5. Some new arguments
5.3. THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL
5.3.1. Tracing the Aryan
die question of Aryan origins was much disputed m the 19th century, the
Aryan invasion theory has been so solidly dominant in the past century
that attempts to prove it have been extremely rare in recent decades (why
prove the obvious?), until the debate flared up again in India after 1990. In
his attempt to prove the Aryan invasion, Bernard Sergent uses the archaeological
record, which, paradoxically, is invoked with equal confidence by the non-invasionist
crux of the matter is: can archaeologists trace a population migrating
through Central Asia and settling down in India? There seems to be
new hope to pin down this elusive band of migrants: “Today, thanks to the
extremely rich findings in Central Asia in the past twenty years, the discovery
of the ‘pre-Indian Indians’ has become possible.”19
discussing his evidence, let us consider the apparent lack of evidence
for the opposite itinerary: India to Central Asia. So far, Indian
scholars have been on the defensive, busy refuting the AIT but not elaborating
an India-centred alternative scenario of IE expansion. Indeed, some
of them just deny the existence of an IE language family, so that no expansion
needs to be reconstructed. In the absence of an archaeological Saraswati-to-Volga
trail, I suppose that established archaeologists would readily point to
important differences between pre-Harappan culture of ca. 5,000 BC and
the contemporaneous Central-Asian cultures, e.g. the higher degree of sophistication
and incipient urbanization in northwestern India, or the much more intense
use which was made of the horse in Central Asia and in the Pontic region
by 4,000 BC.
reply would be as follows. The fact that there are differences between
Central-Asian cultures and (pre-)Harappan culture hardly disproves the
possibility of migrations from India to Central Asia. To an extent,
it is perfectly normal that the itinerary cannot be traced by archaeology
alone: when people move from an urban environment in a hot climate to a
steppe region with bitterly cold winters, their material culture changes.
Iranian having developed into a distinct branch of Indo-Iranian by Zarathushtra’s
time, we may surmise that Iranian emigrants from India must have been settled
in Bactria for quite some time by the end of the Harappan city culture,
long enough to have differentiated a lot from their pre-Harappan Indian
sake of comparison, the Dutch Afrikaners in Transvaal gradually lost touch
with the European world and its technological progress; for their metalwork,
a routine affair in Holland, they had to go to Zulu blacksmiths, having
lost the skill themselves. The European trappers in North America
returned to an almost prehistorical lifestyle during their stays in the
forests. In antiquity, with communications being so much more limited,
this effect must have been much stronger: Harappan immigrants in Central
Asia soon adopted the material culture of their new environment, forgetting
the most advanced and complex elements of Indian culture.
it remains possible for archaeologists to ascertain the Dutch presence
in 19th-century Transvaal or that of French fur-hunters in 18th-century
Canada, e.g. by discovering remains of non-indigenous rifles. So,
Indian archaeologists should come out of their defensive position and see
for themselves what evidence there may be for the presence of Indian colonists
in Central Asia and for an India-to-Europe migration. It is quite
possible that such evidence is already on the table but that no one has
interpreted it correctly due to the widespread AIT bias.
5.3.2. The Bactrian culture
the basin of the Amu Darya or Oxus river, now northern Afghanistan plus
southeastern Uzbekistan, is historically the cradle of Iranian culture.
In an Indian Urheimat scenario, the Iranians left India either after or,
apparently more in line with scriptural evidence, before the heyday of
the Harappan cities. The next waystation, where they developed their
own distinct culture, was Bactria. In that framework,
it is entirely logical that a separate though Harappa-related culture has
been discovered in Bactria and dated to the late 3rd millennium BC.
However, Bernard Sergent identifies this Bronze Age culture of Bactria,
“one of the most briliant civilizations of Asia”20,
as that of the Indo-Aryans poised to invade India.
not figuring much in the development of his own theory, evidence for similarities
in material culture between Harappa and Bactria is acknowledged by Bernard
Sergent, e.g. ceramics resembling those found in Chanhu-Daro. This
Harappan influence oh the Bactrian culture proper is distinct from the
existence of six fully Harappan colonies in Afghanistan, most importantly
Shortugai in Bactria, “a settlement completely Harappan
in character on a tributary of the Amu Darya (…) on the foot of the ore-rich
Badakshan range (…) with lapis lazuli, gold, silver, copper and lead ores.
Not one of the standard characteristics of the Harappan cultural complex
is missing from it.”21 Logically, the close
coexistence of Harappan colonies and Bactrian settlements was a conduit
for mutual influence but also a source of friction and conflict. Indian-Iranian
conflict has been a constant from the Bronze Age (with the replacement
of Harappan with Bactrian culture in Shortugai ca. 1800 BC)22
through Pehlevi, Shaka and Afghan invasions until Nadir Shah’s sack of
Delhi in the 18th century.
notes a peculiarity of the Bronze Age Bactrian culture: “in contrast with
all the neighbouring cultures, the settlements of this culture are characterized
by a very feeble accumulation: they were constructed in haste, apparently
on the basis of a pre-established plan, and have not been occupied for
very long”.23 That such makeshift settlements
have produced such “brilliant” culture, indicates to me that they already
had a brilliant cultural heritage to start with. And isn’t precisely
the Harappan culture known for its proficiency in urban planning?
cites Akhmadali A. Askarov’s conclusion that the Harappan-Bactrian similarities
are due to “influence of northwestern India on Bactria by means of a migration
of Indus people to Central Asia after the end of their civilization”.24
The acknowledgment of a Harappa-to-Bactria movement is well taken, but
this poses a chronological problem (unless we assume that the Iranians
themselves were Harappans, refugees from the debris of a crumbling civilization). Sergent
himself solves the chronological problem by pointing out that Askarov and
other Soviet scholars who first dug up the sites in Margiana (eastern Turkmenistan)
and Bactria, used an obsolete form of C-14 Carbon dating, and that newer
methods have pushed the chronology of these sites back by centuries.25
For Sergent, this chronological correction is essential: if the Bactrian
culture was that of the Indo-Aryans who brought down the Indus civilization,
it is necessary that they lived there before the end of the latter.
then mentions a number of similarities in material culture between the
Bactrian culture and some cultures in Central Asia and in Iran proper,
e.g. ceramics like those of Namazga-V (southern Turkmenistan). Some
of these were loans from Elam which were being transmitted from one Iranian
(in his reconstruction, Indo-Iranian) settlement to the next, e.g. the
so-called “Luristan bronzes”, Luristan being a Southwest-Iranian region
where Elamite culture was located. Some were loans from the “neighbouring
and older”26 culture of Margiana: does this
not indicate an east-to-west gradient for the Indo-Iranians?
one effect of Sergent’s chronological correction is that what seem to be
influences from elsewhere on Bactrian culture, may have to be reversed:
“From that point onwards, the direction of exchanges and influences gets
partly reversed: a number of similarities can just as well be explained
by an influence of Bactria on another region as one of another on Bactria.”27
So, even for the relation between the Bactrian culture and its neighbours,
the proper direction required by the AIT has not been demonstrated, let
alone a movement all the way from the northern Caspian region to India.
