Book review: Indus Age- the Writing System by Gregory L.Possehl.

Bo Klintberg klintber at CHASS.UTORONTO.CA
Sun May 2 18:05:24 UTC 1999

Dear Lars Martin,

Here are just some quick points I would like to make in response to your
last response. I thank you for being very explicit about your account.

On Sat, 1 May 1999, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:

> 1. Indo-Europeans migrated. Such migrations are historically recorded since the first
> millenium BCE. I see no reasons why they shouldn't have migrated before that. It is
> the only reasonable explanation for the extensive spread of Indo-European languages,
> and probably also for some archaeological data as well.

Let us play with the thought that it is proven that Indo-Europeans
migrated. That statement does not, of course, necessarily mean that ALL
Indo-Europeans migrated; just that SOME did. Also, I think your claim
about an alleged migration before the recorded one is a really bad
argument: If X did action A at time T, then it is much more likely that
X did action A* at time T-1, than he did not do it all. I don't say that
you could not argue for an earlier migration; I just want you to
present very good reasons for it--which you haven't, so far.

> 2. The earliest migrations were by people without a writing system. Which means that
> they had an oral history. Which means that "history" very quickly got absorbed by myth
> (see e.g. Eliade, Myth of the Eternal Return, or Cosmos and History".). However, we
> sometimes see a need for a "history" (as in Rome, where Virgil produced an epic on the
> basis of imaginary history). In such cases, origins were regarded as important and
> "histories" were produced.

The problem here, I believe, is that you are not evaluating different
sources differently. Your argument goes, I believe: since we have seen
that Virgil can produce false history, all other historical accounts that
we come across that seem too strange also must be false histories. I think
that many historians would be well served by thinking more about testimony
and who produces testimony. In other words, different persons have
different motives. My point is that the characteristics of a person
determine the credibility of the testimony; therefore one should take into
consideration the personal characteristics of the person giving the
testimony. The testimony of a drunk on the street in New York City
(who heard a story from his even more drunk friend from down the street,
who saw it with his own eyes) should therefore be evaluated differently
than that of a self-realized sage in the Himalayas (who heard a story from
another self-realized sage in the Himalayas, who saw it with his own

>3. What you choose to regard as important is a matter of personal taste.
>My point was simply that the non-mention of migrations in the Veda
>doesn't prove anything. It is an argument ex nihilo.

Yes, that's exactly my point, it doesn't prove ANYTHING--neither one of
the possibilities. Therefore, you can't draw any conclusions from that
fact alone, just as I cannot draw any conclusions from it--either one is

With all respect,
Bo Klintberg
Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
University of Toronto

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