Chariots (was horse argument) 2/2

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Fri Jun 5 20:18:56 UTC 1998

Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU> wrote:

>On Fri, 29 May 1998, Vidhyanath Rao wrote:
>> I thought that I had made it clear that I believe the true chariot to
>> have been diffused from the Near East, not India. This has nothing to
>> do with the spread of IE languages.

>But the very word for "horse", horse driving, horse mythology, horse
>rituals go *together* in IE cultures.... Diffusion from a post-common IE
>center does not work here.

Word for horse does not prove chariots.

I guess I am totally ignorant. What PIE words are unquestionably
connected to chariotry? [Let us concentrate on chariots in this

>> Anyway, are you arguing that chariots had been invented before I-Irs
>> and proto-Greeks separated?

>We cannot know perfectly. [...] However, this is nothing unusual. We
>cannot, I think, reconstruct the IE small finger. That does not mean
>that IEs had only 4 fingers... (and, I think, there is a Proto-Drav.
>peacock feather, but .... no peacock)

The situations are different. We have independent evidence that humans
had a little finger before PIE evolved. But there is no evidence that
true chariots existed before 1800 BCE.

>But, unfortunately, we have Homer's "Indian style" description of the
>race. If you then invoke the Hittites as transmitters, we are stuck with
>Kikkuli, the *Indo-Aryan*-inspired Mitanni.

A minor point: Kikkuli was a Hurrian, as were the young men recruited
into the mariannu (and according to Diakonoff, that word has a
satifactory Near Eastern etymology.

Anyway, there are books on Nyaya in one of our libraries. Bulk of the
books on formal logic are in a different library. If a visitor from
Alpha Centauri were to look only at the first and concluded that Frege
et. al were inspired by Indians, would it be correct?

The point is that we have fragments of other texts on horses and
chariots from the Hittite archives. Chariots are mentioned in >military
context<, used by both Hittites and Hurrians, during the >Old Hittite
period<, almost 300 years before Kikkuli.

And what is the evidence for claiming that Mitannis' methods were
better? Bear in mind that the Hittite archives contained other texts on
horse training. Just because, by chance, one text has come complete
while others have not, we cannot conclude that the former is better.

>> >the uneven number of turns
>> >with the Mitanni, the COUNTER-clockwise turning .... : all by
>> >diffusion?

>> The odd number of turns is a consequence of the race, which consists of
>> returning to the starting point after reaching a preset mark. If you
>> run n laps, you must make 2n+1 turns.

I am sorry for yet another fence-post error. If there are n circuits,
there would be 2n-1 turns.

>The turn (vartana) is around the pole at the end of the track. [...]
>Yes, but there also is 1 turn only: Thus, 1 turn: up to the post and back;
>2 turns = 2x the same; 3 turns = 3x etc. Only the turn around the post at
>the "end" of the track is counted. But only *odd* numbers are used. Why?

I did not know that only the turn at the end was counted. I will
appreciate textual citations that prove this (for each culture

>> But bits were completely unknown in India, according to Arrian and
>> others. Why was it so, if there were two different traditions?

>Arrian? Where? In the quoted passage, he onlys says that they have a
>management different from the Greek + Celtic one. (Indike 16).

You are right. I should have said that bits were not in use in India
and that the statements of Arrian and others supports this. Also,
archaeological evidence supports the conclusions that bits were
introduced into India only in historical times. See Leshnik AJA 1971
pp. 141--150 as well as Sparreboom, Chariots in the Veda, p. 115-117.

So the question remains:If there was a continuity of domesticated horses
from bit using people to early historical India, why was there a change
from bits to nose bands when the latter are inferior due to constriction
of air passages?


>(if imported from the Near East you would use the Near Eastern
>term,like gilgul 'wheel': see below).

Not always. People use loan translations too.

>Unfortunately she is not an Indo-Europeanist but a well known Russian
>archaeologist, and, AT THAT, horse woman herself. Not an ivory tower
>woman. (Neither do I belong to that tower myself, nor Sparreboom who has
>driven chariots a lot, *before* and after his thesis).

What matters is experience with reconstructed harness + vehicles.
I have written to Sparreboom concerning this, among other questions
about chariot construction and use that come from what he says in his
book. It would be proper for me wait for his reply before discussing
them here.

Modern harnessing is far removed from ancient practices. Even minor
changes can make adjustment tricky. There were a lot of experienced
drivers who were tripped by rear mounted engines which affect the
handling characteristics. And few of them are able to explain the
physics behind it.

That is why, till I see description of experiments with reconstructed
harnesses, bridling and vehicles that contradict them, I will continue
to accept the conclusions of Spruytte. No such experiments are described
by Sparreboom or Kuzmina. So I see no reason to change my conclusions.

>Simply, because the Hittites *imported* a Mitanni man, Kikkuli, to teach
>them [better methods].

A minor point: Kikkuli was a Hurrian (and the maryannu were recruited
from among Hurrians).

Anyway, this text was found in an archive, where fragments of other
texts dealing with horses and chariots were found. All of us buy books
for our collections when we already know what is in those books. Finding
this one book does not imply that Hittites imported Kikkuli to >teach<

>One does not import and employ people whom one does not need.

But one does buy books one does not really need. And as a glance
around any US university or software company will show, people
can be imported for reasons other than total lack of knolwedge/
inferior technology in the importing country.


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