Re: [tied] Re: AIT

From: Max Dashu
Message: 8912
Date: 2001-09-01

>S. Kalyanaraman responds:
>> What is wrong with nationalism? The history of civilizations
>> of the last two centuries is a history of adoring nationalism.
>> See, e.g., what is happening NOW in the Balkans

Not a great recommendation for nationalism. I think liberatory nationalism,
as in Gandhi, has much to recommend it. But the dangers are the Mugabes,
the Zhirinovskis, or for that matter the Bushes.

However. In the project of determining an approximate area where PIE might
have originated, it is less than useful if nationalism is the driving force
rather than evidence. (Much less religion, which often ends up looking like
creationists' attempts to guide scientific investigation.) Yes, 19th and
even some 20th century IE theorizing was riddled with Euro-supremacist
agendas, no argument there. (That's an argument against nationalism-driven
theory, not for it.) Also true that all the theories using Sanskrt as
fodder didn't prevent most European/American world historians from
overlooking and underestimating India's history and civilization.

But linguists have put together a convincing picture of a core
proto-language from which a whole range of languages between Irish and
Indic were derived. The case for it originating in India doesn't look good
to me. For one thing, the PIE lexicon does not seem to square with an
Indus-Saravati homeland, ecologically and otherwise. Where are the sheep
and pigs, and where are all the horses so amply attested in the languages,
but so sparse and late in the early archaeology of Punjab? Other animals
and plants attested in PIE are missing in the I-S region. The PIE lexicon
points to northern fauna -- lynx, bear, wolf, fox, not tigers, elephants,
or cobras. E. Sterling (on the other list) has pointed out, "the IE
languages have a _common_ lexicon for the northern fauna, and the IE
languages of the Mediterranean and Asia have _separate_ terms for the
southern fauna -- while sharing the terms for animals common to both zones.
Celts and Iranians had cognate terms for "wolf": but Iranians and
Anatolians had different, non-cognate words for "lion." This is precisely
what would expect if the PIE-speakers lived in an environment _with_ wolves
and _without_ lions."

But there are other linguistic considerations: the shared loan-words with
Semitic (as Mallory notes, point to proximity during the formation of PIE)
and the presence of IE loan-words in early _western_ Uralic (according to
Uralic scholar Ante Aikio, and this homeland itself is agreed to be way
west of the Ural mts.)

Archaeologically, I don't see any reason to place Indic-speakers in the
Indus-Sarasvati at that early period. No square yajna firepits there,
though they do appear way up north and west at a later period (see below)
which seems to underline the idea that they were a culture-form imported
from outside. The wilder ranks of scriptural literalists would have Arjuna
driving a chariot in the Ganges/Yamuna plain c. 3100 BCE, way, way before
chariots, or horses, appear in India. But the earliest known chariots are
in the Sintashta-Petrovka culture east of the Urals c 2000 BCE, and
interestingly enough this culture's mortuary rituals resemble the rites
described in Rg Veda. This looks like a convincing candidate for early
Indo-Iranian culture, in my book. Later and closer come related
archaeological finds in the Bactra-Margiana region.

IE language and culture make sense to me as imports to India, as to most
areas they travelled to, but transformed by the ancient Indian cultures and
integrated over millennia. Invasion? Not as a single cataclysm, but yes, a
warrior society (as the IE lexicon and archaeology generally suggests:
metalworking, wagon-riding, herding and class-ranked with warchiefs and a
priestly class, all patrilineal/local) would have been able to establish
themselves as overlord and elites, incrementally over greater and greater
areas, and gradually became integrated with and transformed by local
cultures. (But not entirely, since we have the Dalit and the Adivasi to
contend with, and the emergence of legal and social conventions of
separation.) It sure looks like Indic has intruded over Dravidian and Munda
in a southward spread, from what I've read.

It's very hard to imagine how a spread of Indo-European from India could be
explained: have any of the Indian-origin theorists tried to account for it
in terms of the evidence, linguistically or archaeologically? From what
I've seen, they all concentrate on trying to prove that Vedic culture is

Max Dashu