Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hoisted from the comments

In a comment on a previous post, I wrote:
I would say that the modern population genetic data and the archaeological data are consistent with a Yamnaya incursion into Europe. The ancient DNA data is also consistent. There is no literary record, and neither genes nor archaeology inform us about language, but presumably the Yamnaya incursion is a candidate to which to tie IE expansion into Europe. The problem is that the earlier farmers are also a candidate for I.E. introduction into Europe. Neither genes nor archaeology can help us decide between the two. Most historical linguists like the shorter time depth and favor the Yamnaya theory. But their tools, e.g., "glottochronology" are riddled with flaws.

The archaeological record for India does not show a Yamnaya incursion or Andronovo incursion or any other significant incursion in the 1900 BC - 1200 BC timeframe. Language-wise - the Rg Veda is the oldest attested I.E. example but is known via oral tradition; and the Mitanni records with a few Vedic deities and I.E. words as its closest competitor; but the Indian archaeological record does not provide any evidence of language. (Re: Hittite, see below) India does not yet have any ancient DNA. Genetics of the modern population so far rules out any significant incursion into India 4000-2500 years ago - but India remains a grossly undersampled population.

The Saraswati River mentioned in the Rg Veda is named with other rivers; in the hymn, these other rivers are in the correct geographic sequence of rivers of the Indus and Gangetic systems. If we thus place the Saraswati, it was a mighty river then, it now corresponds to the seasonal Ghagghar-Hakra; the channel along of which the majority of Harappan civilization sites are found; it corresponds to the Saraswati, already dried up by the time of the Mahabharata. If we accept this identification it places the Rg Veda to before 2000 BC. Since Hittite is attested to 1600-1300 BC in written records (only), the Rg Veda would be the oldest attested I.E.

We need not accept this identification of the Saraswati, linguists such as Harvard's Sanskritist M. Witzel have theorized that some other river in Afghanistan was the original Saraswati, and for some reason the Rg Vedic people transferred the name to the already-dried up river bed that they found when they entered India.

The Rg Veda was composed in India, of that there can be little doubt. But the Saraswati timeline throws the historical linguists' 1900 BC - 1200 BC time line into confusion, so they hypothesize that the hymns are sometimes a memory of some other place where the "original" Saraswati was. They also dismiss the Rg Vedic mention of the sea and of hundred-oared boats, which are not there in the deep inland Afghan location that they want to place the "original" Saraswati, by saying that the composers were incorrigible boasters and exaggerators. Then, by their estimates, these memories were transformed into Rg Vedic hymns around 1400 BC. Then Hittite becomes the oldest attested IE language.

Reading since then -- agreed there is some "confirmation bias" :)

Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe”
(Link to PDF)

Supplement 11 which is at the end of a 30 MB download is worth reading.
(found somewhere on this page: )

The upshot is that since there is ancient European DNA from various eras, one can say that there was a major influx of early farmers from Anatolia into Europe around 8000-7000 years ago; and there was a major migration from the steppe into Europe around 5000-4500 years ago. "...these migrants accounted for at least 3/4 of the ancestry of the Corded Ware people in Germany and much of the ancestry of other Late Neolithic/Bronze Age populations of Germany and present-day northern Europeans".

Various other excerpts:

"Thus, the main argument in favor of the Anatolian hypothesis (that major language change requires major migration) can now also be applied to the Steppe hypothesis. While we cannot go back in time to learn what languages the migrants spoke, it seems more likely than not that the Corded Ware people we sampled spoke the languages of the people who contributed the great majority of their ancestry (Yamnaya), rather than the local languages of the people who preceded them. Thus, our results increase the plausibility that the Corded Ware people and those genetically similar groups who followed them in central Europe spoke a steppe-derived Indo-European language. More generally, our results level the playing field between the two leading hypotheses of Indo-European origins, as we now know that both the Early Neolithic and the Late Neolithic were associated with major migrations."
"However, we can definitely reject that the breakup of Indo-European occurred as late as 4000 years ago, as by ~4500 years ago the migration into Europe had already taken place. Moreover, this migration clearly resulted in a large population turnover, meaning that the Steppe hypothesis does not require elite dominance to have transmitted Indo-European languages into Europe. Instead, our results show that the languages could have been introduced simply by strength of numbers: via major migration in which both sexes participated".
"The Anatolian hypothesis becomes less plausible as an explanation for the origin of all Indo- European languages in Europe, as it can no longer claim to correspond to the only major population transformation in European prehistory, and it must also account for the language of the steppe migrants. However, the Anatolian hypothesis cannot be ruled out entirely by our data, as it is possible that it still accounts for some of the major branches of the Indo- European language family in Europe, especially the branches of the south where the proportion of steppe ancestry today is smaller than in central and northern Europe".
"An important caveat to using ancient DNA to make arguments about the origins of languages is that prior to the invention of writing, we have no way to directly tie ancient cultures to a language. Nevertheless, by establishing that major migrations or exchanges of genes occurred, we identify movements of people that would have been plausible vectors for the spread of languages, and we can establish some periods in time as the most plausible ones for language spread. Thus, genetic data can change the balance of probabilities among competing hypotheses as we outline above."
"It is still possible that the steppe migration detected by our study into Late Neolithic Europe might account for only a subset of Indo-European languages in Europe, and other Indo-European languages arrived in Europe not from the steppe but from either an early “Neolithic Anatolian” or later “Armenian plateau” homeland."