And if there was transmission from other cultures to Bactria (as of course
there was), this does not prove that the Bactrians were colonists originating
in these other cultures; they may simply have practised commerce.
rate, all the sites related in material culture to the Dashli settlement
(except for the Harappan sites) are in present-day Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan, Afghanistan or Iran proper, and are without exception places
which were Iranian at the time they made their appearance in written history
in the last millennium BC (or earlier if that source was the Avesta).
While migrations are obviously possible, it seems to me that this says
something about the burden of proof. It is entirely reasonable to
accept as a starting hypothesis that the Dashli settlement, like its sister
settlements, was n. Those who insist it was something else, should accept
the burden of proving that Dashli was different, that migrations took place
in which the Indo-Aryans there made way for Iranians whose presence there
was certified a few centuries later, and if possible also to explain why
those things happened.
5.3.3. Bactria vs. Harappa
new insight based on archaeology and detrimental to the stereotypical Harappan/Aryan
opposition, is that the Harappans were not matriarchal pacifists after
all, that they did have weapons and fortifications, “just like” the Aryans.28This
has even been argued by Prof. Shereen Ratnagar, a virulent critic of all
Indocentric revisions of the Aryan question.29
Incidentally, the Dravidians, often identified with the Harappans, were
not all that peace-loving either: in the context of research into the identity
of the megalith-builders in South India in the 2nd millennium BC. Asko
Parpola sees a connection between the glorification of war in Old Tamil
poetry and the findings of weaponry in Megalithic graves.30
in the jungle of the human world, purely pacifistic civilizations would
not be viable except as a pipe-dream.
this point, Sergent insists on the old picture: relatively unarmed mercantile
Harappans versus heavily armed Aryans preparing their invasion in Bactria.
It is not a contrast between martial and pacifist, but at least one between
more martial and less martial. The Bactrian settlements abound in
metal weaponry, and this does present a contrast with the relative paucity
of weapons in Harappa. The latter was a well-ordered mercantile society,
while Bactria seems to have been a frontier society.
this need not indicate an ethnic or linguistic difference: at the time
of writing, English law prohibits nearly every form of private possession
of firearms, while American law allows every citizen to carry firearms
and most American families do indeed possess some. A different situation
and history can account for a different attitude to weaponry, even within
the same speech community. On the other hand, to pursue the comparison,
British and American English have grown somewhat apart; in the absence
of modern communication, they might have been close to differentiating
as much from each other as Iranian did from Indo-Aryan. Would the
latter difference not neatly fit the relation between Harappan and Bactrian
societies: related but sufficiently distinct?
martial culture of Bactria as compared with the relatively peaceful culture
of the Indus-Saraswati civilization reminds us of a contrast between Iranian
and Indian in the historical period. In pre-Alexandrine Iranian royal
inscriptions, we come across truly shameless expressions of pride in bloody
victories, even defiantly detailing the cruel treatment meted out to the
defeated kings. By contrast, in Ashoka’s inscriptions, we find apologies
for the bloody Kalinga war and a call for establishing peace and order.
Far from being a purely Buddhist reaction against prevalent Hindu martial
customs, Ashoka’s relative pacifism presents a personal variation within
a broader and more ancient tradition of AhiMsA, non-violence, best
expressed in some sections of the Mahabharata. Though this epic (and
most explicitly its section known as the Bhagavad Gita) rejects the extremist
non-violence propagated by Mahatma Gandhi and also by the wavering Arjuna
before the decisive battle, Krishna’s exhortation to fight comes only after
every peaceful means of appeasing or reconciling the enemy has been tried.
the Vedas seem to be inspired by the same martial spirit of the Iranian
inscriptions, but in the Indocentric chronology, they predate the high
tide of Harappan civilization, belonging to a pre-Harappan period of conquest,
viz. the conquest of the northwest by the Yamuna/Saraswati-based Puru tribe.
Their westward conquest was part of a larger westward movement including
the Iranian conquest of Central Asia. By way of
hypothesis, I propose that AhiMsA was a largely post-Vedic development
(though it has been argued that Vedic ritual rules to minimize the suffering
of the sacrificed animals already prove the existence of the AhiMsA spirit,
a concern equally present in Zarathushtra’s hymns)31,
and that the Iranians missed its more radical phase, sticking instead to
the more uncivilized glorification of victory by means of force.
This would concur with the finding of a more military orientation of Bactrian
culture as compared with the post-Vedic Harappan culture.
5.3.4. The Bactrian tripura
principal Bactrian site of Dashli, a circular building with three concentric
walls has been found. The building was divided into
a number of rooms and inside, three fireplaces on platforms were discovered
along with the charred remains of sacrificed animals. In this building,
its Soviet excavator Viktor Sarianidi recognized an Iranian temple, but
Sergent explains why he disagrees with him.32
He argues that the Vedic Aryans were as much fire-worshippers as the Iranians,
and like the early Iranians (prior to the establishment of Zarathushtra’s
reforms), they sacrificed animals, so that the excavated fire altars could
be either Indo-Aryan or Iranian.
India and Iran have a large common heritage, and many religious practices,
mythical motifs and other cultural items were the same or closely similar
in both. But that truism will not do to satisfy Sergent’s purpose,
which is to show that the Bactrian culture was not generally Indo-Iranian,
and definitely not Iranian, but specifically Indo-Aryan. There is
nothing decisively un-Iranian about the Dashli fire altars.
contrary, there may well be something un-Indic and specifically Iranian
about it. First of all, roundness in buildings is highly unusual
in Hindu culture, which has a strong preference for square plans (even
vertically, as in windows, where rectangular shapes are preferred over
arches), in evidence already in the Harappan cities. Moreover, Sergent
notes the similarity with a fire temple found in Togolok, Margiana. The
Togolok fire altar has gained fame by yielding traces of a plant used in
the Soma (Iranian: Haoma) sacrifice: laboratory analysis
in Moscow showed this to be Ephedra, a stimulant still used in ephedrine
and derivative products.33Asko
Parpola tries to turn the Togolok temple into an Indo-Iranian and possibly
proto-Vedic one citing the Soma sacrifice there as evidence: the Rg-Vedic
people reproached their Dasa (Iranian) enemies for not performing rituals
including the Soma ritual, so Parpola identifies the former with the “Haumavarga
Shakas” or Soma-using Scythians mentioned in Zoroastrian texts.34
However, every testimony we have of the Scythians, including the Haumavarga
ones in whose sites traces of the Soma ceremony have been found, is as
an Iranian-speaking people. It is possible that the sedentary Iranians
included all nomads in their term Shaka, even the hypotheticalVedic-Aryan
nomads on their way to India, but it is not more than just possible.
The use of Soma was a bone of contention within Mazdeism, with Zarathushtra
apparently opposing it against its adepts who were equally Iranian.35
even if Thomas Burrow were right with his thesis that the Mazdean religion
originated in a sustained reaction against the Indo-Aryans present in Bactria
and throughout the Iranian speech area (making the non-Zoroastrian faction
in Greater Iran an Indo-Aryan foreign resident group)36,
it remains to be proven that these dissident Indo-Aryans made way for Zoroastrian
hegemony in Iran by moving out, and more specifically by moving to India,
somewhat like Moses taking the Israelites out of Egypt. There is
neither scriptural nor archaeological evidence for such a scenario: the
normal course of events would be assimilation by the dominant group, and
the only emigration from Iranian territory (if it had already been iranianized)
by Indo-Aryans that we know of, is the movement of the Mitannic and Kassite
Indo-Aryans from the southern Caspian area into Mesopotamia and even as
far as Palestine.
the Dashli building, Asko Parpola recognized a tripura such as have been
described in the Vedic literature as the strongholds with three circular
concentric walls of the Dasas or Asuras (Asura/Ahura worshippers),
which Parpola himself has identified elsewhere as Iranians.37
So, chances are that the Soma-holding fire-altars, like the tripura
structures around them, in both Togolok and Dashli, were Iranian. Parpola
makes this conclusion even more compelling when he informs us that a similar
building in Kutlug-Tepe “demonstrates that the tradition of building forts
with three concentric walls survived in Bactria until Achaemenid times”38
- when the region was undoubtedly Iranian.
