From Sintashta to Samarkand

I’m living blogging from a lecture by Professor Richard Foltz. This is happening at the shockingly elegant Ancient Indian & Iranian Institute (full house / I took the last seat and I was 5mins late). I’m simply going to relay what I’m hearing. 

(1.) The remains at Sintashta seem to form a basis for Vedic rituals, a millennial or so later, discrediting the Indian indigenous Aryan theory (his words not mine).

(2.) Evidence of some exchange between Uralics and proto Indo-Iranians. The goddess Anahita wears beaver skins and has more “northern features” than should be for someone from the Iranian plateau.

(3.) Stalin is a hero among the Ossetians and is seen as one of their own.

(4.) Sintashta folk referred to themselves as “Arya” (he pronounced in a slightly Persian way, more emphasis on the beginning of the A). Aryan Vaejho (Eran Vaej, then Iran) land of the noble people.

(5.) Soviets were into facial reconstructions; skeletons from Sintashta sites. He shows a bronze picture of a 4,000 year old Aryan girl.

(6.) there is a wonderful map of the ancient world from IVC to Multi-cordon ware. Cultures range from Late Corded Ware culture – MCW – Hattians. I’ll try to get the map. Apparently BMAC was interacting with IVC and the Elamites (speculative on how the latter two interacted).

(7.) BMAC deity was a goddess cognate to Sumerian Ishtar (this continues all the way to Sogdian times). Lot of interchange and many connections between BMAC & Mesopotamia.

(8.) the Aryans and the BMAC people were trading with each other. BMAC seems to have been an cultural-industrial hub.

shotur (camel) – gandom (wheat) – and the persian word for brick are not Indo-Iranian but seem to stem from BMAC.

(9.) is there a common ancestor to the Vedic and Gathic rituals? Dating of Zoroastrians and the Gathas is extremely problematic.

(10.) Chariot key to aryans (Apollo / Bhagavad Gita. Wheel image with a cross is pervasive (it’s even there in the Caucasus in the 19th century).

(11.) Homa has strikingly similar chemical properties to ecstasy. Aethidra (the precursor plant to Homa) is prolific in BMAC and Aryans picked up from Homa/Soma from BMAC.

(12.) Pair of priests with large erections facing each other (I believe it’s in the BMAC site).  Followed by front to back sex (gender unknown); we know nothing what the picture is.

(13.) Ossetians have a historic deity, women cannot pronounce his name and is essentially a Mithraic deity. Italian mafia is a relic of Mithraic (fraternal solidarity, secret society).  The idea of having an underground ceremony (bull sacrifice); these things are so common across such a wide range of places (Aryans were a patriarchical war mongering society) that Mithras may have been their principal deity. Apparently Mithras has a 1,000 eyes hence why he was the guarantor of oaths. He then went on to show from drawing from Wakhan corridor.

(14.) dispute about Golnar Teppe site (Turkmenistan). Evidence of fire worship but dispute on whether it was actually a Zoroastrian site.

(15.) Tajiks of China don’t speak Persian but East Iranian languagues (Pamiri languages).  Apparently Muslims in Xinjiang if they receive a call from abroad; it might warrant them being sent off to camp.

Apparently there is an ancient site in that county that is a “ritual earth calendar” each black and white line dates to ritual dates. 40 burial sites are also there but seems to be 500BC Saka site (China claims it is the world’s earliest Zoroastrian site; proving that Zoroastrianism originated in China). The city is called Tashk kurgan.

(16.) Richard Frye had a bumper; “Sogdians were everywhere.” Their cosmopolitanism meant that their art touched on Byzantine, India and China.


25 thoughts on “From Sintashta to Samarkand”

  1. I have a eerie feeling that Sintashta is the next ground on which AIT vs OIT flame wars will be fought. I mean who doesnt love that , add to that “Sintashta” is such a cool word. Sounds like a Harry Potter spell.

  2. Sintashta folk referred to themselves as “Arya”

    How do we know this?

    The remains at Sintashta seem to form a basis for Vedic rituals, a millennial or so later, discrediting the Indian indigenous Aryan theory

    Not quite. OIT assumes that Vedic people moved to Europe from India via Sintashta. AFAIK, the similarities of the cultures says nothing about the direction of the movement.