Evidence and inference in Indian history
Edited by Edwin F. Bryant and Laurie L. Patton

This book, from 2005, is available on

The archaeologists J. G. Shaffer and D.A. Lichtenstein write:

"The modern archaeological record for South Asia indicates a history of significant cultural continuity; an intrepretation at variance with earlier eighteenth through twentieth-century scholarly views of South Asian cultural discontinuity and South Asian cultural dependence on Western culture influences (but see Allchin and
Allchin 1982; Allchin 1995).........
The current archaeological and paleoanthropological data simply do not support these centuries old interpretative paradigms suggesting Western, intrusive, cultural influence as responsible for the supposed major discontinuities in the South Asian cultural prehistoric record (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999; Kennedy 2000; Lamberg- Karlovsky 2002). The image of Indo-Aryans as nomadic, conquering warriors,driving chariots, may have been a vision that Europeans had, and continue to have, of their own assumed “noble” past. If Indo-Aryans ever existed, and we do dispute their existence as identified in the scholarly literature to date, they are much more likely to have been “. . . impoverished cowboys in ponderous ox-carts seeking richer pasture...” (Kohl 2002: 78). 
It is currently possible to discern cultural continuities linking specific prehistoric social entities in South Asia into one cultural tradition (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1989, 1995, 1999; Shaffer 1992, 1993). This is not to propose social isolation nordeny any outside cultural influ-ence. Outside cultural influences did affect South Asian cultural development inlater, especially historic, periods, but an identifiable cultural tradition has continued, an Indo-Gangetic Cultural Tradition (Shaffer 1993; Shaffer and Lichtenstein1995, 1999) linking social entities over a time period from the development of food production in the seventh millennium BCto the present.The archaeological record and ancient oral and literate traditions of South Asia are now converging with significant implications for South Asian cultural history.Some scholars suggest there is nothing in the “literature” firmly locating Indo-Aryans, the generally perceived founders of modern South Asian culturaltradition(s) outside of South Asia (see Erdosy 1988, 1989, 1995a,b), and the archaeological record is now confirming this (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999).
Within the chronology of the archaeological data for South Asia describing cul-tural continuity (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1989, 1995, 1999; Shaffer 1992, 1993),however, a significant indigenous  , but it is one correlated to significant geological and environmental changes in the prehistoric period.

J.M. Kenoyer's essay is more difficult to summarize.  I will quote a few excerpts, but you should read the essay rather than accusing me of selective quoting.  And of course, his essay has its own summary.

One of the most important developments is the emergence of new peripheral centers in the Gangetic region concomitant with the eclipse of urban centers in the old core of the Indus Valley. This suggests that the Late Harappan period is not so much a time of decline in the Indus Valley, but rather of social, economic, and political reorganization on a larger scale that includes both the Indus and Gangetic regions as well as the adjacent Malwa Plateau.

