Chariots and Aryans

By Razib Khan 63 Comments


Readers know I do not like to watch YouTubes, but Mukunda is a member in-good-standing of the community, and a great host of the Browncast, so I did watch it.

My general reaction is “OK.” I don’t see how it changes my own views much at all. We know that the arrival of Kurgan people into Europe between 3000 and 2500 BC was not accompanied by the “light chariot.” Rather, they arrived in wagons. As it happens, the steppe people replaced 50-75% of the ancestry in Northern Europe, and 25-50% in Southern Europe. Contrary to I’ve been led to believe from Hollywood films apparently the primary utility of the chariot is as a transport vehicle, especially on flat ground. The light war chariot is presumably a major improvement on the cart, but the difference was presumably quantitative not qualitative.

Mukunda says that another foundation has been ripped from the Aryan migration/invasion theory. I don’t see it that way at all, because I don’t really know that this theory has too many detailed foundations. Mukunda’s response is pretty common, and I think some of the discordances here is that Indians have been educated in a way where many specific elements of the theory are presented as definitively and finally true. On the whole of course, real science does not work that way.

Here is what I know as a geneticist and have seen in the data.

– Genetic ancestry related to Corded Ware/Sintashta people of Eastern Europe and Central Asia contributes about 10-30% of the ancestry in Pakistan and Northern India (depending on the population)

– Y chromosomal lineage R1a1a-Z93 is ~15-25% of the subcontinental haplogroups. This lineage was discovered first in the “forest-steppe” of Europe’s southeast fringe with Central Asia and the Caucasus

– There are very few (though there are some) mtDNA haplogroups in South Asia that are found in Sintashta-Andronovo graves

The Sintashta seem to date from 2400 to 1800 BC as a culture. Additionally, the evidence from Turan and Khorasan in the ancient DNA does not indicate much steppe ancestry before 2000 BC.

To be frank, without genetic data I would not find a population admixture of 10-30% from a steppe group into the northwest subcontinent plausible on the face of it. Perhaps 1-3%. But the data are what they are, and we need to accept them. It is also plausible to me that the initial waves of migration into South Asia were not quite as male-biased as we think, as the proto-Indo-Aryans may have mixed with eastern Iranian/Indus periphery populations before arriving into Punjab. This would mean the population displacement is actually higher in demographic terms. The figures above only give percentages of “steppe”, and assumes pure admixture, which seems unlikely to me.

One hypothesis is that the IVC people already spoke Indo-Aryan languages. Perhaps the newcomers from the steppe assimilated into the local substrate, taking positions at the top of the caste hierarchy? I am skeptical of this. The Indo-European languages don’t exhibit the right structure for this model, as the European ones don’t form a natural closely related clade against the Iranian-South Asian ones. Rather, Indo-Aryan and Iranian seem closer to the Slavic clade.

As for all the rest, the details are interesting to me, but I don’t rest my inference on that. To be frank, some of the claims remind me of arguments I had with Creationists twenty years ago. It seems that they thought I had a very specific idea of what evolution is in all its details, so refuting one element refuted the theory. But that wasn’t it at all. Evolution is a broader framework, and many of the details have to be worked out.

That’s my general attitude to the Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent. It’s probably the right model. And we’ve pegged some details down. But a lot remains mysterious. Could the “Out of India” theory be right? The probability is definitely higher for that than that evolution is wrong. But on the whole, I am skeptical.

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63 Replies to “Chariots and Aryans”

  1. From India Today:

    “We see through a glass darkly. In a few years, it may be crystal clear that a new people arrived in the Indian subcontinent 4,000 years ago. That now seems to be the belief among the majority of prominent researchers. A century of theorising and ideologising has armed us with answers and objections, but history as unveiled by genetics may hold some bracing surprises for our rigid grandiose pretensions. That may be the most exciting aspect of these lines of research, not how they align with century-old arguments.”

    “the steppe people replaced 50-75% of the ancestry in Northern Europe, and 25-50% in Southern Europe”

    Who was replaced? Which language those replaced guys spoke?

    “Slavic clade” = Serbian clade (the term ‘Slavic’ is used from the 7.c.AC)

  2. it is said that the war chariots in mahabharata were also light, and not the 6 wheeled ones we see in pictures.
    as a result, arjuna had to bear his bent left leg on krishna’s shoulder to shoot his arrows and was very uncomfortable in the beginning.
    mahabharatha pundits here can clarify.

  3. @Razib,
    I am writing smaller posts now, as suggested.
    As a learned person, I know you understand that AMT is based on linguistics + genetics proofs. Without linguistics, only population movement is demonstrated by genetics and cannot prove AMT. “ratha” , a word for chariot was postulated to be imported from Steppes to India. It was one of the strongest linguistic proof in support of AMT according to Witzel in the book “The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History” [pp. 369-370, publication year: 2005]. Now, this is gone conclusively. But OIT linguistic evidences remain, and thus, the theory is stronger and likelier. For linguistic proofs in support of OIT, including to Eurasia, please read: https://www.brownpundits.com/2020/06/27/iran_n-chg-ancestry-and-the-genetic-origins-of-the-proto-indo-europeans/#comment-64866

    “Ratha” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratha] word is mentioned in Old Rigveda (books 6,3,7,4 and 2, minus the Redacted Hymns)[https://talageri.blogspot.com/2019/10/dravidian-connections-with-harappan.html]. This means that chariots were known to IE migrants from the very beginning. Simplest explanation is OIT not AMT.

