The Elephant and the Proto-Indo-European Homeland
In the linguistic debate on the subject of the Proto-Indo-European Homeland, the discussion of flora and fauna holds a special position. As Mallory and Adams put it: "generally, those concerned with locating the Indo-European homeland through its lexicon tend to employ the evidence of its reconstructed fauna […] and flora" (MALLORY-ADAMS:2006:131). And it is generally argued that this evidence shows a homeland in the Steppe areas far outside India. As we saw recently (see my blog on Manasataramgini and the subsequent attacks on me by some others), even the racist-casteist elements among staunch Hindus (out to prove their "superior Aryan invader" brahmin ancestry) mindlessly parrot this argument in their desperation to prove an Aryan Invasion of India, in total disregard of the fact that most languages generally only preserve the names for animals and trees found in their territory and not for those found in other territories. In short, no Indo-Aryan language has a name for an animal or plant found in the Steppes of South Russia and not found in India. As Mallory and Adams reasonably point out:
"If an item is severely restricted in space, for example, the camel, then any Indo-European group who moved beyond the natural territory of the camel might do one of three things with their original word 'camel':
1. They might simply abandon the word altogether as they and their linguistic descendants were not likely to encounter a camel for the next several thousand years.
2. They might use the name 'camel' when they come across another animal that they were unfamiliar with but which bore some similarity in appearance or function. From the perspective of the historical linguist we might then have to confront a situation where the original meaning 'camel' was (or was not) retained in those groups where camels have always dwelled while other languages developed a totally different meaning for this word. The other languages might well outnumber those who retained the original meaning or, worse, no language might retain the original meaning.
3. The population might retain the name and the meaning of 'camel' for thousands of years as a gesture of benevolence to future historical linguists.
Now, put so baldly, a scenario such as number three is impossible." (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:132-133).
Therefore, generally, it would not be possible to locate the Indo-European homeland on the basis of an analysis of names of fauna and flora, since each group of speakers of Indo-European languages would only preserve names for animals and plants found in their historical habitats and not of those found in some ancient long-forgotten homeland.
Nevertheless, many scholars and writers insist on using arguments about fauna and flora to locate the PIE homeland outside India or specifically in the Steppe region of South Russia. They unblinkingly use blatantly self-contradictory "logic" to make their claims: see Witzel further on in this article.
Unfortunately, for all these polemicists, there are certain animals in the reconstructed names of Proto-Indo-European fauna which point unmistakably to an Indian rather than a South Russian Steppe (or even Anatolian) homeland: the tiger, lion, leopard, ape and elephant. Discussions on the reconstructed fauna and its implications usually ignore these names, or argue against them.
The tiger, with a proto-form *wy(H)āghras is found in three branches: Indo-Aryan vyāghra-, Iranian (Persian) babr, and Armenian vagr (borrowed into the non-Indo-European Caucasian Georgian language as vigr).
The lion, with a proto-form *sinĝhos is found in two branches: Indo-Aryan siṁha-, and Armenian inj (with a transfer of name to the leopard).
The leopard, with a proto-form *perd is found in four branches: Indo-Aryan pṛdāku, Greek pardos/pardalis, Iranian Persian fars-, and Anatolian (Hittite) paršana.
The monkey, with a proto-form *qhe/oph, is found in four branches: with the initial *qhe in Indo-Aryan kapí- and Greek kēpos, and without it in Germanic (e.g. Old Icelandic) api and Slavic (e.g. Old Russian) opica.
Finally, and most important of all, the elephant (with alternate meaning, or a word transfer to, ivory) with the proto-form *leHbho-nth- or *ḷHbho-nth- is found in at least four branches: Indo-Aryan íbha-, Greek eléphas (Mycenean Greek erepa), Italic (Latin) ebur, and Hittite laḫpa-. With a transfer of meaning to "camel", it is found in two more branches: Germanic (e.g. Gothic) ulbandus, and Slavic (e.g. Old Church Slavic) velibodŭ, apart from Hittite ḫuwalpant ("hunchback", obviously "camel").
