds if pots where buried where and when with lots if caveats about how, without written records, it's guesswork to match material cultures with reconstructed languages anyway. So, no firm answers.

I was mostly interested in the reconstructed mythology, but it was a very short chapter, most of which seemed to be spent criticizing Dumezil's three functions hypothesis.

I was hoping for a mor
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
it is always fun and informative to read about the problems faced in different science fields and solutions of those problems.

I had very little knowledge in reconstruction of cultures based on linguistical and archeological findings and very little idea of the problems archeologists and linguists face. I think the most satisfactory aspect of this book is not that it gives a brief summary of Indo-European studies but it does that with proper science ethics. besides drawing a good picture of this
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
I hated to rate it a 3 but it was tough sledding all the nowhere. It was like reading a scientific review article, which I guess is what it really was. Everything that was known or believed about the original centre of the Proto Indo European language homeland to about 25 years ago was included. Every side of every argument. On and on and on no conclusion. It would be interesting to read a revised version which has the last 25 years included in it. At least now I can give i ...more
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, history
Fascinating overview of linguistic and archaeological evidence for who the Indo-Europeans were and where they came from. Raises more questions than it answers, but it seems safe to say we don't have all the answers - made me want to move to Ukraine and start digging. Yes, it's a bit dry, but I like dry.
Fairly well done for what it is: a relatively recent synthesis of the IE theories that are still acceptable to mainstream anthropologists. Read also Tilak's Arctic Home in the Vedas, Haudry's The Indo-Europeans, and Evola's Revolt Against the Modern World for fascinating insights on the facts in this book.
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An unrivalled survey of the Aryan journey from earliest times; liberal in presentation of facts, conservative in drawing binding conclusions, a highly responsible work of great import to the canny questioner.
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
A sweeping overview of linguistic and archaeological evidence for the homeland of the indo-European language family. This is definitely a scholarly and academic work, and may be somewhat inaccessible to those without such a background.
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mythology, archeology
While I did really like this book for the information it gave, it was slow going to get through it all, and I just wish Mallory had a little less dense writing style.
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James Patrick Mallory is an Irish-American archaeologist and Indo-Europeanist. Mallory is a professor at the Queen's University, Belfast.

Born in 1945, Mallory received his A.B. in History from Occidental College in California in 1967, then served three years in the US Army as a military police sergeant. He received his Ph.D. in Indo-European studies from UCLA in 1975. He has held several posts at

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