method of dating RV/retro

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Jun 11 12:06:29 UTC 1998

On Wed, 10 Jun 1998, Sn. Subrahmanya wrote:

> > Michael Witzel wrote:
> >Apparently they knew of bricks, maybe learned it from the (pre-)BMAC
> >cultures, before c.  2000 BC. at the northern fringes of Iran/Afghanistan.

> Unable to produce any evidence of new intrusive or different culture -
> invasion/migration theorists are now reduced to postulating
> "takeover of power"  or "learning" from pre-existing cultures !!.

First let me state very clearly that I am not committed, life or death, to
an immigration theory. As I said before, new data will change our
perception and conclusions if we are not encrusted, fanatic etc.

So, if the "anti-immigration" theorists can show me how all of the
following items emerged locally in the (North-Western) Subcontinent I am
quite willing to change my stand. This has not happened so far and the
available data speak in favor of the trickling in or immigration of a
number of Indo_Aryan clans and tribes, followed by quick acculturation and
spread of the newly emerging model all over the Panjab. (e.g., Allchin
1995, myself 1995, and many others before that)

The items I would like to see explained as local development:

- emergence of (often innovative) Old Indo-Aryan language (Vedic), while
(often archaic) Old Iranian and (in some respetcs) even more conservative
Hittite, Greek, Latin etc. are found everywhere from Afghanistan to the

- emergence of IA poetry which closely follows the O.Iranian and IE

- emergence of the complex IA religion which is very close to the OIr.
one, down to the names of their gods and to their myths,  while there
are close relations to other IE religions and myths

- emergence of a complex system of customs, beliefs and rituals which have
their cose relations in Iran and often surprising ones in the rest of the
IE area.

- emergence of the IA type of family structure, kinship, social
organization which is close to the rest of the IE area but not to the rest
of the subcontinent

- emergence of many sets of names for animals and plants which have links
with Iran and Europe but not to the subcontinent

- and of course the often discussed question:  horses and their importance
in IE language, myth, ritual etc., while there is no *proved, tested* case
of any horses in the subcontinent before c. 1700 BC, and while the horse
does not play the same role in the most ancient Dravidian, Munda, Indus

I probably forgot some items. But this should be enough to keep this
discussion going for one year....

> Parpola writes "The BMAC emerged as a direct continuation of
> previous cultural developments in southern Turkmenistan. Its local
> origin can be reconciled with the hypothesis of BMAC's Aryan linguistic
> affinity only by assuming that the dramatic changes in its
> socio-political structure C 1800 BC resulted from the takeover of
> power in Margiana by small groups of Aryan-speaking nomads coming
> from the North" (pg363,IndoAryans of Ancient South Asia. Ed:Erdosy ).

Hiebert, in the same vol., has provided a detailed archaeological scenario
along the same lines. Cf also Allchin 1995.

> So, the data is 'reconciled' into a pre-supposed migrationist hypothesis!.
> If this aint retrofitting, what is ?

NB: 'reconciled' is choice of (Parpola's) words only. There are clearly
imported items/features in the newly emerging BMAC which, according to
archaeologists, not Parpola and not me either, that derive from the
northern steppe belt. A re-combinated culture.

> Actually, this is "standard operating procedure" of invasion/migration
> theorists :  Presuppose a invasion/migration first , and then proceed to
> interpret the data to fit it.

First the immigration theory is not 'pre-supposed', created out of
nothing,  but built up on data
collected over  the past 150 years or so. These data would have to be
dislodged if another 'pre-supposed' (e.g. the Indian homeland theory)
should be accepted.

In any theory, one has to fit in new data (cf. also L.Fosse). If the new
data do NOT fit, and cannot be explained by clearly defined special
conditions, one has to abandon the theory. The BMAC does NOT speak against
the immigration model, on the contrary.

> Coming to Sambara's forts, maybe Witzel can explain why it cannot
> be a case of the indigenous Rgvedic aryas campaign against the Dasas.

I would say so, yes, except for "indigenous". "Local", yes, after initial
trickling in and acculturation. But as usual, the case is more
complicated. NEVER simple solutions... (And as for Daasa, that needs another
investigation, because of the  confusion between real and mythological
enemies, see below. Parpola uses the word in serveral senses).

> Because - as Parpola states "Bactria and Margiana is precisely the region
> where the Dasas, Dahyus and Panis are placed in Old Persian, Greek and Latin
> sources" (pg367)

That also is correct. The Dahai, Parnoi  (O.Persian Dahyu is more complex)
are placed at the northern fringes of Iran/Afghanistan.

As I have explained already in the Erdosy vol. (and as Parpola has done in
1988, and others before him, e.g. Hillebrandt in 1907, a man who was
against all racial interpretations!), these are reminiscences of earlier
locations, along with others such as the Rasaa/Sindhu complex
(real & mythological).

It is a well known fact that mythological figures & people serve for
denigration, as mentioned just now (by L. Fosse I think) with ref. to
Indonesia... Examples abound. From this century: The Foreign Devils, The
Hun, The Great/Small Shaitan...

The boundary line between mythologcial and real enemies in the RV has
long been recognized, long before the present "Aryan" discussion had
begun both in India and on this list.

The situation, thus, is --as always-- more complex. There are, due to
acculturation, from the earliest parts of the RV onwards, "aarya" with
local, non-IA names (bRbu etc,) and there are others with such names who
are not included in the aarya groups, such as Pramaganda of the KiikaTa
people south of the (later) Kuruksetra area...

S'ambara is one such case. His name could perhaps be IA (though the -b-
would be a problem), but has no good etymology. His father, if indeed
that is the idea, Kulitara, could also pass as (half) of an IA name.

But he always is listed next to demons such as S'uSNa, Arbuda, Pipru, etc.
His mountain forts put him into the Afhanistan hills (I would not know of
a location for Sub-Himalayan forts at that time and the Vedic people do
not go there: they barter their Soma from local mountain people...).

All of this needs much more space. And I do not have the time now.

Michael Witzel                       witzel at
phone: 1- 617 - 495 3295 (voice & messages), 496 8570, fax 617 - 496 8571
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990

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