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J. P. Mallory is Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at Queen's University, Belfast.

Omfatter også følgende navne: J.P.Mallory, James P. Mallory, ed. J. P. Mallory


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A very interesting study of the world depicted in the Ulster cycle of Irish tales, comparing it with archaeological evidence and considering whether each iota might have been original to the Irish or borrowed from elsewhere, and what time frame it may have arisen in.
thesmellofbooks | 2 andre anmeldelser | Nov 9, 2023 |
Pretty much the definitive overview of the origins, language and culture of the Proto-Indo-European. Covers the broad range of scholarship on the subject for the earliest linkage of Sanskrit and Lithuanian to the latest (1980's) theories of homelands and diasporas. Illustrated with drawings and plates, many maps, and well bound - nice thick paper. A bit dry in places, and a bit over-detailed in others but a must have for the collection of any student of linguistics, mythology or history.
dhaxton | 7 andre anmeldelser | Jul 9, 2023 |
J.P. Mallory is a professor of prehistoric archaeology and also an expert in linguistics. His book, In Search of the Indo-Europeans, attempts to connect the linguistic, archaeological, and mythological dots between each of the Indo-European peoples of Europe and Asia. Mallory was not the first linguist to argue that the peoples of Europe, Iran, and India share a common mother tongue, one that is now called Proto-Indo-European (PIE). He is the first, however, to write a comprehensive monograph about the Indo-Europeans that considers not only linguistic paleontology but also archaeology and comparative mythology. Mallory’s book was published in 1989, presumably before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He refers to “Soviet” archaeologists, linguists, and scholars. This in itself is an interesting look-back.

I became interested in reading Mallory’s book after learning that the general consensus among archaeologists and linguists, was that mainland Greece was originally populated by aboriginal people who did not speak Greek and who did not worship the deities of classical Greece. I had just read The Iliad and The Odyssey, and I became fascinated with the idea that Greek speakers immigrated to Greece and eventually supplanted the aboriginal culture. I wanted to know where these Greek speakers, who spoke Greek before they were “Greek”, came from. In reading general surveys on art history, I learned of the “Kurgan Hypothesis” that theorizes that waves of Proto-Indo-European speaking stockbreeders immigrated out of a Pontic-Caspian homeland near the Black Sea toward Central and Western Europe, Asia, India, and the Balkans. (A kurgan is a prehistoric burial mound found in southern Russia and Ukraine.) Proto-Indo-European culture is nominally dated between 4500 to 2500 BCE. The waves of immigration occurred over two millennia and the people in them rode horses, drove chariots and other wheeled vehicles, and worshipped a Sky-God who was the precursor to Zeus. They encountered mainly sedentary agricultural communities who they eventually supplanted in terms of economic power and language.

There is a plethora of information in Mallory’s book about linguistics and archaeology - all of which I found interesting yet a bit tedious to read. I was most interested in his chapter on comparative mythology which unfortunately was a bit light-weight. This makes sense because Mallory isn’t a comparative mythologist. But the relative thinness of the material makes me want to explore more of that topic.

This review will focus on chapter five in Mallory’s book entitled “Indo-European Religion” because that was my specific area of interest. Mallory’s focus is not on the Indo-European myths themselves - other writers have covered that material extensively - but on what the evidence demonstrates about ritual behavior and societal structure among the Indo-Europeans.

There are some linguistic correspondences between various Indo-European languages in the religious words. Perhaps the most well-known is the Sky Father:

Language Sky Father
Sanskrit Dyaus Pita
Greek Zeu Pater
Latin Ju Piter
Umbrian Luve Patre
Illyrian Dei Patyros
Hittite DSius -
PIE *dyeus Pæter

However, the role of the “Sky God” in the PIE religion is not clearly understood. In our Judeo-Christian world-view, God is the Father who resides above us in heaven. Linguists aren’t convinced that Sky Father necessarily means father as a progenitor of humankind. Additionally, not all off-shoots of PIE religion have a single father-in-the sky - for example the Indic religions. Some mythologists believe that the Sky Father (Zeus) in the Greek religion is a relatively recent amalgamation of the PIE sky god with aboriginal weather or storm deities. In fact, philologists are unable to make definitive connections between Indo-European religions based on the linguistic evidence alone. There are certainly similarities but not a large body of thoroughly convincing evidence.

Comparative mythology is another discipline that has analyzed PIE religion and has taken a sociological approach. Religious myths, in the sociological view, reflected the archaic (and venerated) social order of a particular society, reinforced desired social behavior, and served as divine charters for political negotiation. When analyzing PIE religion and society, comparative mythologists start with social structure. Georges Dumézil, a French comparative sociologist, argues that early Indo-European societies operated under the conceptual framework of a tripartized society which had three classes: king/priests, warriors, and herder/cultivators. He cites a treaty between Matiwaza, King of Mittani, and the Hittite king dating to 1380 BCE. Matiwaza invoked the names of Indic deities - Mitra-Varuna, Indra, and the Nasatyas. Mitra-Varuna personifies the legalistic and religious duties of kingship, Indra is a warrior god, and the Nasatyas are twins responsible for the health of people and livestock. Dumézil argues that this tripartite, functional division is seen throughout Indo-European societies. A well-known example is the judgment of Paris in Greek mythology. Paris was bribed by three goddesses - Hera offered sovereignty, Athena offered military might, and Aphrodite offered fertility.

