Sarasvati (texts & arch.II)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu May 28 11:46:39 UTC 1998

On Wed, 27 May 1998, Paul K. Manansala wrote:

> > > We certainly cannot label PGW culture as Vedic anymore than IVC.

> > That last sentence alone shows that the data are not taken into account.
> > The data of the Indus civ. just do not fit the RV (we need a special
> > e-sattra on that), but the PGW has many correspondences, in spread,
> > material culture, etc., with the *POST*-RV texts.

> I find the above statements biased.. While one could argue
> that IVC is not particularly Vedic, neither is PGW. The latter was
> primarily a pig and rice culture. The people were sendentary and
> lived in mud huts. They made very little use of the horse, and I'm
> not aware of any chariots associated with them.  They used wheel-made
> pottery, associated with Asuras,  instead of the "Aryan" handmade
> variety.

Just pig & rice? This is not S. China. -- Too simple. Sedentary style
changes 3 times in the area (Allchin 1995).  This is a 2-level society:
PGW is just the fine, 'expensive' table ware (made by local wheel-using
specialists; again: handmade pottery made by Brahmins is just for Vedic
ritual: that has hardly been detected so far. Read Staal 1983 and see what
you get even of an Agnicayana after a few years... Horses get buried
outside the "village" (if at all) -- THAT is why they are hardly ever
found ---, chariots are re-used. No more horse/chariot burials at this
period of Vedic civ. -- We need to get lucky, as we do in Swat.

Allchin has data such as these: (my summary)
>>post-Indus period (c. 2000-1600 BC) in Haryana and the extreme western
Doab: post-urban/Cemetery H type pottery, but in some sites with brick
buildings; contrast, however, the subsequent period (p. 37; c. 1600-1200
BC) with single-room houses of timber and thatch, followed again by
many-room brick houses, etc. (c. 1200-800 BC, Painted Gray Ware

I add  from my recent Canon & society paper (Inside the texts, beyond
the texts,ed, M. Witzel, Cambridge 1997):

"differently from the half-nomadic Aryans with their graamas relocating
periodically, permanent settlements were (mostly?) inhabited by the
aboriginal population or Nisadas," and : "permament Indo-Aryan villages
(graama)  are late...  The alleged Vedic towns are phantoms, such as
Paricakra SB (just a place name or temporary settlement) or

> The work of Dilip Chakrabarti suggests that the iron used by the PGW
>  culture was not of foreign origin as previously thought.

Nothing to do with the above question. Copper  was there in India before
the IA and (meteoric) iron, too. And, by this time we have had a long
time of acculturation of local & IA speakers, called, after all, by
post-RV texts: the Shudra-Arya ...  Smiths were low caste people.

> Could you provide a list of the correspondences between PGW and Vedic
> culture?

If I get all my arch. books together from my office, yes. Briefly a few,
off the cuff: Time period & area & material culture fit the Yajurveda
Samhita prose texts (MS, KS TS, -- not Satapatha Br of course).



For the moment, I simply quote from my dialect paper (C.Caillat, ed.,
Dialectes dans les litteratures indo-aryennes, Paris 1989):

"A look at the material culture of the texts is facilitated by W. Rau's
investigations:  They provide evidence for: ayas ("Nutzmetall", copper
(bronze which is unusual in India; not, as usually translated:"iron"), but
also iron ( zyaama- ayas-), wattle (and daub) huts, which were easily
removable;  cultivation of rice, barley, etc., cattle (horse, etc.), in
short, a generally still very simple material culture.

Pottery, as described in the texts, unfortunately does not provide a good
possibility for comparison:  Vedic pots, as used in ritual and described
in the texts, were handmade or even built up of several lumps (the
Pravargya mahAvIra vessel); they could not be made by potters as these did
not belong to the three higher castes; they had, instead, to be made by
the Brahmins, typical non-specialists of pottery thus.  Both the
well-known archaism of ritual implements as well as the caste system
conspire to deprive us of one of the most important and useful parts of
archeological comparison.

However, apart from the general agreement of the testimony of the texts
on material culture and archeological finds, there is one more surprising
correspondence. The area of the YV Samhitas and of Paippalada-AV is: E.
Panjab, Kuruksetra, Haryana, W. Uttar Pradesh up to Allahabad/Benares
(KAzi). This is precisely the area that is covered by PGW culture..

        W.Rau is a little more optimistic: he thinks it is possible to compare
        sacral pottery with everyday pottery objects which were already thrown on
        on a wheel but regarded as demonic (asura-like); see also W.Rau,
        Altertumskunde, p.41 sq.>

W. Rau, on other grounds, came to a similar conclusion:
Altertumskunde, p.48: "The so-called.../OCP/...agrees best, according to
the area of spread, technical condition, and approximate age, with the
pottery described in the Vedic texts." (my transl.)

Michael Witzel                       witzel at

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