36 thoughts on “Is the Mesopotamian world for elephant ‘Dravidian’?”

  1. I think on linguistic ground , it is shaky
    The Nature paper says
    Proto-Dravidian tooth-word ‘*pal’ and its alternate forms (‘*pīl’/‘*piḷ’/‘*pel’)……..
    his paper argues that there is sufficient morphophonemic evidence of an ancient Dravidian ‘*piḷ’/‘*pīl’-based root, which meant ‘splitting/crushing’, and was semantically related to the meanings ‘tooth/tusk’.
    The dravidian Etymological Dictionary gives cognates in many drav languages for *pal . Entry 3986
    I don’t know why alternate forms would be *pīl’/‘*piḷ’/‘*pel’ .
    Why should *pal (tooth) be semantically related to *piḷ’/‘*pīl’-based root, which meant ‘splitting/crushing’ ?

    As with mny IVC theories, we have to make many assumptions for it to hold. Occam’s razor won’t apply here

    1. Not sure, if this is of any importance, but in Tamil, the trumpeting noise made by elephants are denoted as “Piliral”.

      1. Also Ganesha in Tamil is referred to as Pillaiyar. While generally that’s thought to be related to ‘pillai’ as in child, I looked it up and some say there may be some connection to elephant / tusk.

          1. @Saurav

            Thats the whole premise of Bahata’s paper (that its a Dravidian loanword). Quite voluminous in the supplements! Interesting historical facts.

        1. Looks like this was already in the article.

          “Interestingly, the Indian elephant-faced-god Gaṇeśa is called ‘Piḷḷāri’ in Telugu (Brown, 1903, p. 764); and ‘Piḷḷaiyar’ in Tamil (Narain, 1991, p. 25). As suggested by Bagchi (1933) and Narain (1991), and as emphatically argued by Dhavalikar (1990), ‘Piḷḷaiyar’ is derived not from the Dravidian child-word ‘piḷḷa’, but from Dravidian tooth/tusk words (see Supplementary-File-S1’s Section-G).”

  2. The scroll and left wing in general not brave enough to talk about the Dravidian invasion of south India and the elimination of native tribal cultures and languages. The genetics clearly show that upper-caste South Indians who are NOT brahmin have higher Iran-related ancestry than underprivileged castes and tribals.

    Apparently invasions and language replacement events are only possible if you’re Aryan. Left wing journalism is such a sham.

    1. I don’t think Left wing is “Afraid” to talk about how Dravidians came to be, its just that they simply don’t give a shit, they only talk about AIT because it gives them something to smear Hinduism with. Sickulars are still North India Centric Nationalists, after all.

      1. This seems true. Just two different flavors of Hindustani nationalism. A lot of NDTV type politically center-left types are not far from swinging to the new center-right consensus. For a a number of decades, maintaining the pretense that the Republic of India was the civilization-state of all subcontinental ethnicities, and true successor to the Raj, seemed important. A new multiethnic state needs authority. Now that the excluded parts of the indosphere aren’t going to return, its more important to justify the current territorial boundaries of the union. Hindu-ness is the most elegant answer in all likelihood. Only the most marginal regions like Nagaland are genuinely irrelevant to any discussion of that quality. The Kashmir valley is outside the fold, not for lack of traditon, but by choice. Even if one supposes the coming years demonstate that hindutva isn’t sufficient, it likely that secular civic nationalism would have been even more lacking.

      2. Or rather AIT is convenient for them because Hindutva folk have been so industriously smearing themselves in denialist shit.

        1. Hindutva’s claim to India is based on Nativity and it’s opposition to Abrahamic faiths is based on their “foreign-ness” to India. By admitting that there already existed a robust civilization prior to the arrival of Sanskrit in India, they delegitimize their own ideology.

          They have no choice but to peddle denialism and it’s working. Almost everyone in India believes AIT/AMT is a “myth”, a lot of Indians still believe that Dravidian languages came from Sanskrit or simply just ignore dravidians altogether. Media Propoganda Works, you just need to repeat a lie long enough and people will start believing eventually.

          1. I think there’s a way to thread that needle by emphasizing the differences between pre-historic conflict, medieval imperialism, and colonialism. There are significant differences in context, identity, and the nature of the conflict.

            There are many reasons why Turkic imperialism is treated differently from British colonialism. Similarly, pre-historic invasions are very different.

