Indo-Aryan im/e-migration (horse argument and Bhimbetka)
Jan E.M. Houben
JHOUBEN at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Sun May 10 13:11:07 UTC 1998
Since last week I accidently re-sent an old message on the HORSE ARGUMENT
(specially as formulated by Parpola) and BHIMBETKA, I would like to make a
Selectively quoting from Parpola 1994 I wrote: "The picture is totally
different when we turn to the Indus Civilisation. There is no evidence of the
horse whatsoever.. . . "
However, Parpola is well aware that claims have been made for early horses in
the Indus-culture, but "some specimens come from archaeological deposits which
could be considerably younger than the main body of material at the site (e.g.
Mohenjo Daro and Harappa)." Moreover, "Identifications, no matter how firm, are
not particularly useful if the bones on which they are based come from poorly
Further, on BHIMBETKA I wrote: "The environment presupposed in the Veda is
simply incompatible with the environment of reflected in these paintings (horse
is missing, people apparently live as hunter-gatherers for millennia; writing
appears very late)."
Here, "the horse is missing" refers only to the oldest paintings. The absence
of the horse becomes more striking if placed against the background of its
conspicuous presence in later paintings. The dating of the different paintings
is crucial, and for this I have to lean heavily on the preliminary publication
which I cited, namely Bhimbetka: Prehistoric Man and his Art in Central India
by Virendra Nath Misra et al., Deccan College: Pune, 1977.
On the topic of dating the different paintings it is said (p. 18f): "As
mentioned earlier, often the later artists executed their work on already
painted surfaces. Thus we find younger paintings partially overlapping older
paintings. While this mars the visual impact of the artistic creation, such a
situation is a boon to the archeologist for he can arrange the paintings into
a relative chronology on the basis of their superimposition. Sometimes in a
single cave as many as four layers of paintings can be seen. Correlating the
paintings of one cave with those of others on the basis of their position in
superimposition it has been possible to detect as many as sixteen layers. . . .
produced over a period of about ten thousand years . . . "
Further on p. 21:
"In paintings of phase VI we can clearly see the influence of Chalcolithic
pottery designs . . . Domestic animals also make their appearance in this phase
. . . "
The date assigned to this phase is "second millennium and early first
millennium B.C." (p. 22)
Again on p. 21: "Paintings of phases VII-IX clearly belong to the historic
period when urban life was well established in the plains. These paintings are
often superimposed over the older prehistoric paintings. They depict royal
processions, battle scenes, men riding caprisoned horses and elephants . . . "
The caves which contain the paintings contain also pits and trenches with
remains of tools, animals and human burials. Two caves are claimed to contain
remains from the Palaeolithic (before 100.000 years) with small and weathered
Remains of the Mesolithic (c. 10.000 - 2.500 years) can probably be correlated
with the oldest paintings.
If anyone knows of more recent scholarly publications on the archeological
research done in Bhimbetka I will be grateful for references.
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