    1. “How do we know this?”

      Sintashta dates to 2100-1800BC.

      Considering we know for a fact that the Proto Indo-Iranians called themselves ‘Arya’ (as both their descendants in India and Iran also did), then it is almost certain.

      1. I think he is asking how do we know Sintashta folks called themselves Arya? Do we have any written records of Sintashta folks calling themselves Arya. Not their descendants, the Sintashta folks own written records.

        1. No written records. But the split of Indo-Iranian is coeval with the Sintashta time period. Rig Veda is ~ 1500 BC.

          The Iranian Avesta explicitly condemns the Deva worshippers (ancestors of Indo-Aryans) and worships the Asura. Definite sectarian conflict between two sects of the Arya.

          1. So no written records. There is no way to know if they called themselves Arya. I might as well suggest they perhaps called themselves Dravida,

        2. Well Sintashta descendants definitely called themselves ‘Arya’ only a few centuries after 1800BC.

          So the question is how likely is it that they changed their ethnonym before that?

          No way of knowing for sure as you said.

          1. this is a standard argument in historical science. there’s no time machine.

            that being said, some of the reconstructions of earlier indo-european seem to have been born out after the translation of hittite, which was basal or a sister clade to the PIE.

  3. Just to clear any misconceptions, I wasn’t arguing against the concept of historical projection. In my reading, point #3 was made authoritatively, so I wondered if the professor had revealed sources that confirmed the Sintashta peoples’ ethnonym.

    It’s fine to project names into the past, as long as we list the caveats. Here, for example, we believe that the Sintashta/Andronovo people lived in in the BMAC area for a few centuries before wandering south too, right? So could the “Arya” moniker not have been created in the BMAC? They were still Indo-Iranians at the time, no?

    The Sintashta people themselves did not spring up from the earth, so can we expect that their Corded Ware ancestors also may have called themselves Arya, which the western branches dropped for some reason? Further on, Why did the Scythians drop the name, if they were descended from Sintashta?

    I mean, there are a lot of questions. So the association of Sintashta with the “Arya” name ought to be treated purely as a hypothesis at this time IMHO.

    1. Historical linguistics back-projects the evolution of words based on established rules of phonological change, comparison with cognate languages, and likely influences from unrelated neighbouring tongues

      1. Richard, could you please give us your opinion (knowledge):

        Who were Aryans, which language they spoke, did some of them come from Europe, have they brought to India the 1st draft of Rig Veda?

        Do you believe in official historical version (without single evidence) that Serbs (they call them Slavics) came to Balkan in the 7th c.AC?

        I have thousands of ancient Serbian toponyms in South Asia, Central Asia, Iran, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Tibet, etc which all people are afraid to comment. What is your opinion?

        Thank you, MT.

      2. Thanks for commenting.

        If I understand you correctly, a comparison of the Sanskritic and Avestan cognates for Arya lead one to the conclusion that the common ancestor of that word was coined when the Indo-Iranians were settling Sintashta (or the Andronovo area)?

        The reason I expressed skepticism earlier was because we have no written record (or verbal record, as in the case of the Vedas) of either the Sintashta people or the BMAC people, nor any of their neighbors; only archaeological signals.

    2. “Here, for example, we believe that the Sintashta/Andronovo people lived in in the BMAC area for a few centuries before wandering south too, right? So could the “Arya” moniker not have been created in the BMAC? They were still Indo-Iranians at the time, no?”

      The Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranians supposedly lived around the BMAC area as indicated by significant borrowing of supposed BMAC words which are largely absent in Proto-Iranian.

      If this is true then the term Arya must have predated the Indo-Aryan migration to the area close to BMAC, as the Iranians also inherited the term ‘Arya’ prior to split.

      This is based on the information given in ‘The Horse, the Wheel, and Language’ book.

      However, i find it really strange that the Indo-Aryans did not carry any BMAC genes (Narasimhan 2018) when they entered India, despite their close proximity and supposed interaction.

      1. The Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranians supposedly lived around the BMAC area as indicated by significant borrowing of supposed BMAC words which are largely absent in Proto-Iranian.

        How do we know BMAC words? Inference? Can we distinguish them from IVC words that crept into the Vedic lexicon?

