On S. Farmer, also on invasion

Vanbakkam Vijayaraghavan vijay at VOSSNET.CO.UK
Sat Apr 14 23:38:21 UTC 2001

On Fri, 13 Apr 2001 20:43:57 -0400, Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU> wrote:

>I think in our present discussion it is important to stress that, in the
>case of the Indo-Aryans, we do not simply have language take over  (for a
>more or less peaceful one covering a very large territory, note Suahili:
>from Zanzibar to E. Congo., from Kenya to N. Mozambique..)
>but we also have the take-over by local people of the *whole set* of
>spiritual culture (complicated IE/ IIr poetics!, ritual, religion, etc. --
>something that did, by and large,  not happen in the Suahili case), and
>also the take-over of some material culture (complicated chariot building,
>import of horses, dress, hair style, but also rather primitive ritual
>implements & pottery, etc.). We need a model that covere all such changes.
>C. Ehret's "elite kit" and a post-Indus, opportunistic shift to more
>pastoralism will work best here.  No big wave of "invaders" is necessary
>then, just some Afghani tribesmen who chose to stay in their winter
>quarters in the Indus,  instead of going back to the Afghani highlands (as
>they  did in Avestan times and as they still do.)
>Such a group could  set off a wave of change, with adaptation (and further
>change!) of the dominant elite kit, all across the Panjab and beyond...
>(See forthcoming EJVS 7-3).

For these "elite kits" to work, the "natives" should be able to look up to the
newcomers as elite. The "natives", in this case,  cannot but be remnants of the
urban IVC. The present area of IVC is at present estimated to include large larts
of North-west and North India. Why should these remnants or inheritors of IVC
look up to some wandering tribesmen as elite?

If one is proposing a scenario of "revolution from the top" , certain pre-
conditions be met
1. Centralised spiritual and political structure of the "natives"
2.The new elite should consider themselves part of or representatives of some
larger entity in cultural terms so that they maintain sufficient distance from
the natives

Only then the "elite kits", either material or cultural can be disseminated with
any degree of efficacy.

In the case of Cyrus conquest of Babylon or the Spanish conquest of Aztecs , it
was a pyramidal structure and easy for the new rulers to impose their language,
religion and culture on the "natives". Babylonian culture merged into
Achameanids and the Spanish culture "swallowed" Aztecs.

In the propsed scenario of aryan spread over India, it is not clear why should a
civilized descendents of IVC look up to some wandering tribesmen as elite who
ought to be emulated. Even if such had been the case it would have been a local
phenomenon since we don't have definite conception of the "native" culture of
North India as a centralised one wherein cultural spreads can be across the

About the "natives" being overawed with chariots and arrows, in all other parts
of the world different "natives" were first shocked and awed by an intrusive
military technology, but usually have quickly recovered to adapt the same
technology for their own use. Romans were overawed by Hannibal's elephants in the
beginning, but recovered their poise soon. Even ancient Greeks are believed to
have been overawed by horsemen (Minatour legend), The American Indians also
adopted and adpated to the new technologies of horse and rifle brought in by
Europeans. The defeat of American Indians cannot be blamed on lack of
technological backwardness. The point I am making is that aryans could not have
militarily defeated "natives" and overawed the presumably civilized "natives"
over a long period of time and over a vast space becuase the same technologies
could have been adopted by the natives after the initial shock.

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