These reconstructed PIE animal names go against the establishment theory that the environment depicted by the reconstructed PIE fauna is that of the cold or temperate areas of the north. Hence most AIT supporters (including the staunch but racist-casteist Hindus) ignore these names in their discussion and wax eloquent on the reconstructed names of animals (and trees) found (i.e. also found) in the temperate areas: the wolf, bear, lynx, fox/jackal, deer/elk, bull, cow, hare, squirrel, otter, beaver, mouse, duck/swan, dog, cat, horse, bull/cow, goat, sheep, pig, etc. However, in any Indian homeland theory, all these animals are found in India, or, where they (and their names) are not found within India, they are found in areas to the north-west of India which, in any OIT scenario, would form a part of the secondary homeland which the other branches would have to inhabit and pass through in their movement out from India. The same cannot be said for the southern/eastern animals (tiger, lion, leopard, ape and elephant) in any Steppe homeland theory!
Nevertheless, many arguments are made against these reconstructed names. We will first note the arguments made against the first four names:
1. The words vyāghra, kapi and pṛdāku are not found in the Rigveda and are therefore post-Vedic words (although one of the composers of the Rigvedic hymn IX.97 bears the name Vyāghra-pāda "tiger-foot", a person named many times in X.86 bears the name Vrṣā-kapi, and a person named in VIII.17.15 bears the name Pṛdāku-sānu!).
2. The word for tiger may have been borrowed by Old Persian and Old Armenian from India in historical times.
3. Lions, leopards, and even tigers, were found in parts of Iran, West Asia and the Caucasus region in early historical times. Likewise monkeys were found as far as West Asia in earlier historical times. Names for these animals may therefore have been known to the PIE language speakers in their steppe homeland.
4. There may be no connection between Indo-Aryan kapí- and Greek kēpos, which may have evolved separately, and the identification of the Germanic and Slavic words as related to the above forms with k- may also be wrong.
5. These names may be "wanderwörter" (i.e. "migratory words": words of indeterminate origins which spread over large areas and were borrowed by different originally unrelated languages) from West Asia into the Steppe areas: e.g. Egyptian gjf, Aramaic kōpā, Sumerian ukupu, "monkey".
All these arguments can be argued against, but here we will deal only with the word for "elephant", since it is the most important and significant, for two reasons:
1. The word is found distributed over the entire spectrum of Indo-European languages: it is found in both Asia and Europe, in both the south-easternmost branch (Indo-Aryan) as well as the north-westernmost one (Germanic). It is found in all the oldest recorded Indo-European languages: "the earliest attested Indo-European languages, i.e. Hittite, Mycenaean Greek and Indo-Aryan" (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:99), as well as in the oldest attested "North-western" or "European" IE languages in southern Europe (Latin), northern Europe (Gothic) and eastern Europe (Old Church Slavonic). It is found in Anatolian (Hittite) as well as in five other branches: as per Mallory and Adams, the criterion for determining a word to be definitely Proto-Indo-European is "if there are cognates between Anatolian and any other Indo-European language", to which they add: "This rule will not please everyone, but it will be applied here" (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:109-110)!
2. Unlike the other animals named above, the elephant is found in only one of the historical Indo-European habitats: that of Indo-Aryan. There are two distinct species of elephants: the Indian elephant (elaphas maximus), found in India and in areas to its east (i.e. southeast Asia), and the African elephant (loxodonta africana), found in sub-Saharan Africa, in both cases far from the historical habitats of all the other branches of IE languages other than Indo-Aryan.
The above facts about the PIE elephant, in conjunction with the names of the four other animals named above (and see further the evidence of other animal names in the section, below, on the elephant in the Rigveda), constitute clinching evidence for the Indian homeland theory as opposed to the Steppe (South Russian) homeland theory; but it is testimony to the motivated nature of the discussion on the subject of the PIE homeland that the evidence of the elephant in the Rigveda is just "the elephant in the living room" for most western scholars as well as for most staunch Hindu racist-casteist writers, who write as if they don't know it exists.