Parpola points out details in the Vedic descriptions of the tripura-holding
Dasas and Asuras which neatly fit the Bactrian culture, the Rg-Veda “places
the Dasa strongholds (…) in the mountainous area”39,
which is what Afghanistan looks like to people from the Ganga-Saraswati-Indus
plains; it speaks of “a hundred forts” of the Dasa, while the Vedic Aryans
themselves “are never said to have anything but fire or rivers as their
‘forts’. The later Vedic texts confirm this by stating that when
the Asuras and Devas were fighting, the Asuras always won in the beginning,
because they alone had forts. (…) The Rg-Vedic Aryans described their enemy
as rich and powerful, defending their cattle, gold and wonderful treasures
with sharp weapons, horses and chariots. This description
fits the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex in Bactria, with its finely
decorated golden cups, weapons with ornamental animal figurines including
the horse, and trumpets indicative of chariot warfare.”40
may pose a chronological problem to those who consider the Rg-Veda as pre-Bronze
Age, or perhaps not, e.g. Parpola notes that the term tripura was
“unknown to the Rg-Veda” and only appears later, “in the Brahmana texts”41
which non-invasionists date to the high Harappan period, contemporaneous
with the Bactrian Bronze Age culture. At any rate,
it affirms in so many words that the Bactrian Bronze Age culture was Dasa
or Asura, terms which Parpola had identified with “the carriers of the
Bronze Age culture of Greater Iran”.42 It
also constitutes a challenge to those who make India the Urheimat of IE
or at least of Indo-Iranian: if the presumed tripuras are a distinctly
Dasa/Iranian element, identified as such in Vedic literature, and if the
Vedic Aryans fought the Dasas in India, should we not be able to find some
in India too? Or did the Iranians only develop them after leaving
India but while still waging occasional wars on the Indian border?
5.3.5. Were the Bactrians
artefacts in Dashli have the same Iranian/Indo-Aryan ambiguity with a preference
for the Iranian alternative. A vase in Dashli shows a scene with
men wearing a kind of shirt leaving one shoulder uncovered. In this,
Sergent recognizes the upanayana ceremony, in which a youngster
is invested with the sacred shirt or thread.43
But this is both a Vedic and a Zoroastrian ritual, with the latter resembling
the depicted scene more closely: in India, only a thread is given, but
among Zoroastrians, it is an actual shirt.
display horned snakes or dragons carrying one or more suns inside of them:
according to Sergent, this refers to an Indo-Iranian dragon myth, attested
in slightly greater detail in the Rg-Veda than in the Avesta (but
what else would you expect, with Vedic literature being much larger, older
and better preserved than the Avestan corpus?), about
Indra liberating the sun by slaying the dragon Vrtra, or in the Avesta,
Keresaspa killing the snake Azhi Srvara, “the homed one”.44
The sources which drew his attention to this picture, both Soviet and French,
are agreed that it is specifically Iranian.45
What Sergent adds is only that, like with the fire cult, it could just
as well be indo-Aryan; but that does not amount to proof of its Indo-Aryan
rather than Iranian identity.
depictions (statuettes, seals) of a fertility goddess associated with watery
themes have been found. Sergent points out that they are unrelated
to Mesopotamian mythology but closely related to the “Indo-Iranian” goddess
known in India as Saraswati, in Iran as Anahita. Which
shall it be in this particular case, Iranian or Indian, Avestan or Vedic?
Sergent himself adds that the closest written description corresponding
to the visual iconography in question is found in Yasht 5 of the Avesta.46
we must remain open to new interpretations and new findings. In this
field, confident assertions can be overruled the same day by new discoveries.
But if Sergent himself, all while advocating an Indo-Aryan interpretation
of the known Bactrian findings, is giving us so many hints that their identity
is uncertain at best, and otherwise more likely Iranian than Indo-Aryan,
we should have no reason to disbelieve him. On the strength of the
data he offers, the safest bet is that the Bactrian Bronze Age culture
was the centre of Iranian culture.
to agree with the evidence of Zoroastrian scripture, which has dialectal
features pointing to the northeast of the historical Iranian linguistic
space (i.e. including Iran proper, which was in fact a late addition to
the Iranian speech area), meaning Bactria, and which specifically locates
Zarathushtra in Bahlika/Balkh, a town in northern Afghanistan or Bactria.
It tallies with the list of regions in the opening chapter of the Vendidad,
corresponding to Bactria, Sogdia, Margiana, southern Afghanistan and northwestern
India, which happens to put Balkh practically in the geographical centre. Iran
proper was iranianized only well after Zarathushtra’s preaching.
As Sergent notes, in ca. 1900 BC, the Namazga culture in Turkmenistan changes
considerably taking in the influence of the then fast-expanding Bactria-Margiana
culture:47 the Iranians were moving from their
historical heartland westward into the south-Caspian area. From there,
but again only after a few more centuries, they were to colonize Kurdistan/Media
and Fars/Persia, where their kingdoms were to flourish into far-flung empires
in the 1st millennium BC.
only logical that the dominant religious tradition in a civilization is
the one developed in its demographic and cultural metropolis: the Veda
in the Saraswati basin, the Avesta in the Oxus basin, i.e. Bactria.
That Bactria did have the status of a metropolis is suggested by Sergent’s
own description of its Bronze Age culture as “one of the most brilliant
in Asia”. Though provincial compared with Harappa, it was a worthy
metropolis to the somewhat less polished Iranian civilization.
5.3.6. Clarions of the
distinctively Aryan innovation attested in Dashli was the trumpet: “Bactria
has yielded a number of trumpets; some others had been found earlier in Tepe
Hissar and Astrabad (northeastern Iran); Roman Ghirshman proposed to connect
these instruments with the use of the horse, with the Iranian cavalry manoeuvring
to the sound of the clarion. (…) In ancient India, the trumpet is not mentioned
in the written sources”.48 Would it not be
logical if the same type of cavalry manoeuvres had yielded the Aryans both
Iran and India? In that case, we should have encountered some references
to clarions in the Vedas. But no, as per Sergent’s own reading, the
Rg-Veda, supposedly the record of Aryan settlement in India, knows nothing
of trumpets; though post-Harappan depictions of riders with trumpets are
falls into place if we follow the chronology given by K.D. Sethna and other
Indian dissidents: the Rg-Veda was not younger but older than the Bronze
Age and the heyday of Harappa. So, the trumpet was invented in the
intervening period, say 3,000 BC, and then used in the subsequent Iranian
conquest of Bactria, Margiana and Iran.