    1. “ratha” , a word for chariot was postulated to be imported from Steppes to India

      I don’t know what Witzel wrote about this but I read David Anthony’s book many years ago, and the term “imported from steppes to India” seems quite misleading to me. What I got from it was that “ratha” was somehow cognate to “rotate”, and both these words were derivatives of some long-lost word in PIE. Just reading your comment doesn’t convince me about the direction of migration in either direction (perhaps you’ve left something out?)

      …..word is mentioned in Old Rigveda…….This means that chariots were known to IE migrants….

      Yeah, don’t the AIT/AMT theorists believe the same thing? How does this make OIT more convincing? (Again, there seems to be more context to this than you let on in your comment.)

      1. @Numinous

        I wouldn’t trust David Anthony in linguistics (he is great on archaeological details though). However Skt ratha < PIE *ret (to run, roll) is pretty cast-iron etymologically, and the root is echoed in nearly every PIE branch.

      2. Dear Numinous,
        What you say is partly true. What happened was that for about 6-7 decades or more, the lack of chariots in India was the strongest basis for AMT. This involved rejecting Harappan figurines as chariots. What Witzel did was to just take it one step forward and use it to rule out OIT on linguistic grounds. He asserted that the word chariot entered into Avesta earlier than Vedic Sanskrit; and as the word was an import from Steppe, so OIT was not possible. However, now in India, a variety of chariots from Harappan figurines to Sanaulli can be seen; compare this to a lack of chariots in Steppes.

        So, Harappan figurines + Sanaulli + lack of chariots in Steppe (Razib’s post here + linked video) can only be explained by OIT rather than AMT: India was the source that spread chariots. Why is this important? Chariots play a central role for Aryans, including Mittanis who are postulated to have diverged from IE migrants to India at least 500 years earlier.

        Now, AMT will have to propose that not only Mittani and Indian IE branches learned about chariots from Harappans, but they did in a manner such that no Dravidian loan word entered into Old Rig Veda. Further, they did so in a region, i.e., BMAC that shared culture + belief with Harappans. This leads to the absurdity that for more than 500 years one IE branch squatted near Harappa regions without learning a single Dravidian word (Old Rig Veda is free of Dravidian words), but still learning about chariots. The Mittani branch, on the other hand, ran away to the Middle East after learning about chariots; their culture changed with chariots becoming a central part of their society culturally and militarily — a 180-degree shift from earlier. However, they never adopted a single thing except this from Harappans. Note that this is a change from the earlier position by AMT, where the Mittani branch never interacted with Harappans.

        See the archaeological and anthropological section of my post for proof that BMAC followed Harappan culture [1] (It also contains a large number of linguistic, anthropological, archaeological, astronomical, textual, and artistic evidences supporting OIT and contradicting AMT)

        Summaries of linguistic questions supporting OIT and against AMT (See my post [1] for detailed linguistic arguments and explanations)

        1. Why there is one-way borrowing from Sanskrit to Uralic languages?
        2. Why PIE contains words for animals such as tiger, lion, leopard, ape, and elephant that are native to India?
        3. Why Dravidian words don’t appear in Old Rig Veda?
        4. There are 4 stages in numerical system development. So, why IE languages outside India are stuck at the third stage, while India has all the 4 stages, with Sanskrit being at the 2nd stage?
        5. All river and place names in Northern India are IE names, i.e., based on Sanskrit, but why did PIE speakers keep the river and place names of the previous culture in Europe?

        Questions Like:
        1. How can a numerically and technologically inferior adversary defeat a civilization in a manner that changes their language but leaves not a single archaeological evidence?
        2. Why there is no change in material culture even after total capture by PIE speakers of Harappan territory?
        3. How can PIE speakers forget their material culture, yet remember their language?
        4. How can they conquer Harappan territory on such a tight deadline? It was after all one of the most populous regions of the world.
        5. Textual Evidence
        6. Astronomical Evidence

        References
        [1] https://www.brownpundits.com/2020/06/27/iran_n-chg-ancestry-and-the-genetic-origins-of-the-proto-indo-europeans/#comment-64866

        1. “However, now in India, a variety of chariots from Harappan figurines to Sanaulli can be seen; compare this to a lack of chariots in Steppes.”

          I vaguely remember couple of years back,that when the chariots came out first in excavation , AIT/AMT folks said something about the not being the right chariot or something. Something related to horse driven vs hand driven or numbers of pokes in the wheels and such. Are there recent discoveries on that front?

        2. What happened was that for about 6-7 decades or more, the lack of chariots in India was the strongest basis for AMT.

          I’m not sure this is accurate. The AMT was a package deal with various attributes reinforcing each other (fewer possibilities for horsebreeding in India was one, centum/satem isogloss was another, the visibly clear evidence of Indians being a genetically “mixed” population yet another). In fact, I never heard about the chariot justification until the Sanauli discovery. Now, some of the earlier justifications (like centum/satem) have either been reduced in importance or abandoned, but ancient DNA seems to have driven a pretty firm nail into the OIT coffin.

          And there’s something I pointed out years ago when the AMT/OIT debate was starting to heat up on BP: OIT should actually be labeled OPT (Out of Punjab Theory) because that is precisely what it is positing. And such a theory lends itself to the highly implausible scenario of Aryans/Vedic People restricting themselves to the lands around the seven rivers for millenia, and them suddenly exploding out into the West all the way up to Ireland but somehow not wanting to (or being able to) expand to Central and Southern India.

          1. AIT implies a few different things within the broader imagination.

            One of the things that it implied by AIT within an Indian political context was that Hinduism is not native to India.

            This is simply not the case.

