Chariots and spoked wheels in proto-historic India

["Chariot (wheels) in proto-historic India (Indology List)" has been visited 841 times since 10 March 2007]

[AIT/AMT versus OIT

Aryan Invasion/Migration vs. Out-of-India Theories]

 A digest of messages posted at the Indology List

compiled by

Francesco Brighenti

See the related digests, also compiled by Francesco, again on Chariots and Spoked Wheels from the Indian Civilizations List and on Horses also from the Indology List. The messages below have been copy-edited [in progress – SV] for uniformity in formatting (e.g., non-English terms, bibliographic entries, etc.) and improved legibility. If you have been referred here with a message number, click on its entry (the author and date of the post will show when you place the cursor over it) in the left frame to jump immediately to the corresponding message. You should verify against the original post at the relevant archive before citing elsewhere (there is no numbered message index in the Indology List archives, so you’ll have to do ‘keyword’ text searches to retrieve the original posts).

 [* Message numbers above posts correspond to what is returned in Search Results frame of Indology Archives]

From: Vidhyanath Rao

Date: November 25, 1996

I browsed through this and I came across a statement to the effect that chariots in Central Asia have been dated to near 2000 BCE, with the information attributed to some participants at the `Aryan and Non-Aryan' conference. Can anybody with first hand access to the dating tell me about the tightness of dating, and the method of dating used?

It may be worthwhile to mention the reason for this query. While Indologists seem to believe that Indo-Iranians invented the chariots and with this `secret weapon' went tearing through the Near East and India, this was disputed by Littauer and Crouwel, _Wheeled Transport and Ridden Animals in Ancient Near East'_. Stuart Piggott argued that the Central Asian chariotry is slightly older, but chariot technology quickly spread through the Near East by trade contacts (rather than by Indo-Iranians conquering everything in their way with their new super-duper chariots). If Central Asian chariot remains do date to 2000 BCE, the argument changes quite a bit.

Of course, dating the evolution of chariots is important for the Aryan entry to India also. If chariots were not around before 1800 BCE (the date that was accepted for Central Asian and Near Eastern evidence), chariot riders, skilful enough to cross the mountains of Afghanistan in vehicles usually assumed to be effective only on dry level ground, could not get into India in 2000 BCE.

From: Lars Martin Fosse

Date: April 1, 1998

In addition to Vidhyanath Rao's bibliographic info on chariots, here is another piece on the chariot:

Jacqueline Manessy-Guitton: Recherches sur la terminologie du "char" en védique, en mycénien et chez Homère. Etudes Indo-Européennes 20 (1987?).

From: Vidhyanath Rao

Date: May 29, 1998

This is my promised post about practical details concerning chariots. This is based on reports of experiments with reconstructed vehicles in the references I gave in March. These are requirements forced by mechanics and horse anatomy. If you disagree with the necessity of these features in a practical chariot, you need to build a chariot that is like what you think the old Indo-Iranian chariot was like and show by practical experiments that it is practical. Without such a demonstration (or a re-analysis of Vedic texts that shows that the usual picture of Vedic chariot needs to be changed), the practicality of the Vedic chariot must remain in doubt. How many Indologists would accept existence of flying machines in ancient India that do not fit the requirements of aeronautics, purely on the basis of the epics and the Puranas?

1. Yoke placement: The withers of horses are sensitive and it would not do to put a load on them for any length of time. The yoke must be placed ahead of the withers (on the neck) or behind the withers. In the former case, a girth makes no sense. The girth will pull the yoke down when tightened. It will also rub against the join of legs and body and irritate the horse. 2nd millennium. BCE chariots all seem to have used a neck yoke. At some point, Greeks switched to the dorsal yoke (Spruytte suggests that this was during the geometric or archaic period). Confusion of the two led Noettes to reconstruct a harness with yoke on the withers and a girth. [He was also grinding his own axe, about technological reasons for slavery in the ancient world.] Unfortunately this idea continues to exert an influence: Sparreboom, who lists Spruytte in his references, for unstated reasons assumes that Noettes' reconstruction of harness is correct and was used everywhere in the ancient world.

2. Backing element: The necks of horses become narrower as it approaches the head. Without any further device, when the chariot slows down (whether approaching a turn or stopping), the neck band will slide up and put pressure on the throat. The so-called girth in Near Eastern representations is actually a backing element. That this had no role in securing the yoke is proved by the fact this is always shown loose in the Near Eastern representations. Of course, with the dorsal yoke, there has to be a girth to secure the yoke to the horses. But this is totally different kind of harnessing.

3. Yoke saddle: Yoke saddle functioned like a very primitive horse collar. [Again, failure to appreciate the real nature led to strange conclusions. It was assumed that this was a functionless ornament and was thought to have been mounted with the fork up. Some museum (Florence?) even showed a reconstructed chariot thus (corrected some time in the 70's). Several months ago, I saw a book about horses in Barnes and Nobles (published by them) which showed a photo of the old, incorrect reconstruction.] So with the yoke saddle, the horse pushes that with its shoulders, and this is transmitted via the yoke and the pole to the chariot. This leaves too many links to break, but is serviceable. But without it, the horse is pulling by its neck and this is hard to reconcile with fast, manoeuvrable chariot. Noettes, based on his reconstruction, concluded that ancient harnessing limited the load to about 500 kg. But, once the chariot is in motion, force is needed to overcome mainly the friction between the wheel and the axle. This is proportional to the velocity (and to the load). So a chariot weighing 30 kg and carrying two men with their gear, weighing let us say 70 kg each, with the horses in a trot (a chariot with horses always in a walk is hardly a great improvement over older vehicles) and going up a slope of 1 in 150 would put more strain than walking horses pulling 500 kg on level ground. [When you go up a slope, you need to overcome gravity continuously. Based on the value of friction of wood on wood greased with animal fat given in ``Mechanics of pre-industrial technology'', a slope with sine of 1/105 would make the force needed to overcome gravity equal to the force to overcome friction between the wheel hub and the axle.]

4. Hub construction: It is hard to get tight fit between a wooden axle and a wooden wheel/hub. In Egyptian chariots found the tombs, this was overcome by making the hub quite long. This will reduce the vibrations in the axle (try putting a rod in a ring, and then in a short tube and wiggling the rod about) and reduce the strain on the axle. There is also a side effect of increasing the wheel base and making the chariots more stable in fast turns. Conversely, without some such arrangement, the `chariot' will be more prone to breakage due to vibrations and to tipping over in fast turns.

5. Axle placement: With a neck yoke, it is important to keep the yoke down at all times to avoid undue pressure on the underside of horses' neck. [Spruytte flatly states that shoulder traction is incompatible with balanced loads unless the horses remain at a walk.] This is easily achieved by placing the axle at the rear of the chariot. In the reconstructed vehicle Spruytte used, about 15% of the load was on the horses' neck, enough to keep the yoke down. With central axle, there is every danger that the load would shift, causing the neck-band to rise. The Near Eastern representations with central axles come from seals or sealings where space was at a premium. Egyptian sculptures show all chariots with axles in the rear. Of course, with the dorsal yoke, there is no need for this. It would be better to use central axles to reduce the load on the horses.

6. Horse size: The horses in the ancient world were small by modern standards, mostly fitting into the category of large ponies or smaller. This means that the vehicles of the time must be light enough for these horses to pull at trot or gallop. It also means that the horses were not that much of an improvement in power over hemiones or ass-hemione hybrids. [Hemiones have been clocked at 60 kmph or faster and are said to be capable of maintaining 20-25 kmph for hours. By 3rd millennium BCE standards, that is break neck speed. It is the failure to domesticate hemiones that led to the eventual discontinuation of their use.] Since these were in use already in Sumerian times, the assertions that the `chariots' of the steppes were a secret weapon that would have unnerved the people of the Near East or that it made the Indo-Iranian warriors invincible is a flight of fancy. And it also removes one more objection to gradual evolution of chariots. If, as Witzel is apparently willing to admit now, steppe chariots were `relics', this objection becomes stronger.

Let us turn to Sanchi representations and Sparreboom's reconstruction: The Sanchi representations often show the yoke high on the neck. This is not feasible if a girth was also used to secure them as Sparreboom reconstructs. Some of the Sanchi representations also show a true girth, running around the body of the horse. But they are well behind the yoke, which leaves them without any clear purpose. In some cases, there is a strap running to the yoke from the girth. Sometimes this strap is tied to the tail. In other cases, this strap itself seems to run around the horse's body. But in some cases this strap shows bends that are not compatible with it being under tension. In addition the axle is always placed centrally under the chariot body, which is problematic with a neck yoke.

For these reasons, I cannot agree with the conclusion that these show a realistic chariot. The likely explanation is clear once we realize the Greek influence on Indian sculpture of this period. The artist is probably mixing up Indo-Greek chariots with dorsal yokes, ox-carts (one of the Sanchi relieves shows a vehicle with two spoked wheels being pulled by oxen) and hear-say reports of chariots with neck yokes. So for the Vedic chariots we are left with only the textual evidence.

If you are going to insist on realism of Sanchi representations, the only possible conclusion is that the Indian chariot was a hodge-podge of features, thrown together without clear understanding of harnessing and was never practical the way Near Eastern chariots were. There goes the alleged mastery of chariotry by Indo-Iranians, the Kikkuli treatise and the rest of it.

From: Jan E. M. Houben

Date: June 16, 1998

From etymologies and archaeological remains to texts:

The relatively realistic hymn on the horse dadhikrA (RV 4.38) testifies to an intensive use of horse and chariots. The king to which the horse dadhikrA belonged was a destroyer of Dasyus (ghana'm da'syubhyo). But otherwise it was apparently mainly used in "cattle raids", in which it was extremely successful. The horse, fast as the wind (vAtam iva dhra'jantam) overtook chariots (rathatu'ram). It was apparently pulling a chariot itself, e.g. 4.40.4b dadhikrA, by now fully deified, is still said to be tied at neck, apikakSa' (?) and mouth). It "overtook" or "remained before" the whip (4.40.4a) so the driver was behind the horse, not sitting on it.

Interpretation: some historical, royal horse was extremely fast and helped greatly in fights and raids. That its praise was accepted as a hymn and was circulated and transmitted as such shows how highly valuated a fast horse and chariot were, apparently for practical purposes. Whether the necessary techniques for horse-keeping and chariotry were taken from somewhere or locally innovated, they must have played a role in the success of the important Vedic tribe the Purus (speaking a partly already 'creolized' but still strongly 'Indo- European' language).

