Journal : Alternate History

The Indo-European Homeland

 

The discredited Aryan Invasion hypothesis (AIT), which we observed about in much detail in previous “Alternate History” blog posts, was essentially motivated by a concern for loss of European primacy in world heritage, linguistic and cultural. The next few tranche in this series shall deal with alternate facts in that regard.

We discussed the curious case of Victor H Mair to underscore the present academic environment, monopolised as it is by the backers of AIT though without a shred of evidence … which makes it well nigh impossible for any scholar, Indian or Western, to gain acceptance of facts pointing to an Indian homeland of Proto Indo-Europeans, The strong tide of prejudice in Western academic circles tests his ardour, and the deeply entrenched leftist lobby in India’s academe renders the task of establishing the truth steeply uphill.

The primary foundation of the widely held belief regarding Indo-European homeland is derived from the purported ‘science’ of LINGUISTICS… that is said to have proved conclusively their original location in and around South Russia; and, equally without doubt, that their homeland could not have been located in India. This belief, rests as it does on misinterpretation of Rigvedic history, is so indelibly etched in scholar community, who examine the problem, that it appears to overshadow and nullify the value of all other evidence to the contrary.

We will examine the case of Indo-European homeland in the light of facts in following areas :

I.    Archaeology and Linguistics.
II.  The Literary Evidence.
III. The Evidence of Linguistic Isoglosses.
IV. Inter-Familial Linguistics.
V.  Indo-Aryan Linguistic Substrata.
VI. Proto-Linguistic Studies.  

ARCHAEOLOGY AND LINGUISTICS

The archaeological evidence has always been against the theory that there was an Aryan influx into India in the second millennium BC, an influx so significant that it was able to completely transform the linguistic character and ethos of almost the entire country.

Well known historian, D.D. Kosambi, admits : “Archaeologically, this period is still blank… There is no special Aryan pottery… no particular Aryan or Indo-Aryan technique identified by the archaeologists even at the close of the second millennium.” But the eminent historian still waxes eloquently in support of the Aryan invasion Theory.

This is in sharp contrast to the situation so far as Europe is concerned. Shan M.M. Winn, for example, points out that “a ‘common European horizon’ developed after 3000 BC, at about the time of the Pit Grave expansion (Kurgan Wave #3). Because of the particular style of ceramics produced, it is usually known as the Corded Ware horizon. However, some authors call it the Battle Axe culture because stone battle axes were frequently placed in burials… The expansion of the Corded Ware cultural variants throughout central, eastern and northern Europe has been construed as the most likely scenario for the origin and dispersal of PIE (Proto-Indo-European) language and culture.”

After a detailed description of this archaeological phenomenon, Winn notes: “Only one conclusion seems reasonably certain : the territory inhabited by the Corded Ware / Battle Axe culture, after its expansions, geographically qualifies it to be the ancestor of the Western or European language branches : Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Celtic and Italic.”

However, this archaeological phenomenon “does not… explain the presence of Indo-Europeans in Asia, Greece and Anatolia”.This Corded Ware/Battle Axe culture represented the third wave of “the Pit Grave expansion (Kurgan Wave #3)” in the westward direction.  Winn suggests that “an eastern expansion from the Caspian Steppe also occured at this time”, connects the Tocharians with “the culture… known as Afanasievo… located in the Altai region… across the expanse of the Central Asian steppe to its ragged eastern boundary”, and links the Indo-Iranians with the Andronovo culture which “covers much of the Central Asian steppe east of the Ural river and Caspian Sea”.

However, he admits that these identifications are purely hypothetical, and that, even in hypothesis and assuming the Andronovo culture to be Indo-Iranian, “it is still a hazardous task to connect the archaeological evidence… in the Central Asian steppe with the appearance of Iranian (Aryan) and Indic (Indo-Aryan) tribes in Iran, Afghanistan and India”.

He consequently describes Indo-Iranian, archaeologically, as an “Indo-European branch which all homeland theories we have reviewed so far have failed to explain”.The archaeological evidence for any Indo-European (Aryan) influx into India is missing in every respect :

a. There is no archaeological link with any other Indo European culture outside India.

b. There is no archaeological trail leading from outside into India.

c. There is no internal evidence in respect of any notable change in the anthropological or material-cultural situation in the northwestern parts of India, in the second millennium BC, which could be attributed to an Aryan influx.

In fact, the situation is so clear that a majority of archaeologists, both in India and in the West, today summarily reject the idea that there was any Aryan influx into India from outside in the second millennium BC.  They, in fact, go so far as to reject even the very validity of ‘Linguistics’ itself as an academic discipline, which could be qualified to have any say in the matter.

