Horses and chariots again.

Vidhyanath K. Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Wed Nov 11 16:27:34 UTC 1998

Given the recent flurry of messages about the horse arguments, this may
be the right time to tie a loose end: I did not elaborate on the Sanchi
representations at that time, pending a reply from Sparreboom. In a
separate post, I will give my letter and paraphrase Sparreboom's reply.
For now, I have just a few general comments.

Some philologists and archeologists seem to assume that it is a proven
fact that proto-Indo-Iranians invented the classic chariot and spread
out conquering everything before them, like the Mongols under Genghis
Khan (BTW, Mongols lost a few battles too, notably to Egyptians.)
For example, the contributions of Soviet archeologists to SAA 93  seem
odd those who distrust this claim. But distrust we must, for reasons I have
gone over in great detail before, and which can be found in the
archives. The number of ``experts'' who claim something is no measure
of truth. The simple fact that the chief exponents of steppe invention
of the classic chariot reconstruct a functional `chariot' with neck
yoke and central axle is proof of this.

The best that can be said, IMHO, seems to be Piggot's view: The steppe
cultures were part of the milieu that perfected the chariot. But it is
unlikely that they invented the functional chariot as found in 15th c.
BCE Near East and sprang it on an unsuspecting world. Given the complex
net of features of the chariot, it is likely that it emerged over a few
centuries, with experience gained in real battles. Evidence for such is
lacking in the steppes.

In particular, any attempts to identify PIIrs with specific steppe
culture based on supposed invention of chariots remains beset by lack
of convincing data. And trying to see war chariots in the impressions
in Sintasha graves ignores the very real objections raised by Littuaer
and Crowell. Ignoring subtleties of fields one does not specialize in
is not limited to scientists. Real vehicles have to conform to laws of
physics and must be constructable with available technology. Just
because some archeologists and philologists are not aware of the issues
will not make them go away.


A few random notes: `yugo-' is from the root `yeug' which is clearly an
extension of `yeu'. This makes it likely that it an internal coinage.

Anthony's claim that `wegh' meant `convey in a >vehicle<' sounds
suspect to me. It does not have that specific a meaning in RV. What
about Hittite, Greek, etc?

The use of the right hand horse cannot prove inheritance. There is a
clear bias against left and preference for right, not just in IE but
also elsewhere. [I have also pointed out possible pragmatic reasons for
why the turns were to the left. Clearly the position of the archer on
the left (save.s.tha) has to be pragmatic and has nothing to do with
inherited patterns.]


The similarities between Sintasha burials and Vedic culture are not so
convincing either. The RV references given by Genning in JIES article
of late 70's seem too general to point especially to Sintasha burials.

The find of one case of human body and horse head cannot be compared to
Dadhyanc. The former is a funerary practice while the latter is a myth.
Surely no one is proposing that Dadhyanc was a real live person and that
the Asvins did perform the first case of head transplant.

Comparing the burial of horse and dog cannot be compared to a"svamedha:
In the latter the dog is killed when the horse starts its year long
wandering; the two animals are not buried together. The Sintasha burial
is a clear case of burying the man's possessions with him, a practice
found quite widely. The graves give evidence of burial of various
animals with the dead and that sometimes horses and dogs occur together
is of no more significance than of horse and sheep or sheep and cattle
or any other combination.


Is an English translation of Kuzmina's book on IIr origins available or
in the works?



More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list