From: Yaroslov V. Vassilkov Date: July 22, 1998

Dear colleagues,

Participants of the recent discussion on horses, chariots, wheels etc. will probably find some new useful information in an article written by a Russian archaeologist now living in the USA:

Yelena Izbitser, “Wheeled Vehicles and the Home of the Indo-Europeans”, in “Proceedings of the Seventh UCLA Indo-European Conference, Los Angeles, 1995” (_Journal of Indo-European Studies_, No. 27, 1998).

The paper deals not with chariots, but with the earliest wheeled vehicles: primitive wagons with disk-shaped wheels.

From: Naga Ganesan

Date: November 3, 1998

Sintashta chariots are the world's earliest chariots. They are dated to 2000 BC. Littauer calls them protochariots. Archaeology shows the Sintashta culture to be proto-Indo-Iranian (the mortuary rituals, one burial of a man whose head was removed and replaced with that of a horse along with Yama's flute at his feet, Rgvedic motifs).

In Roman horse sacrifices, called October Equus, the right-sided horse of the paired team in chariots was sacrificed. Both in Indian asvamedha and Roman ritual, the right side horse of paired draught was sacrificed. Also, the Indo-European culture over a vast area exhibits divine horse-twins myth which should have come about only after horses were used in draught. Homer gives "Indian style" description of chariot races.

If Proto-Indo-European had broken up long before 2000 BC, then chariots must have spread though diffusion to India, Greece, Rome and Ireland. I agree on this possibility. But, why then the rituals and myths of the Paired Horse are ALSO found both in the East and West??? It is highly unlikely that diffusion works here over several thousand miles at such an early date.

Parallels between Roman and Indian ritual where paired draught horse is used shows that Late Common Indo-European must have been closer to their eastern wing: the Sintashta Proto-Indo-Iranian folks. The Indo-European horse myth and ritual spread from a compact area when Proto-Indo-European just starts to break up or, having split few centuries earlier.

Texts are dated by looking for clues of latest dates, not for their earliest dates. This happens for dating the oldest Indo-Aryan text, Sanskrit Rgveda and for the oldest Dravidian text, Tamil Tolkappiyam. Why would it be different for Proto-Indo-European break-up dates? The latest evidence for Proto-Indo-European being in a compact area is at 2000 BC (not 5000 BC) May be the 'pottery' changes, may be 'milk drinking' habits... We think that they are Indo-European specific or some other culture and attribute much earlier dates. I don't understand 'linguistic distance' between Celtic and Sanskrit (being a structural dynamicist). But books say Indo-Europeans were small percentage who imposed elite dominance over the resident large populations. Typically, the percentages are 10% for Indo-Europeans and 90% natives. But in India and Ireland, the natives are so different, and that difference may be what we observe in 'linguistic distance' too. Substratum influences may account for 'linguistic distances'.

But the Indic asvamedha and Roman October Equus have so close similarities that ought to have come from a common, compact area. People from that area started to spread out after the use of horses in pairs.

David Anthony, “Shards of Speech”, 1995, _Antiquity_, v. 69: "Terms for wheel, axle and draft pole, and a verb meaning 'to go or convey in a vehicle' suggest that Proto-Indo-European existed as a single language after 3500 BC, when wheeled vehicles were invented. Proto-Indo-European must have begun to disintegrate before 2000 BC: by 1500 BC three of its daughter languages -- Greek, Hittite and Indic -- had become quite dissimilar. Altogether, then the linguistic evidence points to a homeland between the Ural and Caucasus mountains, in the centuries between 3500 and 2000 BC."

The lower limit of Anthony's break-up date is 2000 BC. When I think of 1) the parallels of horse slaughter in Vedic India and the distant Rome and 2) the archaeological date (2000 BC) for chariotry's beginnings, that also points to the same Proto-Indo-European break-up date (may be 2500 BC, may be as late as 2000 BC).

Any comments, please?

From: Yaroslov V. Vassilkov

Date: November 4, 1998

P. K. Manansala wrote:

We see Persians using cuneiform and Aramaic scripts that they borrowed. Assyrians certainly had their own chariots. These type of things crossed linguistic and ethnic barriers. So, I ask how do we know the Sintashta or related cultures spoke Indo-European? Why couldn't they have spoken languages related to Hurrian, the Caucasian languages or Uralic (among others)?

No, they could not, it is absolutely impossible. Sintashta site belongs to Andronovo culture spread in the 2nd millennium BC in the Eurasian steppe from Volga to Mongolia. And the specialists assert that the origin of the Iranian-speaking cultures of Scythians, S(h)akas, Sarmatians (I millennium BC - I millennium AD) can be traced retrospectively to this Andronovo culture. This conclusion is not based on some single inherited element of culture (e.g., the custom of some Scythian tribes to bury their rulers together with his horses and chariot, just like the Andronovo people did), but on the whole complex of inherited features: belonging of both Scythians and Andronovo people to the same or similar type of productive economy, the use of similar tools, the same type of dwellings, technology of making pottery, common types of dress and ornaments, common set of sacred animals and mythological figures (reconstructed on the basis of their art), common set of basic weapons. The genetic continuity is evidenced by anthropological data. See numerous works by Prof. Elena Kuzmina (e.g.: “Horses, Chariots and the Indo-Iranians: An Archaeological Spark in the Historical Dark”, in _South Asian Archaeology 1993_, vol. I, Helsinki, 1994, pp. 402-412). I cannot accept her idea that the Andronovo culture represents Indo-Iranians or even probably Proto-Indo-Aryans. I think they were Iranians already and the Proto-Indo-Aryan branch is rather represented by the Novosvobodnaya ("Maikop") culture in Northern Caucasus (see my article in SAA 1993, vol. 2, pp. 777-786).

From: Naga Ganesan

Date: November 5, 1998

Many guesses for Proto-Indo-European split-up dates are possible. But the evidence points to a more likely scenario that Proto-Indo-European people lived as one single speech community in rather a small region after 3500 BC. Want to know the reasons why Proto-Indo-European split up before 6000 BC? I will appreciate a summary of main points for a Proto-Indo-European split date like 6000 BC or references.

Prof. Anthony's reasoning is attached below:

D. W. Anthony, “Horse, Wagon and Chariot: Indo-European Languages and Archaeology”. _Antiquity_, Sept. 1995, v. 69, no. 264, p. 554(12)

Wheels and the date of the Indo-European spread – “Reconstructed proto-Indo-European (Proto-Indo-European) represents a real ancient vocabulary that is potentially of inestimable value to archaeologists. Historical linguists have established that the speakers of Proto-Indo-European were familiar with wheeled vehicles, reconstructing at least six Proto-Indo-European terms that refer to them: three terms for wheel (perhaps an indication of the importance of wheels in Proto-Indo-European life), one for axle, one for 'thill' (the draft pole to which the yoke is attached) and a verbal root meaning 'to go or convey in a vehicle'. Cognates for these terms exist in all branches of Indo-European, from Celtic in the west to Sanskrit and Tocharian in the east, and from Baltic in the north to Hittite and Greek in the south (Schrader 1890: 339; Specht 1944: 99-103; Gamkrelidze & Ivanov 1984: 718-38; Anthony & Wailes 1988; Anthony 1991; Meid 1994).

The Proto-Indo-European terms probably referred to the earliest form of wheeled vehicle -- the solid-wheeled wagon or cart, pulled (slowly) by cattle. There is no single shared root for 'spoke', a later refinement in wheeled-vehicle technology. Renfrew and others have suggested that none of these terms need derive from Proto-Indo-European; all of them might have spread through the Indo-European languages as wheeled vehicle technology diffused, long after the separation and formation of the Indo-European daughter tongues (Renfrew 1987: 86, 110; 1988: 464-5; Zvelebil & Zvelebil 1988).

A post-Proto-Indo-European date for the diffusion of wheeled vehicles is unlikely for four reasons.

First, the cognate vocabulary consists of not one term, but at least six. Entire technical vocabularies have rarely been borrowed intact over so large an area in the absence of sophisticated communications and literacy. The core wagon vocabulary is distributed from India to Scotland with no terms confined to just the western or just the eastern Indo-European languages. If it diffused after the Indo-European dispersal it must have spread as a single semantic unit over a very large region that was fragmented linguistically, ethnically and ecologically. The diffusion of other post-Proto-Indo-European technologies (notably the spoke and iron) through the Indo-European-speaking world was not accompanied by the spread of standardized vocabularies in the manner proposed for wheeled vehicles.

Second, the diffusion of the earliest wheeled vehicle technology occurred so rapidly that we cannot now determine if it was invented by a single donor culture and diffused, or if it was independently invented in several regions (Piggott 1983: 63; Hausler 1994). The post-Proto-Indo-European theory assumes a single donor culture whose vehicular vocabulary was adopted across the entire territory between India and western Europe. No archaeological evidence has been offered for this proposition, and much contradicts it.

Third, since five of the six Indo-European wheeled-vehicle terms (all except 'thill' or draft-pole) have good Indo-European etymologies -- they are derived from recognizable Indo-European verbal or noun roots -- the core vocabulary must have been created by an Indo-European-speaking group, which places additional constraints on an already awkward diffusionary hypothesis.

Finally, there is simply no internal phonetic or morphological evidence for borrowing within the relevant Indo-European vocabulary. None of these terms -- and there are at least 35, when the six roots are multiplied by the number of Indo-European languages in which they appear -- is a phonological or morphological misfit within its language lineage (Gamkrelidze & Ivanov 1984: 718-38; Meid 1994; Mallory & Adams forthcoming).

If the wheeled-vehicle vocabulary originated in an Indo-European daughter language after the separation of the Indo-European languages into numerous distinct phonological and morphological systems, then the phonetic and morphological traits of that language should be detectable in at least some of the borrowed vocabulary, given the phonological distinctiveness of the Indo-European daughter languages. The absence of such evidence indicates that the Indo-European wheeled-vehicle vocabulary was not borrowed, but inherited from Proto-Indo-European. [Note 1: I have not proposed that wheeled vehicle technology originated in the Proto-Indo-European homeland, a position that has been attributed to me by Hausler (1994: 223). I have proposed only that most of the Indo-European vocabulary for wheeled vehicles originated in Proto-Indo-European.]