This has created quite a piquant situation in Western academic circles.  In his preface to a published volume (1995) of the papers presented during a conference on Archaeological and Linguistic Approaches to Ethnicity in Ancient South Asia, held in Toronto on 4th-6th October 1991, George Erdosy notes that the Aryan invasion theory “has recently been challenged by archaeologists who – along with linguists – are best qualified to evaluate its validity.  Lack of convincing material (or osteological) traces left behind by the incoming Indo-Aryan speakers, the possibility of explaining cultural change without reference to external factors and – above all – an altered world view (Shaffer 1984) have all contributed to a questioning of assumptions long taken for granted and buttressed by the accumulated weight of two centuries of scholarship.”

However, Erdosy points out, the perspective offered by archaeology, “that of material culture… is in direct conflict with the findings of the other discipline claiming a key to the solution of the ‘Aryan problem’, linguistics… In the face of such conflict, it may be difficult to find avenues of cooperation, yet a satisfactory resolution of the puzzles set by the distribution of Indo-Aryan languages in South Asia demands it. The present volume aims for the first step in that direction, by removing mutual misconceptions regarding the subject matter, aims, methods and limitations of linguistics and archaeology which have greatly contributed to the confusion currently surrounding ‘Aryans’.  Given the debates raging on these issues within as well as between the two disciplines, a guide to the range of contemporary opinion should be particularly valuable for anyone wishing to bridge the disciplinary divide… indeed, the volume neatly encapsulates the relationship between two disciplines intimately involved in a study of the past.”

The archaeologists and anthropologists whose papers feature in the volume include : Jim G. Shaffer and Diane A. Lichtenstein, who “stress the indigenous development of South Asian civilization from the Neolithic onwards, and downplay the role of language in the formation of (pre-modern) ethnic identities”; J. Mark Kenoyer, who “stresses that the cultural history of South Asia in the 2nd millennium BC may be explained without reference to external agents”; and Kenneth A.R. Kennedy, who concludes “that while discontinuities in physical types have certainly been found in South Asia, they are dated to the 5th/4th and to the 1st millennium BC respectively, too early and too late to have any connection with ‘Aryans’.”

Erdosy and Michael Witzel (a co-editor of the volume) seek to counter the archaeologists in two ways :

1. By dismissing the negative archaeological evidence.
2. By stressing the alleged linguistic evidence.

We will examine their efforts under the following heads :

A. The Archaeological Evidence.
B. The Linguistic Evidence.

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE

According to Erdosy, “archaeology offers only one perspective, that of material culture”. This limit renders the archaeologists unable to understand the basis of the linguistic theory.

Erdosy stresses that the theory of the spread of the Indo-European languages cannot be dispensed with : “The membership of Indic dialects in the Indo-European family, based not only on lexical but structural criteria, their particularly close relationship to the Iranian branch, and continuing satisfaction with a family-tree model to express these links (Baldi, 1988) all support migrations as the principal (albeit not sole) means of language dispersal.”

But, according to him, the archaeologists fail to understand the nature of these migrations : they think that these migrations are alleged to be mass migrations which led to cataclysmic invasions, all of which would indeed have left behind archaeological evidence.

But, these “images of mass migration… (which) originated with 19th century linguists… exist today principally in the minds of archaeologists and polemicists”. Likewise, “the concept of cataclysmic invasions, for which there is little evidence indeed… are principally held by archaeologists nowadays, not by linguists who postulate more gradual and complex phenomena”.

It is this failure to realize that the “outmoded models of language change” popular among 19th Century linguists have now been replaced by more refined linguistic models, that leads to “overreactions to them (by denying the validity of any migrationist model) by both archaeologists and Hindu fundamentalists”. Thus, in one stroke, Erdosy attributes the opposition of archaeologists to linguistic theory to their ignorance of the subject and clubs them together with “polemicists” and “Hindu fundamentalists” in one broad category of ignoramuses.

But, it is not as easy to dismiss the views of the archaeologists as it is to dismiss those of “Hindu fundamentalists”. It must be noted that the opposition of archaeologists is to the specific aspect of the Aryan theory which states that there was an Aryan influx into India in the second millennium BC, and not to the general theory that the Indo-European language family (whose existence they do not dispute) must have spread through migrations of its speakers : obviously the languages could not have spread through air as pollen does !

But Erdosy puts it as if the archaeologists are irrationally opposed to the very idea of “the membership of the Indic dialects in Indo-European family” or to the “family-tree model”.  It is as if a scientist were to reject the prescriptions of a quack doctor, and the quack doctor were to retaliate by accusing the scientist of rejecting the very science of medicine itself.

The linguists’ answer to the total lack of archaeological evidence of any Aryan influx into India in the second millennium BC, is to “postulate more gradual and complex phenomena”. But, apart from the fact that this sounds very sophisticated and scientific, not to mention superior and patronising, what does the phrase really mean ?  What “gradual and complex phenomena” could account for linguistic transformation of an entire subcontinent without leaving any perceptible archaeological traces behind ?