          2. That is the next big topic for discussion. This is a very sensitive thing. If Aryans brought genes, language, toponyms, what is the story about mythology? Hinduism originated in the 16-15 c.BC in Aryans presence. What was the Aryans mythology before their arrival to SA? Who composed the first draft of RigVeda? Was it anywhere in the world a similar mythology/religion? If yes – was it older or younger, who, how, when and in which direction was transferred?

          3. @Sumit:

            One of the things that it implied by AIT within an Indian political context was that Hinduism is not native to India.

            This doesn’t have to be the case, but I agree that lots of Indians have bought into this implication, hence the backlash.

            I’ve always thought that the bigger deal was who one identifies with (or is allowed to identify with): the conquerors or the conquered. After all, we carry the genes of both, don’t we? We have the recent experience of worldwide white imperialism and colonialism, including that of the British over us, plus pernicious racial theories engendered in America whereby mixed race people were automatically classified as “black” and acquired low status. In India, Hindus of whatever caste or color or sect kind of identified with the Aryans, and considered themselves inheritors of the Aryan/Vedic tradition. But colonial interpretations of history tried to break that attachment, forcing Indians to think of themselves as a perennially conquered people, even by the Aryans who we considered ourselves to have descended from.

  4. Semenenko appears to be well known in OIT circles. His articles under the heading ‘Monographs’ on his Academia.edu page begin with a dedication to Sri Aurobindo with Vande Mataram wrongly spelt in Bengali. The dedication should be an indication as to where his scholarly bias may lie, and the misspelling perhaps an indication of his rigor as a researcher. He lists himself as an independent scholar, meaning he is not affiliated with any University at the moment.

  5. (Lol @ OIT linguistics)

    Anyway, since fast chariots were mentioned, this verse by kālidāsa in his magnum opus vikramorvaśīyam is by far the best portrayal (in verse) of fast chariots in all of Sanskrit lit:

    agre yānti rathasya reṇuvadamī cūrṇībhavanto dhanāś
    cakrabhrāntirarāntareṣu janayatynyāmivārāvalim ।
    citranyastamivācalaṃ hayaśirasyāyāmavaccāmaraṃ
    yaṣṭyagre ca smaṃ stitho dhvajapaṭaḥ prānte ca vegānilāt ॥

    By the wind produced by the (chariot’s) speed,
    these clouds pulverised fly before the chariot like dust.
    The rotating spokes conjure a series of spokes in their intervals, the long forelocks on horses’ heads extend motionless, as if drawn in a painting, and the banner out-stretched between the flag-staff and its end!

    (Hard to do justice to the śārdūlavikrīdita metre of India’s greatest poet / playwright in any translation!)

  6. This OIT/AIT thing is like star wars. Keeps on having sequels and multiple re-interpret ion with different star cast. Never ending.

    1. Exactly my sentiment, except more like a zombie movie than star wars. This topic is debated to death and yet we have zombies who carry on mindlessly, and keep on coming no matter how many one shoots down.

      1. LOL, perhaps i would appreciate the whole discussion further if i would know what exactly the end game is. Like what happens if AIT wins decisively. What changes? Also lately i feel both sides have come up with a structure that any new evidence can be extended to fit in their respective theory.

        To me the most ironic thing about the debate is the amount of non-Aryans invested in the debates. I dont think any Indo-aryan subject in the past has seen so much scholarship by non Aryans.

  7. AIT/AMT in India was birthed by colonialists and nourished by marxists. Both of these groups evoke visceral reactions in the pan-Indian bhadralok for reasons not related to history or genetics or archaeology.

    So when Romila Thapar (marxist high priestess) thinks out loud that Yudisthira might have been influenced by Ashoka’s actions, the reaction is totally disproportionate to what that person merits.

    I think that the Harappans already had the spoked wheel in use for fast light transport. Bullock carts had solid wheels for load carrying strength. The Shulba Sutras recommend different materials for horse and bullock carts.

    The world’s oldest cast object using the lost wax method is an IVC amulet in the shape of a spoked wheel from Mehrgarh (4000 BC)

    https://phys.org/news/2016-11-imaging-approach-reveals-ancient-amulet.html

    The Sinauli chariot is driving a deep stake into the 1500 BC date. More findings are expected to emerge.

    1. Once again I have one thing to note:spoked wheel imagery is very old. Some objects from Sunghir burials (over 30,000 years old) look like very small spoked wheel objects/pendants/spear decorations.

      1. Might be, some naturally occurring objects (berry whorls) can be re-fashioned into crude wheels.

        But a casting requires design and precision. Plus look at the cultural continuity. The Chakra, Wheel of Dhamma have enormous significance culturally. It is highly unlikely that this piece of cast artifact had no relation to real objects and significance in the temporal sphere.

        Plus the lost wax method in 4000 BC is the technological equivalent of a nuclear plant today. Only a real powerful majordomo of a man or woman could have commissioned this.

        Dhavalikar (another Indian archaeologist, guru of Vasant Shinde) cites this as a proof of both cultural continuity and a fascimile of real wheels in use in IVC.

        1. It would have taken thousands of hours to produce the beads found in Sunghir let alone the other stuff so maybe there was some meaning to it.

          Who knows maybe ideas like the wheel of dharma and things like one day for Brahma being a year originated with these early UP pre LGM people during the short warm period of a few thousand years when they would have been as far north as the Arctic circle.

