5. Some new arguments
5.2. EVIDENCE PROVIDED
BY PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
5.2.1. A touchy subject
Sergent treads sensitive ground in discussing the evidence furnished by
physical anthropology. Though not identifying language with race
(as some 19th-century scholars did), he maintains that in many cases, a
certain correlation between language and genes may nonetheless be discernible.
As we have seen, this thesis has been put forward by Luigi Cavalli-Sforza
and other leading population geneticists. The underlying logic is
simple: people who speak a common language do so by living together as
a community, and as such, they will also intermarry and pass on their genes
along with their language and culture to their children. To say that
there was an original IE community whose language got diversified into
the existing IE languages, and whose “heirs” we IE-speakers are, is already
enough to attract suspicions of Nazi fantasies, even in the case of so
authoritative and objective a scholar as Bernard Sergent.
oblique aspersions are cast on Sergent by Jean-Paul Demoule, who uses the
familiar and simple technique of juxtaposition, i.c. with the term “mother
race”, used off-hand by Emmanuel Leroy-Ladurie in a review of Sergent’s
book Les Indo-Européens.5 Demoule’s
explicit thesis is that “not one scientific fact allows support for the
hypothesis of an original [PIE-speaking] people”. In fact, there
am no known languages which are not spoken by a living community or a “people”,
either in the past (e.g. Latin) or in the present. The only exception
would be Esperanto, an artificial language; but would Prof. Demoule maintain
that IE came about as a constructed (“sanskRta”) language, propagated
by word of mouth from the Bay of Bengal to the Atlantic coast? Plain
common sense requires that the PIE dialects were also spoken by some such
“people”. If postmodernists like Demoule want to deny to the hypothetical
PIE language the necessary hypothesis that it was used by a community
of speakers, it is up to them to provide an alternative hypothesis plus
the “scientific facts” supporting it.
related political inhibition obstructing the progress of research in IE
studies is the post-1945 mistrust of migratory models as explanations of
the spread of technologies, cultures or indeed languages. Sergent
goes against the dominant tendency by insisting that the IE language family
has spread by means of migrations.6 Prior
to the telegraph and the modern electronic media, a language could indeed
only be spread by being physically taken from one place to the next.
In the case of India, while we need not concede Sergent’s specific assumption
of an Aryan immigration, it is obvious that migrations have been a key
factor in the present distribution of languages.7
points out, the historical period in India has witnessed well-recorded
invasions by the Greeks, Huns, Scythians, Kushanas, Arabs, Turks, Afghans
and Europeans, producing such linguistic phenomena as Greek loans in Sanskrit,
the Persian-Hindi hybrid language Urdu, the Portuguese family names of
many Indian Christians, the de facto status of English as India’s link
language, and numerous English loans in Tamil and other modem Indian languages,
plus a handful of Indian loans in European languages generally (ginger,
rice) and a whole lot in English specifically (thug, goonda, bungalow,
jungle etc.). And that is mild stuff compared with the Americas, where
European immigration has marginalized or extinguished numerous native languages
and replaced them wholesale with a few European ones. So, there is
no need to be shy about surmising the existence and the linguistic impact
of migrations, including violent ones, in the proto-historical period.
It so happens that migrations may leave traces in the physical-anthropological
“record” of a population, thus adding modern genetics to the sciences which
can be employed in reconstructing ancient history.
5.2.2. A challenge to
of human and para-human races in India is extremely ancient, including
attested traces of archanthropian specimina of Homo Erectus.
Among the extraordinary findings, surprisingly late
traces of pre-human hominids have been found in the Narmada Valley, dated
to ca. 23,000 BC. This, to Sergent, confirms the hypothesis that
Homo Sapiens Sapiens has mixed with Homo Erectus in Asia, just as
modern man has mixed to an extent with Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis in
Europe.8 Sergent reminds us that the dental
characteristics of the xanthodermic (yellow-skinned) race are those of
Homo Erectus rather than of Homo Sapiens.
