Diffusion of Sanskrit

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu
Mon Nov 25 20:34:54 UTC 1996

Joe Bernstein wrote:

> Vidhyanath Rao wrote, quoting me
> >> [...] in particular (Meadow 1991 below).  In the chapter which John
> >> Lukacs worked on, there is an unequivocal assertion of significant
> >> population changes in the centuries prior to 800 B.C.
> >
> >In `Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia', K. A. R. Kennedy writes (pp 49--54)
> >``Evidence of demographic discontinuities is present in our study, but the
> >first occurs between 6000 and 4500 B.C (a seperation between the Neolithic
> >and Chalcolithic populations of Mehrgarh) and the second is >after 800 B.C.,
> >the discontinuity being between the peoples of Harappa, Chalcolithic Mehrgarh
> >and post-Harrapan Timargarha on the one hand and the late Bronze Age and
> >early Iron Age inhabitants of Sarai Khola on the other. ''
> I'm curious what the date is on the Kennedy reference.  This is partly
> because calibration of radiocarbon dates in 1980s publications re South
> Asian archaeology could be wildly inconsistent (one of the best
> archaeologists in India at that time, Makkhan Lal, once spent an entire
> paper mercilessly showing up opponents in a controversy by demonstrating
> inconsistencies in their use of radiocarbon).  While Kennedy is unlikely to
> be remotely as foolish as Lal's hapless opponents, there's a specific
> problem with 800 BC in particular, which is that very close to that date,
> the amount of C14 in the atmosphere started dropping.  Ordinary radiocarbon
> dates for the period 800 - 400 BC, or slightly better ones for the periods
> 800 - 550 or 550 - 400, have highly unpredictable uncalibrated values.  I'd
> need to know how the dates in Kennedy's paper were being calibrated to know
> whether this effect (only demonstrated during the 1980s) was being properly
> offset.

Kennedy's paper was presented in a conference held in 1991, but the
proceedings appeared only in late 1995 (the date on the preface is
September 1995). I think that the contributors revised their papers,
but I might be wrong.

The quotation from Kennedy's paper is from the paragraphs where he
summarizes the resultspresented by Hemphill, Lukacs and Kennedy,
``Biological adaptations and affinities of the Bronze Age Harappans'',
in Harappa Excavations 1986--1990, edited by R. Meadow. I presume
that this is the very same reference that Joe was referring to.

I did not try very hard get the Hemhill, Lukacs and Kennedy paper.
I just assume that Kennedy's summary of a paper of which he is
coauthor would be accurate.

Any way, the quote specifically states from where the `discontinuous'
samples came. Apparently, the distinction is between early 2nd millenium
skeleta and samples from populations dated to after 800 BCE (late
Bronze age and early Iron age of Sarai Khola). Given the difference
in time, this may not mean much.
> I'm going to have to come back to this matter of Usenet, because I'm
> becoming convinced it's *precisely* the best place for debate on this
> issue.  But I feel compelled to note, however ironically, that I've got
> record of your participating fairly extensively (and intelligently) in just
> that debate.  I'm glad you changed your mind.

No No :-). I got in there because I got riled by the articles in sci.lang
(I don't read sci.archaeology) that said `higher word count implies more
sophisticated language'. I have trouble keeping my mouth shut all the
time and get involved in the larger debate. But, I am getting better at
self control. Over the week-end, I aborted four or five follow-ups I

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