          1. Yes, it is a lot like my earlier comment (shamelessly plagiarised myself) as the essence of the argument is same; I changed parts of it that you said were not accurate (bits about military dominance and colony). And added lots of linguistic proofs, astronomical, textual, and artistic evidences that support OIT. I kept the anthropological proof about BMAC and Harappa even though it is of minor importance. What do you think about the linguistic proofs? They seem to strongly favour OIT from what I surveyed. Also, I believe chariots are a conclusive proof:

            Firstly, what are the chances that a technologically backward place like Steppes developing the most sophisticated weapon of the Bronze age as compared to one of the most technologically advanced civilization? Heck, IVC inhabitants knew silk making, sewage, water harvesting, metallurgy, ship building, water harvesting, ad whatnot.
            Secondly, it plays a central role in vedic texts.
            Thirdly, lack of chariots affects chronology of Mittani and IE branch that came to India.

            I am also trying to develop a hypothesis to explain genetic evidences for OIT; but it is handicapped by my lack of exposure to genetic modelling. Anyways, who knows maybe I will succeed in proving OIT genetically, or not.

            Stay safe in corona.

          2. Bring forth only the changed parts then. As for the advancement, ivc was more advanced but they seemed to not have extended their civil ingenuity to the military field. On the other hand all of the ingenuity on the steppe was militarily focused (the settlement of arkaim was entirely focused on it) so even though they were less advanced overall they were much better off militarily and especially in offense.

    2. Yes, it was known to them.
      https://www.harappa.com/blog/wheel-indus-times
      See my reply to @Razib for more info. India is the natural home of chariots and carts. They were a central part of Harappans lives.

      Quote
      “””
      It is hard to underestimate the importance of the wheel to ancient Indus civilization. All indications are that it was an indigenous development, pursued in flat agricultural areas, and probably preceded that other great wheel – pardon the pun – of change, the potter’s wheel. “Discoveries [in the past 20 years] suggest that the earliest wheeled carts of the Indus valley developed in the core areas of the alluvial plain,” writes Mark Kenoyer in his comprehensive, fascinating Wheeled Vehicles of the Indus Valley Civilization from the book Wheel and Wagon – Origins of an Innovation. He adds “The long continuity in cart designs of the Indus Valley and the fact that many different types of bullock cart continue to be used even today in Pakistan and India indicate that the original styles of cart were quite effective and that the early designers were able to produce a form that came to be improved upon only with the introduction of ball-bearing axles and rubber tires.” He adds that “the quest for Indo-Aryan horse drawn chariots with spoked wheels in the mid- second millennium BC has also overshadowed the obvious evidence of both heavy and light wheeled vehicles pulled by bullocks that were discovered at sites such as Mohenjo–Daro, Harappa and Chanhu-daro over 1000 years earlier than the evidence for horse drawn chariots.”

      The article makes you think about how the principle of rotation altered the world, much as the train transformed Europe in 19th century. “Needless to say, the use of a bullock cart would have dramatically changed the amount of stone, mud brick or wood that could be carried for short distances across the plain. It is not unlikely that the increasing need for these commodities and the need for human transport may have been an important stimulus for the invention and development of specific types of wheeled carts that were introduced in the next major phase at the site,” writes Kenoyer. One can only imagine the many efficiencies that would have been created in the nexus between village and city, the transport of people of all ages and in all conditions across ever longer distances, the increased flow of knowledge and practices from one place to another.
      “””

        1. Yes, I guess it is my mistake. I became a fan of using quotes after reading Financial Times (free articles on the web, very expensive newspaper); BTW I remember you also read it. But I suppose, I am a poor applier of this technique. I forgot to confirm spoked wheels presence in IVC. The quotes don’t answer the question at all without it. Moreover, I hope OIT/AMT debate gets a closure, no matter the result. Such a great civilization deserves at least this much.

          The quotes were important in the sense that cart building has been around since at least 3rd millennium BC in IVC. Spoked wheels figurines have been found at various sites of IVC. But evidences for these were overshadowed by the hunt of horse-drawn chariots. Also, they were totally an indigenous development. The IVC cart designs were so remarkable that they continue to be used in IVC regions even today with some improvements [1, 2]. How awesome were these people? Enough commenting for now on OIT/AMT; have to complete pending tasks. I don’t think my commenting further will contribute anything.

          1. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Terracotta-wheels-from-Banawali-and-Rakhigarhi-displaying-spokes-painted-or-in-relief_fig5_237413669
          2. https://www.harappa.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Kenoyer2004_Wheeled%20Vehicles%20of%20the%20Indus%20Valley%20Civilizatio.pdf

  8. @Razib,
    Thanks for the shout out. Just a few points:
    1. I defer to you on the genetic evidence and data, I honestly have not spent any time on the methodology or data and sort of just accept the conclusions on the movement of the genes.
    2. I’ve mentioned this before, as have others, but the movement of genes doesn’t necessarily equal movement of languages. So while I accept the movement of genes from area to area, I am not sure if what culture or language came with them, unless you look at the culture/language they came from and any changes in the culture or language group they came to.
    3. Much of the link with Steppe to IE seems to be linked to what linguists have constructed to be IE material culture: Horses, chariots, fire pits, cows, and other such features. We don’t know in any way if they spoke IE but we assume so because we find what we determined to be elements of IE culture there. Here Dr. Semenenko’s point undermines this element, meaning if the assumption is that the chariot, not a cart, is a foundational element of IE, as upheld by most linguists who talk on this, and is not found in the material culture where one would expect to find it, said culture is maybe not IE.
    4. The assumption is that the IVC did not have chariots or other elements of IE by 2000 BCE, so if you do find said elements at time then:
    a) IVC is some form of IE culture at 2000 BCE; or
    b) IE migration timeline in Iran, Central Asia, India has to shift back; or
    c) if you couple it with the point in 3, that the Steppe maybe did not have a ratha or chariot yet Sinauli which is outside the time period of when IE is said to come into India and furthermore, in the heart of the Gangetic Plain, had the chariot and other IE features while still being part of IVC. While this doesn’t establish conclusively anything but that IVC had chariots and the Steppe maybe didn’t, it does lead to the position that maybe the idea of IE steppe people (maybe the steppe weren’t IE) bringing the culture and language as depicted in the Vedic texts and later Mahabharata isn’t correct, hence my saying that another pillar might on the AIT or AMT is undone. I’m not saying that AIT is false or wrong but that its foundations are weakening in some regard.

