method of dating RV, III
Jan E.M. Houben
JHOUBEN at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Sun Jun 7 16:31:27 UTC 1998
On Thu, 4 Jun 1998, George Thompson wrote:
>Well, I don't know how Jan Houben will score the following no doubt
>*subjective* speculations, but perhaps I will find out:
O.K. then, just to illustrate what kind of 'scoring' I had in mind.
First, to avoid misunderstandings: it is not a percentage of certainty. It
should reflect the strength of the methodological support for a statement. 0
means: no support; 100: well-established through several independent, sound
methods (usually reserved for recent events only). [negative means: there is
evidence against it.]
Next, several parameters are distinguished:
periods of urbanization are archeologically well established. What is the
methodological status of this statement? How strong are the data and arguments
in support of it? Ideally, we should distinguish several parameters:
(1) numerical strength of pieces of evidence;
(2) individual qualitative strength of pieces of evidence;
(3) mutual indepence of pieces of evidence;
(4) strength of the additional arguments needed to arrive at final conclusion.
Applied to what seems to be your central proposition:
"most of the hymns of the RV were composed at roughly this time [of the Gathas,
1000 B.C.] . . . there is also evidence for contact, and not just common,
and basing myself on your own explanations of the steps in your argument I
1: numerical strength of pieces of evidence: very low, you mention the two only
references to the Kanites in the RV, 8.46.21 and 24, and the occurrence of
adeva in that context.
2: that adeva would indeed refer to Iranians: from your own words I infer this
is a possibility rather than a necessity.
3: mutual independence: approaches zero (verses 21 and 24 are hardly
4: your own comments suggest: no tight argument to lead from pieces of evidence
Average score: ca. 10?
STILL, proposals like this, speculatively investigating new possibilities, MAY
be very valuable, and new evidence may suddenly change the picture
AFTER this exercise some remarks/questions on the contents of your speculative
You speak of the "Scythian Kanites": in fact there is reference to the specific
kAnIt'a pRthuzra'vas who makes donations to the poet. Isn't this person a nice
instance of Allchin's "acculturated Aryans"? His father or grandfather or
greatgrandfather may have been a Scythian, but the present person's name and
his act of giving shows him as fully acculturated in Aryan language and
How do the Iranians exactly enter into the picture: is your reasoning that if a
Scythian has come from so far away, the Iranians who live in between must also
be around? Or do you take the giving of camels / 'uSTra-s as indicative of
Iranians? It occurs only a few times in book eight, in book one there is a
comparison with an uSTra without context of giving. The question arises how
much can be deduced for the entire Rgveda. Hoffmann speaks in this context of
"Iranic or half-Iranic kings" but I would at the most accept the latter
exclusively and think of the above-mentioned "acculturated Aryans" (whose
camels may have been imported from east-Iran, as Hoffmann suggests).
Geldner, moreover, gives a different interpretation of 'adeva, although he
already adopted the meaning "camel" (like Hoffmann later on) for 'uSTra
(Grassmann had "Bueffel"). And: wouldn't there be sufficient other 'local'
candidates for people not adoring the Aryan deva's (depending on the scenario
accepted, these could include those of an earlier wave of Indo-Aryan
immigrants, Parpola's Dasa's)?
How do you deal with the divergent and separated geographies which are usually
attributed to the RV and the Avestan texts (see Gnoli for the latter)?
Moreover, you write:
>I've been entertaining the idea that the RV and the GAthAs are more
>or less contemporary, and that there may be references in the RV not so
>much to Zarathustra or Mazdayasnians, but rather to their immediate
>Kellens & Pirart also have argued in favor of de-historicizing
>Zarathustra, thus making him to look more like a legendary Vedic RSi than a
>historical prophet. If there is some legitimacy in this argument, then it
>might not be too far-fetched to suggest that terms like a'deva, devani'd,
>or deva'zatru, etc., might refer to Iranians, whom the Aryans of the RV knew.
The way I have so far understood the "de-historicizing of Zarathustra" is that
the "I" of the Gathas is not Zarathustra, and that the latter had already
become largely legendary when the Gathas were composed (and that the
composition was largely according to set ritualistic patterns). If then the RV
refers to ancestors of Zarathustra, and the Gathas are written by later
descendencts and followers, their date must have differed notably (at least two
generations difference). But this seems not what you want to argue for . . .
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