recent migration into Iran of the Iranians, who supposedly covered the
short distance from the Volga mouth to Iran in the 3rd or 2nd millennium
BC (losing the wayward Indo-Aryans along the way), has not been mapped
archaeologically, in contrast with the successive Kurgan expansion waves
into Europe. Jean Haudry reports optimistically: “Since the late 3rd millennium
BC, an undecorated black pottery appears in Tepe Hissar (Turkmenistan),
together with violin-shaped female idols and esp. with bronze weapons,
the horse and the war chariots, and - a detail of
which R. Ghirshman has demonstrated the importance - the clarion, indispensable
instrument for collective chariot maneuvers. We can follow them from
a distance on their way to the south.”49 But
as we shall see, this is not necessarily the entry of “the” Iranians into
Iran, and even if it is, it does not prove the Kurgan area to be the starting-point
of their journey.
account of Roman Ghirshman and Jean Haudry, the proto-Iranians with their
clarions travelled “to the south”. Rather than Indo-Iranians on their
way from South Russia to Iran and partly to India, these may just as well
be the Iranians on their way from India, via the Aral Lake area, to Iran
and Mesopotamia, where they show up in subsequent centuries. Indeed,
viewed from Iran, entrants from Russia and from India would come through
the same route, viz. from the Aral Lake southward. A look at the
map suffices to show the improbability of any other route from India to
Iran: rather than to go in a straight line across the mountains, substantial
groups of migrants would follow the far more hospitable route through the
fertile Oxus valley to the Aral Lake area, and then proceed south from
other hand, migrations from Iran northward are also attested. Against
the theory of a southward migration of the Iranians from the Aral-Caspian
area into Iran, P. Bosch-Gimpera proposes that the Iranians came from South
Russia via the Caucasus into Iran and thence to what is now Turkestan: “The
acknowledged penetration of the Iranians into Turkestan, where they arrived
as far as Khorezm (…) must have taken place, on the contrary, from Iran
itself, around 1000 BC.”50While
he is wrong in describing the group migrating northward from Iran as “the”
Iranians, the migration to which he draws attention confirms that Central
Asia was a vast space which nomadic groups, mostly Iranian-speaking, crisscrossed
in all directions.51
in the 3rd century BC, there was a Parthian migration which resulted in
the enthronement of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty in Iran, where they became
formidable enemies to the Roman armies.52
From Chinese as well as Roman sources, it has been deduced that the Parthians
had been living in the Syr Darya and Amu Darya regions. In present-day
Turkmenistan, the Parthian town of Nisa has been excavated, which bears
testimony to their impressive culture. If only for the sake of colourfulness,
I would like to draw attention to the theory of Philip Lozinski, who considers
the Nisa area but a stage in a much longer migration: “All this
leads me to suggest that the seat of the Parthians, first recorded in written
sources, the Parthau-nisa, was in the region of the upper Irtysh
river in Siberia. The whole region must have been well populated,
flourishing and highly civilized. The archaeological remains recorded
in modem times give ample evidence to this effect. Furthermore the
very close parallel between the actual finds and the description of the
Western, barbarians by the Chinese makes it highly likely that this was
the region the Chinese had in mind. They were remarkably
accurate: their descriptions of gold mines, irrigation systems, iron bridges,
glass in the windows of palaces, the jewelled personal decorations of the
aristocracy, and other regalia which caught their attention, correspond
to actual remains in Siberia.”53
migration from Siberia to western Iran, all within the Iranian speech area,
certainly gives an idea of what migrations could take place within the
vast expanse of Central Asia. This type of migration has occurred
many times in the preceding millennia (as well as in the subsequent centuries
with the Turkic and Mongol conquests); it would be very easy for archaeologists
to mistake such an intra-Iranian migration for the momentous entry of the
Aryans. There is as yet no firm archaeological proof for the original
migration of the first Iranians and Indians in any direction through Central
Asia, at least it has not been identified in the relative wealth of separate
archaeological findings attesting numerous different migrations.
Even in Bernard Sergent’s erudite book, I have not found any data which
compel us to accept that a particular culture can be identified with the
very first Indo-Iranian wave of migrants; nor any data which are incompatible
with the scenario of an original Iranian migration from India via the Oxus
basin to the Caspian area and Iran proper.
5.3.7. Bactrian invasion
the archaeological argument advanced by some scholars in favour of an Aryan
invasion into India has not been very convincing.
e.g. this circular reasoning by Prof. Romila Thapar: “In Haryana and the
western Ganga plain, there was an earlier Ochre Colour Pottery going back
to about 1500 BC or some elements of the Chalcolithic cultures using Black-and-Red
Ware. Later in about 800 BC there evolved the Painted Grey Ware culture.
The geographical focus of this culture seems to be the Doab, although the
pottery is widely distributed across northern Rajasthan, Panjab, Haryana
and western U.P. None of these post-Harappan cultures, identifiable by
their pottery, are found beyond the Indus.Yet this would
be expected if ‘the Aryans’ were a people indigenous to India with some
diffusion to Iran, and if the attempt was to find archaeological correlates
for the affinities between Old Indo-Aryan and Old Avestan.”54
if no common pottery type is found in Iran and India in 1500-800 BC, and
if this counts as proof that no migration from India to Iran took place,
then it also proves that no migration from Iran to India took place.
In particular, the Painted Grey Ware, long identified with the Indo-Aryans,
cannot be traced to Central Asia; if it belonged to Aryans, then not to
Aryan invaders. So, if substantiated, Prof. Thapar’s statement is
actually an argument against an Aryan invasion in ca. 1500 BC.
if the absence of migration in either direction in the period from 1500
BC onwards is really proven, then this only disproves the Aryan migration
if one stays with the assumption that the Aryan migration (whether into
or out of India) took place around 1500 BC. But that assumption is
precisely part of (the textbook version of) the AIT which Prof. Thapar
has set out to prove. The archaeological data which she mentions,
assuming they can prove the absence of migrations in 1500 BC and later,
are not at all in conflict with the theory that Indo-Europeans emigrated
from India anytime between 6000 and 2000 BC.
of the impression created in popular literature, archaeology has by no
means demonstrated that there was an Aryan immigration into India. Even
the new levels in accuracy do not affect the following status quaestionis
of the Aryan Invasion theory: “The question of Indo-European migrations
into the subcontinent of India can, at best, be described as enigmatic.”55
Thus, among those who assume the Aryan Invasion, there is no consensus
on when it took place, and some AIT archaeologists alter the chronology
so much that the theory comes to mean the opposite of what it is usually
believed to mean, viz. an affirmation of Aryan dominance in Harappa rather
than an Aryan destruction of Harappa: “[This] episode
of elite dominance which brought the indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European
family to India (…) may have been as early as the floruit of the Indus
Bernard Sergent. He builds on a corpus of findings (some of them
already used by Asko Parpola) pertaining to the apparent entry of elements
from the Bactrian Bronze Age culture into late- and post-Harappan northwestern
India. He also offers a theory of how these Bactrians may have caused
the downfall of the Harappan civilization, parallel with the contemporaneous
crisis in civilizations in Central and West Asia.
