Horses/Indus seals

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Mon May 18 00:36:39 UTC 1998

On Sun, 17 May 1998, Peter J. Claus wrote:

> There still seems to be something illogical about the argument.

I could not agree more!

And that means, as far as the WHOLE horse debate is concerned (more about
this later, now that the semester has ended).

With regard to horses or cows on seals, it is of course a well known fact
that only certain animals appear on the seals, esp. the Unicorn, Zebu
bull, rhinoceros, water buffalo, and the short-horned bull. Also elephant,
tiger, seals . <NOTE: all male, it seems: no female beasts, such as cows!)

All of which Archaeologists ( the late W. Fairservis), and now M.
Kenoyer in his recent book: Ancient Cities of the Indis Cvilization,
Oxford (Karachi) 1998) have often treated as clan signs.  (And joint
figures, with multiple heads, as clan alliances)

What has NOT been mentioned in the debate is that "all major domestic and
wild animals are represented by terracotta figurines" ( Kenoyer, p.  118),
incl. ram, water buffalo, humped bull, unicorn, hare, various birds, dog,
elephant, tiger, rhinoceros, and I quote:  "peacocks, pheasants, pigeons,
ducks, and the wild jungle fowl are all represented by terracotta
figurines or painted pottery." (p. 165).  Also (in narrative scenes on
certain seals) the "hooded cobra, birds, monkey, squirrel, mongoose, and
onager (wild ass) are all seen ... but never used on the square stamp
seals." (0p.  86) We may add fishes, garial and crocodile, tiger as well.
(Kenoyer, p.  165).

For a comprehensive argument, such information is vital as to avoid a
skewed picture.

But there are  NO HORSES (neither on on seals, inor n painting, nor as

So what to conclude?

Since horses appear only by 1700 BC (bones AND representations) in the
Kachi plain/ Mehrgarh (on the border of the Iranian plateau, thus) the
argumentum ex nihilo carries SOME, if not  a lot of  weight.


Michael Witzel                       witzel at
Harvard University         
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phone: 1- 617 - 495 3295 (voice & messages), 496 8570, fax 617 - 496 8571
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990

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