“Old Europe”

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A Lost European Culture, Pulled From Obscurity:

The little-known culture is being rescued from obscurity in an exhibition, “The Lost World of Old Europe: the Danube Valley, 5000-3500 B.C.,” which opened last month at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. More than 250 artifacts from museums in Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania are on display for the first time in the United States. The show will run through April 25.

At its peak, around 4500 B.C., said David W. Anthony, the exhibition’s guest curator, “Old Europe was among the most sophisticated and technologically advanced places in the world” and was developing “many of the political, technological and ideological signs of civilization.”

The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World is a very interesting book. One of the problems with pre-literate civilizations is that they’re only accessible via archaeology, which is a field averse to system-building or theorizing. But it is likely from what we know of pre-literate cultures which Europeans encountered that lots of stuff happened. Perhaps ancient DNA will help resolve some of these questions, at least establishing whether peoples or just pots were on the move.

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3 Comments

  1. One of the problems with pre-literate civilizations is that they’re only accessible via archaeology, which is a field averse to system-building or theorizing. 
     
    The field seems to be moving away from radical empiricism. K C Chang, a specialist in Chinese archeology from a generation ago, said that his teachers discouraged him from using any insights at all insights from anthropology, history, or texts from the periods following the era was studying.  
     
    30 years ago nothing I read did more than enumerate clusters of pots and skulls and femurs and arrowheads found at various places. It was completely infuriating. They wouldn’t even say that Hallstatt might be the Celts. 
     
    During an earlier period archaeology was very speculative — e.g. V. Gordon Childe. Gimbutas was sort of a survival of that era.

  2. Whisper who dare: there was quite a lot of nice, warm weather in the Bronze Age.

  3. Was this the region which Dr Anthony was suggesting spoke an Afro-Asiatic language? I recall he said the Indo-European word “tauros” (bull) was borrowed from that.

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