5.3.8. Why Harappa suffered
and urbanization are closely related to commerce, exchange, colonization
of mining areas, and other socioeconomic processes which presuppose communications
and transport. When communication and transport cease, we see cultures
suffer terrible decline, e.g. the Tasmanian aboriginals (exterminated by
the British settlers), living in splendid isolation for thousands of years,
had lost many of the skills which mankind had developed in the Stone Age,
including the art of making fire. One of the reasons why the Eurasian
continent won out against Africa and the Americas in the march of progress,
was the fairly easy and well-developed contact between the different civilizations
of Europe, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China. So, one can force
decline on a culture by cutting off its trade routes, a tactic routinely
used for short periods (hence only with limited long-term effect) in wartime,
but which seems to have troubled the ancient civilizations in ca. 2000
BC with devastating effect for several centuries. It was in reaction
to this destabilization of international trade links that the civilizational
centres started budding empires by the mid-2nd millennium, e.g. the Kassite
empire in Mesopotamia where there had been city-states (Ur, Uruk, Isin,
Larsa, etc.) prior to the great crisis.
Sergent says. Dismissing the thesis of a climatological crisis (proposed
in the case of the Harappan decline but also in the case of West-Asian
cultures), he argues that only an economic crisis
can explain the simultaneous decline of cities in widely different locations,
some near rivers and some on hills, some in densely populated agglomerations
and some overlooking thinly populated steppes or mountain areas, some in
hot and some in colder areas. The ones to blame are - who else? -
the Aryans. They, and “specifically Indo-Aryans”57,
played a role in the Hurrian and Kassite invasions disrupting Mesopotamia
(while the IE or non-IE identity of the Guti and Lullubi invaders remains
unknown, though attempts are made to link the Guti with the Tokharians);
and from Bactria, they by themselves disrupted the economy of the Indus-Saraswati
didn’t physically destroy the Harappan cities, as Mortimer Wheeler and
others of his generation thought: “No trace of destruction has been observed
in these cities.”58 But by creating insecurity
for the travelling traders, they bled and suffocated the economy which
made city life possible; and thus forced the Harappans to abandon their
cities and return to a pre-urban lifestyle. The declining and fragmented
Harappan country and society then fell an easy prey to the Indo-Aryan invaders
scenario has been attested in writing in the case of Mesopotamia.
Sergent quotes other experts to the effect that “from ca. 2230 BC, (…)
the Guti had cut off the roads, ruined the countryside, set the cities
on fire”59 etc., that the Assyrian trade system
was disrupted by the Mitannic people, etc. But is there similar evidence
for the Indus-Saraswati civilization?
cites findings that in the final stage of Mohenjo Daro, we see the large
mansions of the rich subdivided into small apartments for the poor, the
water supply system neglected, the roads and houses no longer following
the plan.60 This certainly marks a decline,
the rich losing their power and the powerful losing their control and resources.
Same story in Harappa, Chanhu Daro, Kalibangan, Lothal: a great loss of
quality in architecture and organization in the last phase. Moreover,
all traces of long-distance trade disappear (just as in Mesopotamia, all
signs of commerce with “Meluhha”/Sindh disappear by 2000 BC), and trade
is the basis of city life. So, “these cities didn’t need to be destroyed:
they had lost their reason for existing, and were vacated”.61
But that doesn’t bring the Bactrians or Indo-Aryans into the picture.
5.3.9. Aryan settlements
Sergent, the “strategic” key to the Aryan invasion puzzle has been provided
by the discovery, by a French team in 1968, of the post-Harappan town of
Pirak, near the Bolan pass and near Mehrgarh in Baluchistan. Pirak
was a new settlement dating back only to the 18th century BC. Culturally
it was closely related to the societies to its north and west, especially
Bactria. Sergent sums up a long list of precise material items which
Pirak had in common with those non-Indian regions, and specifies in some
cases that the artefacts are attested earlier in other sites than in Pirak.62
So, this was a settlement of foreign newcomers bringing some foreign culture
will certainly convince many readers by asserting that in Pirak, “the horse
makes its appearance in India, both through bones and in figurines”, and
this “connotes without any possible doubt the arrival in India of the first
Indo-European-speaking populations”.63 That
depends entirely on how much we make of the limited but real evidence of
horses in the Harappan civilization. Note moreover that while the
horse was important to the Indo-Aryans, the Bactrian two-humped camel was
not; but in Pirak, both camel and horse are conspicuous, both in skeletal
remains and in depictions.
Bactrian culture and those to its west were Iranian-speaking, which is
likely, then Pirak is simply an Iranian settlement in an Indian border
region, a southward extension of the Bactrian culture. Indo-Iranian
borders have been fluctuating somewhat for millennia, while different groups
of Iranians down to Nadir Shah have again and again tried to invade India,
so the Iranian intrusion in Pirak (which may have ended up assimilated
into its Indo-Aryan environment) need not be the momentous historical breakthrough
which it is to Sergent. It would only be that if it can be shown
that the Pirak innovations are repeated in many North-Indian sites in the
subsequent centuries, where we know that the dominant culture was Indo-Aryan.
related culture is the Cemetery H culture on the outskirts of Harappa itself.
Sergent offers a detail which is distinctly non-Vedic and Mazdean (Zoroastrian):
“The dead, represented by unconnected skulls and bones, were placed, after
exposure, in big jars”.64 Exposure to
birds and insects is still the first stage in the Zoroastrian disposal
of the dead. Sergent also reports that the influence of the native Harappan
civilization is much greater here than in Pirak. So, as the Iranian
invaders moved deeper inland, they soon lost their distinctiveness.
Considering that Afghan dynasties have ruled parts of India as far east
as Bengal, using Persian and building in a West-Asian style, this post-Harappan
Iranian intrusion as far as the Indus riverside is not that impressive.
from the Indus eastwards, we lose track of this Bactrian invasion.
Sergent himself admits as much: “For the sequel, archaeology offers little
help. The diggings in India for the 2nd millennium BC reveal a large
number of regional cultures, generally rather poor, and to decree what
within them represents the Indo-Aryan or the indigenous contribution would
be arbitrary. If Pirak (…) represents the start
of Indian culture, there is in the present state of Indian archaeology
no ‘post-Pirak’ except at Pirak itself, which lasted till the 7th century
BC: the site remained, along with a few very nearby ones, isolated.”65
So, the Bactrian invaders who arrived through the Bolan pass and established
themselves in and around the border town of Pirak, never crossed the Indus.
confirms the statement by the much-maligned (by Sergent, that is)66
American archaeologist Jim Shaffer that “no material culture is found to
move from west to east across the Indus”67,
or more academically, that the demographic eastward shift of the Harappan
population during the decline of their cities, i.e. an intra-Indian movement
from Indus to Ganga, “is the only archaeologically
documented west-to-east movement of human populations in South Asia before
the first half of the first millennium BC”, while the archaeological record
shows “no significant discontinuities” for the period when the Aryan invasion
should have made its mark.68 The Aryan invasion
of India has somehow gone missing from the archaeological record.