        (It’s been many years since I read Anthony’s book; can’t remember the specific claims it made.)

      2. Hello Karan and Numinous,

        I have not read David Anthony’s book but the framework of the single philologist I know, Michael Witzel, goes like this: broadly, non-Indo-European-origin words, like soma IIRC, common to both Indo-Aryan and Iranian are considered as borrowed from BMAC and non-Indo-European-origin words present in Indo-Aryan but absent in Iranian are considered as borrowed from the Indus civilisation and other Indian cultures of the time. Asko Parpola also sees a very tremendous influence of BMAC on both Pre-Indo-Aryans and Pre-Iranians to the point that the entire Shakta religion surfaced in India beginning in the early parts of the 1st millennium AD is traced back by him to BMAC through Iranians and Indo-Aryans and itself overlain on an Indus-like Shakta substrate. (The Shakta religion, of both the hypothetical Indus and the BMAC varieties, is ultimately believed by him to date back to the neolithic cultures of the Ancient Near East and this seems not too off at least going by the deep genetic and probably cultural connections between the (eastern parts of) Ancient Near East, the BMAC and the Indus.) But of course, there are also many who find Asko Parpola’s theories so outlandish.

        1. p455-456 Anthony’s book:

          “The Old Indic of the Rig Veda contained at least 383 non–Indo-European words borrowed from a source belonging to a different language family.

          Alexander Lubotsky has shown that common Indo- Iranian, the parent of both Old Indic and Iranian, probably had already borrowed words from the same non–Indo-European language that later enriched Old Indic. He compiled a list of 55 non–Indo-European words that were borrowed into common Indo-Iranian before Old Indic or Avestan evolved, and then later were inherited into one or both of the daughters from common Indo-Iranian. The speakers of common Indo-Iranian were in touch with and
          borrowed terms from the same foreign language group that later was the source from which Old Indic speakers borrowed even more terms. This discovery carries significant implications for the geographic locations of common Indo- Iranian and formative Old Indic—they must have been able to interact with the same foreign- language group.”

          “During the initial phase of contact, the Sintashta or the Petrovka cultures or both borrowed some vocabulary and rituals from the BMAC, accounting for the fifty- five terms in common Indo- Iranian. These included the drug soma, which remained in Iranian ritual usage as haoma. In the second phase of contact, the speakers of Old Indic borrowed much more heavily from the same language when they lived in the shadows of the old BMAC settlements and began to explore southward into Afghanistan and Iran. Archaeology shows a pattern quite compatible with that suggested by the linguistic evidence.”

          1. Anthony is not a linguist. Here is a review of his work by some one who IS.

            James Clackson, a professor of Linguistic at University of Cambridge (it doesn’t get much more mainstream than that) has written


            Scroll down to the para beginning

            “What does it mean for the origin of the Indic languages–without evidence from archaeology and early text… tells us NOTHING certain about the origins of the Indic Civilization.”

            Clackson is the author of

  4. Pretty good effort Magi(an?). I will come back with more details. For now Saka are Serbs.


    What is the previous name? MMK is an expert for previous ancient names, currently he is in a search for a previous name of the river IND.

    Well, for this one I will say – Zorashan (zora=dawn in Serbian, but could be also from Sorb=Serb, will double check).

    Let see some Serbian toponyms around Samarkand which are easy to translate to English:

    Tribes in today’s Bukhara – big tribe Seraci (i.e Serbaci-Charak), Erzari, Turshishe. There is a neighbouring, non-Serbian tribe – Salor, now Turkmens, who state that they originate from Serendib (maybe Sereno knows) and look like Chinese.