            Also by emphasizing how as far as we know pretty much everything related to what we refer to as Hindu today developed in situ within the subcontinent, and how much of Hinduism is so different from what is written in say the Rig Veda Samhitas. It’s an amalgamation of many things, including many things not associated with ancient Brahmanical culture (for lack of a better term).

          2. @Dathang

            100% agree. Sanskritic culture had a long time to evolve into it’s own entity within India itself. It is also not found in a dominating form elsewhere.

  3. AASI is truly among one of the most historically exploited racial elements in history. And you don’t even have to be a Marxist clown who groups everyone into oppressor vs. oppressed to see it. It is for once a genuine case

    1. Inverse of AASI oppression seems to be that two waves of ANE-rich ‘oppressive’ migrations (Arya + Dravidians) have made South Asia a reservoir of relatively high ANE ancestry.

    2. Wow, so India and Latin America are more similar than I thought where the more Western Eurasian an individual is, the higher the status. Both places consider ‘white’ people (European, West Asian, steppe, Turkish and North African) to be the yardstick of beauty and discriminate against the indigenous people of their lands (Native Americans in Latin America and AASI in India). However unlike the Native Americans, the AASI are subject to anti blackness.

      1. Yes. The main difference is that S Asia is way older so there are few genetic “pure” ones left of any type. Everyone has a not insignificant proportion of at least AASI and the iranic component of IVC. Fundamentally, S Asian people are the genetic children of the IVC.

        Roughly, the average S Asian is a mestizo and the most west shifted are castizos in colonial Latin American terms.

        Even the most E Shifted have like 30% west Eurasian ancestry. Latin America has 100% indigenous and 100% euros left.

  4. @Razib

    Bahata Ansumali Mukhopadhyay is one of the leading IVC researchers from the younger generation – especially one not hailing from a pure social sciences/linguistics/anthropologist paradigm. She is a software professional.

    I have been following her work for the past 3-4 years on the IVC script and she has surpassed even the late Iravatham Mahadevan in some crucial areas of the decryption. She has proved quite logically that the IVC script is logographic – not phonograms or rebus based (which is what Parpola and Iravatham have argued for some cases).

    Coming to this particular paper, it is a goldmine of historical information – especially in the supplements. Talageri, in his landmark paper on Indian elephant and IE linguistics, expresses his puzzlement over the Iranian, Mesopotamian and Sumerian words for ivory and elephants. This one neatly complements that – like a close fitting jigsaw piece.

    In this case, I think the researcher is correct. South India was one of the sources of ivory and elephants for the IVC, Persia, Mesopotamia and Sumer.

    The other source must have been the Gangetic Plains, foothills of Nepal and Eastern India. Which will then account for the other commonly known word for the elephant in the ancient world “Ibha”. Even today South India and Eastern India/South East Asia account for an equal distribution of elephants.

    The oldest attested IE language in the world is Hittite (on the Anatolian branch) and the word for elephant there is lahpa. It has a close relationship to Mycenean Greek and Rgvedic Ibha.

    My own surmise – that the IVC cline (combination of Iranian HG and AHG) is also the linguistic combination of IE and Dravidian languages. Iranian HG present in India since 10000 BCE – that is the antiquity of IE languages in the Indian subcontinent. IVC was multilingual. Steppes people were merely late IE speaking incomers to the Indian subcontinent.

  5. The Kodava seem to have the closest genetic relationship to IVC ancient DNA from prior analysis provided on Brown Pundits. Could the Kodava or Kodagu SouthDravidian language be the link to ancient IVC languages? They were until modern times a closed community with their own nonvedic religious practices that could be an isolate and transplant from a bygone era.


    1. Lol, its just confusing and idiotic, there are also parallel theories exisitng that Kodavas are descendents of Kurds

  6. Hindutva is heavily influenced by conceptions of “indigenous” religions and religious practice that were fundamentally spread by Theosophy. The idea of India as a mystic realm of ancient knowledge, ready to teach the world, is more Blavatsky than Bhāskara.

    The idea of an Ancient Civilisation of Sanskrit Speakers (ACSS) falls apart when you actually look at the Vedic corpus, which is why even that becomes some type of secret scientific code, or pure symbolism. At this point I am surprised they haven’t tried to get on the History Channel.

    On the Dravidian point, the commonality of that work may not actually mean that the IVC was Dravidian speaking. It could be the that the IVC language, like Classical Chinese, was an adstratum to other languges, or that the IVC itself picked up this term from another language in a sprachsbaum.

  7. I thought Dravidians were the descendants of IVC people who migrated southward after the collapse of IVC.

    Then when Aryans migrated into the subcontinent, the two groups fused (along with various adivasis) and gave rise to India as we know it.