None of these problems has been explicitly addressed or acknowledged in print, beyond a brief discussion in _Current Anthropology_ (Renfrew 1988). While the diffusionary scenario for Indo-European wheeled-vehicle terminology remains an assertion, largely unanalysed and undefended, the genetic-inheritance explanation has been researched and supported in specialized studies by linguists (Specht 1944: 99-103; Gamkrelidze & Ivanov 1984: 718-38; review in Anthony 1991: 198-201; Meid 1994; Mallory & Adams forthcoming). The simplest and most widely accepted explanation of the linguistic evidence is that the speakers of Proto-Indo-European were familiar with and had a vocabulary for wheeled vehicles. Coleman's (1988) brief linguistic dissent stands alone against a body of scholarship to which he did not refer. If we accept the majority interpretation, Proto-Indo-European should have existed as a unified speech community after wheeled vehicles were invented. Archaeological evidence places this event after 3500 BC.”

From: Naga Ganesan

Date: November 6, 1998

P. Manansala writes:

the fact that there are no morphological or phonological variation between languages only suggests that the terms existed in Proto-Indo-European. However, it doesn't prove they were not borrowed by Proto-Indo-European itself.

David Anthony ALSO agrees. All he is saying is Proto-Indo-European as one single speech community existed in 3500 BC in rather a small area when wheels and wagons were invented.

He says the wheels were invented in the Near East and not by Proto-Indo-Europeans.

From: M. Carrasquer Vidal

Date: November 6, 1998

Renfrew puts Proto-Indo-European around or before 6000 BC (the date of the earliest farmers in Greece and the Balkans) or even earlier, in Anatolia (Catal Huyuk, c. 7000 BC).

Such dates are impossibly early, and Renfrew's arguments are linguistically unsound in other respects (if Hittite is the direct descendant of the "stay behinds" in Anatolia, and Greek the direct descendant of the language of the first farmers that crossed over from Anatolia to Greece, then we would expect Greek to be closest to Hittite. In fact, Greek is much more similar to Sanskrit than to Hittite).

But I do agree with Renfrew that there's a striking similarity between the expansion of Indo-European languages across Europe and the expansion of agriculture across the same area. It has to be borne in mind, however, that this expansion was not entirely gradual as Renfrew has it, but proceeded in several stages.

It is easy to see how this came about: the Anatolian farmers, when they crossed over into Greece, Bulgaria and southern parts of ex-Yugoslavia and Romania, found circumstances similar to the ones they were used to in Anatolia: basically hilly terrain and Mediterranean climate.

Further north, in temperate Europe (Ukrainian and Hungarian steppe, North European flatlands), conditions were quite different, and the Mediterranean farming techniques simply did not work. That is why in the period from 7000-5500 BC agriculture spreads only to the Western Mediterranean, but stays confined to the Balkans elsewhere (Karanovo, Starcevo, Cris, Ko"ro"s cultures).

It is in the Hungarian Ko"ro"s area that the transition to temperate conditions is made, and c. 5500 BC we see the second stage of Neolithic expansion: the "Danubian" or Linear Ware (LBK) culture, that quickly expands from Hungary north-west across Germany to the Netherlands and from Hungary north-east to Czechia, Slovakia and Poland.

A little later, the Dnepr-Donets culture expands (from Poland/Belarus?) into the Ukrainian and Caspian forest-steppes.

My theory is that these movements c. 5500 BC represent the break-up of Proto-Indo-European (Proto-Hittite staying behind in the Balkan area, the Ko"ro"s/LBK groups moving east and west to eventually become Western and Eastern Indo-European).

Admittedly, the common vocabulary for wheeled transport is a problem for my theory (not as much as for Renfrew's version, of course).

If wheeled transport was invented c. 3500 BC, there is still a gap of two millennia between my date for Proto-Indo-European break-up and the wheel.

There is of course the possibility that future archaeological finds may push the date a bit further back [we are dealing with perishable wooden, non-metallic, artefacts after all], but it seems unlikely that wheeled transport existed before 4000 BC, and 5500 BC is too much to hope for.

But at the same time, what I am arguing for is an early Indo-European-speaking area which had not yet expanded into its present area (France, Great Britain & Ireland, Italy, Spain, Central Asia, Iran, N. India had not yet been Indo-Europeanized by 3500 BC). We can roughly compare the area occupied by Indo-Europeans between 5500 and 3500 with the present area of the Romance languages, and likewise the linguistic distance between the Indo-European languages at the time (Romance is some 2000 years old).

Now there are plenty of examples of technical vocabulary that has spread across the Romance area since the fall of the Roman Empire, which might be confused for original Proto-Romance (i.e. Latin) words is we didn't have Latin to know they weren't. The classical example is pseudo-Latin *<duos gentes de armas super caballos>, "two policemen on horses". But the Latin for "horses" was <equi>, and "gendarmes" as such did not exist in Roman times.

Furthermore, most of the words in question are derived from common Indo-European roots (*weg^h- "to carry" -> "to transport, to ride", *ak^s- "armpit, arm, shoulder, wing" -> "axle", *kwel-, *kwekwel- "to turn, to spin" -> "wheel, chariot", *retH-/*rotH- "to run" -> "wheel, chariot").

Assuming a time depth of 2000 years (5500-3500 BC), and that the Indo-European dialects were still largely mutually intelligible (as the Romance languages are today), such transparent formations may have easily been picked up and adopted by other Indo-European speakers, along with the items themselves.

From: Naga Ganesan

Date: November 6, 1998

Please take a look. If we accept a relation between Roman and Indic religions, then the 5500 BC Proto-Indo-European break-up cannot be sustained.

Mallory admits to a problem in reconciling this data from Indo-European comparative mythology:

On the horse sacrifice (from Mallory, _In Search of the Indo-Europeans_, p. 135ff):

"The major ritual enactment of a horse-centered myth is supported by evidence from ancient India and Rome, and, more distantly, medieval Ireland. ... The ashvamedha bears comparison with the major Roman horse sacrifice which was known as the October Equus. Following a horse race on the ides of October, the right-sided horse of the team was dispatched by a spear and then dismembered, again in such a fashion as to indicate its "functional" division into the three estates. ... detailed analysis of this and other material has led Jaan Puhvel to propose a Proto-Indo-European myth and ritual which involved the mating of a figure from the royal class with a horse from which ultimately sprung the famous equine divine twins. He offers some additional linguistic support for such a ritual in the very name of the Indic ceremony, the ashvamedha. This derives from the Proto-Indo-European *ek'wo-meydho 'horse-drunk', attesting a ritual which included both a horse and drunkenness. This is quite comparable to the personal name Epomeduos which is found in ancient Gaul and appears to derive from *ekwo-medu 'horse-mead'. ... Hence, both the Indic and Celtic worlds still preserve the ancient Proto-Indo-European name of a horse-centered ceremony involving intoxication. The horse ritual warrants one more comment since it illustrates all too well how a comparison of myths may lead us along paths that appear to be contradicted by archaeological evidence. Both the ashvamedha and the October Equus clearly concern the sacrifice of a draught horse and in a striking instance of parallelism, both require that the horse in question excels on the right side of the chariot ... Clearly, this suggests that the horse is selected from a paired chariot team. But archaeological evidence indicates that the horse was not likely to have been employed in paired draught until the invention of the spoked wheel and chariot, which is normally dated after about 2500 BC and, consequently, some time after we would have assumed the disintegration of the Proto-Indo-European community. Indeed, the entire concept of horse-twins, totally points to paired draught, while the archaeological evidence suggests that this should not be so at the time-depth we normally assign to Proto-Indo-European."

From: Vidhyanath Rao

Date: November 11, 1998

Given the recent flurry of messages about the horse arguments, this may be the right time to tie a loose end: I did not elaborate on the Sanchi representations at that time, pending a reply from Sparreboom. In a separate post, I will give my letter and paraphrase Sparreboom's reply. For now, I have just a few general comments.

Some philologists and archaeologists seem to assume that it is a proven fact that proto-Indo-Iranians invented the classic chariot and spread out conquering everything before them, like the Mongols under Genghis Khan (BTW, Mongols lost a few battles too, notably to Egyptians.) For example, the contributions of Soviet archaeologists to SAA 93 seem odd those who distrust this claim. But distrust we must, for reasons I have gone over in great detail before, and which can be found in the archives. The number of ``experts'' who claim something is no measure of truth. The simple fact that the chief exponents of steppe invention of the classic chariot reconstruct a functional `chariot' with neck yoke and central axle is proof of this.

The best that can be said, IMHO, seems to be Piggott's view: The steppe cultures were part of the milieu that perfected the chariot. But it is unlikely that they invented the functional chariot as found in 15th century BCE Near East and sprang it on an unsuspecting world. Given the complex net of features of the chariot, it is likely that it emerged over a few centuries, with experience gained in real battles. Evidence for such is lacking in the steppes.

In particular, any attempts to identify Proto-Indo-Iranians with specific steppe culture based on supposed invention of chariots remains beset by lack of convincing data. And trying to see war chariots in the impressions in Sintashta graves ignores the very real objections raised by Littuaer and Crouwel. Ignoring subtleties of fields one does not specialize in is not limited to scientists. Real vehicles have to conform to laws of physics and must be constructible with available technology. Just because some archaeologists and philologists are not aware of the issues will not make them go away.

The similarities between Sintashta burials and Vedic culture are not so convincing either. The RV references given by Genning in JIES article of late 70's seem too general to point especially to Sintashta burials.

The find of one case of human body and horse head cannot be compared to Dadhyanc. The former is a funerary practice while the latter is a myth. Surely no one is proposing that Dadhyanc was a real live person and that the Asvins did perform the first case of head transplant.

Comparing the burial of horse and dog cannot be compared to asvamedha: In the latter the dog is killed when the horse starts its year long wandering; the two animals are not buried together. The Sintashta burial is a clear case of burying the man's possessions with him, a practice found quite widely. The graves give evidence of burial of various animals with the dead and that sometimes horses and dogs occur together is of no more significance than of horse and sheep or sheep and cattle or any other combination.

From: Michael Witzel

Date: November 11, 1998

Vidhyanath Rao wrote:

Anthony's claim that `wegh' meant `convey in a vehicle' sounds suspect to me. It does not have that specific a meaning in RV. What about Hittite, Greek, etc?

The attestation in a great number of Indo-European languages points to a rather old meaning "to take something (in a vehicle) somewhere" (terminative action), which has become durative already in (late) Proto-Indo-European and thus made an s-aorist necessary (Vedic avaaT, subj. aor. vakS-at; Greek [dial.] eFekse, Latin vexi, etc.). Present: Vedic vahati 'drives', Avest. vazaiti 'drives', Greek [dial.] FeksetO 'must bring', Latin veho 'drive', Old Norse vega 'move, drive' (plus engl. wagon, etc.), Lithuanian vez^u 'drive'. Old Church Slav. vezo, (vesti) 'drive', Tocharian B wask, A wAsk 'to move, twitch' (new formation with -sk'e - present).

