Sarasvati (texts & arch.III)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sun May 24 14:33:01 UTC 1998

On Sat, 23 May 1998, Sn. Subrahmanya wrote:

> >Michael Witzel wrote:
> >Well, in fact, not at all: I just mentioned the Mitanni, eh? And I
> >mentioned them earlier (Mitanni with their Asvins = Nasatya), I guess in
> >another "horse" message. Well known since Thieme's c. 1960 argumentation.
> >Their importance depends on the spin you want to give to their appearanae
> >at c.1380 BC in Syria/Iraq.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

ALL of Harmatta's materials you quote are well known I just did not want
to get into another sideline discussion.

Incidentally, but not very important here:  The few Kassite names are
disputed, they may well represent a para-Indo_Aryan tradition (for example
people who were exposed, similar to the Mitanni, to *some* IA traits and
who invaded - this time really invaded -- and took over the country for
centuries, the "dark ages" of Mesopotamia )

But, more importantly, you miss one important aspect: The Mitanni speak,
after all a non-IE, non-IA Caucasian language, Hurrite (from the Caucasus
area), not Proto-Indo-Aryan. However, they have many PIA *words*. Scholars
now think that they were heavily infuenced by PIA speakers a few hundred
years (north of Iraq) *before* they emerged in the N.Iraq area.

This is useful, as it pushes back the date of the preceding *Indo-Iranian*
cultural and linguistic period a bit (to what? 2000 BC, 2500 BC. Nobody
knows.) Only an (unlikely) early inscription or archaeology combined with
linguistics (chariots) may provide the dates.

> Thus there is clear evidence of  Indian vedic names (not Indo-Iranian!)
>  and vocabulary showing up in  West Asia long before the time you say
> the Rgveda was compiled. Also, as we have already seen, by your own argument
> the Rgveda has indications of the time of the confluence of the
> Beas and the Satluj (probably a time even before the appearance of
> Indian vocabulary in west-asia) and even older as well.

No, rather about the same time for the Mitanni agreement of c.1380 and the
Sudas crossing at the Beas/Sutlej confluence. That dating needs a long
discussion agan, which I could provide, if I do not develop a carpal
tunnel syndrome that way.

Briefly: The RV does not know of iron : ayas is *NOT* iron but

(Smelted, not meteroic!) iron first occurs in S. Asia abbout 1200 BC. The
next level of texts (Mantras of YV, AV etc,)  has iron, in the Atharveda
in old enough sections as to date it close to 1200, not many centuries
later. Here iron is, quite logically for a new product, called krsna,
zyaama ayas "the black metal".  -

Anyhow, the later strata of the RV must be before 1200 BC. and the upper
limit is supplied by the breakdown of the Indus civilization, the parallel
info from the Mitanni, the dating of the first spoke-wheeled,
*horse*-drawn race/war chariots (with 2 wheels)  around 2000 BC together
with its IIr designation (cakra), and one can add the breakdown of the
Bactrian civ. etc. --- all of which points to the 2d millennium and not
the 3rd or earlier.

> Because of this evidence, I think that the dating of the Rgveda
> to 1500-1200 is a gross underestimation.

One would have to provide *solid* data to get much beyond this date...
Say, Rgveda style chariots or te remnants of a RV style horse sacrifice in
(pre-)Indus levels. I wait for that find!

> As already stated, it seems that you interpret based on a presumption
> that the Rgvedic people came into India from outside and thus have to
> fit the date of the Rgveda accordingly.

The other way round: we have to fit the data (and thus also the date) of
the RV with all available data from other sources, as mentioned recently:
archaeology, palaeo-fauna, linguistics, genetics etc. etc.

So far no one has shown (to my and many others' satisfaction) that such
data fit a supposed local emergence / origin of the Indo-Aryan language
and material/spiritual culture in South Asia, not to speak of Indo-Iranian
or even Indo_European language and culture. (But I am open to suggestions:
I would not care, e.g., if the IA-s could be shown to emerge from the
proto-Massai culture of E.Africa ...Africa, from where they got their

The combination of all data just does not add up to an Indian homeland
theory -- but this would fill a book. We would have to discuss point by

> For this hypothesis to be true we have to assume these Vedic people
> having come in from outside and then compose the Rgveda using remembered
> information from the locals about the Satluj and the Beas and then
> rename a local river as the Sarasvati based on a still older
> reminiscence of an Iranian river!.

All rivers of the Panjab -- with the possible exception of the Kubha
(Kabul R.), Sutudri (Sutlej) -- have IA names; and at least the Vitastaa
(Jhelum)  reminds of the Iranian Vitanghuuaitii [Ved. *Vitasvatii), not
to speak of the Rasaa = Avest. Ranghaa and the Sarasvatii = Haraxvaiti.

The form of the names Kubha, Sutudri shows that local substrates were
assimilated to sound IA. (see my forthc. paper in the IA/non-IA Michigan

Local information clearly filters down, as Kuiper has tried to show long
ago (1950) with his Austroasiatic myth in the RV which does not fit normal
IA myth. And the 'hero" , Emusha, clearly does not have a good IA name....

Michael Witzel                       witzel at
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990

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