And it is not just linguistic transformation.  Witzel admits that while “there have been cases where dominant languages succeeded in replacing (almost) all the local languages… what is relatively rare is the adoption of complete systems of belief, mythology and language… yet in South Asia we are dealing precisely with the absorption of not only new languages but also an entire complex of material and spiritual culture ranging from chariotry and horsemanship to Indo-Iranian poetry whose complicated conventions are still used in the Rig Veda.  The old Indo-Iranian religion… was also adopted, along with the Indo-European systems of ancestor worship.”

In keeping with a pattern which will be familiar to anyone studying the writings of supporters of the Aryan invasion theory, such unnatural or anomalous phenomena do not make these scholars rethink their theory; it only makes them try to think of ways to maintain their theory in the face of inconvenient facts. Let’s see how …

Witzel suggests an explanation which he hopes will explain away the lack of archaeological-anthropological evidence. According to him, the original Indic racial stock had settled down in Central Asia, and had “even before their immigration into South Asia, completely ‘Aryanised’ a local population, for example, in the highly developed Turkmenian-Bactrian area… involving both their language and culture.  This is only imaginable as the result of the complete acculturation of both groups… the local Bactrians would have appeared as a typically ‘Vedic’ people with a Vedic civilization.”

Witzel explains that these new “Vedic people” (the Bactrians) later on… moved into the Panjab, Aryanising and assimilating the local population.By the time they reached the Subcontinent… they may have had the typical somatic characteristics of the ancient population of the Turanian/Iranian/Afghan areas, and may not have looked very different from the modem inhabitants of the Indo-Iranian Borderlands.  Their genetic impact would have been negligible, and… would have been ‘lost’ in a few generations in the much larger gene pool of the Indus people.  One should not, therefore, be surprised that ‘Aryan bones’ have not been found so far.”

Witzel, like other scholars who present similar scenarios, is suggesting that the Aryans who migrated into India were not the original Indo-Aryans settled in Central Asia or Southern Russia; they were groups of people native to the areas further south-east, who were “completely Aryanised” in “language and culture”, and that they were so few in number that “their genetic impact would have been negligible” and “would have been ‘lost’ in a few generations in the much larger gene pool of the Indus people”.

The scholars thus try to explain away the lack of archaeological-anthropological evidence by postulating a fantastic scenario which is totally incompatible with the one piece of solid evidence which is available to us today : THE RIG VEDA.

The Rig Veda represents a language, religion and culture, which is the most archaic in the Indo-European world.  As Griffith puts it in his preface to his translation : “As in its original language, we see the roots and shoots of the languages of Greek and Latin, of Celt, Teuton and Slavonian, so the deities, the myths and the religious beliefs and practices of the Veda throw a flood of light upon the religions of all European countries before the introduction of Christianity.  As the science of comparative philology could hardly have existed without the study of Sanskrit, so the comparative history of the religions of the world would have been impossible without the study of the Veda.”

Vedic mythology represents the most primitive form of Indo-European mythology : as MacDonell puts it, the Vedic Gods “are nearer to the physical phenomena which they represent, than the gods of any other Indo-European mythology”. Vedic mythology not only bears links with every single other Indo-European mythology, but is often the only link between any two of them.

Does it appear that the Rig Veda could be the end-product of a long process of migration in which the Indo-Aryans not only lost contact with the other Indo-European branches countless generations earlier in extremely distant regions, and then migrated over long periods through different areas, and finally settled down for so long a period in the area of composition of the Rigveda that even Witzel admits that “in contrast to its close relatives in Iran (Avestan, Old Persian), Vedic Sanskrit is already an Indian language”; but in which the people who composed the Rigveda were in fact not the original Indo-Aryans at all, but a completely new set of people who bore no racial connections at all with the original Indo-Aryans, and were merely the last in a long line of racial groups in a “gradual and complex” process in which the Vedic language and culture was passed from one completely different racial group to another completely different racial-cultural group like a baton in an “Aryanising” relay race from South Russia to India ? !

Clearly, the explanation offered by Witzel is totally inadequate, and untenable as an argument against the negative archaeological evidence.

We shall next present the “Linguistic Evidence” …

through the next few posts in the series !

Please refer https://vamadevananda.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/journal-alternate-history-7/ and links therein for previous adaptations from the most brilliant, insightful analysis ever undertaken …

by Shrikant G. Talageri available @ http://www.voiceofdharma.org/books/rig/index.htm

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Basudeb Senbasudebsen
    Feb 18, 2013 @ 23:10:54

    Your post is fascinating The Aryan influx really does not gel with any of the vedas But layme n readers with little knowledge of archeology linguistics and those who are experts in this field would be helped if you can give tge summary conclusions at the end of each post in this series I am a layman reader

    Reply

    • vam
      Feb 20, 2013 @ 22:11:40

      A layman asserting, “The Aryan influx really does not gel with any of the Vedas…” is fooling himself, and more importantly, all wound up to fool everybody else.

      Time to unfollow each other, Sir. I will not see you without these deliberate lies ! I can suffer fools but not liars. Thank you.

      Reply

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