    1. the issue here is excessive reliance on apodictic methods.

      again, i don’t know how these arguments are presented in detail in India or among indians. what I’ve seen online is BOTH SIDES are excessively dogmatic about the details as if the PROVE something definitively.

      around 3000-2500 BC a group expanded en masse from the yamna region into europe

      2000 BC there seems to have been reflux back into the steppe and further move south/east into iran/s asia

      the group, ‘x’, is 50-75% of the ancestry in n. Europe. less in southern Europe. on the whole less in places like sardinia and among basques (non-indo-european). 10-30% in north India, higher among ‘upper castes’ like brahmins.

      these are on the whole regions that speak indo-european languages.

      the simplest inference is the two go hand in hand.

      the main aspect of OIT/AIT debate is punctilious adherence to issues of India. but this debate has to be approached synoptically. OIT does a bad job of explaining non-india, even when presented very competently for india.

      more DNA will help. but a genuine synthesis by many more scholars is needed.

      1. I agree that Steppe DNA shows amazing consistency with IE languages. I would have 100% bought that steppe brought Sanskrit to India if not for the two reasons.

        1) Europe did not have any pre-existing civilizations during the Steppe expansion and yet they still have remained some pre-IE names for landmarks.

        2) The presence of huge civilization right at the very same location that Vedas refer to again and again (sapta sindhava) but is significantly older than the proposed Steppe migration period.

        Sure, brahmins have more of steppe DNA, so? Unless you believe a marxist version of history that brahmins imposed Sanskrit on the masses, this narrative falls flat. (To Be Fair, it could have been the case, but very highly unlikely)

        To put it bluntly, 10% of population imposed their language on 90% of the population without even a shred of cultural change, sounds bonkers to me. People were skeptical about it when it was originally proposed as well, but chariots were considered as the trump card of the “Aryans” that helped them subjugate entire populations.

        I want to ask a simple questions, Harappans obviously spoke a language, and they had names for all the rivers. If it was different from PIE, why don’t we have any of those alternative names in use?

        1. >Europe did not have any pre-existing civilizations during the Steppe expansion and yet they still have remained some pre-IE names for landmarks.

          The wrath of Milan will befall you very soon. BTW how do you not know about Vinca and the Balkan neolithic-copper age complex? Those would be some of the first EEF who interacted with pre-proto-steppe populations.

          1. What I meant was civilization that is comparable to scale and size of IVC. Pre-IE names are present even in places like Britan.

          2. Yep, Razib should send him/her to do the same crash course as the young man with excessive energy. It is obvious that not only him/her knows next to nothing about the civilization of (possible) his/her forefathers. I think, I already asked about the language spoken in so-called Old Europe for at least 7-8000 years before Yamnaya. This language had the alphabet 7000+ old (i.e. 4000+ years before Yamnaya). One estimate is that 95% of population during the Ice Age lived in Vinca. That is the place where white race originated. The oldest calendar was found there and officially used until the 19th c.AC (now is Y7529). There was the oldest metalurgy and many other things.

            It was also mentioned a nonsense about the name of rivers in Europe but nothing about thousands of Serbian toponyms in SA. I suggest to the BPishka management to dedicate one topic to Vinca, which is a semi-prohibited topic among western scholars. When they exhaust all potential so-called ‘Indo-European’ (the meaningless term) homeland locations they will come to Vinca, as Reich did recently after many years of avoiding this and spending time on much younger Yamnaya, Bel Beaker, etc.

            https://www.google.com/search?q=vincanska+kultura&rlz=1C1GCEA_enAU795AU795&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=FzFsildvKn0HqM%252CJfnKu6db9qW_vM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kQp0iqB3EAbGGyYCGpoEFXm40-LSA&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjAuNyM263qAhWxyDgGHWYGDM0Q_h0wGHoECA0QDQ&biw=1366&bih=657#imgrc=FzFsildvKn0HqM

          3. Sufficiently developed and large regardless, doesn’t need to be as populated as IVC. Look up these settlements since this seems to be a new topic to you.

        2. 1) Europe did not have any pre-existing civilizations during the Steppe expansion and yet they still have remained some pre-IE names for landmarks.

          how do you define civilization? dathang already noted some, but the megalith societies were on the tail-end of when the steppe people arrived. it’s pretty clear some of the agricultural works (for obv reasons) seem pre-indo-european in europe.

          Sure, brahmins have more of steppe DNA, so? Unless you believe a marxist version of history that brahmins imposed Sanskrit on the masses, this narrative falls flat. (To Be Fair, it could have been the case, but very highly unlikely)

          my hypothesis brahmins have more steppe DNA because the priestly caste is going to maintain more endogamy. they didn’t impose indo-aryan, that was broader. they just retained more of the original signal.

