Indo-Aryan Invasion (focussed discussion)

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Tue Mar 17 00:54:02 UTC 1998

In response to some of the suggestions that have recently come in re our
virtual sattra:

There is no question in my mind that the important work of Kuiper and
Witzel will also have to be taken into consideration if we want to be
serious and thorough.

I would also reiterate the claims made by Luis Gonzalez-Reimann and Jan
Houben for the relevance of Avestan. In lieu of W. Vogelsang's article "The
Sixteen lands of Videvdat", there are a few recent articles by P.Oktor
Skjaervø which may serve:

"The Avesta as source for the early history of the Iranians", in the
already frequently cited volume _The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia_,
edited by G. Erdosy.

"The State of Old Avestan Scholarship", in JAOS 117.1 [1997]. The interest
of this review article is that it summarizes the recent "revisionist"
movement among certain Avestan scholars [esp. Kellens and Pirart] to
challenge the historicity of the prophet Zarathustra, and to consider the
Gathas [the oldest Avestan texts, attributed to Zarathustra himself] as
ideologically much closeer to the hymns of the RV than has been generally
considered. That is, the figure of the "prophet Zarathustra" who stands
radically aloof from the inherited Indo-Iranian traditions of his
forefathers is being challenged by recent scholarship.

I myself am convinced that we will learn much from examining early Vedic
and early Avestan as two pakSas of a single cultural unit [a single
linguistic and cultural area]. However, I should point out that I myself am
not committed to this "revisionist" movement, since Martin Schwartz, the
scholar who introduced me to Avestan studies, has persuaded me that the
Gathas are the work of a strong coherent poetic voice, a genuinely
historical individual by the name of  Zarathustra. The language of early
Avestan is difficult and problematic for a number of reasons. It will not
provide us with easy solutions. But it is clearly relevant to our concerns.

Perhaps we can invite a few Iranists to our sattra!

As for Jan Houben's speculations about ritual: yes, we need to talk about
that too.

Best wishes,

George Thompson

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