Others try to minimize the importance of the evidence with special pleading. Mallory and Adams write: "*(y)ebh- 'elephant' (Lat ebur, Skt íbha-) and *lebh- 'ivory' (Myc e-re-pa, Grk eléphas). There are those who would claim that they are both Proto-Indo-European (and indicate an Asian homeland), but the word for elephant is close enough to the Egyptian word (3bw) to suggest a wanderwort and objects of ivory were widely traded in the eastern Aegean during the Bronze Age, and borrowing is usually, and surely correctly, suspected here as well" (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:141).
Others go many steps ahead in their zeal to try and dismiss, negate or neutralize the evidence of the PIE elephant. Václav Blažek, for example, writes a long article loaded with data and details, and presumptuous pronouncements loaded with special pleading, for this express purpose, discreetly and ambiguously titled "Two Greek words of a foreign origin":
a) He tells us that "both Anatolian and Greek 'ivory'/'elephant' were borrowed independently from a common source" (BLAŽEK 2004:13),
b) firmly pronounces that "Latin ebur 'ivory' reflects a late Egyptian pronunciation of Egyptian 3bw 'elephant'" (BLAŽEK 2004:14), and
c) completely and authoritatively dismisses the very idea that the word ibha means "elephant" at all: "The Old Indic, at least Vedic, íbha means 'Gesinde, Tross, Hauswesen, Hofstaat' (EWAI I:194). Mayrhofer, KEWA III:644 confirms that the meaning 'elephant' appears only in the later language (Mānava Dharmaśāstra) probably thanks to misinterpretation of an original Vedic text (further cf. Pali ibha-, Prakrit i(b)ha-; Sinhalese iba looks like a direct borrowing from Pali - see Turner 1966:71, # 1587)" (BLAŽEK 2004:14)!
d) And finally he even dismisses outright "any connection (cognate or borrowing) of Gothic ulbandus, Old Icelandic ulfalde, Old English olfend 'camel' with Greek ἐλέφαντ" (BLAŽEK 2004:13). That is, he accepts that the Germanic (and Slavic) words are cognate to the Hittite ḫuwalpant "hunchback", but he insists that the word originally meant neither "elephant" nor "camel" but only "hunchback", and is totally unrelated to the Greek word!
Thus even the oldest, most widespread and most rock-solid evidence can be dismissed with a wave of the hand by entrenched and motivated scholars when found inconvenient!
But can it really be dismissed so easily? We will examine the case under the following heads:
Section I. The elephant in the Rigveda.
I A. Tugra, Bhujyu and Tugra's ibha-s.
I B. The ṛbhu-s and the elephant.
Section II. The case for the African elephant in a Steppe Homeland.
II A. The Case for the North African elephant.
II B. The Iberian Evidence.
II C. Hannibal's elephants and the elephants of Ptolemy IV.
II D. Egypt as the Conduit for the African Elephant.
II E. The Name of the African elephant.
Section III. The case for the "Syrian" elephant in a Steppe Homeland.
III A. The "Syrian" elephant.
III B. The Mitanni.
III C. The West Asian names for the elephant.
Section IV. The case for the Indian elephant in an Indian Homeland.
IV A. The Trail of Elephants and Ivory from India.
IV B. The Trail of the Name from India.
Section V. The Flora and Fauna of the Rigveda vis-à-vis the PIE world.
V A. The Flora and Fauna of the Old Books vis-à-vis the New Books.
V B. PIE Flora and Fauna of the North-west and beyond.
V C. Soma, Honey, Wine and Aurochs, Horses and Cows.
Section I. The elephant in the Rigveda.
The elephant is found in the Rigveda already with three distinct names: íbha-, vāraṇá, and hastín. [Later on there are many more: gaja, mātaṅga, kuñjara, dantī, nāga, karī, etc. In the Rigveda itself, Griffith and Wilson translate two more words as "elephant": apsah in VIII.45.56 and sṛṇí in X.106.6].