    Places and rivers: Guskin (=goose), Kuchan (Serbian surname-SS), Taboristan, Tabor (camp), Kokan river, Sarbaga, Shiban, Shiprag (marshland), Rosa (dew), Koliba (cottage), Ata mountain, Deraguz (crumbleass!), Guz river (=ass), Robot, Jama (cave), Mircha (Serbian male name-SMN), Mitan (SMN), Malic (SS=small), Chuy river, Brda (Hills), Blagoje (SMN=gentle), Dub (oak), Baja (SMN), Tama (darkness), Berkut (SS), Butrak, Batman, Djurostan (Djuro-SMN), Ugljan (coal), Div (giant), Danic (SS), Pajin (SS), Kula (tower), Kuca (house), Momin (SS), Ruma (town in Serbia, the same name as the original name of Roma given by Serbs founders), MILAN (SMN), Ora river, Chir (ulcer), Chika (uncle), Morava (river in Serbia), Duvno (city in Yug), BALKAN mountain, river and bay, Neman (monster), Cer and Kaljuga Guceva (two mountains in Serbia, between them my grandfather lived), Uzice (city in Serbia), Risan (city in Yu), Chedan (pure-minded), Kozice (little goats), Kosice (little hair), Guba (leprosy) , Sarb (Serb), Lija (fox), Ljundi i.e Ljudi (men or people), Moma (SMN), Vetar (wind), Raz (rye), Zaoka (sting), Pljeva (chaff), Sirote (orphans), Sjenke (shadows), Kisha (rain), Duvan (tobacco), Duvina Serbe, Tor (sheepgold), Gusle (Serbian music instrument), Sanjari (dreamers), Cekic (hammer), Gumno (haystack), Kurva (whore)…Plus hundreds more…

    Recently, I published a Serbian ancient ritual song – “A girl from the river Chuy” (MMK knows for this medieval song collection from Serbs who returned from CA to their old homeland after fighting Chinese for hundreds of years).

    Can anyone please publish ONE “modern North European” or Scythian toponym, river, mountain, tribe or ritual song from Samarkand vicinity???

  5. #9 – Yep, Serbs!

    Samarkand was founded by Serbs in the 8th c.BC.
    Lesander Karanovic aka Alexander the Great got married there with Roxana.

  6. ” Evidence of some exchange between Uralics and proto Indo-Iranians. ”

    Question for Prof Foltz:

    Why are all the loans one way INTO Uralic and nothing from Uralic into Indic or Iranian languages?

    1. Hello Mayuresh Madhav Kelkar,

      Could you also consider writing this comment under the “Questions for Professor Foltz” post?

  7. Just seeing this now.

    Three questions:

    Many if not most Hindus believe that the vast majority of the Vedas are lost. Could Sintashta be lost Vedas and Vedangas?

    Which of the Vedangas might the Sintashta have studied and used?
    For the purposes of other readers (since Prof Foltz knows about this) the six major Vedangas are:
    ——Shiksha (śikṣā): phonetics, phonology, pronunciation. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, accent, quantity, stress, melody and rules of euphonic combination of words during a Vedic recitation.
    ——Chandas (chandas): prosody. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the poetic meters, including those based on fixed number of syllables per verse, and those based on fixed number of morae per verse.
    Vyakarana (vyākaraṇa): grammar and linguistic analysis. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on the rules of grammar and linguistic analysis to establish the exact form of words and sentences to properly express ideas.
    ——Nirukta (nirukta): etymology, explanation of words, particularly those that are archaic and have ancient uses with unclear meaning. This auxiliary discipline has focussed on linguistic analysis to help establish the proper meaning of the words, given the context they are used in.
    ——Kalpa (kalpa): ritual instructions. This field focussed on standardizing procedures for Vedic rituals, rites of passage rituals associated with major life events such as birth, wedding and death in family, as well as discussing the personal conduct and proper duties of an individual in different stages of his life.
    ——Jyotisha (jyotiṣa): Auspicious time for rituals, astrology and astronomy. This auxiliary Vedic discipline focussed on time keeping.


    Could Uralics and Anahita be a reference to fair northern Chandra Vamsha?

  8. Other questions:

    Why does he consider BMAC to not be part of the greater IVC civilization? [I suspect BMAC might be.]

    “Homa has strikingly similar chemical properties to ecstasy. Aethidra (the precursor plant to Homa) is prolific in BMAC and Aryans picked up from Homa/Soma from BMAC.”

    Is he willing to collaborate with neuroscientists, consciousness/psychic studies researchers and mediators to explore this?

    I think this would be very helpful in better interpreting BMAC, IVC, Xinjiang, Sumerian and other ancient remains.

    What are his thoughts about the connection between BMAC, IVC and ancient Xinjiang civilization?

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