The horse argument, part 1

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Tue Mar 31 18:29:14 UTC 1998

This is the first in a series of long postings, and in some cases
contains arguments and references that I have hinted at before. But as
the same old shibboleths are trotted out again and again, I have decided
that it is worthwhile to be more explicit. I have put the references in
a separate post so that those who are so inclined can simply read the
references rather than wade thru my spiel.

Recently there has been a lot of posts complaining that others do not
make any attempt to become familiar with basic linguistics before
mouthing their opinions. That sword cuts both ways. Linguists must
become familiar with the basic facts in other areas, such as horse and
chariots before making ridiculous statements such as `steppe chariots
were more sophisticated than Near Eastern ones because the former had
more spokes' or that `chariots were the tanks of 2nd millennium BCE'.


"N. Ganesan" <GANESANS at CL.UH.EDU> wrote:

>So from Vedic times (1200 BC? or 1000 BC?), horses in India
>increase a lot.

Is there any archaeological evidence to back up this
assertion? That is the question.

What we see in the texts may simply be due to poetic convention. As
long as horses and chariots/carriages remained rare and expensive,
they would be prestige items and it may be expected that all poets
describe their patrons as possessing such things in abundance.


Dominique Thillaud had written a post saying that evidence of horse is
not found in Mycenean Greece. If I remember right, cheek pieces of the
type used in the Near East and Central Asia have been found in the
shaft graves of Mycenean times. I don't know the precise figures, but
from what I have read, these cheek pieces were not rare.


Another interesting fact is that Herodotus says that the Indian
contingent in Darius's army used chariots drawn by onagers.
[The original is , but as asses are not native to India, he must mean
onagers.] This too raises interesting questions concerning the whole
horse argument.


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