It is clearly a very familiar animal fully integral to the traditional culture and environment of the Vedic people: IV.16.14 compares Indra's might to that of a mighty elephant, and at least three verses (I.64.7; 140.2; VIII.33.8) refer to a wild elephant crashing its way through the forests and bushes: in the third reference the elephant is "rushing on this way and that way, mad with heat" (GRIFFITH). X.40.4 refers to hunters following two wild elephants. I.84.17 refers to household elephants as part of the possessions of a wealthy householder, IV.4.1 refers to royal elephants as part of the entourage of a mighty king, and IX.57.3 refers to a ceremonial elephant being decked up by the people. VI.20.8 refers to battle elephants, or, at least to elephants in the course of the description of a battle.
[Now throughout the rest of this article, one thing that must be constantly kept in mind is the early chronology and antiquity (both in terms of date as well as of PIE history) of words and references found in the non-redacted portions of the Old Books of the Rigveda. In my earlier blog article "The Recorded History of the Indo-European Migrations - Part 2, The chronology and geography of the Rigveda", I have shown that the overwhelming mass of names, name types, words and metres common to the Rigveda, the Avesta and the Mitanni records are found as follows:
1. In not a single one of the 280 Old Hymns and 2351 verses in the Old Books 6,3,7,4,2: i.e. in 0 % of the hymns and verses.
2. In 15 of the 62 Redacted Old Hymns and 23 of the 890 Redacted verses in the Old Books 6,3,7,4,2: i.e. in 24.19 % of the hymns but only 2.58 % of the verses.
3. In 425 of the 686 New Hymns and 3692 of the 7311 verses in the New Books 5,1,8,9,10: i.e. in 61.95 % of the hymns and 50.50 % of the verses, and in all subsequent Vedic and Sanskrit texts.
In short, unless positive proof to the contrary can be produced in respect of any particular reference, words found in the non-redacted portions of the Old Books (2,3,4,6,7) of the Rigveda:
1. can go back beyond 2500 BCE at the least in terms of absolute chronology, and
2. represent a period anterior to the period of "Indo-Iranian" and Mitanni unity, and even, as we will see in Part 3 of my above article (to be completed and uploaded), anterior to the period of "South Indo-European" (i.e. Indo-Aryan-Iranian-Greek-Armenian-Albanian) unity.
Anyone who disputes these conclusions must first disprove the case presented in part 2 of my above article, already uploaded on this blogsite].
The references to the elephant in the Rigveda (without counting apsah in VIII.45.56, and sṛṇí in X.106.6) are as follows:
IV.4.1 (íbha-); 16.14 (hastín).
I.64.7 (hastín); 84.17 (íbha-); 140.2 (vāraṇá).
X.40.4 (vāraṇá); 49.4 (íbha-).
The word íbha- in the Rigveda is found right from the oldest book 6 to the latest book 10. It is the oldest Vedic/Sanskrit word for "elephant", and, like many other older and PIE Vedic words (nakta and kṣap for "night", uda- and āpa- for "water", etc) which fell out of use in comparison with newer words in later Indo-Aryan (even in Classical Sanskrit), it also fell out of popular or common use in comparison with newer words after the period of the Vedic Saṁhitā-s: in fact, it is found even in the other three Vedic Saṁhitā-s only in repetitions of Rigvedic verses.
The determined bid by some Indologists to establish that the word does not mean "elephant" at all, but means something like "servants, attendants, household", etc. is totally untenable:
Throughout the entire tradition of Indian Vedic and linguistic tradition, the word íbha- means "elephant": the Uṇādi Sūtra-s (III.147) of Pāṇini (or, according to many authorities, of sources even anterior to him) tell us that the word means hastī "elephant". The same meaning is given by Yāska, Mahīdhara, Sāyaṇa, and all other traditional Indian Vedic scholars, grammarians, etymologists and lexicographers. Many of the western Indologists (Müller, Wilson, Uhlenbeck, Pischel, Geldner) also unambiguously translate the word as "elephant".