be read as an implicit questioning of the monogenist thesis, i.e. the assumption
that the human species has crossed the threshold from animal to human as
a single collectivity. After 1945, this assumption
has been insisted upon as if it were a religious dogma, because it was
feared that polygenism would undermine the unity of the human species.9 This
fear seems unfounded: the simple fact that the different human races can
interbreed and have fertile offspring (unlike horse and donkey,
or lion and tiger) firmly establishes the unity of the human species.10
The relative unimportance of mono- or polygenism is shown by the Biblical
example of the extremely unequal valuation and treatment of the “Hamitic”
race (interpreted as either the natives of Canaan, crushed by the Israelites
under Joshua, or as the Black Africans, reduced to slavery by Christian
Europeans) for the sin of their ancestor Ham, eventhough the latter had
a common origin with his brothers Sem, deemed ancestor of the Israelites,
and Japhet, deemed ancestor of the Europeans. The monogenist belief
that Noah was the common ancestor of the Hamite, Semite and Japhetite “races”
could not prevent the extreme inequality between them.
the polygenist discovery of a dental trait of the “infra-human” Homo Erectus
in the yellow race has not led to a classification of the yellow race as
subhuman or otherwise inferior. On the contrary, even white believers
in racial inequality (like Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in their
controversial book The Bell Curve, 1994) have affirmed the superior
intelligence, on average, of yellow as compared with white and black people.
Being a partial descendant of the Neanderthal troglodytes myself, 1 propose
we celebrate the fusion of different strands of homines in our own
genes. Indeed, what the mixing of Sapiens Sapiens with Neanderthalensis
and Erectus proves, is that they were not really different species, but
merely different races within the developing human species; and this restores
5.2.3. The Veddoid aboriginals
claims that the oldest Homo Sapiens Sapiens racial type of India,
now largely submerged by interbreeding with immigrant Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic
and IE populations, is the one preserved in the Vedda and Rodiya tribes
of Sri Lanka. Earlier physical-anthropologists had isolated them
as “primitive”, by which they meant un-European: little facial and body
hair, broad nose, receding forehead, heavy eyebrows. They also recognized
them as very similar to the Australian aboriginals, though the latter are
in fact less dissimilar from the European type, e.g. being just as hairy
and often having light-brown or blond hair. Though living in the
southernmost, near-equatorial part of the subcontinent, the Veddas are
not black but brown.
the purely black skin is associated (by Sergent) with the population which
“brought” the Dravidian languages, the Veddoid traits are found to an extent
among tribal populations in south India and as far north as the Bhils
and the Gonds. Perhaps Nahali is the last remnant of the lost language
of this ancient layer of the Indian population, for all the said tribes
including the Veddas now speak the languages of their non-tribal neighbours.11
type has also been found in the Harappan area, in the chronologically post-Harappan
and culturally non-Harappan site known as Cemetery H. It has even been
found in Iran and Mesopotamia. In Sergent’s view, this indicates
the trail of the Veddoid-Australoid vanguard of Homo Sapiens Sapiens on
its way from Africa to East Asia, Indonesia and Australia, very roughly
in 40,000 BC. In countries along the way, this type may have coexisted
with Homo Erectus for thousands of years before assimilating or displacing
the latter, and before being assimilated or displaced by other, more European-like
5.2.4. Waves of immigrants
Sergent questions the neat division of the South-Asian population into
“Mediterranean”, “Melano-Indian” (black-skinned, associated with the Dravidian
languages) and “Veddoid” or “Australoid”, introduced by British colonial
anthropologists: “the Vedda, the Melano-Indians and the Indus people and
the actual inhabitants of the northern half of India, which classical anthropology
used to class as Mediterraneans, all belong to one
same human ‘current’ of which they manifest the successive ‘waves’.
Everything indicates, physical traits as well as geographical distribution,
that the Vedda have arrived first, followed by the Melano-Indians, and
then the Indus people.”12 Note that he does
not mention “Aryans” as a distinct type separate from and arriving after
the “Indus people”.
rejects the classical view that populations having traits halfway between
the typical Veddoid and Mediterranean traits must be considered “mixed”.
Instead, rather than assuming discrete racial types subsequently subject
to miscegenation, he posits a racial continuum, corresponding with the
continuum of migrations from northeastern Africa
via West Asia to South Asia. Indeed, he takes a few Veddoid-looking
skeletons found in Mesopotamia as proof that the Veddas too were immigrants
into India, “far from representing emigrations from India (how and when
could these have come about, all movements going in the opposite sense,
as we shall see?)”.13
argument that the distribution of Veddoid skulls over South- as well as
West Asia must be due to a southeastward migration as all migrations in
this region have been southeastward, loses much of its force when we consider
that in the historical period, northwestward migrations are equally attested,
esp. that of the Gypsies hardly a thousand years ago. Nonetheless,
with the present state of knowledge suggesting an African origin for modern
humanity, it is of course plausible that India’s first human inhabitants
were immigrants from West Asia and ultimately from Africa.