          To put it bluntly, 10% of population imposed their language on 90% of the population without even a shred of cultural change, sounds bonkers to me. People were skeptical about it when it was originally proposed as well, but chariots were considered as the trump card of the “Aryans” that helped them subjugate entire populations.

          i am not proposing whatever indian AIT ppl propose. a lot of it seems pretty cartoonish.

          the magyars left about 1% of their DNA (distinctive) in modern hungarians. but hungarians speak that language.

          the finns seem to have siberian ancestry that’s about 5%. but they speak a uralic language.

          the analogy is not perfect, but it is possible. i can give you plenty of other cases.

          none of that is dispositive or definitive. but you don’t seem to have a great grasp of the underlying non-indian patterns so i don’t know about going further on this with you

          1. I thought Finns have more than that. Thought they were 7% East Asian which would mean higher Siberian ancestry (14% if the founding population was a 50-50 mix for example).

  9. The last I heard, the Sunauli ‘chariots’, which have solid, not spoked, wheels, had two carbon datings – 3815 and 3500 years ago. Have there been new discoveries?

  10. Firstly, what are the chances that a technologically backward place like Steppes developing the most sophisticated weapon of the Bronze age as compared to one of the most technologically advanced civilization?

    when it comes to things related to horses the steppe is not technologically backward for obvious reasons.

    1. @Razib @DaThang
      Sure, they had the resources (horses) for making chariots. But did they have any industry, i.e., did they know woodworking, metallurgy, and mechanical engineering as well as have the human and intellectual capital to innovate? Innovation does not simply happen in a vacuum. It is a step by step development. Harappans demonstrate the whole technology tree for chariot technology development; it is a technology that intersects with a lot of other fields than just the military.

      @DaThang Thank you for pointing out military and social innovations dichotomy. Talking to you always leads to better and well-formed arguments.

      Regarding military and social innovations, a lot of items are dual-use, e.g., knives usage at homes, swords and bows for hunting. Carts and chariots were a social innovation at the start; they solve a fundamental need of the society: Fast transportation of people and goods as well as farming [“The World’s Earliest Known Ploughed Field”, 1].

      According to [2]
      Quote 1
      “””
      Mark Kenoyer writes that “terracotta toys found at most Indus settlements provide a glimpse of the pastimes that might have involved trained animals. Terracotta oxcarts with movable parts are perhaps the most common. Throughout the Indus Valley people still race oxcarts, especially in the regions around Mohenjo-daro where on-track betting ends with large sums of money or land changing hands.”
      “””
      Quote 2
      “””
      “The most unusual cart-frame was the type illustrated in Pl. LVIII, 21 [2]. It was strongly made of pottery with four vertically pierced holes on each side to take stakes of wood, exactly as in the little farm carts used in the present day in Middle and Upper Sindh. The four holes in the middle took longer stakes projecting from the underside of the frame in pairs, between which the easily removable axle of the wheels was held. There were also horizontal holes for the shaft through one end of the frame and the middle cross-piece. A reconstructed cart of this type is seen in Plate LVIII, 25 [4], though the wheels with it where not found with this actual frame. With a floor of matting or a ropework net, the open frames of these cars were well adapted for carrying agricultural produce, such as straw, hay, and the like, which the uprights would have kept in place. On No. 18 in Pl. LVIII a meshwork of lines of red paint indicates a net in position.”
      “””

      Similarly in [3]:
      Quote [3, p. 124]
      “””
      The use of bullocks for traction is vividly illustrated by the many terra-cotta models of carts drawn by a pair of bullocks. They would also have been used to draw plows and probably provided the muscle power needed to draw water from wells for irrigation.
      “””

      The military application seems to be re-purposing of the available technology to suit Harappans’ needs. After all, they had a huge civilization to take care of. For social advancement focused people like Harappa, it is simply natural to think that chariots and carts were a central part of their lives. It is more suitable for a backward culture like Steppes to merely tame and use horses for battle. In the first place, they were pastoral: Why would they need baggages like carts and chariots that had not much military mobility initially? It was the later innovations in chariot and cart making that made them such a deadly military weapon. But social needs were the initial trigger that sustained Harappans’ continued investment into them. Steppes had no need to do so, while Harappans clearly had.

      References
      [1] https://www.harappa.com/blog/worlds-earliest-known-ploughed-field
      [2] https://www.harappa.com/blog/toys-and-civilization
      [3] The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives

      1. , did they know woodworking, metallurgy, and mechanical engineering as well as have the human and intellectual capital to innovate?

        the Turks originated as a slave caste of metal-workers. you should read Christopher beckwith’s *empires of the silk road* you have a misimpression of the forest-steppe. please know more about it so you can get a fuller view

      2. The Indo-Iranian expansion was probably driven by the need for raw materials for metallurgy. Indo-Iranians moved from Europe to the Urals probably in part motivated by the Kargaly mines. A lot of the metal they produced was exported to the BMAC which brought them in contact with South Central Asia.

  11. Much of the link with Steppe to IE seems to be linked to what linguists have constructed to be IE material culture: Horses, chariots, fire pits, cows, and other such features.

    a lot of this is not true in Europe tho. agro-pastoralism predates the steppe people. so you mean ‘steppe to IE’ with India?

  12. “population admixture of 10-30% from a steppe group into the northwest subcontinent plausible on the face of it… This would mean the population displacement is actually higher in demographic terms.”

    Genetics people…

    So I recall the AASI component is also higher than the math would show since the Onge are being used as a sample population and they would have split from Indian AASI the same time they split from Proto-East Asian hunter gatherers.

    If steppe and AASI are both underestimated, does this mean IVC related ancestry in Indians is lower than the estimates by a significant amount?

    1. You can use simulated aasi as opposed to onge to get better fits in order to model the later post ivc aasi input, but even then the ivc component seems to be the largest in most groups (vs steppe and later aasi).