The find of one case of human body and horse head cannot be compared to Dadhyanc. The former is a funerary practice while the latter is a myth. Surely no one is proposing that Dadhyanc was a real live person and that the Asvins did perform the first case of head transplant.

Funerary rituals do not have a connection with local myths? E.g. what about the injunction against cremation in Christian societies not so long ago (since you need all of your bones to be resurrected)? Or the various Hindu practices?

In myth you do not need *real live* persons. -- A transplant of sort -- by horse head - was certainly performed on the Sintashta man after his death, just as it was done to Dadhyanc, to insure his (mythical) survival after Indra had cut off his head.

The Sintashta man also has a flute next to his feet -- it is in Yama's realm that the flute is blown (RV/AV)...

The Sintashta burial is a clear case of burying the man's possessions with him, a practice found quite widely.

Fine but, please, do not bury me with a horse head, though I, like everybody, would like to speak/or to hear straight from the horse's mouth... especially if it is the secret of the (successful) ritual, as in the case of Dadhyanc AatharvaNa.

From: S. Kalyanaraman

Date: November 12, 1998

Prof. Michael Witzel wrote:

The attestation in a great number of Indo-European languages points to a rather old meaning "to take something (in a vehicle) somewhere" (terminative action), which has become durative already in (late) Proto-Indo-European and thus made an s-aorist necessary (Vedic avaaT, subj. aor. vakS-at; Greek [dial.] eFekse, Latin vexi, etc.): Present: Vedic vahati 'drives', Avest. vazaiti 'drives', Greek [dial.] FeksetO 'must bring', Latin veho 'drive', Old Norse vega 'move, drive' (plus engl. wagon, etc.), Lithuanian vez^u 'drive'. Old Church Slav. vezo, (vesti) 'drive', Tocharian B wask, A wAsk 'to move, twitch' (new formation with -sk'e- present). The find of one case of human body and horse head cannot be compared to Dadhyanc. The former is a funerary practice while the latter is a myth. Surely no one is proposing that Dadhyanc was a real live person and that the Asvins did perform the first case of head transplant.

There are two points related to semantic distance here: about semantics of Vedic vahati (drives?) and Dadhyan~c.

Is the decapitation of Dadhyan~c and transplant attested in the Rigveda? Why can't it be interpreted literally in the context of materials used in the yajn~a, such as lacto products.

The dha_tu, vah moves extraordinary semantic distances in lexemes such as nirva_ha, prava_ha. Based on the entire corpus of vah-based words, why can't we deduce that the proto-semantics of this root were more connected with 'moving' than with 'carrying' or 'driving'? In Tamil, va_ku means: attitude? I think this is a classic instance of the tough problem of measuring semantic distances, so long as motion was integral to an animate being from times immemorial, even in the pre-lithic states of evolution.

From: Michael Witzel

Date: February 13, 2000

The new century as begun as badly as the last one ended. Since Jan. 1, we have seen one tirade after another about Aryans, Indian Studies/Indology in the West, or about the North/South Indian divide.

However, the following is an interesting 'philological' study of amusing, emotionally and politically motivated, rhetorical distortions of one's writing.

Readers of INDOLOGY beware!

My original paragraph (pp. 108-9 of “Early Indian History: Linguistic and Textual Parameters”, in _The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia_, ed. by G. Erdosy, Berlin and New York, de Gruyter, 1995) reads:

** A rather long period of acculturation is also visible in the appearance of "Aryan" kings with non-Indo-Aryan names, such as Balbutha and Brbu. In fact, this is just one of the many features which point, in spite of the constant warfare mentioned in the RV, to a rather close relationship between the incoming Indo-Aryans and the local populations, with the result that the latter became gradually "Aryanized." Not only the language but also the culture of the newly arrived elite was appropriated, including the Vedic "tank", the horse-drawn chariot. In the words of F. Southworth (1974), echoed by Kuiper (1991: 8), "the equation of Indo-Aryan speakers with 'Aryans' (i.e. the original intruders and their direct descendants) is not supported by historical evidence", and: "As a sociological term, 'Aryan' denotes all those who took part in the sacrifices and festival." (Kuiper 1991: 96) **

Incidentally, as any conscientious reader will understand, this is not a theory of massive "Aryan invasions" on chariots/horse back but represents a much more nuanced and sophisticated scenario, in part based on the model developed by the anthropologist C. Ehret, for -- horribile dictu -- parts of Africa.

The following quotes from INDOLOGY are of interest as we can nicely establish the trail (after all, I am a philologist). It was started some 3-4 years ago in an *anonymous* review ("must read!") of Erdosy's ed. volume (1995) in, I think, the Sanskrit list out of Utah (if necessary, the 'review' can be found); and it may have been copied elsewhere. From this anonymous piece, the trail continued with oblique references, up to the recent direct attacks naming horse and rider.

I have followed, with great amusement, the pedigree of the original Sanskrit-List statement on this list:

(a) Vidhyanath  Mon, 2 Mar 1998:

Indologists before they start asserting that chariots were used as tanks and that horses would have frightened the people of ancient Near East of late 3rd early 2nd millennium BCE.

Who said that? Read my quote above

(b) Vidhyanath Rao  Tue, 31 Mar 1998:

Elementary consideration of military tactics and the construction of early chariots make it clear that the 2nd millennium chariot could not have been used like a tank. Yet Indologists continue to assert that chariots were ‘tanks'.

Again, not at all what I wrote... and which Indologists?

(c) S. Subrahmanya : Wed, 1 Apr 1998, this time on Mallory, in JIES 23, 1995:

…dominating urban sites, acquiring material wealth the Aryans turn up in time in north-west India, and all this using their chariot-tanks -- It sounds more like a panzer blitzkrieg.

One step further... apparently inspired by Rao.

(d) Vidhyanath Rao  Wed, 2 Dec 1998:

things like ``chariots were the tanks of {Bronze Age etc}''

Once again, who said that?

(e) SNS  Mon, 4 Jan 1999:

Chariot Panzers, led by Indra Rommels, shooting Kulturekugels? Then surely, the neighing of horses must have sounded like the whistle of diving Stuka bombers and frightened the Dravidians.

No comment.

NB: 'Kulturkugel' (thus correctly) 'culture bullet', a non-existing German word, was invented by Mallory (1998) for a non-military context, and, as he himself says, 'half-facetiously'. He uses it as a mechanical simile and as model for the introduction of steppe language into the Bactria-Margiana

Archaeological Complex (BMAC), not South Asia; the steppe people would have taken over much of the BMAC material culture, etc. etc.

Obviously SNS has not read the paper as he takes kulturkugel literally... Of course, the rest of this polemical statement does not come from anything that I have written.

Here come the amusing attacks:

(f) Tarek Wani  Fri, 11 Feb 2000:

A slavish devotion to philology's 19th century models and a sense of self-righteousness has created not only wonders such as Witzel's panzer divisions.

The above message contains, of course, an ethnic slur. I have never written about Vedic "panzer divisions" -- Varus, give me back my divisions! Note the nice shift from my (in speech marks) *"tank"* to *panzer divisions*...

And, 19th century models? Who? -- Evidence, please...

(g) S. Subrahmanya  Fri, 11 Feb 2000:

That is why Indology has had Aryan noses, Aryan languages and now Witzel has 'managed' to find Aryan chariot panzers.

So, there are no Aryan languages? Just a primordial Prakrit (which is supposed to include Dravidian!!) of 4-5000 years ago, as some (in India or of Indian descent in the US) now maintain???

Note, again, "tank" > chariot panzers.

(h) Vishal Agarwal  Fri, 11 Feb 2000:

Of course, the Max Muellers... and Witzels are free to conjure images of fair skinned Kashmiri/Irani/Kashmiri looking Indo-European speakers hurtling down the Khyber on the chariots and overwhelming the proto Mundas or the Para-Mundas

Of course, I never wrote that fair skinned (who is obsessed here??) Indo-Europeans (!) crossed the Khyber on their chariots. Very sloppy reporting. Nor of Indo-Aryans 'overwhelming' the Para-Mundas. See above on *rather long period of acculturation.* Misrepresentation, or wishful thinking about what I might have written to fit the imagined 19th century Indologist?

It seems V. Agarwal was thinking of the sturdy (and historically wrong) Amar Citra Kala chariots??

Maybe, the Proto-Indo-Aryans used, in addition to pack animals and the *anas* (heavy wagon), perhaps even the cross-country *vipatha* carts -- if their transhumance trail was good enough for passage.

All of the above is a long way from my *new technology of the Vedic "tank", the horse-drawn chariot,* isn't it??

Sloppiness, misrepresentation, rhetorics, emotions, and politics...

Note, after all, my speech marks. Any half-way intelligent or good-willed reader will recognize that this is a simile!

For reactions to new weaponry, think, e.g., of the not-so-amused reaction to the first tanks in France in 1917, or of the reaction of the Incas to the new six-legged, iron-clad Kentauroi, the Spanish, or think of the well-documented quick adaptation of chariots in the Near East during the first half of the second millennium BCE. Why? For fun? -- It was useful for royal status/representation AND for military purposes.

I invite Messrs. Wani, Subrahmanya, Agarwal, et al., to stand still and hold their position in front of quickly approaching (modern) horse race 'chariots', or in front of a line of police on horseback (even without Lathi charge), and then report back to the list... if they are able to do so after this little experiment.

In sum, (intentionally?) sloppy reporting, emotional reactions, and good revisionist politics, but not even revisionist scholarship, except for Rao who tried... (Incidentally, no insinuation but fact, V. Agarwal is indeed closely allied to the BJP, as he *himself* told me. His uncles hold important positions there).

Apparently, I have stepped, with one little simile, on the raw nerves of some people following the present fashion of denying any outside influence on Archaic India/South Asia (a century ago, Tilak thought differently). So be it. I will change my mind if they will be able to show that (Indo-European > Indo-Iranian > ) Proto-Indo-Aryan language *and* spiritual/material culture developed inside the subcontinent. Good hunting!

They will have to do their homework first. I expect to see the results... a decade or two from now, and with negative outcome.

In sum:

*Readers of INDOLOGY beware of any of the writings of the above mentioned on this list!*

From: Michael Witzel

Date: March 6, 2000

As I said recently, yaatra rathas and popular depictions of "ancient chariots" are fanciful. Wood is not well preserved in a monsoon climate. One has to look at Old Persian sculptures, the Oxus treasure, actually preserved Old Near Eastern and Chinese chariots, and one has to compare them with the slightly later Sanchi & Barhut sculptures (as shown in Sparreboom). One of them is on the cover of our Bronkhorst/Deshpande "Aryan/Non-Aryan" volume (HOS-OM 3).

