SV: method of dating RV, III

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Wed Oct 21 16:17:16 UTC 1998

In response to the recent post of Lars Martin Fosse:

I don't think that my view of the date of the RV is very far removed from
the consensus of those who have studied the problem [e.g., those involved
in the 1995 volume edited by Erdosy]. Whereas the standard dating gives
something like a range from 1500 BCE t0 1200 BCE, I am inclined toward a
range of 1200 BCE to 1000 BCE, with a strong inclination toward later

The primary reason for this preference for later dating is a comparison
with Old Avestan texts. In the early stages of this discussion last summer,
I asserted the view that the RV appeared to me to be more or less
contemporary with these Old Avestan texts: the Gathas of Zarathustra and
the Yasna Haptanhaiti. The more I study this issue, the more I am convinced
that this is true.

Scholars have known for quite some time that the formulaic language of the
RV has much in common with that of these Avestan texts. But I believe that
the similarities are not simply the result of a common heritage
[linguistic, poetic, ritual]. With the RV and Old Avestan we appear to
stand almost at the node where these two branches of Indo-Iranian begin to
branch off in their separate directions. This is a question that I would
like to gain insight into. If the branching took place at @ 2000 BCE, which
I think is generally assumed, how could these texts, which I presume to
date at @ 1000 BCE, be close to the node? I don't pretend to know how to
explain this. But it seems to me that either the date of the node is wrong
or the branching did not obliterate mutual intelligibility between the two

That is, there is still probably mutual intelligibility between the
languages at this stage. And I believe that I have also found examples of
mutual self-reference.

Now, if RV poets are referring to Avestan rivals and Avestan ones are
referring to RV rivals, it is clear that they have to be contemporaries,
and in contact with each other.

More on the dating later.


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