  13. I think too much is being read into Semenenko’s ‘No chariots in bronze age steppes’ spin. A disciple of Aurobindo who begins his, seemingly scholarly, articles with ‘Vande Mataram’ can hardly be expected to be objective when it comes to the AIT – OIT debate. What do David Anthony and other Russian archaeologists have to say on this?

  14. The main takeaway from the text is the sentence:

    “Indo-Aryan and Iranian seem closer to the Slavic clade”,

    This is an exact thing which makes obsolete the most of what is written in the comments. Also, one picture from Vinca (the oldest wheel is found there) should be enough to prevent some meaningless conversations. But it seems that this word is proscribed and everything what comes from there is pushed under the carpet. As usual, OIT shows some signs of autistic behavior and cannot see anything further from the own nose.

    I should refer briefly on the young guy here who invests a lot of efforts to deconstruct AMT. Based on my own experience, I feel sorry for him if he intends to waste a lot of his future time on compiling supporting evidence for OIT and fighting AMT. He starts from the political agenda, not as a future scholar who investigates all evidence and makes conclusions based on them. Because of his tender age and his greenhorn status, everyone tries to be gentle with him. For his good, I think that Razibishka should be more brutal with him and send him to do a half-day preparatory crash reading course about Vinca/Lepenski Vir or to do astronomy apprenticeship with Nilesh or to assign Anan, although he is busy, to be his buddy for a month or two.

  15. What I meant was civilization that is comparable to scale and size of IVC. Pre-IE names are present even in places like Britan.

    yes. but they’re not that common are they? like umber is one.

    also, i’ve written about this before, but i’m pretty sure the aryans didn’t come into the IVC at anything close to its height. history teaches us that bronze age civilizations were very fragile, and massive demographic collapse is a total possibility (this happened in the centuries before the arrival of steppe people into northern europe as the early european farmer cultural package seems to have run into negative returns due to soil exhaustions/climate change).

  16. mind you: i actually think it’s totally insane that indo-aryans/steppe contributed 10-30% of the ancestry in punjab and gangetic plain. this is not what i expected at all (i assumed it would be 1-3%). one hypothesis is that they killed all the natives, but as i have written, that’s not really plausible in the ancient world. ppl die through famine and other factors.

    i think a more plausible cause is that much of the former IVC domain was barbarized/depopulated.

  17. @Razib, //my hypothesis brahmins have more steppe DNA because the priestly caste is going to maintain more endogamy. they didn’t impose indo-aryan, that was broader. they just retained more of the original signal.//

    Does this assertion go against the data presented in the P. Moorjani et. al. 2013 ? Among the endogamous groups (castes)in India, UP brahmins were the last ones who stopped mixing. ( Table 1. 1885 YBP approx. ), whereas more dravidians groups like Andhra Vysya stopped mixing much earlier (4,176 YBP approx.)

  18. Does this assertion go against the data presented in the P. Moorjani et. al. 2013 ? Among the endogamous groups (castes)in India, UP brahmins were the last ones who stopped mixing. ( Table 1. 1885 YBP approx. ), whereas more dravidians groups like Andhra Vysya stopped mixing much earlier (4,176 YBP approx.)

    no. that work is superseded (and i talked to priya about that a few years ago to make it clear anyhow).

    there are two admixture pulses

    1) east iranian+AASI = IVC

    2) IVC + steppe + AASI

    #2 is giving late admixture lates for groups such UP brahmins

    1. Bishka, when you already mentioned the name Priya…to educate our greenhorns, especially OIT pundits – Priya was a Serbian ancient goddess of love which is much later replicated by Greeks as Aphrodite and by Romans as Venus. North-European version is Freya. In modern Serbian is usually used for female members (usually mothers) of young married couple (mums call each other – priya) with a meaning of – a special friend. Male version is – priyatelj=friend. There are many words which use ‘priya’ as a root, for e.g. ‘Bon appetite’ in Serbian is ‘priya-tno’ what is also used as ‘bye or ciao or see you’. Aryans brought this name to SA – e.g. Priyanka and also others – Radhika, Anushka, etc.

  19. @Razib, Thanks for the reply.
    Two admixture pulses raises more questions than the answers 🙂
    for e.g.
    The Sintashta ancestry in Madiga(dravidian group) is around 5 % .( ref: https://www.brownpundits.com/2020/02/09/indus-valley-sintashta-and-andamanese-ancestry-in-select-grioups/ ).

    When one rules out the pure steppe ancestry (as per one of your assertions), this admixture event is statistically significant ( > 5 %), and that should show up as major admixture.
    Interestingly Madigas stopped mixing 1500 years(3480 YBP) before UP brahmins.

    Or Should that superseded work be completely discarded? Is there anywhere new data available ?

  20. The evidence points less to an invasion, and more to a religious replacement. Note that the highest percentages of steppe ancestry are found in Brahmins, though they are of heterogeneous ancestry, not amongst the warrior and ruling caste populations.

    We don’t have much evidence for what the religious landscape of Northern Indian looked like in the aftermath of the Cemetery H culture, but Vedic practice (at least as attested from circa 1000 BC) seems to focus on the idea of religious knowledge and spiritual power being imparted and found in the far wild places.

    The most parsimonious explanation is that the post-IVC peoples had a religious system that valued distance from farming settlements, perhaps in the form of “wilderness experiences” or another form of nature based cultus/praxis. The steppe domination would have come from a religious imposition, where the proto-Vedic forms of worship would have fit easily upon the existing beliefs of the local population.