5.3.10. Scriptural evidence
his reconstruction of the Aryan invasion, Bernard Sergent repeates some
well-known scriptural references. Indian authors are right in pointing
out that this is systematically the weakest part in AIT argumentations,
as the knowledge of Vedic literature among Western scholars is either too
limited or too distorted by AIT presuppositions. Sergent’s
arguments at this point repeat well-known claims about the contents of
the Vedas. Thus, the Rg-Veda was written by foreigners because it
doesn’t know the tiger nor rice nor “the domesticated elephant which existed
in the Harappan Indus culture”.69
the tiger, it is often said that India was divided in a lion zone in the
west and a tiger zone in the rest. This image persists in the symbolism
of the civil war in Sri Lanka: the Sinhalese, originating in Gujarat (the
last place in India where lions exist even today), have the lion as their
symbol, while the separatists among the Tamils, originating in southeastern
India, call themselves the Tigers. However, to judge
from the Harappan seal imagery, tigers did originally exist in the Saraswati
and Indus basins as well, overlapping with the lion zone. As Sir
Monier Monier-Williams notes, in the Atharva-Veda, “vyAghra/tiger
is often mentioned together with the lion”.70
It is simply impossible that the Rg-Vedic seers, even if they were unaware
of the Ganga basin (quod non), had never heard of tigers.
the domesticated elephant, if it was known in Harappa, does anyone seriously
suggest that it was not known in the same area in subsequent centuries?
While regression in knowledge and technology does sometimes happen, there
is no reason whatsoever why people who could domesticate elephants would
have lost this useful skill, which is not dependent on foreign trade or
urbanization, when the Harappan cities declined. If the Vedic Aryans
had settled in India, it is impossible that they didn’t know domesticated
elephants; they need not have mentioned everything they knew in their Vedic
hymns. At any rate, the actual reading of Vedic
information has so far been the weakest arrow in the invasionists’ quiver,
and I wouldn’t take their word for it that the domesticated elephant is
indeed absent from the Rg-Veda. Isn’t the specification
“wild elephant”71 an indication that they
also knew non-wild elephants? Isn’t the mention of how “the people
deck him like a docile king of elephants”72
a reference to the Hindu custom of taking adorned domesticated elephants
according to Sergent himself, made its appearance in the Indus basin in
the late Harappan period, and was known to the Bactrian invaders in Pirak.73
He identifies those Bactrian invaders as the Vedic Aryans, so why haven’t
they mentioned rice in their Rg-Veda? One simple answer would be
that the Rg-Veda is pre-Harappan, composed at a time and in a place where
rice was not yet cultivated. This chronological correction solves
a lot of similar arguments from silence. Thus, there was cotton in
Harappa and after, but no cotton in the Rg-Veda. Bronze
swords were used aplenty in the Bactrian culture and in Pirak, but are
not mentioned in the Rg-Veda (a short knife can be made from soft metals
like gold or copper, but a sword requires advanced bronze or iron metallurgy).74
Camels were part of the Bactrian culture and its Pirak offshoot, but are
not mentioned in the Rg-Veda except for its rather late 8th book, which
mentions Bactria, possibly in the period when the early Harappans were
setting up mining colonies there such as Shortugai. It all falls
into place when the Rg-Veda is considered as pre-Harappan.
a very different type of scriptural evidence, Sergent sees a synchronism
between the archaeologically attested settlement of Pirak and the beginning
of the Puranic chronology, which in his view goes back to the 17th century
BC, in “remarkable coincidence” with the florescence of Pirak.75Reference
is in fact to Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, which starts a dynastic lists of
kings of Kashmir in 1882, i.e. the early 19th century BC.76
But if Kalhana can be a valid reference, what about Kalhana’s dating the
Mahabharata war to the 25th century BC? If Puranic history is any
criterion, Sergent should realize that its lists of Aryan kings for other
parts of India than Kashmir go way beyond 2,000 BC.
classic scriptural reference concerns everything relating to the enemies
of the Vedic Aryans, such as the “aboriginal” Dasas. Very aptly, Sergent
identifies the Dasas and the Panis as Iranians, and the Pakthas (one of
the tribes confronting the Vedic king Sudas in the Battle of the Ten Kings)
as the Iranian Pathans.77 Yet he doesn’t identify
these tribes with the Bronze Age Bactrians, arguing that in Alexander’s
time, Greek authors locate the Parnoi and Dahai just south of the Aral
Lake. But that was almost two thousand years after the heyday of
the Bactrian Bronze Age culture and arguably even longer after the Rg-Veda.
The only mystery is that these ethnonyms managed to survive that long,
not that during those long centuries, they could migrate a few hundred
miles to the northwest - centuries during which we know for fact that the
Iranians expanded westward from their Bactrian heartland across rivers
and mountains to settle as far west as Mesopotamia.
the Vedas locate the confrontations in the prolonged hostility between
Indo-Aryans and Iranians not on the Saraswati (which could in theory be
identified as the homonymous Harahvaiti/Helmand in Afghanistan)78,
but on the riverside of the Parushni/Ravi and other Panjab rivers, unambiguously
in India. This is only logical if the Vedic Aryans were based in
the Saraswati basin and their Iranian enemies were based in an area to
their west (western Panjab, Khyber pass): they confronted halfway in eastern
Panjab. So not only did these Iranian tribes move from Bactria to
the Aral Lake area in 2000-300 BC, but they had started moving northwestward
centuries earlier, in the Rg-Vedic period, in Panjab.
invasionist attempting to strengthen his case by appealing to the testimony
of Hindu scripture, the collective failure becomes more glaring.
5.3.11. Comparison with
archaeological reconstruction in Europe
expansion of the Kurgan culture has been mapped with some degree of accuracy:
“If an archaeologist is set the problem of examining the archaeological
record for a cultural horizon that is both suitably early and of reasonable
uniformity to postulate as the common prehistoric ancestor of the later
Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, and possibly some of the Indo-European
languages of Italy, then the history of research indicates that the candidate
will normally be the Corded Ware culture. At about 3200-2300 BC this
Corded Ware horizon is sufficiently early to predate the emergence of any
of the specific proto-languages. In addition, it is universally accepted
as the common component if not the very basis of the later Bronze Age cultures
that are specifically identified with the different proto-languages. Furthermore,
its geographical distribution from Holland and Switzerland on the west
across northern and central Europe to the upper Volga and middle Dniepr
encompasses all those areas which [have been] assigned as the “homelands”
of these European proto-languages.”79
a very important insight for understanding the large common (partly pre-IE
substratal) element in the European IE languages, distinguishing them collectively
from Anatolian, Tokharic and Indo-Iranian: “The study of the lexicon of
the Northern European languages, especially Germanic and Baltic, reveals
that a large number of terms relevant to the ecology of the habitat of
the early populations of the area and to their socioeconomic activities
have no plausible Indo-European etymology. (…) it
is possible to ascribe to the pre-Indo-European substrate in the Baltic
area a number of names of plants, animals, objects and activities characteristic
of the Neolithic cultures.”80 Many of these
terms also extend to Celtic, Slavic and sometimes Italic and Greek.
