Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Sten Konow: The Aryan Gods of the Mitani People

Recent findings in ancient human DNA are leading to narratives like the following, e.g., Tony Joseph in Outlook India, September 12, 2019:
And here is an equally unambiguous and clear statement from the study published in Science a few days ago, titled: "The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia": "Using data from ancient individuals from the Swat Valley or northernmost South Asia, we show that Steppe ancestry then integrated further South in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE, contributing up to 30 per cent of the ancestry of most modern groups".

So it is clear, without even a shadow of a doubt, that both the studies support the migration of Central Asian pastoralists who brought Indo-European languages to India, between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE.
For our purposes, let us stipulate that the genetic evidence of the handful of ancient individuals has been interpreted correctly to show a migration into India of Central Asian Pastoralists between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE.   The problematic assertion is this:  "who brought Indo-European languages to India, between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE."  

The only direct evidence of language in India from that era is of the Vedic language, of the Rg Veda and subsequent works.   The theory of Aryan Invasion/Migration is that these Central Asian pastoralists brought the Vedic language to India, and so the Rg Veda, if composed in India, must date to 2000 BCE - 1500 BCE or so.

The Rg Vedic hymns sing the praises of the mighty Saraswati river, and the geographical information in later texts of the drying/dried-up Saraswati plus modern science enables us to identify the ancient perennial river that the Saraswati must have been, and it last flowed 9000 to 4500 years before present. 

The Rg Veda places the Saraswati along with the Ganga, Yamuna and the rivers of Punjab and so the theory that the Vedic people transferred the name of some river outside of India to the river that was already desiccated when they arrived is hardly tenable.  Why they would not transfer the holy name of Saraswati to one of the great rivers they newly encountered is another mystery.   Totally far-fetched is the notion that the Vedic people took an older tradition from non-Indo-European inhabitants and translated it into their hymns.

Next, we have the treaty between the Hittites and the Mitani, found in the cuneiform library unearthed at Boghazkoi in Turkey which mention Vedic gods - specifically Indra, Mitra-Varuna and the Nasatyas.   The dates given via Egyptian and Middle Eastern chronologies for the Mitani treaty are 1375 BCE - 1350 BCE.   The lineage of the Mitani signatory, Mattiuaza (a.k.a. Shattiwaza) is known, via the cuneiform libraries,  to have extended at least four  generations prior, and his ancestor, Shuttarna I, son of (legendary?) Kirta is dated to early 15 century BCE.

So how did Indra, Mitra-Varuna and the Nasatyas make their way to ancient Mesopotamia around 1500 BCE?  The Aryan Invasionist postulates that these deities developed before the Aryans reached India and then some branch of the Aryans carried these gods to the Mitani lands and some other branch carried them to India.

 Norwegian Indologist Sten Konow, in his paper published in 1923,  argues persuasively that the Vedic gods were of Indian development.  Since I found it difficult to get hold of a copy of this paper, I imagine it is the same for others,  and so I present here a scan (link) and a transcript (link) of the paper.

 Konow like the other Indologists of his time, believed in the Aryan Invasion Theory.  His chronology seems to be an early Indo-European period, followed by a period of Aryan unity, when the ancestors of the Indian/Iranian Aryans ranged from perhaps the Volga to the outskirts of India; and lastly the Indian period, after the Aryans split into Indian, Iranian and possible other branches.  Konow argues that the Vedic gods as mentioned in the Mitani treaty are developments from the Indian period, and not from the period of Aryan unity.   Konow writes:

"As far as I can see, everything points to the conclusion that Jacobi was right in maintaining that the Mitani gods were Indian and not Aryan, so that we must, in fact, assume that the sphere of Indian civilization had, in the middle of the second millennium B.C., extended into Mesopotamia. The epoch of the Aryan conquest of India and the beginning of Indian civilization must consequently be relegated to a still earlier period, though we have no means of stating how long an interval we must assume between the Aryan invasion and the Mitani treaty. There is, however, one small detail which prevents us from thinking that this interval was quite short."

"I hope to have made it probable that these gods were Indian and not Aryan or even Iranian. If the conception of the Aśvins as groomsmen belongs to the later phases of the Ṛgveda period, as it seems to do, we must further draw the conclusion that the extension of Indo-Aryan civilization into Mesopotamia took place after the bulk of the Ṛgveda had come into existence. The oldest portions of the collection would consequently have to be considered as considerably older than the Mitani treaty. "
If you accept Konow's conclusion, this means there is simply not enough time for Central Asian Pastoralists to enter India between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE, with Indo-European languages and the precursor forms of Indra, Mitra, Varuna and Nasatyas; to develop the later forms of the deities, and then carry them to the Mesopotamia by 1500 BCE."