R. Banerjee wrote:

In the Vedas chariots are at least part of the imagination maybe inspired by the knowledge of grand chariot armies in the west.

Where is such knowledge? Do you have access to some unknown Vedic texts?

After all the name dasaratha appears in Mitanni texts. Is the word ratha present in Avestan?

There are many names in -ratta, Indo-Aryan loans in the Hurrite language of the Mitanni (tush-, abi- etc.), = Ved. ratha/Iran. ra0a (0= Engl. th, thorn) `chariot`, Ved. ratheSTha : Avestan ra0aEStaa- 'standing on a chariot= charioteer`, Ved. rathin, Avestan rai0ii 'charioteer'. All these are attested in the oldest texts. And the *old* compound rathe-STha-/ra0aESta- points to a common Indian (Vedic) & Iranian heritage. The date of the invention of the horse-drawn chariot ratha/Ir. ra0a `chariot`` is indicated by the fact that the word it is not shared by West Indo-European: Lat. rota, Germ. Rad `wheel`; the specialized meaning ``chariot`` is restricted to Indo-Iranian -- Similarly, for cakra.

The ashvamedha could imply ritual warfare with minimal bloodshed. Maybe there weren’t too many horses to go around.

Well, the RV mentions, e.g., a thousand horses 9.78.2, or hundreds and thousands of horses as gift at 6.63.10, thousand cows and horses at 1.29.1 -- RV 8.46.29 has 60,000 horses, the same at 8.26.21: 60,000 horses, 2000 camels, 1000 mares.... in a daanastuti. Even taking into account the usual predilection of poets for hyperbole (Indira-zatakam of 1977 CE !!), LOTS horses are quite apparent here. The asvamedha is something entirely different... ONE horse is to be offered. The rest is a show of strength indeed (400 young noblemen/warriors following the horse); it can tell us nothing about the number of horses available.

From: R. Banerjee

Date: March 9, 2000

Michael Witzel wrote:

one has to compare them with the slightly later Sanchi & Barhut sculptures (as shown in Sparreboom). One of them is on the cover of our Bronkhorst/Deshpande "Aryan/Non-Aryan" volume (HOS-OM 3).

Many thanks to MW and SM, I finally checked out Spareboom’s book. Depiction of realistic chariots in India is indeed very rare. Slightly later?? Well the Sanchi chariots are at least a millennium later than the Vedic chariot as the author himself says. There is also some rock art from Madhya Pradesh depicting chariots which cannot be reliably dated. Sparreboom also notes that unlike the Near East where chariots were used in large numbers for tactical warfare in the defence of large city states or empires, the Vedic chariots role and manner of use can only be conjectured at. He highlights their use in rituals and cattle raids. At later times their presence in rituals is just symbolic.

Well, the RV mentions, e.g., a thousand horses 9.78.2, or hundreds and thousands of horses as gift at 6.63.10, thousand cows and horses at 1.29.1 -- RV 8.46.29 has 60,000 horses, the same at 8.26.21: 60,000 horses, 2000 camels, 1000 mares... in a daanastuti. Even taking into account the usual predilection of poets for hyperbole (Indira-zatakam of 1977 CE!!), LOTS horses are quite apparent here.

Hyperbole is right.

From: R. Banerjee

Date: March 11, 2000

G. von Simson wrote:

In the battle description of the Mahabharata the chariot troops are still the main force of the army, and all the major heroes fight from chariots. they (almost) never are riding on horse-back (though horse-riders are one of the four branches of the army) and there are only a few instances where a king is riding on an elephant. The chariot as the most important weapon probably was an anachronism at the time when the younger layers of the epic were composed, but what about the time when the Mahabharata started (let us say around the middle of the first millennium BCE -- I am not talking about the Mahabharata war as a historical event, but about the epic poem)? At least the memory of the importance of the chariot seems to have been strong throughout the history of the epic.

What about the actual war, should all descriptions be treated literally. Were chariots really used or were the heroes retro-fitted with chariots to fit imagined stereotypes. We of course have a Sarathi caste. Krishna as a Sarathi could simply symbolize a non combatant schemer. In general I just believe that there was a war and it left some memories but I am afraid to guess more. Sparreboom is cautious in claiming wide spread chariot use even in Vedic times and implies diminishing importance of chariots quite early on. Mauryan India had chariots but their importance in warfare was not that great. So we basically have people in 500 BC composing Mahabharata using stereotypes almost a millennium older implying some knowledge of ancient practices or simply the presence of older versions of the epic which were treated as history.

From: R. Banerjee

Date: November 11, 2000

As for K. D. Sethna's chariot: Sethna’s conjecture is not so bad. It looks like a man standing on a chariot facing you. The wheels are oval because of fore shortening. It is a stylization, a doodle. Nobody is going to make a portrait out of a script sign. The spoked oval/wheel object has also been showed as a circle a fact you want to gloss over. You seem to have missed out on a vital aspect of neural development wherein the brain can reproduce 3-d in art. By the way no malice intended I am tarring K. D. Sethna with the same brush going by his redrawing of the wheels.

Also do you want to deny the presence of two-wheeled vehicles in Harappa? Perhaps it’s just the spokes which are troubling you.

From: Steve Farmer

Date: November 11, 2000

The old claim that the shapes of Harappan "wheels" are squeezed horizontally to save space raises a lot of unanswered questions. The ovals or their pointy-ended variants have or could be just as reasonably interpreted as shields, or as celestial/kingship signs, or as simple abstract designs similar to those found in countless other premodern cultures. Against the old "squeezing" suggestion: If the scribes did indeed think of them as wheels, and were accustomed to seeing spoked wheels on chariots in daily life, it would certainly be strange to think of them radically changing this shape to space. The signs remain oval or pointy, moreover, even when saving space wasn't a consideration. And why, especially, pointy "wheels"?

There are other problems: Did you ever see a real chariot wheel? The hubs are extremely prominent, and the spokes certainly never meet in the middle, as these do. The outside of chariot wheels are also flat -- they must be to work -- but this again is missing in Sethna's examples. And, of course, there is the unfortunate anachronism that some of these "spoked wheels" show up over a thousand years before evidence of spoked wheels anywhere else in the Old World. Are you claiming that the Harappans had this technology 1,000 years or more before far more advanced cultures like those of the Mesopotamians -- with whom they were in trade contact?

Quite a stretch.

In sum, show me an elliptical or oval/pointy object with crossing lines on it, lacking hubs, and not flat on the outside, and the burden of proof is on you to show these are "six-spoked chariot wheels" -- not on someone who denies it. This is especially true given the clear anachronism evident in their appearance.

Comparative evidence from other civilizations also argues strongly against your views. We find many striking examples, for instance, of oval or round symbols with crossing diagonal lines (certainly not "spokes") in Mesoamerican and North American Indian artefacts. But neither civilization (leaving aside a handful of toy objects) had any wheeled transport of any sort. For example, I have jpeg pictures in my system of a number of convincing "spoked wheel objects" from the Poverty Point culture in Louisiana (the most advanced civilization in North America in the early second millennium BCE - contemporary with the end of Harappan culture). But this civilization had no knowledge of any wheels of any kind, spoked or unspoked.

Want to see an awe-inspiring object associated with ray-like projections that might make you draw roundish (or even oval!) objects with crossing lines in it? Look at the sun at different times of the day.

The real point of my post had less to do with spoked wheels or chariots, which evidence suggests didn't exist anywhere in the world in Harappan times, than with Sethna's obvious abuse of iconographic evidence. None of the mostly reasonable questions suggested by you, or me, or others on this List about "squeezing to save space," or "foreshortening" (that's a stretch -- literally and figuratively!), or anything else like it is mentioned even in passing by Sethna. Sethna, instead, presents a neat diagram in his book of a man on a chariot-like object that has perfectly round wheels. QED! He never mentions once that the vast majority of these so-called "wheels" in Harappan culture weren't round. Moreover, when you look at the original evidence on which his diagram is based -- which he chooses not to display in his study -- you find that the originals certainly aren't round and certainly don't look even vaguely like wheels.

See again Figure 2 of the web page below. Surely you can't be defending Sethna's use of evidence!

http://www.safarmer.com/sethna/pseudochariot.html

A. Karp writes:

Are there any examples of such oval "wheels" represented horizontally?

I don't know if this is a real or rhetorical question. So far as I know, there aren't. But there certainly ARE suggestive variations -- MANY of them, in fact -- of the vertically aligned oval or pointy "wheel" signs that LACK cross-lines (Sethna's supposed "spokes") in the middle. Some have elongated dots in the middle, some have three lines there, some have box-like objects, some have plant-like objects, some (like Parpola M-309) have curious semi-circles where the cross lines are usually found. All are the same basic oval or "pointy" oval form in which we find cross lines -- but in this case the cross lines are replaced with different contents.

From: R. Banerjee

Date: November 12, 2000

Mr. Farmer,

Before you go off calling K. D. Sethna's interpretation as tampering I challenge you to answer some questions. Your earlier statements are weak in logic and frivolous. I am challenging you to be serious and objective for once. You have raised some good points and some which are ridiculous.

1) THE OVAL COULD REPRESENT THE SUN

The sun would never appear as an oval to any observer because it’s a sphere. I will grant you that they could have compressed the solar disc in the interest of saving space or thought of the sun as a disc and not a sphere (perfectly natural for those times). I am going to rule out proximity to black holes or observers travelling near light speed.

2) HARRAPANS HAD SPOKED WHEELS A THOUSAND YEARS BEFORE OTHER CIVILIZATIONS

Not necessarily. I had mentioned that wheels with a painted spoke design have been found in Harappa. Whether they represented real spokes or were simply a design is not known. This would apply to the signs too. No real wheels have been found so we cannot say if Harappans had spoked wheels or not. The toys chariots found are small and may not be authentic replicas. I don’t know if making a toy spoked wheel would have presented casting problems or thought of as unnecessary detail in a toy.

3) POTTERS WHEELS (Mr. Ganesan)

Should we then think of the signs as representing a man perched precariously on the rims of two potters wheels or maybe it's a potter who owns two wheels not more not less.

4) LACK OF REALISM, NO HUBS ETC...

This is ridiculous. Please note that the man on the wheels does not have 5+5 fingers, nose toes lips etc.

In summary: Mr Sethna's assumption is not a bad one. Another one I can think of is a man striding on celestial bodies/systems something on the lines of Vishnu's Vamana avatara. Please come up with better ones if you can.