include the words
barley, Russian bor (“millet”), Latin far
(“spelt”); Irish tuath, Gothic thiuda, “people”, whence the
Dutch/Deutsch; German wahr, Latin verus, Old
Irish fir, “true”; Latin granum, Dutch koren, English
corn; Lithuanian puodas, Germanic fata, whence
vat, “vessel”; Dutch delven, “dig”, Old Prussian (Baltic)
“piercing-tool”; Old Irishland, Old Prussian
land; Latin alnus (<alisnos), Dutch els, Lithuanian
“alder”, also related to Greek aliza, “white poplar”; Dutch
“taste”, Gothic smakka, “fig, tasty fruit”, Lithuanian
“sweet, treat”; from an ancient form *londhwos, Dutch lenden,
Latin lumbus, “waist”. Likewise, the Germanic
words fish, apple, oak, beech, whale, goat, elm, (n)adder have counterparts
in other European languages, e.g. Latin
Old Irish aball, Greek aig-ilops or krat-aigos (possibly
related to Berber
iksir, Basque eskur)81,
Latin fagus, squalus, haedus, ulmus, natrix, but they have no attested
counterparts in the Asian IE languages.82
and linguistics reinforce each other in indicating the existence of a second
centre of IE dispersal in the heart of Europe, the Corded Ware culture
of ca. 3000 BC, whence most European branches of IE parted for their historical
earlier demographic and cultural movements have been mapped with convincing
accuracy. The sudden apparition of full-fledged Neolithic culture
in the Low Countries in about 5,100 BC can clearly be traced to a gradual
expansion of the agricultural civilization through Hungary (5700 BC) and
southern Germany (5350 BC), from the Balkans and ultimately from Anatolia.83
It is this gradual spread of agriculture and its concomitant changes in
life-style (houses, tools, ceramics, domesticated animals) which the leading
archaeologist Colin Renfrew has rashly identified as the indo-europeanization
of Europe, but which Marija Gimbutas and many others would consider as
the spread of the pre-IE “Old European” culture.
possible that in some outlying regions, the early Indo-Europeans arrived
on the scene in time to capture this movement of expanding agriculture,
but it did not originate with them, because Anatolia and the Balkans were
demonstrably not the IE Urheimat. On the contrary, in the northeastern
Mediterranean, the presence of pre-IE elements in the historically attested
IE cultures and languages (Greek, Hittite) is very strong, indicating that
the Indo-Europeans had to subdue a numerous and self-confident, culturally
advanced population. It is this Old European people, known through
towns like Catal HLyLk and Vinca, which gradually spread to the northwest
and civilized most of Europe before its indo-europeanization.
earlier case of demographic-cum-cultural expansion has been identified:
“One is astonished by the cultural coherence which manifests during the
Middle- and Late-Magdalénien (12,000 to 10,000 BC) in a large
area reaching from Spain (the Valencia region) to central Czechoslovakia.
Everything indicates that this culture has spread fast starting from southwestern
France, either by migrations or by cultural exchange between autochthonous
tribes. Should one - since at that socio-economic
stage there can be no question of political unity - not consider the possibility
that this was one large ethnic group? In the entire Magdalénien
territory, there is (…), apart from similarities in tools and way of life,
a conspicuous unity in artistic styles and symbolism.”84
made way for a new cultural wave: “Around 10,000 BC or shortly after, the
culture comes to an end without any demonstrable reason. This is
the end of a civilization. This is clearly visible in the French-Cantabrian
region where the places of worship which had been installed in deep caves
8,000 years earlier, were abandoned. In [its northern
reaches], the Magdalénien culture makes way for cultural
currents from the Anglo-Polish plains”85,
a nomadic culture of pioneers living on the rim of the (by then receding)
ice-cap. They were the last hunter-gatherer culture in Europe, and
their expansion in non-Mediterranean Europe set the stage for the inexorable
expansion of the Neolithic Revolution of agriculture from the southeast.
archaeology in action. Without the benefit of a single written document,
several cultural and partly demographic waves have been identified in European
prehistory: a Mesolithic wave expanding from the Ur-European population
centres in the southwest (probably proto-Basque) before 10,000 BC; a counter-wave
from the northeast after 10,000 BC (linguistically unidentified); the wave
of agriculture spreading to the farthest corners from the southeast in
the 7th-4th millennium BC (linguistically unidentified); and finally the
wave of the horse-riding late-Kurganites bringing their IE languages.
is as yet no parallel map of a Kurgan-to-India migration. Thus, the
material relation between the Andronovo culture in Kazakhstan (often considered
as the Indo-Iranians freshly emigrated from the Kurgan area) and the Bactria-Margiana
culture (presumed to be the Indo-Aryans and the Iranians on their way to
India and Iran) has been established only vaguely, certainly not enough
to claim that the latter was an offshoot of the former (which the AIT would
require). As we saw, even tracing a migration from Bactria across
the Indus has not succeeded so far.
neither has a reverse migration been mapped archaeologically. If
the Bactrian Bronze Age culture was Iranian and the Iranians had earlier
been defeated in India, where is the archaeological trail of the Iranians
from India to Bactria? And earlier, where is the evidence of the
Proto-Indo-Europeans on their way from India to the Kurgan area?
Those who consider India as the Urheimat of IE should suspend their current
triumphalism and take up the challenge.
Light on the Indus Civilization, Aryan Books, Delhi 1997.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p-33.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 157.
Tosi: “De indusbeschaving voorbij de grenzen van het Indisch subcontinent”,
in UNESCO exhibition book Oude Culturen in Pakistan, Koninklijke
Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, Brussels 1989, p.133.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.180.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.160.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.224, with reference to A.A.
Askarov: “Traditions et innovations dans la culture du nord de la Bactriane
à l’age du bronze”, Colloque Archèologie, CNRS, Paris
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.160.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.158.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.160.
is one of the points elaborated by Shereen Ratnagar: Enquiries into
the Political Organization of Harappan Society, Ravish Publ., Pune
Shereen Ratnagar: “Revisionist at work: a chauvinistic inversion of the
Aryan invasion theory”, Frontline, 9-2-1996, an attack on Prof.
Parpola: Deciphering the Indus Script, Cambridge University Press
1994, p. 171.
in Hans-Peter Schmidt: “The origin of Ahimsa”, Mèlanges d’Indianisme
à la Mémoire de Louis Renou, Paris 1968, and Herman W.
Tull: “The killing that is not killing: men, cattle and the origins of
non-violence (ahimsa) in the Vedic sacrifice”, Indo-Iranian Journal
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 161.
name Soma/Haoma does not etymologically refer to a specific plant,
but to the process of pressing it to obtain its juices: sav/hav,
“to press/crush”. Gernot Windfuhr: “Haoma/Soma: the Plant”, Acta
Iranica 25, 2nd series, vol.XI (Brill, Leiden 1985), p.699-726, proposes
that the original Soma plant was a man-shaped root, like the European mandrake,
probably the ginseng root. Windfuhr shows that its symbolic
connection with the celestial man (the constellation Orion) has an exact
parallel in the Chinese lore about this strongly medicinal plant. on the
other hand, ginseng is at best very rare in the foothills of the Himalayas,
while ephedra is quite common there and in the Afghan and Iranian highlands,
and it also has mild mind-altering properties. So, the discovery
of ephedra in Togolok seems to be a decisive breakthrough to near-certainty
about the identity of Soma. Further arguments for the ephedra hypothesis
are given by Harri Nyberg: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma: the
botanical evidence”, in G. Erdosy: The Indo-Aryans in Ancient South
Sethna: The Problem of Aryan Origins, supplement 5, with reference
to (and extensive quotation from) Asko Parpola: “The coming of the Aryans
to Iran and India and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Dasas”, in
Orientalia, vol.64 (Helsinki 1988), p. 195-265; see also the review
of Parpola’s essay by Harry Falk, in Indo-Iranian Journal 34, 1991,
knowledge of the Mazdean use of Haoma is chiefly based on the so-called
Hom Yasht, included in the Avesta as Yasna 9, 10 and 11:1-12. The
common belief that Zarathushtra opposed the use of Haoma is based on Yasna
48:10 (“When will men shun the mUthra/urine of this intoxication?”)
and on Yasna 32:14, where a positive reference to an intoxicant is put
in the mouth of evil people. But in neither case is the term Haoma
effectively used, and so, Zarathushtra’s rejection of Haoma is disputed.
