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the vedas and the aryans

2nd January 2004 permanent link

Some general notes on the subject of the age of the Rig Veda and the origins of the Vedic speaking Aryans who composed it. I’ve written about aspects of this before – war chariots, the genetics of upper caste Indians and a new but rather questionable theory on the origin of the Indo-European language family. Here’s some more stuff around those subjects that I’ve picked up recently or not mentioned here before – just notes, not an attempt at a coherent essay.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned here before that by far the best thing I have read on the whole subject is Edwin Bryant’s book The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. Edwin is not only a fine scholar but also (a) a nice guy who answers his emails helpfully and (b) a yoga student who is producing a series of commentaries on Patanjali's sutras for Nama Rupa. A good online starting point is the archive of the Religion In South Asia mailing list. I used to maintain a page of notes & links on the subject. I haven’t updated it for a while, but it’s all still relevant.

Whilst trawling usenet for reactions to the new Gray & Atkinson theory on Indo-European languages, I discovered that the sci.lang and sci.archaeology newsgroups have an odd mixture of some threads dominated by serious, well-informed and polite discussion, and some dominated by cranks and morons. There’s a lot of good information on the Indo-European languages in this thread, particularly this contribution from S.M. Stirling, and this one.

There is no evidence of lightweight chariots existing anywhere in the world before about 2000 BC at the earliest”, I wrote in my essay on war chariots. Oops. Yes there is. The book I read was written in the late 1980s; then in the mid-1990s some chariots dated to 2100 BC were discovered in Russia. I have updated the chariots piece accordingly


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