From: Steve Farmer

Date: November 13, 2000

ON HYPOTHETICAL HARAPPAN SPOKED POTTER'S WHEELS -- a topic raised on this List yesterday:

It's true that spoked potter's wheels are known in *historical* times in South Asia. But no evidence suggests that they existed in the Harappan period. In any event, the fact that spoked wheels like this existed thousands of years after the fall of Indus Valley civilization doesn't mean that the occasionally vaguely roundish, or much more often oval, or pointy/oval, objects with crossed lines on them that we find on Harappan seals are inspired by such wheels, as is often stated. As Michael Witzel suggests in his Outlook summary, they might be inspired by potter's wheels or just about anything else. The following syllogism isn't valid:

1. Some potter's wheels are spoked

2. In the Indus script, some vaguely roundish or oval or oval/pointy signs have crossed lines in the middle

3. Vaguely roundish or oval or oval/pointy signs with crossed lines are inspired by potter's wheels

The syllogism becomes even less valid when we substitute "potter's wheels" with "spoked chariot wheels," since evidence suggests that spoked-wheeled chariots didn't exist anywhere on the planet in mature Harappan times.

You don't need *either* spoked chariot wheels *or* spoked potter's wheels to get vaguely roundish, or oval, or oval/pointy symbols with crossed lines in the middle. Recall, please, the *totally* round symbols with crossed lines in the middle found in the 2nd millennium BCE in advanced North American Indian cultures (e.g., Poverty Point) -- which had neither wheeled transport *nor* spoked potter's wheels.

Recall, also, that the oval or oval/pointy objects with crossed lines in the center found in Harappan signs also exist in many variant forms in the Indus script in which those crossed lines are replaced by other contents (many examples cited by me in a post yesterday). The suggestion here is that the variable contents in these objects may be modifying signs or determinatives of some sort.

Sidelight on the "potter's wheel argument": Curiously, most of the time the "potter's wheel argument" has been used by Indian nationalists and supporters (like Elst) to argue that the Rgveda *doesn't* refer to spoked chariot wheels! (This gives them room to argue that the RV goes way back to the 3rd or 4th or 5th millennium BCE, thousands of years before the invention of spoked chariots.) Thus, in an online debate some months ago, first vs. Kalyanaraman and Elst, and later vs. S. Talageri, the argument was repeatedly raised that famous RV hymns like 1.164, which use spoked wheels as cosmological symbols, allude to "spoked potter's wheels" and not to chariot wheels. Unfortunately for this view, there are countless references to fast chariots (which had spoked wheels) in the RV, and NOT ONE reference to potters or potter's wheels, so far as I recall. But the "revisionists" (also known as "mythologizers") are fond of the "potter's wheel" argument nonetheless.

MESSAGE 024181

From: B. Kaldhol

Date: November 13, 2000

Dear list members,

The spoked wheel was known in the Near East not much earlier than 1500 BC. Have a look at this illustrated article:

http://www.imh.org/imh/kyhpl1b.html#xtocid2243620

From: Steve Farmer

Date: April 7, 2001

Subrahmanya S. writes, of RV war chariots:

Could you please point me where there is evidence of the war chariot? Also, keep in mind that this has to be in the RV not from later periods or texts.

Start with the obvious verses on war chariots in RV 6.75, which are replete with images of enemies being trampled by war-chariot horses. By the despised standards of critical scholarship, like Oldenberg's, this is a very late RV hymn. But by the revolutionary standards of S. Talageri, whom you defend, it is found in the "oldest" and "hoariest" of RV books. See again Talageri's fantastic chronology at

http://www.safarmer.com/pico/talageri.html

From: Arun Gupta

Date: April 7, 2001

Subrahmanya S. quotes:

"The intimate linkage between Proto-Indo-European and the horse and the chariot is a myth". pg. 51 of _Wagon, Chariot and Carriage: Symbol and Status in the History of Transport_, by S. Piggott

and wrote that the Indo-European war chariot is a figment of the imagination.

Steve Farmer seems to be saying that the war chariot apparently appears first in RV VI, which, according to him and accepted theory, is a late mandala. So, Farmer and Subrahmanya appear to be in agreement. That is, if "the Indo-European war chariot" means that chariots were part of the Proto-Indo-European culture.

Are chariots a late acquisition of the Indo-Aryans?

From: Michael Witzel

Date: April 7, 2001

Steve Farmer suggested:

bedtime reading M. Sparreboom's _Chariots of the Veda_ (1985), which copiously discusses the iconographical, archaeological, and textual evidence?

Subrahmanya S. replied:

I have the book with me. Could you please point me where there is evidence of the war chariot?

* Why doesn't he read the book himself?

* Second, he would have to check on all passages in the Rgveda dealing with chariots. There are word indexes of the RV: Hermann Grassmann's, Vishvabandhu's... Look for ratha, ratheSTha, and compare cakra, vaaja, etc.

Indology that exists today is completely rigged. That is why Witzel can get away with his loony ideas about war chariot nonsense.

Oh netiquette...

Which one of my many aatmans (acc. to Rajaram) are you talking about? In your last posts you seem to make a deliberate effort to distinguish between them by different spellings. But you would have to give us the key which spelling refers to which aatman. Then, which nonsense, pray? Read all of the RV first, then come back with details.

*His third job would be to check on the closely related Avestan texts: look for ratha, rathI, rathaESta (Vedic ratheSTha). Then you would have Indo-Iranian chariots.

* His fourth job would be to check out the early Hittite, Greek, Latin, Celtic evidence. Please let us know what that is, and also the words for chariot in these languages. And the consequences for Indo-European reconstructions. When you have done so, Subrahmanya, let us know the results of your comprehensive investigation. ONLY AFTER you have done this, you may (perhaps) proclaim:

There is no evidence of any Indo-European "war chariot" anywhere except in the fevered brains of entrenched eurocentric academics. If at all Indo-European is a language family -- how in the world can one identify a so-called "war chariot" based on a language family?

Euro-centric, again? Ever heard of the many non-European, non-"Caucasian" linguists and philologists? Next job: show that Indo-European is NOT a language family! And, FYI: Language families have a well defined vocabulary. No word for objects without an object, exc. in mythology. Then, show that ratha etc. are just that -- mythology. Amar Chitra Katha. Such as the Sintashta or Oxus chariots?

Enough homework? Just for two short paras of yours. If you do *not* do this background check,

you have to be content to be called a propagandist, at best, plus many other things...

From: Michael Witzel

Date: April 7, 2001

Arun Gupta wrote:

Subrahmanya S. wrote that the Indo-European war chariot is a figment of the imagination. Steven Farmer seems to be saying that the war chariot apparently appears first in RV VI, which, according to him and accepted theory, is a late mandala.

I do not think he says that. He can speak for himself. However, Arun Gupta's sentence misunderstands the matter at hand: Talageri thinks that all of mandala 6 is the 'hoariest" of the Rgveda. Which has just been debunked in EJVS 7-2:

http://nautilus.shore.net/~india/ejvs/ejvs0702/ejvs0702b.txt

and

http://nautilus.shore.net/~india/ejvs/ejvs0702/ejvs0703.txt

Hymn 6.75, however, has been recognized, for the last 110 years, as a late addition to the core of RV. Nevertheless, it describes the chariot well enough.

There is, of course, much chariot evidence in the older sections of RV. Easily available in Grassmann, when counterchecked against Oldenberg 1888 (limited summary in my 1995 paper).

So, Farmer and Subrahmanya appear to be in agreement.

Not at all, as above will indicate, and as Steve Farmer certainly will point out once the sun rises in California.

That is, if "the Indo-European war chariot" means that chariots were part of the Proto-Indo-European

That is the real question, See EJVS 7-3 (forthc.)

Are chariots a late acquisition of the Indo-Aryans?

No, see the Vestal evidence, with archaic terms, echoed by equally archaic ones in Vedic. Again, more in EJVS 7-3, section 14.

May cooler heads, such as in this thread, prevail...

From: Subrahmanya S.

Date: April 8, 2001

Steve Farmer writes, of RV war chariots:

Start with the obvious verses on war chariots in RV 6.75, which are replete with images of enemies being trampled by war-chariot horses.

Could you please explain where there is "war chariot" in 6.75? I also leafed through Sparreboom's book to find if there is anything about 6.75 there and did not find it. It is possible I may have missed it. Also, I will greatly appreciate it if you could please point me to where you found any write up of 6.75 containing a war-chariot.

I should also point out that I thought we were talking of "war chariots" not of enemies being trampled by chariot horses!

How do you identify a war chariot? -- notice that Sparreboom admits that there were probably many kinds of wheeled vehicles in Sarasvati-Indus Valley civilization.

Where is the evidence of any "Indo-European war chariot"? Archaeological or textual?

If at all there is one such "Indo-European war chariot", how do you differentiate between a chariot of an Indo-European speaker and a non-Indo-European speaker's chariot?

Sparreboom writes in the introduction: "We are at least on firm ground if we state that the Indo-Aryan tribes when invading Iran and northwestern India, were chariot experts. But, as mentioned above they were not the first to use wheeled vehicles on Indian soil. Judging by the number of miniature cart models apparently made locally, which have been excavated from different Harappan sites, this civilization knew a variety of vehicles. Although it cannot be excluded that the Harappans developed a kind of car used for warfare, the evidence is scant at best" The reference is then given to a 1970 paper in JRAS by S. Piggott.

The _Wagon, Chariot and Carriage_ book by Piggott was published in 1992.

First of all, it is very important not to be swayed by the diversionary tactics of people like Witzel and his cohorts.

They will indulge in all kinds of posturing and name calling- because that is one way to shift attention away from answering questions about evidence to justify the assumptions behind their theories.

This so-called "Indo-European war chariot" is a fake assumption on which the Aryan invasion/migration into the Indian subcontinent has been built.

As S. Piggott points out: "The intimate linkage between Proto-Indo-European and the horse and the chariot is a myth".

Such connections between the great vibrant Indo-Europeans, horses and chariots exist only in the fantasy world of eurocentric academics.

Steve Farmer accuses me of defending S. Talageri. I have no such goal -- I am sure S. Talageri is very capable of defending his views.

My only agenda is to find out and learn more about the grounds on which the Aryan Invasion/Migration theory has been built.

From: Steve Farmer

Date: April 8, 2001

Subrahmanya S. writes:

Could you please explain where there is "war chariot" in 6.75? I also leafed through Sparreboom's book to find if there is anything about 6.75 there and did not find it. It is possible I may have missed it.