Archaeologists, according to Mallory, have made little use of comparative mythology to understand the origins of Indo-European culture. He suggests that there is an opportunity to “test” the tripartite model within the archaeological record. The most promising area to explore is evidence of ritual animal sacrifices. The generally accepted Proto-Indo-European identity is that of a horse-riding warrior who moves about over large swaths of land breeding horses and cattle. (I kept thinking of the American cowboy as I read Mallory’s book.) The horse plays an important part in Indo-European ritual and mythology. For example, there are the twin horseman myths in ancient India (Asvins), Greece (Castor and Pollux), Anglo-Saxon (Horsa and Hengist), and Ireland (Macha). The PIE origin myth centers around the mating of a royal figure with a horse which resulted in the birth of equine divine twins. Archaeological remains suggest that horses were sacrificed and their body parts distributed to deities who represented the three functions of society.

These three functions may have been assimilated into a society only after war. There are similarities in mythic accounts of the Sabine War, the Norse war between Aesir and Vanir, the Indic Mahabharata and The Iliad that suggest a common mythic structure. The three functions were fused only after the first estate (kings/priests) and the second (warriors) subdue the third (herders/agriculturalists). This myth may reflect the reality on the ground - what it might be like when rulers of a mobile, powerful class subdue a sedentary agriculturalist class.

A final Duzmélian theme discussed by Mallory is that of dualism - which cuts across the tripartite functions of society. We see dualism in Indo-European gods and in basic directions - left and right. Right is propitious, healthy, and strong. The right hand is associated with males. Left is unfavorable, unsound, weak and associated with females. This dualism carries over to cardinal directions - the propitious south lay to the right and the malevolent north lay to the left. The archaeological record shows this duality - men were buried on their right sides and women on their left.

Mallory ends the chapter on Indo-European religion with a suggestion. He implies that comparative mythology is not universally respected or even considered by archaeologists or linguists. Critics argue that comparative mythologists are stretching it by reading too much into mythology and that much of what Dumézil suggested about tripartition is ‘natural’ to any human society. Mallory suggests that archaeologists might not throw out Dumézil’s ideas so quickly and instead analyze what the archeological record tells us with respect to tripartition. He then concludes with a caveat - that comparative mythology, while useful, leads us down the path of assuming mythology reflects society on the ground. This is highly unlikely - mythology reflects an idealized view of society, and therefore isn’t likely to be found in the archaeological record.

This chapter-ending caveat is similar to many others in Mallory’s book and is the most frustrating aspect of reading it. It’s clear that the linguistic, archaeological, and mythological evidence for the Proto-Indo-Europeans (at least at the time of writing the book) was not on completely solid ground. Mallory implies that scholars generally agree that there was an original PIE people with their own language and homeland. But the linguistic evidence isn’t definitive and no one is quite sure where the homeland was. The general consensus has it in the Pontic-Caspian region however that hypothesis is not universally agreed upon. Mallory writes in great detail, sometimes tediously, and sometimes with humor, however he often takes the reader down a path that implies an a-ha moment is around the next bend. A-ha! We finally have solid proof of the PIE homeland. Then he ends by dashing your hopes - most often by writing that the archaeological record shows little corresponding evidence to what he just spent the last ten pages explaining.

This is not to imply that In Search of the Indo-Europeans is not a book worth reading. It is - if you are interested in paleo-linguistics especially. The examples of commonalities in vocabulary across I-E languages is fascinating. The book is a standard text book for good reason. It is detailed, well-researched, and hypothetical. I feel more informed for having read it, and am glad that I did. But I can’t say that I would recommend it to the average person.
… (mere)
Mortybanks | 7 andre anmeldelser | Feb 20, 2023 |
I was a little disappointed with the book. It pretty much says that all the ancient stories set around 100 BC to 100 AD do not reflect reality at that time in any way. Instead they reflect the time the stories were written down, about 1000 years later, mixed up with details stolen from the Bible and items stolen from a Medieval Spanish Encyclopedia.
The author also makes it a point that the monks could not have stolen any ideas from sources written in Greek, only Latin, which I found confusing since there were Irish monks who were famous for still knowing Greek when Charlemagne was king and communication with the Byzantine Empire was cut off by the Islamic invasions and Arab pirates taking over the Mediterranean.
Accepting these conclusions, the book was well organized and clearly written. The information seems accurate and well supported. I cannot spite the author for telling me that unicorns and mermaids aren't real.
… (mere)
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mgplavin | 2 andre anmeldelser | Oct 3, 2021 |



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