method of dating RV, II

Wed Jun 3 16:18:54 UTC 1998

Now to the date of the Rgveda.

For a Rgveda written at 500 BCE we get double negative evidence: the certainty
that writing was not employed at that time to transmit sacred scriptures is
sufficiently strong and diverse (cf. Falk's study - perhaps allowing for pre-
Asokan writing on pottery etc., Allchin), and the certainty that it was not
employed to transmit Brahminical texts is even stronger in the light of taboos
on writing; the evidence that the Rgveda was at that moment already in
existence (socially well-established) for centuries is also quite strong, and
it is obtained from separate sources.
No writing of Vedic texts: 75;
Rgveda well-established at 500 BCE: 80.

The *melting point* of the Rgveda. The Rgveda as specific collection has
already dissolved at the time of the early brAhmanNas. But many hymns are
presupposed. How strong is the argument that it must be pre-PGW, hence before
1200 BCE, not after? I largely follow Witzel. Congruence PGW and Brahmanic
culture and its spread, presence/absence of rice/iron . . . evidence is subtle,
not massive, but there is some mutual independence . . . let us rate it at 70.

As for Rau's "belief" (Witzel ca. 30 May) in a later beginning of the Rgvedic
period: as far as I can see this did not interfere with his methodologically
sound work on coordinating Vedic texts and archeological findings. In his Zur
vedischen Altertumskunde, 1983, he remarks that competent scholars generally
place the beginning of the Vedic time between 2000 and 700 BCE. And that he
sees small indications which "jede fuer sich genommen nahezu nichts bedeutet"
that the beginning was earlier than 1000 BCE. His suggestion to look for a
relatively more recent beginning is not unreasonable, e.g. in the light of the
fact that the tendency of a tradition to exaggerate its age is universal (cf.
C.Bell, Ritual theory, ritual practice, 1992, chapter 6.)
As for bronze/iron as indicator: In poetry and ritual older ideas and practices
may continue when they have become outdated in daily life. Only very few hymns
speak of metals, and they do so quite incidentally. Numerous 'modern' hymns not
referring to metals could have slipped into an existing collection. Since Rau
did not offer a definite hypothesis, I cannot assign a value to the
methodological strength of it.

Comments sollicited, more to follow,


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