    What’s this about a Dravidian “invasion”? I thought they were considered more “indigenous” than Aryans.

    What were the native tribal cultures and languages that were eliminated by Dravidians? Were the eliminated all those thousands of years ago or just absorbed into a more sophisticated, more complex cultural force?

    1. @Confused

      Thats the whole point. Genetic evidence has confused all the marxist/colonial historians. The IVC genetic cline is 80-90% Iran_North and 10-20% Andamanese Hunter Gatherers.

      If we presume that IVC is Dravidian, then Dravidians also entered India from Iran and fused with the Andamanese Hunter Gatherers. (I think this is unlikely). Bahata’s paper is also saying that IVC is Dravidian based on word etymology. n

      1. “then Dravidians also entered India from Iran and fused with the Andamanese Hunter Gatherers. ” — @Ugra, i thought the twin papers by narasimhan made it clear the Iran_N-like ancestry(let’s call it Indus_N or AANI) found in rakhigarghi woman has split from zagros herders some 10,000 years ago. Those AANI folks were probably present in that area since the early Holocene so, by the time they developed their ‘dravidian culture and language’ , they weren’t ‘invaders/migrants’ any more.

        1. @td

          …Those AANI folks were probably present in that area since the early Holocene so, by the time they developed their ‘dravidian culture and language’ , they weren’t ‘invaders/migrants’ any more.

          This part is not in Narasimhan’s paper!!! Its your speculation.

          The Iran_North genetic signal is being called as the IE signal by Max Planck Institute of Anthropology’s director – Johannes Krause. It means that the IVC was an IE speaking civilization. The elephant word might have been borrowed from Andamanese (??)

  8. This paper just proved my speculation of Brahui people were IVC remnant. So glad we(Tribal women) have something to relate to as language and culture, going so ancient.
    Linguistic and Genetics hand in hand. Love the new technology
    @Bahata Ansumali Mukhopadhyay
    Great congratulations for publishing in Nature.

    1. “So glad we(Tribal women) have something to relate to as language and culture, going so ancient.” — @Roma, apologies for asking but are you an indian from a ‘tribal community’ ?

  9. LOL, there is a section in the article named ‘Hindutva pushback’. Dont even get what’s this imaginary battle being fought about.

    In the North, the ‘Aryans’ are already going in a different direction and have already subsumed the entireity of Indus Valley/Harrapan history as their own, since the only other contendor to that history are Pakistanis (who dont want anyhting to do with IVC). On the ground, any tenous link of S-Indians and Indus valley is laughed at, considering their geographical distance.

    The whole ‘battles’ and ‘pushback’ it seems is mostly for the South and East (preaching to the choir ), where Hindutva is already a miniscule force. No surprise that the article is written by a Bengali, Its as they say in today;s parlance, ‘punching down’…

    1. Your cultural&linguistic heritage is that of Steppe Aryans, it has nothing to do IVC. N-Indians claiming IVC as their own heritage is Akin to modern Semitic Arabic Egyptians “claiming” the Ancient Afroasiatic Egyptian Civilization as their own.

      “On the ground, any tenous link of S-Indians and Indus valley is laughed at, considering their geographical distance.”
      Here’s a riddle for ya, how do you think S-Indians “arrived” at South India? Did they arrive in a magic ship from the Kundam Kumari Island? Do you agree with the Periyarist retards on this one? How did Brahui reach Pakistan of all places, stranded ships from Kumari Kundam Island?

      Dravidan claims to IVC are laughed at by who, exactly? Westerners laugh at the Nativist delusions of their Mulatto Aryan Cousins, no one on earth believes that Sanskrit is native to India, except for Hindutva ideologues.

      1. N-Indians can claim IVC as their own heritage because (if you happened to come across a map lately) that’s where the sites are located, and the excavations are being done.

        “Dravidan claims to IVC are laughed at by who, exactly?”

        Why dont you come down to Haryana and ask anyone, if he thinks that its not him but a Madrasi who has links to site excavated in Hisar, and see exactly what his reaction is. LOL.

        1. Like i said, its like Arabs claiming Egyptian Civilization as their own just because they occupy the regions where Egyptian Sites are located. Absolutely no one with a functional neuron thinks that Egyptians were Arabs, you’re delusional to think that the world can’t tell the difference between IVC&Aryans.