largely coincide with a racial type called “Melano-Indian”, which is very
dark-skinned (darker than the Veddas), but in all other respects similar
not to the Melano-Africans but to the Mediterranean variety of the white
race, e.g. wavy hair, a near-vertical forehead,
thinner nose. Sergent thinks they arrived in Mehrgarh well before
the beginning of the Neolithic, in ca. 8,000 BC, and that they were subsequently
replaced or absorbed by the real Harappans, who belonged to the “Indo-Afghan”
point, it is customary to point to the Dravidian Brahui speakers of Baluchistan
(living in the vicinity of Mehrgarh) as a remnant of the Dravidian Harappans.
However, they are physically indistinguishable from the Iranian Baluchis,
and Sergent proposes that the Brahui speakers, far from being a native
remnant of a pre-Harappan population of Baluchistan, only immigrated into
Baluchistan from inner India in the early Muslim period. Given
that Baluchi, a West-Iranian language, only established itself in Baluchistan
in the 13th century (“for 2000 years, India has
been retreating before Iran”)15, and that
the only Indo-Iranian loans in Brahui are from Baluchi and not from Indo-Aryan,
Sergent deduces that Brahui was imported in its present habitat only that
late.16 We’ll have to leave that as just a
proposal for now: it is hard to understand how a Central-Indian population
could migrate there, dissolve itself physically into the Baluchi population
yet remain linguistically distinct.
Harappan civilization “prolongs the ancient Neolithic of Baluchistan [viz.
Mehrgarh], whose physical type is West-Asian, notably the type called (because
of its contemporary location) Indo-Afghan”.17
This suggests that the “Indo-Afghan” type was located elsewhere before
the beginning of the Neolithic in Mehrgarh, viz. in West Asia. If
so, this means that the last great wave of immigrants (as opposed to smaller
waves like the Scythian or the Turco-Afghan or the English which did not
deeply alter the average genetic type of the Indian population) took place
thousands of years before the supposed Aryan invasion. And the latter,
bringing Aryans of the Indo-Afghan type into an India already populated
with Harappans of the Indo-Afghan type, happens to be untraceable in the
blood type or skull type or skin colour marks the period when the Aryans
are supposed to have invaded India. So, one potentially decisive
proof of the Aryan invasion is conspicuously missing. Indeed, the
physical-anthropological record is now confidently used by opponents of
the AIT as proof of the continuity between the Harappan and the post-Harappan
societies in northwestern India.
Demoule: “Les Indo-Européens, un mythe sur mesure”, La Recherche,
April 1998, p.41.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde,153-156, criticizing non-migrationist
theses by Jean-Francois Jarrige and Jim Shaffer.
scholar who still agrees with Dr. Sergent’s common-sense position is Dr.
Robert Zydenbos (“An obscurantist argument”, Indian Express, 12-12-1993):
“And it should be clear that languages do not migrate by themselves: people
migrate, and bring languages with them.”
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.35-37. Fresh confirmation of
the Sapiens-Neanderthal mixing was unearthed in Lapedo Valley near Leiria,
Portugal, in December 1998: a 4-year-old boy who lived 24,500 years ago
and whose skeleton shows mixed charcateristics of both Homo types,
according to palaeo-anthropologist Dr. Erik Trinkaus (De Standaard, 26-4-1999).
the ideological extrapolations from polygenist and monogenist anthropologies,
see Léon Poliakov: Le Mythe Aryen (Paris 1971), ch. 2.2.
is a different matter that some polygenists did indeed hold crudely racist
views, e.g. the proto-Nazi Ariosophists, led by Guido von List (1848-1919)
and Joerg Lanz von Liebenfels (1874-1954) ascribed divergent origins to
the different non-white and Jewish “races”, with the Black Africans being
a hybrid progeny fathered by white Aryans upon apes, cfr. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke:
The Occult Roots of Nazism, Tauris, London 1992 (1985)
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.38.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.43.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.44.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.50.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.29. Indeed, both Baluchistan
(including the Brahminical place of pilgrimage Hinglaj) and the Northwest
Frontier Province (homeland of Panini) were partly Indo-Aryan-speaking
before Baluchi and Pashtu moved in.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.130.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.50.
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