First, some excerpts from “A History of the Indo-European Languages” at Atlas Shrugs:
Greek, the Indo-European language of the palace-centered Bronze Age warrior kings who ruled at Mycenae and other strongholds, is definitely attested in the mid-second millennium BC. The breakthrough in the decipherment of the Linear B tablets was made by the Englishmen Michael Ventris (1922—1956) and John Chadwick (1920—1998) in the early 1950s. Ventris was himself surprised to discover that the language was an early form of Greek. Here is David W. Anthony in The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, page 48-49:
“The Mycenaean civilization appeared rather suddenly with the construction of the spectacular royal Shaft Graves at Mycenae, dated about 1650 BCE, about the same time as the rise of the Hittite empire in Anatolia. The Shaft Graves, with their golden death masks, swords, spears, and images of men in chariots, signified the elevation of a new Greek-speaking dynasty of unprecedented wealth whose economic power depended on long-distance sea trade. The Mycenaean kingdoms were destroyed during the same period of unrest and pillage that brought down the Hittite Empire about 1150 BCE. Mycenaean Greek, the language of palace administration as recorded in the Linear B tablets, was clearly Greek, not Proto-Greek, by 1450 BCE, the date of the oldest preserved inscriptions. The people who spoke it were the models for Nestor and Agamemnon, whose deeds, dimly remembered and elevated to epic, were celebrated centuries later by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey. We do not know when Greek speakers appeared in Greece, but it happened no later than 1650 BCE. As with Anatolian, there are numerous indications that Mycenaean Greek was an intrusive language in a land where non-Greek languages had been spoken before the Mycenaean age.”
David W. Anthony believes that the “Proto-Indo-European homeland was located in the steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas in what is today southern Ukraine and Russia,” which is the most commonly cited alternative (and the one that I happen to favor, too), but by no means the only one. The homeland, or Urheimat, from which Proto-Indo-European (PIE) originally existed and spread has been sought for more than 200 years. It is in fact easier to establish when PIE was spoken than where, although there is dissent also here.
The Proto-Indo-European language is not historically recorded, which obviously makes our task much harder, but we can use its daughter languages and through comparative linguistics reconstruct with some degree of accuracy much of the vocabulary which existed in the mother language before it separated into different branches. We know that the people who spoke PIE were familiar with wheeled vehicles. The earliest archaeological evidence we currently have for wheeled vehicles anywhere on Earth dates from about 3500 BC and is found in Eastern and Central Europe. PIE contains words for silver, which was not known much before 4000 BC. Wool, the product of selectively bred sheep, also appears largely to be a development of the fourth millennium BC, although the dating here is less precise than with wheels.
Read the rest at Atlas Shrugs.
I will publish a multipart essay on the history of optics at the website Jihad Watch later this month. One of the parts will be about the history of glass, a fascinating subject which most of us rarely think about. We often talk about how much we owe to the ancient Greeks, but when it comes to the use of glass, we owe much more to the Romans than to the Greeks.
Today we see huge glass windows in every major city in the world, but many people don’t know that the Romans were the first to use glass for architectural purposes, and the first to make glass windows. The Roman legacy of glassmaking survived after the fall of the Roman Empire and was carried in different directions. Under the influence of Christianity, the introduction of glazed windows, particularly in churches, and the further development of painted and stained glass manufacture was one of the most decorative uses. Here is a quote from the book Glass: A World History by Alan Macfarlane and Gerry Martin, page 20:
“There are references to such windows from fifth century France at Tours, and a little later from north-east England, in Sunderland, followed by developments at Monkwearmouth, and in the far north at Jarrow dating to the period between 682 and c.870. By AD 1000 painted glass is mentioned quite frequently in church records, for example in those of the first Benedictine Monastery at Monte Cassino in 1066. It was the Benedictine order in particular that gave the impetus for window glass. It was they who saw the use of glass as a way of glorifying God through their involvement in its actual production in their monasteries, injecting huge amounts of skill and money into its development. The Benedictines were, in many ways, the transmitters of the great Roman legacy. The particular emphasis on window glass would lead into one of the most powerful forces behind the extraordinary explosion of glass manufacture from the twelfth century.”
This story is explored further in the book The History of Stained Glass by Virginia Chieffo Raguin.
Page 10: “Stained glass, considered a precious object, was linked in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to the aesthetics of precious stones and metalwork; it therefore received a place of honour in the building that housed it […]. The importance of stained glass and gems may be explained by a prevailing attitude toward light as a metaphor in premodern Europe. In the Old Testament light is associated with good, and darkness with God’s displeasure. The very first verses of Genesis announce to the reader that ‘the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep’, then God created light and ‘saw the light, that it was good’ (Genesis 1:2-3). Light was associated with knowledge and power, ‘the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty’ (Wisdom 7:26). Light also functioned as a symbol of God’s protection.”
Page 32: “Traditionally, stained glass is used as an architectural medium and, as such, it is integral to the fabric of a building; not only, or always, a work of art, but also a screen letting in and modifying the light and keeping out the elements. Its development as a major art form in the Middle Ages was dependent on the needs of a powerful client, the Christian Church, and the evolution of architectural forms that allowed for ever larger openings in the walls of both humble churches and great cathedrals, producing awe-inspiring walls of coloured light. Its exact origins are uncertain. Sheets of glass, both blown and cast, had been used architecturally since Roman times. Writers as early as the fifth century mention coloured glass in windows. Ancient glass was set in patterns into wooden frames or moulded and carved stucco or plaster, but each network had to be self-supporting, which limited the kinds of shapes that could be used. When or where strips of lead were first employed to hold glass pieces together is not recorded, but lead’s malleability and strength greatly increased the variety of shapes available to artists, giving them greater creative freedom.”
Excavations at Jarrow in northern England have yielded strips of lead and unpainted glass cut to specific shapes from the seventh to the ninth centuries. Benedictine monks played an important role in the spread of stained glass, as in many other things.
Read the rest at the Brussels Journal.