1. Horse and 2. Dice in India

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Mon Mar 23 01:27:58 UTC 1998

I have to agree with Yaroslav Vassilkov that horse-breeding was
unquestionably a *fundamental* and *native* feature of Vedic society. There
are numerous passages in the RV that suggest this [however, RV 10.75.8 is
not likely to be the *first* of these, I would think -- at least
chronologically speaking]. Furthermore, it is clear that horse-breeding was
known also in Avestan, so that we can take for granted the view that
horse-breeding is at least Indo-Iranian, and not just Indic.

Of course, horse archaeology has played a prominent role in the debate re
the migration vs indigenous theories, because of this simple fact: the
horse is virtually if not totally insignificant in IVC, whereas it is
patently  both fundamental and native in Vedic [as well as Avestan]. This
fact is an obvious problem for those who insist on some sort of cultural
continuum between IVC and Vedic. One understands indeed why the horse
continues to be "the most sought after animal in Indian archaeology", as
Edwin Bryant observes.

What Edwin seems to be doing in his recent series of posts is this: he
seems to be conceding the fact that the horse is not indigenous to the
sub-continent. But [correct me if I am wrong, Edwin] he seems to be arguing
that this fact can be severed from the claim that the Aryans themselves are
indigenous. In other words, Edwin is trying to save the indigenous Aryan
thesis from the absence of any supporting horse evidence.

According to Edwin, there is no sudden spike in horse evidence in the
archaeological record at the time when the Aryans are supposed to have
migrated into the sub-continent. He concludes from this that the absence of
horse evidence in the sub-continent is *not* an indicator of the absence of
Aryans there. It indicates rather only the absence of horses. But as I have
claimed on the RISA list, if you do not find horses in the sub-continent,
then you will not find Aryans. As the infamous Vedic horse sacrifice shows,
the two -- horse and Aryan -- go hand in hand, as it were. This is not true
of the horse and IVC.

But I hope that Edwin will clarify what he meant, rather than leaving us to

This reminds me that I have several times wanted to protest against the
simple dichotomy that seems to dominate this discussion: linguistics vs.
archaeology. No, we are not talking about one theoretical model
[linguistics] against another [archaeology]. Both of these are crucial
tools. But knowledge of Vedic is not theoretical knowledge, as both
linguistic and archaeolgical evidence is in this case. Vedic is the most
concrete evidence that is available to us: it is textual, philological, yes
-- but not theoretical!

And that is why, in my opinion, we Vedicists have an advantage in this
debate. We are the only ones who are operating with concrete facts, Vedic
facts. Is there anything wrong with the principle that if a proposal about
the Aryan question does not agree with Vedic facts then it has to be

George Thompson

*of course, keeping Avestan always in mind. To repeat: an Indo-Iranian
perspective will improve our understanding of this problem in general,since
in my view we are dealing with an Indo-Iranian culture, not simply an Indic

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