5. Some new arguments


5.3.1. Tracing the Aryan migrants

Though 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 school.18

The 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

Before 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.

My layman’s 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 mother culture.

For the 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.

Nonetheless, 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

Bactria, 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.

Though 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.

Sergent 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?

Sergent 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.

Sergent 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?

Well, 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.

At any 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

A 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.

Yet, at 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.

However, 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?

The emphatically 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.

True, 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

In the 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.

Of course, 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.

On the 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

And 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.

In 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.

Moreover, 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

This 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 tripuras 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 Indo-Aryans?

Other 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.

Some vases 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.

Several 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

Of course 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.

This happens 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.

It is 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 Aryan invaders

Another 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 known.

All this 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.

The comparatively 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.

In the 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 there.

On the 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

Thus, 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

Such a 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 into India

Thus far, the archaeological argument advanced by some scholars in favour of an Aryan invasion into India has not been very convincing.

Consider 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

Firstly, 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.

Secondly, 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.

In spite 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 civilization (…)”56

Enter 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 decline

Civilization 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.

Or so 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 civilization.

They 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 from Bactria.

This 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?

Sergent 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 in India

To Bernard 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 with them.

Sergent 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.

If the 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.

A 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.

Indeed, 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.

This 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

To fortify 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

As for 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.

As for 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 in pageants?

Rice, 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.

For 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.

Another 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.

Moreover, 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.

With every 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

The westward 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

This is 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.

Examples include the words barley, Russian bor (“millet”), Latin far (“spelt”); Irish tuath, Gothic thiuda, “people”, whence the ethnic names Dutch/Deutsch; German wahr, Latin verus, Old Irish fir, “true”; Latin granum, Dutch koren, English grain and corn; Lithuanian puodas, Germanic fata, whence Dutch vat, “vessel”; Dutch delven, “dig”, Old Prussian (Baltic) dalptan, “piercing-tool”; Old Irishland, Old Prussian lindan, Germanic land; Latin alnus (<alisnos), Dutch els, Lithuanian elksnis, “alder”, also related to Greek aliza, “white poplar”; Dutch smaak, “taste”, Gothic smakka, “fig, tasty fruit”, Lithuanian smaguricu, “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 piscis, 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

Archaeology 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 habitats.

Even 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.

It remains 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.

An even 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

This culture made way for a new cultural wave: “Around 10,000 BC or shortly after, the Magdalénien 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.

So, that’s 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.

There 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.

But then, 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.


    18E.g.B.B.Lal: New Light on the Indus Civilization, Aryan Books, Delhi 1997.

    19Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p-33.

    20Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 157.

    21Maurizio 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.

    22Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.180.

    23Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.160.

    24Bernard 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 1985, p.119-124.

    25Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.160.

    26Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.158.

    27Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.160.

    28This is one of the points elaborated by Shereen Ratnagar: Enquiries into the Political Organization of Harappan Society, Ravish Publ., Pune 1991.

    29Vide Shereen Ratnagar: “Revisionist at work: a chauvinistic inversion of the Aryan invasion theory”, Frontline, 9-2-1996, an attack on Prof. N.S. Rajaram.

    30Asko Parpola: Deciphering the Indus Script, Cambridge University Press 1994, p. 171.

    31Discussed 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 1996, p.223-244.

    32Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 161.

    33The 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 Asia, p.382-406.

    34K.D. 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 Studia 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, p.57-60.

    35Our 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.

    36Thomas Burrow: “The Proto-Indoaryans”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1973, cited with approval by Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.232.

    37Asko 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, p.368ff.

    38Asko Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p.368.

    39Asko Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p.368.

    40Asko Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p.368.

    41Asko Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p - 369.

    42Asko 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.

    43Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.163.

    44Rg-Veda 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.

    45Reference 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 1984, p.82ff.

    46Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.163.

    47Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.179.

    48Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 162.

    49J. Haudry: Les Indo-Européens, p. 1 18, with reference to R. Ghirshman: L’Iran et les Migrations des Indo-Aryans et des Iranians (1977).

    50P. Bosch-Gimpera: “The Migration Route of the Indo-Aryans”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, 1974, p.515.

    51“From 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.

    52According 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.

    53B. 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”.

    54R. Thapar: “The Perennial Aryans”, Seminar, December 1992.

    55David 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, spec. p.260.

    56C. Renfrew: “Before Babel: Speculations on the Origins of Linguistic Diversity”, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 1 (1), p.3-23, spec. p.14.

    57Bernard 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.

    58Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 201.

    59Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.199, quoting Paul Garelli: Le Proche-Orient Asiatique, PUF.  Paris 1969. p.89-93.

    60Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.200. 

    61Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.201. 

    62Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.219ff.

    63Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.221.

    64Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.224; emphasis added.

    65Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.246-247.

    66Bernard 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”).

    67Personal communication during the 1996 Indus-Saraswati conference in Atlanta GA.

    68Jim 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.

    69Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 241.

    70M. Monier-Willams: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p.1036, entry vyAghra.

    71Rg-Veda 1:64:7 and 8:33:8.

    72Rg-Veda 9:57:3, thus translated by Ralph Griffith: The Hymns of the Rg-Veda, p.488.

    73Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.230.

    74Ralph 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 club.

    75Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.223.

    76Bernard 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.

    77Bernard 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 for “evil”.

    78Thus Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.242.

    79J.P. Mallory: In Search of the Indo-Europeans, Hudson & Hudson, London 1989, p.108.

    80Edgar C. Polomié: “The Indo-Europeanization of Northern Europe: the Linguistic Evidence”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, fall 1990, p.331-337.

    81Suggested by Xavier Delamarre: Le Vocabulaire Indo-Eurpéen, Maisonneuve, Paris 1984, p.167.

    82Remark 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 su-in-o, “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, srvara, 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 Baltic.

    83Pierre 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 p.28.

    84P. Bonenfant & P.-L. van Berg: “De eerste bewoners van het toekomstige ‘België’”, in A. Morelli, ed.: Geschiedenis van het eigen volk, p.24.

    85P. Bonenfant & P.-L. van Berg: “De eerste bewoners van het toekomstige ‘België’”, in A. Morelli, ed.: Geschiedenis van het eigen volk, p.24.

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