With all respect, Subrahmanya, read the poem and look at the comments on it by Geldner and many others (see infra). I'm not interested in pursuing the chariot issue at present, simply because last year I discussed what I knew of the pan-Eurasian evidence on it at length with S. Kalyanaraman, K. Elst, S. Talageri, and N.S. Rajaram (in at least 50 long posts in IndianCivilization and in a private online forum with Michael Witzel, Talageri, Rajaram, & Frawley, etc.). Most of that discussion revolved around the non-existence of spoked chariots in the pre-historical eras in which Kak, Rajaram, Talageri, Frawley, Danino, and other Indian nationalists and their Western helpers imagine that the RV had its roots. The war use of chariots doesn't, in fact, interest me much, since I agree with most people (NB: including Michael Witzel) that the movement of RV culture into India was a question of slow migration and acculturation more than invasion in the dated Wheeler sense. You are mistaken in labelling Witzel an invasionist on the basis of a passing colorful reference in one of his two papers in the 1995 Erdosy volume to Vedic "tanks." If you read that paper as a whole, or any of a half dozen related papers of his, you'd find that Witzel is anything but an invasionist. (If Michael did not exist, Indian nationalists would have to invent him -- and they have!)

Briefly on RV 6.75 (the RV hymn to weaponry and the chariot): I don't have Sparreboom at hand, but the hymn speaks pretty clearly for itself. If Sparreboom mentions it, I imagine it would be in relation to the reference in 6.75.8 to the ratha-vaahana -- the wagon/platform/stand (often trans., e.g. by Keith, as 'platform,' but apparently etymologically related to English 'wagon') on which the chariot was drawn to battle in late RV times. Similar carriers are also well known from non-Indian sources. In India, the ratha-vaahana took on ritual significance in the mantra period, as we see, e.g., in Taittiriya Samhita 1.8.20, and other post-RV texts. For other references in post RV texts see Macdonnel-Keith, _Vedic Index_ II, p. 205. There are also classical discussions by Weber and Geldner. My notes say that Sparreboom discusses the ratha-vaahana on p. 29, but I don't know whether he specifically mentions the reference in RV 6.75.8.

As I already noted, I recognize that all of 6.75 is a late RV poem, as was shown by Oldenberg 1888. I cited this example, as indicated yesterday, because Talageri claimed that all of book 6 came from the mid 4th - early 3rd millennium, when no chariots of any sort (let alone the sophisticated form described in RV 6.75) existed anywhere on the planet. But I think there are many obvious references to early uses of chariots in military operations (and in cattle rustling, of course!) in much older strata of the family books. But this isn't an issue that I find controversial, nor is it pertinent to my current research.

From: Subrahmanya S.

Date: April 9, 2001

First a couple of issues in response to Steve Farmer:

6.75 speaks nothing about an "Indo-European war chariot"? Is it right for a scholar to assume that any generic wheeled contraption mentioned in the RV is a "fast two wheeled Indo-European war chariot"?

Pg. 29 of Sparreboom contains nothing about the RV. In fact, Sparreboom -- after discussing a passage from the Baudhayana Srauta Sutra and explaining that a rathavaahana was moveable stand to hold the chariot -- writes: "It may be considered strange that a light two wheeled vehicle is transported on another car. Could a chariot, fit for battle or a race not be driven to the scene of action by itself?" Then Sparreboom goes onto speculate that maybe the race chariot was disassembled when not in use! In a footnote it is then admitted that "there is no explicit reference to its dismantling".

Is this the kind of speculation that is given as reference for evidence of a war chariot?

Steve Farmer wrote:

Now that we agree that I'm a comparative historian and not a Vedicist, is there a *specific* Indological issue that you want to discuss on the List? I'm always eager to learn from knowledgeable scholars.

Well, how about pointing out the evidence where you have found an "Indo-European war chariot" and the criteria you have used to identify it as an Indo-European war chariot? Or how about answering the following questions that Dr. Kochhar asked?:

1. What is a war chariot?

2. How does it differ from a peace chariot?

3. What type are the chariots divinities like Indra and Surya ride?

4. Are their chariots as old as the Rgveda?

From: Steve Farmer

Date: April 9, 2001

Subrahmanya S. writes:

6.75 speaks nothing about an "Indo-European war chariot"? Is it right for a scholar to assume that any generic wheeled contraption mentioned in the RV is a "fast two wheeled Indo-European war chariot"?

Totally ridiculous. 6.75 is an *explicit* hymn to war weaponry. 6.75.7 gives vivid images of enemies being trampled by the chariot horses (bad traffic problems in Rgveda land?). 6.75.8, where we find the ratha-vaahana, 6.75.9, and other verses following contain repeated references to weapons and to images of war. What we find there is hardly any "generic wheeled contraption."

NB that the words "fast two wheeled Indo-European chariot" masquerading as a quotation in Subrahmanya's post are *not* my words. Subrahmanya can apparently attribute made-up words to me as easily as he can imagine a "generic wheeled contraption[s]" in one of the most famous war hymns in the whole of the RV.

From: Subrahmanya S.

Date: April 9, 2001

Steve Farmer wrote:

Totally ridiculous. 6.75 is an *explicit* hymn to war weaponry. 6.75.7 gives vivid images of enemies being trampled by the chariot horses.

How does trampling by horses give any information about the kind of chariot? Isn’t the chariot the point of our discussion?

6.75.8, where we find the ratha-vaahana, 6.75.9, and other verses following contain repeated references to weapons and to images of war. What we find there is hardly any "generic wheeled contraption."

My question remains -- any wheeled vehicle could have been used how does one draw any more conclusions?

Let us get back to the issue. I have already given you a quotation from Sparreboom which indicates

that there were many kinds of wheeled vehicles already existing in the Indus Valley civilization before the coming of the Aryans. I am assuming that you think that the two-wheeled fast chariot was brought in by the incoming Aryans and that is the kind of chariot mentioned in 6.75. If so, my question to you is -- how do you know what kind of vehicle is being used in 6.75?

If you think that is not the case that is fine too – but please give me an example in the RV where one can identify a kind of chariot that has been brought in by the Aryans as opposed to a indigenous wheeled vehicle of the Indus Valley civilization people.

Also, I will also greatly appreciate your response to Dr. Kochhar's questions.

From: Steve Farmer

Date: April 10, 2001

Subrahmanya S. writes:

I am assuming that you think that the two-wheeled fast chariot was brought in by the incoming Aryans and that is the kind of chariot mentioned in 6.75

Your assumption is wrong, Subrahmanya. I haven't said anything about the origins of these war chariot. You asked for an example in the RV of a war chariot and I pointed to an obvious one, found in a famous hymn used for ritualistic military purposes in later RV times. The simplistic image of Aryans sweeping into India in chariots of this sort is alien to my way of thinking. The technology clearly evolved over time.

Also, I will also greatly appreciate your response to Dr. Kochhar's questions.

You mean these? You are invited to answer them yourself, since they weren't addressed to me:

1. What is a war chariot? 2. How does it differ from a peace chariot? 3. What type are the chariots divinities like Indra and Surya ride? 4. Are their chariots as old as the Rgveda?

To do them justice, in any event, would take a small book. What does it *mean* to ask if something *found* in the Rgveda is "as old as the Rgveda"? As old as the earliest levels of the family books? As old as the youngest strata in Mandala 10? As old as the final interpolations before the so-called Sakalyan redaction, in the mid first millennium BCE? That's a big chunk of time to consider. The chariot issue is of interest to me only because it helps assign an earliest possible date to the oldest RV strata, demonstrating the impossibility of the great antiquity assigned to the book by many Indian nationalists. From the standpoint of my own research, far more interesting than its early dates are the dates of the canonization of the RV (and indeed of all four Vedas) near the middle of the first millennium BCE -- in the same centuries that similar "fixed" canons were forming in the Middle East, Greece, Persia, and China. Say something interesting about *why* so many base traditions became "fixed" in Eurasia c. the 6th - 4th centuries BCE and you'll get my rapt attention. The answer to that question cannot come if you limit your view narrowly to study of Indian traditions.

I have continued this discussion so far only because I've been addressed by name. This is my last permitted post for the next 24 hours, and the last I can make in the thread.

From: Michael Witzel

Date: April 10, 2001

Subrahmanya has not done his homework yet: he has not even checked the text of RV 6.75. Small hint: perhaps he can explain to us what kind of recreational generic vehicle (ratha) is used in 6.75.7 to trample down (ava-kram) with the forelegs (prapad) of horses the enemies (amitra), and kill (ksi) the enemies (zatru). Not a sportive practise then, or now -- nor in old Greece, Rome, etc.

Apart from this late additional hymn (but most "hoary" according to Talageri 2000, for which see EJVS 7-2), there is a host of materials that I have listed recently. Subrahmanya will have to check it, in Rgveda, Avestan, Hittite, Greek, Roman, and Celtic texts, then come back. He has not done this little homework but always shifts the objective and asks new questions instead.

This time about the vehicles of the Indus Valley civilization. Well, he should not *ask* us, but *show* himself where there is a horse drawn, two-wheeled, spoke-wheeled, CHARIOT in any "indigenous" Indus depiction, or as an object? I do not mean, of course, Rajaram's horse drawing Kalayanaraman's chariot (as depicted on the seal shown on the cover of Frontline, Oct. 13, according to them!). Nor a simple, heavy, full wheel ox wagon/bullock cart.

Once he has done his homework, he will have the answer to his questions:

My question remains - any wheeled vehicle could have been used how does one draw any more conclusions? If so, my question to you is -- how do you know what kind of vehicle is being used in 6.75? In the RV where one can identify a kind of chariot that has been brought in by the Aryans as opposed to a indigenous wheeled vehicle of the Indus Valley civilization people.

In the meantime he should not bother us with shifting questions, constantly diverting the discussion etc. He is welcome back after some self-study. The indexes and dictionaries to find out are easily available. Then, it will only take a little Sanskrit, Avestan, Greek, etc., reading...

PS: Lars Fosse is of course entirely right about the rathavaahana vehicle transporting the light (c. 30 kg) and vulnerable ratha. A ratha is used in sport and battle on even ground, not for long distance travel (and certainly that not across the Khyber, as some always facetiously maintain to 'disprove' any sort of movement into the subcontinent of Indo-Aryan speaking tribes). For heavy ground there was the vipatha (AV).

From: Subrahmanya S.