The modern Aryan invasionist/migrationist, as far as I know, conveniently doesn't address Konow's arguments.  It would be interesting to see a modern response to Konow.  It would also be interesting to see how the non-invasionist accommodates or dismantles Konow's arguments.

What are the possibilities that the Aryan invasions might entertain?

One could open a can of worms by casting doubt on the Mitani chronology.  One could also cast doubt on Konow's (invasionist) reading and interpretation of the Vedic literature. One might argue that developments in the Vedic pantheon were being contemporaneously being transmitted from northern India to Mesopotamia -- but in that case, one would have to rethink how language and Indo-European culture was transmitted, migrations and invasions are hardly necessary.

One might argue that the ancient human DNA is wrongly dated, and the invasion/migration that the genetic evidence indicated actually occurred a thousand years earlier.  But the geneticists are unlikely to have the eras so wrong. In any case, the Aryan invasionist won't want to give up the 2000 BCE-1500 BCE chronology in any case.

IMO, the most viable conclusion is that the Vedic pantheon was developed in India much before 1500 BC and migrated from India to the Mitani lands.   In which case the people that genetics says were migrating into India between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE did not introduce Indo-European languages to India, the Vedic language was already there.  This is not impossible, the Sakas around 200 BCE - 100 CE, and the English, 1700-1950 CE also carried with themselves Indo-European languages to India, but did not introduce them to India.   The Aryan invasionist can continue to postulate that the first entry of Indo-European language into India was via invasion or migration, but the evidence of the Mitani treaty is that this event has to be much prior to 1500 BC; and via the evidence of the Saraswati, prior to 2500 BC.

A point peripheral to the above, but of interest is that Konow argues on linguistic grounds that the dasyus/dasas mentioned in the Rg Veda as the enemies of the Vedic people were not speakers of Dravidian languages, but rather spoke in Kolarian tongues (the Austroasiatic language family in India).

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Satellite Remote Sensing Techniques to Unearth the Lost Sarasvati River & its Palaeochannels

Dr. B.K Bhadra from ISRO presents detailed multi resolution satellite studies of the river Saraswati in northern Haryana. He discusses the specifics of the remote sensing techniques, including satellite imagery, used to study the paleo channels of the river and related analysis. In his present research, he focuses on high resolution optical and microwave satellite data in delineating the paleo channels in Haryana and Punjab as well as the Sarasvati delta structure in the Rann of Kutch to present an integrated map of the Sarasvati paleo channels. He presents material to show that paleo channels have also been validated through collateral ground data such as published maps during British and Mughal periods, as well as paleo geomorphic structures, hydrological parameters and radiometric ages of river sediments. By considering evidence from archaeology as well and the spatial distribution of the Harappan settlements, Dr. Bhadra presents how the entire course of the river Sarasvati has been delineated and the growth of Indus-Sarasvati civilization studied from these disciplinary perspectives.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Is there such a thing as intelligence?

On dailykos, Nonlinear asks: Is There Such A Thing As Intelligence?

Writing about himself,
As I moved forward in school a pattern began to emerge. I am what is known as a three tier learner. There are subjects in which I express severe learning disabilities. ....Then there is a second tier, subjects where I am right around average. In school this was things like Social Studies, English, Art, Chemistry, Biology, Auto Mechanics, Wood Working, Drafting, Literature and Physics. I was a B student in all these things.
Then there were the things I was gifted in which included  Math, Metal Work, Music and Physical Education. And once I got into an enriched High School you can add Agriculture, Ag Mechanics, Home Ec, Electronics, Plumbing, and Economics. In these I was an A+ student
But depending which IQ test you administer and how you administer it I go off the conventional scoring table (over 200) or am far below average and profoundly disabled at 69. You can manipulate the test you give me to get a result anywhere in between. The smartest move I have ever made was refusing to allow them to write about me in journals and turn me into a circus freak. I am a human calculator. I honestly can’t understand why people can’t just multiply and divide large numbers in their head. I also calendar calculate. And yes I have been called an Idiot Savant, for a while that was my diagnosis.

But being a freak has lead to me being fascinated by intelligence and how it works. I have come to conclude that there is no such thing as general intelligence. All mental activity is situational. 
Nonlinear then takes up the case of animal whisperers of which he is one to make his point.