SV: method of dating RV, III

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at WXS.NL
Fri Oct 30 16:00:40 UTC 1998

George Thompson <thompson at JLC.NET> wrote:

>As a way of steering this thread back to the Indological sphere, perhaps
>MCV could be persuaded to comment on the following:
>"Turning to the east again, the origin of Indo-Iranian can also be traced
>back to the Yamna/Kurgan cultures of the 4th/3rd. millennium. By 2000 BC,
>the area of modern Russian Turkestan is occcupied by the Kurgan-derived
>Andronovo culture, ancestral to the Iranians or the Indo-Iranians as a
>whole, depending on where one wants to put the split between the two. I
>would favour a slightly early date, making Andronovo exclusively Iranian,
>with the Dardic/Indo-Aryan speakers already in Kashmir, watching the IVC
>I am interested in a more detailed and specific discussion of both the
>location and the time of the Indo-Iranian split.

Well, let's first see the linguistic evidence.  As far as I can
ascertain, the accepted subgrouping of the Indo-Iranian languages is:

                       /     |      \
                Iranian   Nuristani  Indic
                /    \               /    \
               /\    Eastern      Dardic  /\
              /  \                       /  \
             /    Parachi-Ormuri   Western   \
          Western                            /|\
                                            / | \
                                      Central |  Eastern

If we put Indo-Iranian in Central Asia (say, Uzbekistan) somewhere in
the 3rd millennium, one can almost read off the subsequent
movements/developments from the cladogram. [Almost reads like one of
Drews' mythical "marching orders" :-)]

We can put the split between Eastern and Western Iranian c. 1400 BC,
the start of Iron Age I in Western Iran, when as Mallory says "there
is a major cultural break in this region", and traditional pottery is
replaced by Iranian grey wares.  This probably indicates the first
arrival of the Western Iranians in the Iranian plateau, where Medes
and Persians will soon start to play an important role in Near
Eastern history.

The split between Indic-Dardic and Iranian-Nuristani is harder to pin
down.  Mallory ("In Search of the Indo-Europeans") favours the
Gandhara Grave culture of the Swat Valley (c. 1800 BC) as the
earliest Indic-Dardic arrivals in the Indus area, and wants to
connect that with the subsequent Cemetery H culture (not precisely
dated) of post-IVC Harappa, and further the Painted Grey Ware culture
(c. 1300-400 BC) of the Punjab and western Ganges valley, which few
would deny is Indo-Aryan.

On the other hand, this "low" chronology is complicated by the
presence of "Indo-Iranian" grey wares and horses as early as 3000 BC
at Shah Tepe in the Gorgan area, and c. 2300 BC, grey wares and
animal burials at Burzahom in Kashmir.  A further complication, which
is developed at length in Mallory's account of Iranian and Indo-Aryan
origins, is the presence of an Indo-Aryan element among the Hurrians.
This is the famous Mitanni problem.

The Kikkuli text on horsemanship, found in the Hittite archives at
Boghazkoy, leaves no doubt about the presence of Indo-Iranian words
in Mitanni Hurrian.  We have the series aikawartanna, terawartanna,
panzawartanna, sattawartanna and nawartanna, i.e. 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9
turns around the horse-track.  The question is, what are these Aryan
words doing in the Hurrian vocabulary?  The old notion that the
Mitanni were a Hurrian tribe ruled by an Indo-Aryan aristocracy must
be abandoned.  The fact that Hurrians and Indo-Iranians were at one
time in contact, and that the Hurrians borrowed technical terms to do
with horsemanship as well as the names of some Indo-Aryan gods
(Indra, Mitra, Waruna) is undeniable, but the fact that these terms
show up in texts from 1500 BC doesn't tell us anything about when
exactly the borrowings took place.  "Mitanni Indo-Aryan" was clearly
a dead language by then.

Now, the Hurrians themselves are not native to the Near East, and
Mesopotamian documents first mention the Hurrians as invadors shortly
before 2000 BC.  It is not known where they came from, although it is
usually conjectured from the Caucasus.  But if we suppose they came
from the Caspian area in the north-east, i.e. from the neighbourhood
of Gorgan and Shah Tepe, it is plain to see that the Hurrians may
have adopted their grey wares and horsemanship from the Indo-Iranians
of Central Asia already by 3000 BC.

As an additional benefit, that would resolve the otherwise
intractable (see Mallory) problem of why the "Mitanni-Aryan" numeral
"1" is aika-, the Sanskrit form (eka- < *aika-), instead of the
Iranian form *aiwa- (or *aiwaka-).  If the word was borrowed by the
Hurrians from common Indo-Iranian, c. 3000 BC, the word might have
been *aika- in all (not yet differentiated) Indo-Iranian dialects of
that period, and the divine names would still be unaffected by the
Zoroastrian reform among the Iranians of a much later period.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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