Date: April 11, 2001

Michael Witzel wrote:

He has not even checked the text of RV 6.75. Small hint: perhaps he can explain to us what kind of recreational generic vehicle (ratha) is used in 6.75.7 to trample down (ava-kram) with the forelegs (prapad) of horses the enemies (amitra), and kill (ksi) the enemies (zatru).

What details is there about the chariot? How do you know what kind of wheels? How do you know how many wheels were there? You claim to be a philologist?

Subrahmanya. will have to check it, in Rgveda, Avestan, Hittite, Greek, Roman, and Celtic texts, then come back. He has not done this little homework but always shifts the objective and asks new questions instead.

As usual Witzel being unable to answer a question tries to assign a homework. The original question was how to identify a so called "Indo-European chariot as opposed to a non-Indo-European one. You cannot answer the question so you try to weasel out of it.

This time about the vehicles of the Indus Valley civilization. Well, he should not *ask* us, but *show* himself where there is a horse drawn, two-wheeled, spoke-wheeled, CHARIOT in any "indigenous" Indus depiction, or as an object?

You show me evidence of such a chariot after the so-called Aryan invasion/migration between 1500-1000BC?

You are the one who has built up all kinds of migrating Aryans frightening the Dravidians with their fast chariots, horses etc...

In the meantime he should not bother us with shifting questions, constantly diverting the discussion etc.

Of course you are bothered by questions!! Because your arguments are faulty and illogical, you try to stop questions.

I must also point out, that you and your cohorts did not answer Dr. Kochhar’s questions either.

The kinds of idiotic arguments given about modern day tanks being transported on trucks being used to justify some fast imaginary Aryan chariot shows more about the whacko thinking of the euro-supremacist academics.

From: R. Kochhar

Date: April 11, 2001

Cartoons and comics often show a rock-shelter dweller discovering fire and inventing wheel. This may be funny ,but is anachronistic. While taming of fire belongs to truly ancient times, wheel is a relatively recent thing. If we depend on archaeological evidence available from anywhere in the world, wheel came into being c. 3500 BC It is thus later than advent of agriculture and animal husbandry (c. 7000 BC) as well as copper metallurgy(c. 5000 BC).

In the Rgvedic context it will probably be more relevant to talk of wheeled vehicles rather than war chariots, more specifically of vehicles with spoked wheels in contrast to solid wheels. Spoked wheels make the vehicle lighter and faster and therefore more versatile.

When a technology enters poetic and ritualistic imagery, this can be taken as a sure sign of that technology's having become an integral part of the society. RV 1.164.2 uses "one-wheeled chariot" to imply the sun. RV 1164.11 says, "The wheel having 12 spokes revolve the heavens, but it does not wear out. Oh Agni! 720 pairs of sons ride this {wheel}."

Wilhelm Rau while discussing the term grama says that its denoting the inhabitants, as in "grama has come/grama has gone", is undoubtedly the oldest and the only one attested in the earliest strata of the Vedic literature. The coming/going grama comprised "cattle, ox-wagons, carts and chariots".

What you do with your vehicles depends on who and what you are up against. Against pedestrians even a clumsy vehicle will serve as a war vehicle; against enemies/targets of similar technological status, you would need quality and innovation.

The Sanskrit chakra has evolved into the Hindi (etc.) chakkar. Some where along the evolutionary sequence. Chakkar has acquired a distinctive meaning of its own, which the parent chakra would not recognize.

From: Lars Martin Fosse

Date: April 11, 2001

R. Kochhar wrote:

In the Rgvedic context it will probably be more relevant to talk of wheeled vehicles rather than war chariots, more specifically of vehicles with spoked wheels in contrast to solid wheels. Spoked wheels make the vehicle lighter and faster and therefore more versatile.

This does not make sense. A "war chariot" is a vehicle developed for a specific purpose, and such contraptions are well known from later periods.

If you read Xenophon's famous Anabasis, he has a vivid description of Persian chariots, some of them mean bastards with rotating knives attached to the wheel axles. Chariot technology, like tank technology, makes sense if you fight your battles under certain conditions, such as plains or deserts. (The Russians soon found out that tanks were of limited use in Afghanistan!). I find it difficult to understand why Vedic chariots should be so unthinkable. I don't know to what extent they made military sense under Indian conditions -- at that time with more jungle in the Punjab, I would guess -- but they must have been used for some time before they became obsolete (as the tank is becoming with new tank killing technology).

In Rome, the chariot went out of use and passed into sports, where it remained very popular for centuries (remember Ben Hur, the movie where Texas cowboys were transformed into charioteers?) The special character of the chariot is brought out by the fact that it is carried on another vehicle when not in use. Why should that be relevant if it was just another wagon?

BTW: I seem to remember that the chariot was also used during hunting. So even in India, it apparently passed into sports.

From: Steve Farmer

Date: April 11, 2001

R. Kochhar writes:

In the Rgvedic context it will probably be more relevant to talk of wheeled vehicles rather than war chariots, more specifically of vehicles with spoked wheels in contrast to solid wheels. Spoked wheels make the vehicle lighter and faster and therefore more versatile.

Lars Martin Fosse responds:

This does not make sense. A "war chariot" is a vehicle developed for a specific purpose, and such contraptions are well known from later periods. If you read Xenophon's famous Anabasis, he has a vivid description of Persian chariots, some of them mean bastards with rotating knives attached to the wheel axles.

I don't think that R. Kochhar would disagree. I think his main point is simply that the spoked wheel -- first seen in Central Asia at the tail end of the 3rd millennium -- was the enabling technology that allowed many types of fast vehicles (including the specialized war chariots that you mention) to evolve. What he says a little later on is that the kind of vehicles that evolved depended on the situation:

What you do with your vehicles depends on who and what you are up against. Against pedestrians even a clumsy vehicle will serve as a war vehicle; against enemies/targets of similar technological status, you would need quality and innovation.

ADENDUM on pit earlier discussion of the ratha-vaahana, or 'chariot carrier,' noted in RV 6.75 and other Vedic sources: We know from studies of super lightweight chariots seen elsewhere in Eurasia (e.g., from Shang dynasty graves, c. 11th century BCE) that light-weight spoked wheels tended to become deformed simply from being parked, let alone from moving on uneven ground. See the discussion here in Robert Bagley, "Shang Archaeology", _Cambridge History of Ancient China 2000_, pp. 204-5. The result is that the wheels had to be removed except in the brief periods in which the vehicles were in use; alternately, special parking racks could be used to keep the weight off of the wheels. This would suggest again that super-light war chariots, or racing chariots, etc., would need to be carried on other wagons (the ratha-vaahana) to where they were used.

But we don't have to imagine that *all* war chariots were this delicate. The evidence, as suggested by Lars Martin Fosse, is that they came in many varieties, from robust and heavy-duty models to the

highly stylized war chariot used for ritual purposes. Certainly many types can already be seen in the RV. What made all this possible, as suggested by R. Kochhar in his post, is the development of the enabling technology -- the spoked wheel. And *that* we know, evolved in Central Asia, not long before 2000 BCE, and only made it to South Asia many hundreds of years later.

From: Don Salmon

Date: April 11, 2001

Lars Martin Fosse wrote:

This does not make sense. A "war chariot" is a vehicle developed for a specific purpose… Chariot technology, like tank technology, makes sense if you fight your battles under certain conditions, such as plains or deserts… I find it difficult to understand why Vedic chariots should be so unthinkable.

Since this is partly a question of logic, I venture an opinion, aided a little experience.

In Sindh, solid-wheeled oxcarts were still not uncommon when I was last there. Each wheel was built, as I recall, out of three or four large, thick boards (4") laid side-by-side and cross-braced at right angles by two more boards (2") which flanked the hub. The axle itself was a wooden shaft. The wheel was held onto the axle by some sort of pin arrangement, I think. At any rate, with wear, the wheel came to fit only loosely around the axle, making it wobble greatly from side to side as it traveled. Pulled by the somewhat smaller, less "modern" breed of oxen in the Sindh, these oxcarts were small, slow and awkward, poor vehicles for warfare except as a painfully slow and uncomfortable carrier for troops, armaments, or supplies.

On the other hand, in Multan I once saw a super-large, four-wheeled oxcart with rubber tires pulled by two magnificent, huge, pure creamy white oxen of the old zebu type, huge curved horns rising above their heads, which could have kept pace with some trucks. These proud and arrogant animals stood about 6 feet high along their backbone, standing taller than a man, and disdainful of awestruck children like me. Confronting these charging beasts would have been a terror to a foot-soldier armed with a sharpened farm implement or even a sword, whatever kind of cart followed behind them.

In considering the efficacy of one kind of chariot over another, I would think that the invention of a long-lasting hub that kept the wheel turning straight would have been almost as important as the invention of spokes and "tires" that kept the wheel from warping and gave it strength.

From: Lars Martin Fosse

Date: April 12, 2001

Don Salmon wrote:

On the other hand, in Multan I once saw a super-large, four-wheeled oxcart with rubber tires pulled by two magnificent, huge, pure creamy white oxen of the old Zebu type, huge curved horns rising above their heads, which could have kept pace with some trucks...

I mentioned that the chariot was used for hunting. Here are a couple of verses from the beginning of Kalidasa's Shakuntala, showing how the chariot functioned. The king has been pursuing a deer for some time and describes the speed and grace of the animal as it flees, "but lightly skimming the ground". The charioteer answers:

"Long-lived one, seeing that the ground was uneven, I pulled up the reins and slackened the speed of the chariot. But now that you are on level ground, you will not find it difficult to overtake him."

The rest of the sequence leaves little to the imagination as far as speed is concerned. One may argue that Kalidasa wrote long after the Vedic period, but shouldn't we still combine this evidence with what we know of Vedic chariots? Or should we assume that India in later times developed a much faster and more agile chariot?

That wouldn't quite jibe with the idea that everything wonderful was already invented in the Vedic period. If the Vedic literature describes a chariot that seems to function the way described by Kalidasa, why not assume that it was basically the same kind of contraption? Kalidasa's chariot must have been light in order to move with a deer.

From: Vidhyanath Rao

Date: April 12, 2001

Lars Martin Fosse wrote:

Kalidasa's chariot must have been light in order to move with a deer.

Ohh, a chariot that runs through woods/tall grass of the wild. I just have to have it. Where can I get one?

BTW, I am still waiting for someone to demonstrate that a harnessing system [as reconstructed by Sparreboom for the Vedic chariot] consisting of a yoke placed on the withers, and two straps, one around the neck and the other just inside the legs, holding it down is in fact functional. Otherwise, we can only conclude that the Vedic chariot is indeed just like Kalidasa's chariot or the puSpaka vimaana of Kubera.