Horses (words, archaeology)

Paul K. Manansala kabalen at MAIL.JPS.NET
Tue May 19 17:04:55 UTC 1998

  Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU>

> Since the semester is over, a few points on the ongoing discussion:
> In answer several contributors, last:  Edwin Bryant and: 11 May 1998, Paul
> K. Manansala:
> > what are the origins for the words for horse in Sanskrit.
> > Ghota seems somewhat similar to Yenesei-Ostyak "kuta" and even
> > Austronesian "kud(j)a".
> I doubt the etymology of ghoTa < guurd. It does not mean 'to jump'
> in Vedic. ghoTa is first attested only in the Vedic Suutras.

Interestingly, ghoTa generally replaced other Sanskrit terms for
horse.  The modern words ghora, kura, ghur, etc., in the vernaculars
are believed to have derived from ghoTa.  Wasn't ghoTa originally used
more to describe the domesticated horse?

> However, S. Dravidian has kutiray 'horse'.
> This has been borrowed into Koraput Munda as *kuXrtag, (Zide and Zide
> 1976, 1331) <which could be close, due to the rt >T changes in Skt.)
> It has been compared with Elamite kuti 'to bear, carry' , kutira 'bearer'
> (McAlpin 1981:147-8;  Southworth 1979:181, DED 1711). But as Prof.
> Krishnamurti has pointed out in this list, the Elamite-Dravidian
> connection is open to (many) questions.

Hmmm, this would suggest a domesticated horse, but then again the
questions on the Elamite-Dravidian relationship.

> Dravidian, Munda, Nahali and Tibeto-Burmese also have other words (hullii,
> sadom, maav, rta etc.). Some *may* have been local epithets ("racer"
> etc.). Or, the horse can have been introduced by various people several
> times and from different directions. For example, *if* it should turn out
> that the speakers of Proto-Dravidian made it (out of Central Asia/Iran)
> straight for the Deccan, via Sindh, Gujarat, Maharastra, as some think.

Then we have at least one alternative to the IE introduction theory.
Other possibilities are introduction by Altaic, Austro-Asiatic or
Tibeto-Burman speakers.  Or local independent domestication.

> And there can have been adaptations of a earlier word for 'hemione'
> (half-ass) which looks very much like a horse -- as is supposed to have
> happened for Drav. hullii:  (O.)Tam. ivuLi 'horse' and Brahui (h)ullii
> 'horse' < 'hemione' (Burrow already in 1972; see DED 500).

Most of the Munda languages and even Khasi use variants like gura,
kura, etc., that are almost certainly related to other North Indian
terms.  Even Tai and Austronesian have similar sounding words.

> That the domesticated horse (equus caballus) has been INTRODUCED into
> South Asia only late is clear *even* when reading Bokonyi who believed in
> the existence of true horses in some Indus finds (Surkodata) .

Still this would pooh-pooh the argument about horses supposedly not
showing up in IVC art.  Also, it muddies up the question of how the
domesticated Indian horse such as Equus Sivalensis came about in
India.  The latter is distinguished morphologically by large upper
premolars, pre-orbital depression and only 17 pairs of ribs.  Such
anatomical divergence only comes about through long periods of
evolution or selective interbreeding.  So one way or another we seem
stuck with the idea that there were indigenous horse breeds. The idea of
diffusion is stronger if horses were not  indigenous to India.

> He says: "horses reached the Indian subcontinent in an already
> domesticated form coming from the Inner Asiatic horse domestication
> centers."

But this is not a universal opinion. SR Rao, whose 'decipherment' work doesn't
really impress me, has compiled much of the research on horses at
Harappan levels.

> Finally,
> > According to Indian tradition, the domesticated horse originated in
> > the east during the Churning of the Milky Ocean.
> All of this mythology is of course quite useless as it re-tells and
> re-elaborates the much earlier Vedic versions where the horse was born
> from the ocean, from the tear of Prajapati, etc. That tradition alone
> indicates that horse lore (the As'vin!!!, diskuroi, the 2 horse(-faced)
> ancestors of all Anglo-Saxons: Hengist and Horsa, etc.) is firmly rooted
> in Indo_Aryan and Iranian myth <see the many examples given recently by
> George Thompson and others (and add material culture:  words such as axle
> etc., borrowed by Dravidian, see DED).

Sorry, but there seem to be too many assumptions in this passage. The
similarities you mention are vague and late.  The ancient Greek texts
mention Indian philsophers in Greece, and we know that Gypsies may
have visited Europe at an early age, so most of this evidence is
really convincing.  None of this necessarily hearkens back to
proto-IE, although the Avestan material is certainly different than
the rest.

The question is why would the "Aryans" have traditions of horses
being domesticated by Asuras or coming from the east?  Why would
domesticated horses be raised on rice?  Doesn't jibe with the
traditional idea of horses being introduced by pastoral nomadic Indo-Europeans.
Also, V. Rao raised many interesting points about the differences in
technology used in regards to Indian and other horses that contradict
the normal horse=Indo-Aryans argument.

Paul Kekai Manansala

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