1988 Archaeological Book of the Year Award

Andrew Selkirk reviews the shortlist

When I first looked through the shortlist of books for the Archaeological Book of the Year Award, I thought it was going to be a ding-dong battle between the Professors of Archaeology at Oxford and Cambridge. In the light blue corner, Colin Renfrew, the Disney Professor at Cambridge produced Archaeology and Language (Jonathan Cape) in which he took a look at the forgotten, indeed almost the forbidden, subject for archaeologists of the origins of the Indo-European languages. He plumped for an early date of their origins, right at the beginning of the Neolithic. The more conventional date is the beginning of the Bronze Age when it was spread by the Beaker Folk, but modern archaeologists do not believe in the Beaker Invasions and therefore they cannot believe in the diffusion of languages by non-existent invasions. Indo-European must, therefore, have been spread by the first farmers at the beginning of the Neolithic. Unfortunately, however, he has had to stray over the garden fence into the field of linguistics and many of the linguists do not like what they have seen. Professor Renfrew is putting himself as a pigeon among the cats, wrote one linguist.

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