Elena Efimovna Kuz'mina

A Classic Example of the Culture-historical Book

 
Publish Date : Sunday 8 February 2009 - 11:26
 
 
Elena Efimovna Kuz'mina won the Islamic Republic of Iran's World Prize for book of the year for her work : The Origins Of the Indo-Iranians.
A Classic Example of the Culture-historical Book
 
Elena Efimovna Kuz\'mina, Ph.D. (1964) in Archaeology, Moscow State University, is Professor of Archaeology since 1988, and is the Head scholar of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research (Moscow, Russia). She is also Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Corresponding Fellow of the German Archaeological Institute and Member of the Società Iranologica Europea (Italy). She has published 300 articles and 9 books on the archaeology of Eurasian Steppes and origins of Indo-Iranians, including Otkuda prishli indoarii (Moscow , 1994) and Mifologiya i iskusstvo skifov i baktriytsev (Moscow, 2002).
J.P. Mallory, Ph.D. (1975) in Indo-European Studies (European Archaeology), University of California, Los Angeles, is Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at Queen\'s University, Belfast.

The Origins of the Indo-Iranians
The Origins of the Indo-Iranians. ELENA E. KUZMINA (edited by J.P. MALLORY). xviii+762 pages, 132 figures. 2007. Leiden: Brill; 978-90-04-16054-5 hardback 139 [euro] & US$195.

about the book
The book gives a clear introduction into this topic, and outlines its basic task: \'a thorough comparison of the linguistic and archaeological data and the assessment of the ethnic attribution of the Andronovo Culture\' . It should be stressed that the idea of a connection between this culture and the ancient Indo-Iranians is the thread that runs through the whole book. In order to ground this idea and explode the Near Eastern hypothesis, Kuzmina has collected, classified, compared, and summarised a huge amount of archaeological data, including that obtained from her own fieldwork; this is then examined against written records, linguistic and ethnographic data relating to the material culture of the Indo-Iranians, as well as anthropological (craniological) data. Her argumentation is based on a retrospective method, which involves \'establishing the genetic connections of a culture with a subsequent one, whose ethnic identity is known from written sources" (p. 15). In this case it proposes a genetic connection between the Iron Age nomads (Scythians, Sakas, Sarmatians, who presumably spoke eastern Iranian languages) and the cultures of Bronze Age Eurasia (mainly the Timber-Grave and Andronovo cultures).

The first part of the book is entirely devoted to the presentation and analysis of the Andronovo culture, introducing the reader to the complicated vocabulary of interrelated cultures and cultural types covered by the Andronovo umbrella. Great attention is paid to Bronze Age transport, specifically to the origins of light chariots (a characteristic attribute of the culture of the ancient Indo-Iranians according to ancient texts), rightly regarded as a revolutionary technological invention. Although this question is \' highly debatable, the author, synthesising various data, favours the Eurasian steppe as the most appropriate zone where this event might have taken place.
Professor Kuzmina devotes several chapters to the cultures of Central Asia, which are of key importance for understanding possible \'scenarii\' of interrelations between indigenous populations and migrating groups from the Andronovo area.
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