Tampering with history

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sat Jun 20 21:39:53 UTC 1998

On Sat, 20 Jun 1998, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote:

> With the right combination of socio-political factors, even a small group of
> immigrants can effect major social changes.

I could not agree more. - A good analysis (though not about S. Asia)
is by Ehret:

Chr. Ehret. Language change and the material correlates of language and
ethnic shift. Antiquity 62, 1988, 564-74:

Paraphrase:  ***Such processes have been explained, in general terms
(mainly, extra-South Asian) by Ehret:  He stresses the relative ease with
which both ethnicity and language shift in small societies, due to the
cultural/economic/military choices made by a local population. An
intruding/influencing community bringing new traits may initially be small
and the features it contributes can be fewer in number than the features
of the pre-existing local culture. The newly formed, combined ethnic group
may then initiate a recurrent, expansionist process of ethnic and language
shift. The material record of such shifts is visible in archaeology only
insofar as new prestige equipment/animals (the "status kit", with
intrusive vocabulary!) are concerned, especially if pottery -- normally
culture-specific -- is continued to be made by local specialists of a
class-based society. ***

This description fits, as will be seen, the Indus/Vedic evidence

Michael Witzel                       witzel at fas.harvard.edu

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