Burrow: “The Proto-Indoaryans”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,
1973, cited with approval by Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde,
Parpola: “The coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the cultural and
ethnic identity of the Dasas”, in Studia Orientalia, vol.64 (Helsinki
1988), p.212-215, with reference to Shatapatha Brahmana 6:3:3:24-25; and:
“The problem of the Aryans and the Soma: textual-linguistic and archaeological
evidence”, in G. Erdosy: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia,
Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The
Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p.368.
Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The
Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p.368.
Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The
Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p.368.
Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The
Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p - 369.
Parpola: “The coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the cultural and
ethnic identity of the Dasas”, Studia Orientalia, vol.64, p.224.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.163.
1:51:4, 1:54:6, discussed in B. Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde,
p.163-164. Incidentally, the iconography is not unlike the classical
Chinese dragons, so this may be yet another IE contribution to Chinese
culture. Moreover, the symbolism of the dragon swallowing the sun
and getting forced to release it again also returns in Babylonian astrological
symbolism: till today, the lunar nodes (intersection points of the lunar
orbit and the ecliptic), where solar and lunar eclipses take place, are
called Dragon’s Head and Dragon’s Tail.
is to Russian articles from the 1970s by Viktor Sarianidi and by I.S. Masimof,
and to Marie-Hélène Pottier: Matériel Funéraire
de la Bactriane Méridionale à l’Age du Bronze, Paris
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.163.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.179.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 162.
Haudry: Les Indo-Européens, p. 1 18, with reference to R.
Ghirshman: L’Iran et les Migrations des Indo-Aryans et des Iranians
Bosch-Gimpera: “The Migration Route of the Indo-Aryans”, Journal of
Indo-European Studies, 1974, p.515.
Hungary to China”, the Iranian-speaking nomads generically known as Scythians
filled up the entire space of the steppe lands, vide Natalia Polosmak &
Francis van Noten: “Les Scythes de I’Altaï”, La Recherche,
May 1995, p.524-530.
to Hermann Kinder and Werner Hilgemann: The Penguin Atlas of World History,
1979, p.69, the Parthians were equated in Greco-Roman accounts with a Scythian
tribe called the Parni, i.e. Greek Parnoi equated by Asko Parpola
with the hostile Panis mentioned in the Rg-Veda, in G. Erdosy, ed.: The
Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p.367.
Philip Lozinski: The Original Homeland of the Parthians, Mouton
& Co, The Hague 1959; p.54. The Roman writer Ammianus Marcellinus (XXIII,
6, 43) is quoted as mentioning that “to the north of Persia are Parthians
dwelling in lands abounding in snow and frost”.
Thapar: “The Perennial Aryans”, Seminar, December 1992.
G. Zanotti: “Another Aspect of the Indo-European Question: a Response to
P. Bosch Gimpera”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, 1975/3, p.255-270,
Renfrew: “Before Babel: Speculations on the Origins of Linguistic Diversity”,
Archaeological Journal, 1 (1), p.3-23, spec. p.14.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 198-199. On p.206 ff.,
Sergent adds some new data about the large IE and specifically Indo-Aryan
presence in West Asia. Indo-Aryan names are quite common in Syria
and Palestine in the 15th-13th century BC, e.g. the Palestian town of Sichem
was ruled by one Birishena, i.e. Vira-sena, “the one who
has an army of heroes”, and Qiltu near Jerusalem was ruled by one Suar-data,
i.e. “gift of Heaven”. To Sergent, this also proves that the Indo-Aryans
maintained a separate existence after and outside the Mitannic kingdom
until at least the 13th century BC.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 201.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.199, quoting Paul Garelli: Le
Proche-Orient Asiatique, PUF. Paris 1969. p.89-93.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.200.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.201.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.219ff.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.221.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.224; emphasis added.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.246-247.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.155 (“the worst is achieved
by Jim Shaffer” with his “bad faith”), 477 (“manipulations in which Jim
Shaffer indulges, consisting in starkly ignoring the linguistic evidence”).
communication during the 1996 Indus-Saraswati conference in Atlanta GA.
G. Shaffer and Diane A. Lichtenstein: “The concepts of ‘cultural tradition’
and ‘palaeoethnicity’ in South-Asian archaeology”, in G. Erdosy, ed.: The
Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p. 139-140.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 241.
Monier-Willams: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p.1036, entry vyAghra.
1:64:7 and 8:33:8.
9:57:3, thus translated by Ralph Griffith: The Hymns of the Rg-Veda,
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.230.
Griffith uses “sword” twice in his translation The Hymns of the Rg-Veda,
p.25 (1:37:2) and p.544 (10:20:6), both already in the younger part of
the Rg-Veda, but in the index on p.702 he corrects himself, specifying
that “knife” or “dagger” would be more appropriate. Likewise, the
core stories of ,the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the ones most likely to
stay close to the original versions even in their material details (unlike
the many sideshows woven into these epics, often narrating much more recent
events), feature only primitive weapons: Rama’s bow and arrow, Hanuman’s
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.223.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.541 n.100, with secondary reference
to R. Morton Smith: “The Indian Sennachy”, Journal of Indo-European
Studies 1978, p.77-91.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.241-244. He specifically rejects
the common belief that the Dasas were black-skinned, in spite of their
occasional description as “black-covered” or “from a black womb”, pointing
out that even the fair-haired and white-skinned Vikings were called the
“black foreigners” by the Irish, with “black” purely used as a metaphor
Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.242.
Mallory: In Search of the Indo-Europeans, Hudson & Hudson, London
C. Polomié: “The Indo-Europeanization of Northern Europe: the Linguistic
Evidence”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, fall 1990, p.331-337.
by Xavier Delamarre: Le Vocabulaire Indo-Eurpéen, Maisonneuve,
Paris 1984, p.167.
that they are all terms of flora and fauna, the typical substratum vocabulary
in an immigrant language. Common developments within the pan-IE vocabulary
also set the European languages apart, e.g. from sus, “pig”, the derivative
“swine”, is attested in Latin, Greek, Baltic, Slavic and Germanic; from
*ker-, “horn”, the derivative *kerew-, “deer”, strictly “the
homed one” (still attested in its literal meaning in Avestan,
as epithet of a horned dragon, but in the European languages a paraphrase
like Sanskrit hastI, “the handed one”, for “elephant”), is attested
in Germanic (Dutch hert), Greek. Latin (cervus), Celtic and
Bonenfant & Paul-Louis van Berg: “De eerste bewoners van het toekomstige
‘België’: een etnische overrompeling”, in Anne Morelli ed.: Geschiedenis
van het eigen volk, Kritak, Leuven 1993 (1992), p.21-36, specifically
Bonenfant & P.-L. van Berg: “De eerste bewoners van het toekomstige
‘België’”, in A. Morelli, ed.: Geschiedenis van het eigen volk,
Bonenfant & P.-L. van Berg: “De eerste bewoners van het toekomstige
‘België’”, in A. Morelli, ed.: Geschiedenis van het eigen volk,
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