    My personal theory is that the post-IVC population followed some kind of religious practice in which there was in inner enclosed and “controlled” spiritual space (anything from a village, to a sacred site, to even tilled fields and pastures), where local gods/spirits where benevolent, and a wild outer space where the powers above were uncontrolled and could go either way (think of the Rudram, where Rudra is a God of the wild forests and mountains, and can either be really nice to you, or bring down disease and disaster). Some Vedic hymns seem to point to the idea that the Ṛṣis were able to call upon and bind the Gods into doing their bidding, and I think this element was what assured their dominion.

    Because their language was the language of prayer, it easily spread throughout the population, and explains why rivers and other geographical features have Indo-Aryan names. That said, we don’t actually have much when it comes to a historic linguistic map of India. Looking at Gondi, for example, it seems clear that into the historic period a larger portion of Madhya Pradesh would have been Dravidian speaking before they shifted to early Hindi. It also needs to be noted that Prakrit seems to have been attested earlier in areas that later came to be Telugu or Kannada speaking, so we cannot make too many assumptions about how South Asia transformed linguistically, or what were the predominant languages prior to the 1500s.

    1. I agree with you. Many inscriptions with Maharashtri-Prakrit were found in Telangana area. I am sure that my ancestors didn’t speak Telugu until at least +500 to +800 year.

  21. “the highest percentages of steppe ancestry are found in Brahmins, though they are of heterogeneous ancestry, not amongst the warrior and ruling caste populations.”

    From historical evidence, the warriors become ruling class in 9th century CE/AD through yajna/agni in western India/Gujarat through Mount Sumeru/Meru.
    Most of ancient warriors are already absorbed in Brahmans and remaining in Jain community.

    Does current Warrior group have 100% steppe(0 AASI) and totally different ancestry from rest of us ?(most of you did’nt exist before 2000years)

    1. I have no idea what you are talking about. Yajnas are sacrificial ceremonies conducted according to certain rules and rites, and they don’t change your position. A non-Brahmin Yajamāna may have been the patron of a sacrifice, but that didn’t magically transform his position.

      Looking at the Dharmaśāstras, certain texts (eg Arthaśāstra), older Puranic layers, it is clear that the ruler and ruling classes were from the warrior order, and their duties related to the protection of a realm, its administration, and defending or expanding it.

      Kings lead their armies in battle, but do not lead the sacrifice or commerce.

  22. I wonder if the lack of Indian aDNA makes the IVC population appear far more monolithic than it really is, with a northern Bactrian component, a Helmand Civilization component, an IVC component, and finally a yet unexplored central Indian and AASI-like component all existing on a cline but representing distinct cultures.

    Brahmin groups seem to be enriched not only for R1a Y-DNA, but often for R2, J2, L relative to F & H. I wonder if this is indicative that, rather than a pure male-dominance dynamic, a fusion between northern IVC/Helmand Culture and Steppe cultures created the Indo-Aryans, somewhat like the fusion between the Aesir and Vanir shaped Norse society. Of course, I could be misreading the genetic story here, so would appreciate anyone setting me straight if so.

    Sadly, by the time the RV was written, this fusion had already happened and the Indo-Aryans were planted in the Punjab, so we only see it after the fact. But this culture is already pretty distinct and unique — Brahmanical practices are quite distinct, epic poems turn from Indra’s war stories to meditations on the self — it’s almost as if the great engineering cultures of the IVC and Sintashta become obsessed with the question of how to cultivate a self-moving soul, independent of webs of default causality.

    I don’t live in India so I don’t understand the emotions around Hindutva, Marxism, OIT, and AIT. I’ve definitely found the genetic record surprising — I didn’t expect as much of a component from the Urals and was really shocked to see the Indo-Aryans had no BMAC component.

    But ancient Indian civilization was really cool. It’s a shame that the story of a civilization that gave the world so much in terms of philosophy, mathematics, and epistemology, is so obscured by politics. But there’s so much depth there and I hope this encourages people to get deep in the literature, philosophy, linguistics, and archaeology of the period.

    1. “I don’t live in India so I don’t understand the emotions around Hindutva, Marxism, OIT, and AIT. I’ve definitely found the genetic record surprising — I didn’t expect as much of a component from the Urals and was really shocked to see the Indo-Aryans had no BMAC component.

      But ancient Indian civilization was really cool. It’s a shame that the story of a civilization that gave the world so much in terms of philosophy, mathematics, and epistemology, is so obscured by politics. But there’s so much depth there and I hope this encourages people to get deep in the literature, philosophy, linguistics, and archaeology of the period.”

      It is such a relief to read such well informed and well meaning opinion. I am new to this forum and not in the typical demographic of this forum (late-30s and early-40s) so allow me to shed some light on this. Whatever coolness you associate/identify with Indian Civilization, it has been systematically denied to Indians because of their education. As someone who grew up in India and emigrated outside these are the things I was taught. 1) India has been a land of invasions, 2) Any notion of Indian civilization is controversial at best and political historical whitewashing at worst. 3) The contributions of Indian civilization to the world has been minimal/non-existent. 4) India has been a land of oppression and caste hierarchy from time immemorial.

      These are not “taught” per-se, but the list of topics covered in Indian history is crafted with such care and precision that a grown up adult is left with almost nothing to look up to after reading it. Don’t take my word for it; the NCERT history textbooks are digitally available. You can read them for yourself and come to the same conclusion. The AIT perspective that Razib brushes off as cartoonish is actually taught in some schools. Any reasonable POV from the right is immediately labelled fascist and de-platformed. It is not a coincidence that the most right-wing perspective is no different from hagiography.

      I think AIT-OIT debate is like one of the “core” issues. If AIT is wrong, then most of the nonsense history we are taught comes crumbling down. I don’t look at AIT-OIT that way; to me, this is more like a puzzle. I find good references here, so I can read and come to my own conclusion.

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