{At Harappa}

During the Late Harappan period there is evidence of over-crowding and encroachment rather than abandonment and decline (Kenoyer 1991)
Furthermore, people using pottery identical to that found in Cemetery H were living together with people who were still using Harappan styles of pottery (Meadow et al. 1999). Instead of technological stagnation and reversals, we see evidence of more highly refined techniques of firing pottery and making faience. The earliest evidence for glass production is seen during this time along with new techniques for drilling hard stone beads (Meadow et al. 1996).
With all of these new developments, it is also important to note the relatively sudden disappearance of cubical stone weights, the Indus script, and Indus seals with script and animal motifs (Kenoyer 1998). The unicorn motif and other distinctive symbols of the Indus elites are no longer produced. New types of pottery vessels and the disappearance of traditional Harappan forms indicate changes in food preparation. While there is no evidence for a new set of food crops, the increasing importance of rice and millets indicates a significant change or intensification of the subsistence economy (Weber 1992, 1998; Meadow 1996, 1998). The economic and ritual importance of new animals such as the horse and camel are still not fully understood (Meadow 1998), though they were present by the end of the Late Harappan period and beginning of the Painted Grey Ware Period.
Finally, the changes in burial practices attest to a major shift in ideology, but it is important to note that there is no concrete evidence for the appearance of a new biological population (Hemphill et al. 1991; Kennedy 1992, 1995). This suggests that the changes and discontinuities reflect a transformation of the local population rather than the appearance of new people and the eradication of the Harappan inhabitants.

According to Hemphill et al. (1991) the main biological discontinuities are between 6000 and 4500 BC and then again around 800 BC.

{Hemphill et al.} The Harappan Civilization does indeed represent an indigenous develop- ment within the Indus Valley, but this does not indicate isolation extending back to Neolithic times. Rather, this development represents internal continuity for only 2000 years, combined with interactions with the West and specifically with the Iranian Plateau.
It is important to note that these biological discontinuities are based on a very limited data set and do not indicate massive movements of populations. It is not certain what the cause of these changes is, but they could result from gene flow during the annual movements of traders traveling between the Iranian Plateau and the Indus settlements.

Between 1700 and 800 BC, glass production developed into a common industry and became quite widespread throughout the northern subcontinent. It is important to note that although there is no mention of glass in the Rg Veda, it was known to later Vedic communities and is referred to in the Satapatha Brahmana (Lal 1998: 444).

During the Harappan period, stone beads were being drilled with a hard stone called Ernestite. It is
important to note that none of the Late Harappan-style stone beads appear to havebeen drilled with this type of drill. This could mean that the source of the rare Ernestite drill material was no longer available or that new bead makers without the knowledge of this technique had taken over the bead industry at the site.

Other types of stone beads were made with a new variety of banded black and white agates that was not commonly used during the Harappan period. It is not clear where this agate comes from, but beads of this material are quite abundant in Late Harappan to Early Historic sites of the Gangetic region and even in Kashmir (e.g. Burzahom late levels) (Pande 2000). This suggests that the source may be in the central Deccan Plateau or the Vindhya Mountains. If this can be determined then the presence of these beads at Harappa would indicate an expansion of trade networks to the east. This change in trade focus could also explain the lack of lapis lazuli which would have come from Baluchistan and the absence of the Ernestite drill materials, which came either from Baluchistan or Gujarat. During Harappan times, carnelian is thought to have been obtained primarily from Gujarat though some small carnelian nodules may have been obtained from Baluchistan and Afghanistan. The production of carnelian colored glass beads could indicate a shortage of this natural raw material.

Another important material that came from the coastal areas to the south and southeast was marine shell that was used to make bangles, beads, and ritual objects such as ladles and libation vessels. During the Late Harappan period in the northern regions marine shell ornaments are conspicuously absent (Kenoyer 1983). It is possible that the long-distance trade networks that brought carnelian and marine shell to Harappa from the south were disrupted because of changing river patterns and other socio-economic changes in the intervening sites. A similar breakdown in trade from the northwest may have resulted in the scarcity of lapis lazuli.
{Discussion of pottery} Other aspects of Late Harappan technology and craft traditions remain to be investigated, but even these few examples indicate a vigorous urban economy that continued to support innovation and large-scale production.
 Some notes: one of the things about the Rg Vedic people is that they were supposed to be pastoral, not urban.  But if urban life continued, it is hard to see how the Rg Vedic people displaced the urban language via elite dominance.   Unlike Europe, there is no evidence yet of any major population replacement.

Of course, the Rg Vedic people simply could not have been the whole of the Indus Valley people.   Rather, they were among the peoples present.

The presence of glass manufacturing might be a constraint on the Rg Veda (i.e., it must date to before 1700 BC).  

It seems that trade networks between Punjab and the sea, to Baluchistan and to the northwest were disrupted, but new trade routes to the east were established.

It seems quite plausible to me that there was a major geographic change - the drying up of the Saraswati, caused by geological events or climate change, and that is the indigenous disruption that we see.  There was a rupture of trade routes between Punjab and Sind, it seems.  People moved eastwards.  Perhaps the catastrophe caused a displacement of existing elites.