          Why dont you come down to Haryana and ask anyone, if he thinks that its not him but a Madrasi who has links to site excavated in Hisar, and see exactly what his reaction is. LOL.
          Who cares what some dehati buffalo herder thinks? Geneticists,Linguists&Archaeologists don’t consult Hindutva mouth breathers when forming a consensus. .

  10. has razib abandoned this blog? havent seen any good write-ups or comments from him in a long time.

  11. Haven’t had time to read the paper.

    But here is what should make you wonder. The word for elephant that is most common across the Bronze Age Near East is derived from the same root as Sanskrit ‘ibha’. It is there in Greek as ‘elephas’, Mycenaean Greek ‘erepa’, Latin ‘ebur’ and Hittite ‘lahpa’. All these words either denote the Elephant or its ivory. It is also found, with a transfer of meaning to camel, in Germanic as ‘ulbandus’ and Slavic as ‘velibodu’. This word is also seen in ancient Egyptian as ‘3bw’ and in some languages in and around the Horn of Africa. Either this word came from Africa or from India. If, as the author, Bahata, wishes to argue, that the word for elephant borrowed from India in West Asia is ‘pila’ then we may presume that this was the name of the Indian elephant in West Asia and that the other word is of African origin.

    Now, the earliest Indo-Aryan text is Rigveda and in it the Elephant is known by 3 names, ‘ibha’, ‘vArana’ and ‘hastin’. None of these is obviously derived from that hypothetical Dravidian root *pal/*pil.

    What does this mean ? It means that the Indo-Aryans, who hypothetically migrated into the Dravidian territory of NW India and pushed the Dravidians south, did not borrow the Dravidian Harappan word for Elephant in its vocabulary at all. Infact, the Indo-Aryans even kept the African word for elephant as ‘ibha’ but somehow refused to use the native Harappan word for Elephant. Is that even scarcely believable ?

    Please think over it.

    Infact, the word pilu/piru, even in West Asia, is restricted to Akkadian and Iranian. The other word, cognate of Sanskrit ‘ibha’, as I pointed out, had a much wider currency. And as Shrikant Talageri has shown, this word is unlikely to be of African origin since Elephants were already extinct in Egypt in the late 4th millennium BCE itself while further south where Elephants lived, the native word for Elephant in sub-Saharan African languages is completely different. Infact, there is enough evidence to show that the Harappans were trading with the Egyptians in the Bronze Age via the Horn of Africa, where existed the Egyptian fabled land of the Punt and that ivory was one of the products the Egyptians managed to get via Punt.

    The most plausible source for Sanskrit ‘ibha’ and Egyptian ‘3bw’ also is therefore likely to be India. How is it that such a word for Elephant, likely from India, was so widely in circulation in Bronze Age Near East and among Indo-European languages ? This indeed is what should be researched.

    1. Supplement S1-Section-F directly addresses this question. I don’t know if it’s a compelling answer, but the author tries to directly address this. What are your thoughts?

      Reproduced below

      Since this paper claims that ‘pīlu’ was one of the most popular elephant-words of prehistoric and historic North-Western India, prevalent at least till 600 A.D., an important question arises regarding the complete absence of ‘pīlu’ as an elephant appellative in both Vedic and Epic Sanskrit texts. Indeed, as a phytonym, ‘pīlu’ has not only secured its place in the earliest Vedic (Atharvaveda) and epic texts (Mahābhārata), but has also managed to remain the most popular common name for the toothbrush tree (Salvadora Spp.) across the Northern half of the Indian subcontinent. But as zoonym it has not been so successful in its survival. There are various possible explanations for this:

      i)As Masica (1979, p.124) has observed, “the Aryans, in addition to retaining most of their names for familiar animals, tended to bestow their own names on unfamiliar domestic animals of the new country as well (the water buffalo, the camel, the ass, and the elephant—though the last seems to be a partial calque), rather than borrow them—quite different from their attitude toward plants”. In my opinion, naming an animal based on its physical features or utilitarian aspects is a much easier and tempting job than naming various plants of a new country. For, knowing the herbal qualities and other subtle features of a plant would need a longer lived experience (‘erlebnis’/ ‘erfahrung’). Thus, had Indo-Aryan speakers really come to the subcontinent from outside, they would have been awestruck in no time by a massive animal with outlandish physical features like tusks and a trunk. So, they could easily name that animal using their own language, calling it ‘hastin’ (having a hand i.e. a trunk) or ‘dantin’ (having tusks). But, mastering the special utilities of different plants of a forest, and distinguishing one plant from another based on their herbal qualities and subtle visual differences, are not as easy or arresting, and demand centuries of observation and experiments. As proposed by Jules Bloch and Paul Thieme (in Bryant, 2001 Kindle-Location 1763-1766), among the ‘peculiar’ words found in early Vedic texts, which must have come from Prakrits or other “low” culture vernaculars, “plants and agricultural terms” particularly abound, “since such words would have been the daily subject matter of the tribes and “lower” social groups who tilled the soil” and “gathered the flora and herbs”. Possibly these are the reasons that phytonyms often survive much longer than zoonyms. For example, most of the phytonyms collated and authenticated in Vedic texts, such as ‘aśvattha’ and ‘pippala’ (Ficus religiosa), ‘palāśa’ (Butea frondosa), ‘bilva’ (Aigle marmelos), ‘kharjūra’ (Phoenix sylvestris), ‘tila’ (Sesamum), and ‘śalmali’ (Salmalia malabarica), have survived in India till date with minimal phonological changes. On the contrary, as Masica observes, “the striking thing is the replacement in the course of the later evolution of Indo-Aryan of many of the older Aryan terms (e.g., of aja-‘goat’, avi- ‘sheep’, words for ‘colt’, ‘calf, ‘kid’, ‘lamb’, and, most important of all, asva- ‘horse’) with new terms either internally derived or borrowed, typically with an originally diminutive, pejorative, or otherwise specialized meaning”.

      ii)The other reason that the Vedic texts have often avoided indigenous non-Indo-Aryan vernacular words is possibly that “these are sacerdotal hymns describing ritualistic techniques that were preserved by a culturally distinct group of specialists who, like any elite, took pains to isolate their speech from common vulgarisms” (Bryan, 2001 Kindle-Locations 1624-1626). As mentioned in the main article, the “authoritative account of the c. seventh century Mīmāṃsā philosopher Kumārila Bhaṭṭa informs us that ‘pīlu’ meant a tree in the ‘Aryan’ speech, but elephant in the ‘Non-Aryan’ ‘mleccha’ languages (Bandyapadhyay, 1933-1946 p.1336; Pollock, 2011 p.43)”. Thus, sociolinguistic puritanism of the Aryan elites must be the reason that the popular elephant-word ‘pīlu’ could find no place in their religious texts. Moreover, in the Vedic texts, elephants were anyway not given importance at all, and were mentioned only a few times (Macdonell and Keith, 1912a, 1912b).

      iii)The present substitution of the Dravidian word ‘pīlu’ by the Indo-Aryan term ‘hasti’/‘hāthi’ in North-India, and its reduced scope of usage in a phonologically closely related word ‘piḍ-i’ that signify female elephant and female hog in various Dravidian languages of present South India, is a trend not unprecedented in the history of unexplained replacement of Indic zoonyms —due to the interchangeability of cerebral ‘ḷ’ and ‘ḍ’ in Dravidian languages and the Proto-Dravidian feminine marker ‘i’, ‘piḍ-i’ is directly related to the root-word ‘piḷ’ (Caldwell, 1875 p.33,59; Krishnamurti, 2003 p.213)—. A similar and greater apparent linguistic anomaly “is the replacement of aśva- ‘horse’, the animal introduced by the Aryans and deeply associated with their communal rituals, by the non-Aryan term ghoṭaka” (Masica, 1979 p.125). Similarly, “in English, for most purposes, the older Germanic ‘dove’ has been replaced by the French ‘pigeon’” (Masica, 1979 p.61). Thus, the other presently popular elephant-words cannot deny ‘pīlu’ its ancient popular stature. As discussed in the main article, the Tamil word ‘piḷiṟu’ means “to roar, as an elephant”. In Sanskrit ‘pīlu’ also means “palm tree’s stem” possibly because it resembles an elephant’s leg (Bandyapadhyay, 1933-1946 p.1334-1337). These words show the prolonged usage of the ‘pīlu’-based elephant-words in the Indian subcontinent.

    2. @Jaydeepsinh_Rathod

      I read Bahata’s paper three times over. It is impeccable. Her theorizing might be in excess (that IVC was Drav) but the historical facts are voluminous.

      Hiuen Tsang (Xuansang) in the 6th century visiting India mentions in his travelogue that South Indians are the acknowledged masters of elephants and ivory throughout India. This and many other facts she has gathered patiently.

      I think the conclusion is excessive. She has overlooked the possibility of two sources of elephants for IVC – the Gangetic Plains/Terai/Assam and South India. If IVC was multilingual, then they would have two words – pilu and ibha – from their source regions.

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