Mitanni problem (Was SV: method of dating RV, III)

S.Kalyanaraman kalyan99 at NETSCAPE.NET
Fri Oct 30 20:32:44 EST 1998

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal wrote:

[snip]>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.[snip]> 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.[snip] > 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.[snip]

Paul Thieme wrote in 1960 on this problem: "...The historian will devise a
theory to explain how 'Indians', or 'Proto-Indians', or 'Para-Indians', or
'Proto-Aryans' could come into Western Asia and exercise influence inferable
from these linguistic traces. The linguist is entitled to be more modest. At
the first step, he will not attempt to offer an explication in terms of a
hypothesis, but to reach a factual decision on the linguistic character of the
terms that confront him...Do Mitra, Varun.a, Indra and the two Na_satyas
protect treaties in the RV? and: Is it likely or provable that they did so in
Proto-Aryan times? To the first question a strictly factual answer can be
given: all the named gods indeed are said to protect treaties in the RV
(Rigveda), even the two Na_satyas, though these only ocasionally. The second
one cannot be answered with the same confidence, since we have no primary
sources of Proto-Aryan religion and must rely upon the resources of techniques
of reconstruction... " [Burrow tries to refute (unsuccessfully, I think) these
views of Thieme by an extraordinary argument dating Avesta to a date as early
as 1000 BC!]

The evidence seems to point to Vedic sources to explain the Kikkuli horse
manual and the reference to 5 specific Vedic gods in the treaties, without any
need to postulate a Proto-Aryan religion or an Indo-Iranian language. 

More extracts from Thieme's thoroughly evidenced article (JRAS, 1960: 301-317)
are at:

Meluhhans were in Sumer and needed an interpreter as evidenced by a cylinder
seal (and perhaps, there was a Meluhhan colony too, cf. Parpola); why can't
another hypothesis be explored? That some Vedic-speaking 'Proto-indians'
migrated in the first second half of the third millennium, via the sea-route,
i.e. from the Sindhu to the Persian gulf and upstream on the Euphrates to
Mitanni, Bogazhkoi, carrying the tradition of cylinder seals with battle
motifs, unicorns, ligatured animals, specialized horse-training Vedic
vocabulary and Sanskrit names...


More than just email--Get your FREE Netscape WebMail account today at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list