Indo-Aryan invasion

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Fri Feb 27 12:52:39 UTC 1998

In response to the post of Erik Seldeslachts:

 <The Indo-Aryans
>of the ancient Near-East are the first and most clearly attested of those
>emigrants from India, but they are not the only ones. By the way, there
>are still out-of-India people living among us, viz. the Gypsies. Of course
>there migration started much later, but under the comparable conditions of
>the economic crisis of the 5th-6th century A.D.>

Interesting. But I see things quite differently. I interpret the Mitanni
texts as evidence rather that the Aryans *hadn't reached* the Indian
sub-continent yet. Or otherwise that these people, whose language is Indic
rather than Indo-Iranian, turned west instead of east [a lost tribe?], and
*never made it* to the sub-continent.

>On the other hand it is perfectly possible to reconcile this picture with an
>into-India model, which in any case seems also inevitable on linguistic
>and othergrounds. The reason why archeologically and genetically nothing
>is found of an intrusion of Indo-Aryans in India may simply be that one is
>not looking in the right period. I believe - and this is also what Renfrew
>proposes - the intrusion of Indo-Aryans has to be pushed much further back
>in time, at least to the 4th millennium BC, but possibly even much further

I agree that one might not be looking at the right period. If we are going
to revise the dates, say, of the RV, I would recommend revising upward: in
my view the RV may well be contemporary with Avestan and as late or even
later than 1000 BCE. In my view, Renfrew is uttterly wrong [very ignorant
about things Vedic]. And I cannot see how any possible 'intrusion' in the
4th millennium BCE can have anything at all to do with Vedic Aryans. I see
the RV as best understood as an Indo-Iranian text, and the culture area out
of which it came as an Indo-Iranian culture area.

>The weakness of the traditional Indo-Aryan invasion model lies precisely in the
>fact that the arguments are maybe partially right in se but do not tally with a
>number of findings about the period envisaged for that invasion. I have the
>impression that more and more researchers, also in the West, begin to feel very
>uneasy about the fact that every fact known about ancient India is pressed into
>the straitjacket of a theory that has brought no new insights in the past

This researcher, a Vedicist not a historian, calls this model the "Aryan
migration thesis", and I do not see it as a straitjacket at all. The only
revision that I would recommend, besides the later dating, would be to
abandon the images of war-like Aryans on horses and war-chariots, which I
agree were conjured up by the lurid imagination of a previous generation of
scholars. In my view, which comes from studying the RV, these Aryans did
not march into the sub-continent. They drifted in, in small waves. And the
vehicle that they rode in on was not so much the chariot as the mantra.

But who know? Perhaps my imagination is rather lurid too.

Best wishes,

George Thompson

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