The horse argument, part 3

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Tue Mar 31 13:30:10 EST 1998

Lars Martin Fosse <lmfosse at ONLINE.NO> quoted Mallory:

>... Clearly, this suggests that the horse is
>selected from a paired chariot team. But archaeological evidence indicates
>that the horse was not likely to have been employed in paired draught until
>the invention of the spoked wheel and chariot, which is normally dated after
>about 2500 BC and, consequently, some time after we would have assumed the
>disintegration of the Proto-Indo-European community.

I had already touched on this point well before this, but as I did not
have the precise references then, let me expand on this.

The classic war chariot that we know from Near Eastern and Egyptian
evidence had three components that would be essential to racing chariots
as well. These are (1) yoke saddles, (2) backing element and (3) long
wheel base and nave/sleeve. As Littauer and Crouwel point out in their
paper in Antiquity there is no evidence of the first two in the steppes,
and the third is definitely ruled out for the vehicle whose traces were
found at Sintasha. I will add that if Indo-Aryans brought their
``chariots'' from Central Asia, then the fact that there is no clear
evidence of (1) and (2) in India makes things worse.

Now even the Sintasha vehicle can be dated only about 2000 BCE. Hence
classic chariots in 2000 BCE are unlikely and chariots in 2500 BCE are
a figment of IE-ists' imagination. But, as Mallory admits, even 2500 BCE
is too late for IE dispersal. I fail to see how any one can maintain
that choice of the horse to sacrifice from paired team harnessed to a
chariot is an inheritance. It has to be from diffusion or parallel

Indo-Europeanists and Indologists simply assume that the chariot was
invented in the steppes and used by them to `conquer' Near East, India
etc. The problem with the evidence from Near East has been well
summarized by Littauer and Crouwel [In particular the common belief
that the term ``mariannu' is a loan and that it was an IE-speaking
aristocracy are both wrong.]

Mallory brushes aside Littauer and Crouwel's objections by quoting
Piggot. Piggot, in his 1983 book already, agrees that the war chariot
was likely to have been developed in the Near East, but argues that the
use of horse draught and attempts to lighten the vehicle began in the
steppe, and that original was likely to have been status display.
This is a far cry from war chariots. Even the idea that these
vehicles could have been used in races that included sharp turns is


BTW, the paper of Diakonov I mentioned earlier is in
in ``When worlds collide : the Indo-Europeans and
pre-Indo-Europeans'' [Ann Arbor, Mich. : Karoma Publishers, 1990].
See espeically p. 64.


More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list