Then what is the basis for translating the word as "attendants, servants"? This motif was introduced in the last few hundred years, in defiance of the meaning accepted since thousands of years, and without any basis in either Indo-European or Sanskrit etymology, initially by a motley crowd of Indologists (Ludwig, Grassmann, Roth, Zimmer, etc.), on the basis of the following: the Nirukta of Yāska (6.12) elaborates on the meaning of "yāhi rājevamavāṁ ibhena" (a section of the Rigvedic verse IV.4.1) as follows: "yāhi rājeva/ amātyavān/ abhyamanavān/ svavānvā/ irābhṛtā gaṇena gatamayena/ hastinetivā", i.e. "Go like a king who is accompanied by his minister, or who is the terror of his enemies, or who is followed by his own attendants, i.e. retinue well nourished with food, or (riding) a fearless elephant". The word "attendants" in the above commentary actually refers to the word ama: Wilson, in his footnote to his translation, tells us that "ama has also different interpretations, a minister, for amátya, or ama, an associate". But it has been transferred to the following word íbha and interpreted as the "real" meaning of the word íbha - so the "misinterpretation of an original Vedic text" was done not by ancient Indian grammarians, lexicographers and interpreters of the Rigveda, but by certain early Indologists - and this misinterpretation has been blindly followed by most subsequent Indological scholars.
It may, incidentally, be noted that the word íbha is translated as "attendants, servants" by Griffith, who follows that interpretation, when the context is sufficiently general, eg. "Tugra with his íbha-s", but in IX.57.3, where the reference is to people decking up an íbha, he perforce translates the word as "elephant"!
But, on the basis of this authoritative "evidence", scholars like Blažek (see above) confidently assert that "the meaning 'elephant' appears only in the later language (Mānava Dharmaśāstra) probably thanks to misinterpretation of an original Vedic text", and that the word for "elephant" is not a common PIE word at all: according to Blažek, "both Anatolian and Greek 'ivory'/'elephant' were borrowed independently from a common source". Latin independently borrowed a cognate sounding word from "a late Egyptian pronunciation of Egyptian 3bw 'elephant'". The ancient pre-Pāṇinian Indian Vedic scholars independently (and unanimously) "misinterpreted" another cognate sounding word originally restricted to the oldest book, the Rigveda, a word which which really meant "attendants, servants", to mean "elephant". The Germanic tribes, in the camel-less South Russian homeland itself, independently borrowed yet another cognate sounding word meaning "hunchback" from Hittite, and, after reaching north-western Europe, applied the name to camels! Does this constitute a credible case?
The above authoritative edicts are lapped up by AIT proponents to negate the evidence for the PIE elephant. Witzel tells us: "Vedic ibha does not even seem to indicate 'elephant' but 'household of a chief' (details in EWA I 194); i-bha 'elephant' is attested only in Epic/Class. Skt. (EWA III 28)...", and, not satisfied with quoting "authorities", he sagely adds a linguistic angle: "...and the combination with Grk. elé-pha(nt-), Latin ebur, Gothic ulbandus, 'camel' suffers from lack of proper sound correspondences" (WITZEL 2001a:44).
This argument, about "lack of proper sound correspondences" is a demonstrably fake one: the PIE elephant is sought to be denied by Witzel on the grounds of "lack of proper sound correspondences", but, when it comes to animals of the temperate region, this same "lack of proper sound correspondences" apparently enhances the value of the evidence: "the major carnivores [...] are well represented although often showing substantial independent re-formation. This is the case with *wl(o)p- 'fox' (e.g. Lat vulpēs, Lith lãpė, Grk alṓpēks ~ alōpos, Arm aluēs, Hit ulip(pa)na- 'wolf', Av urupis 'dog', raopi- 'fox, jackal', Skt lopāsá- 'jackal, fox'), for example, which boasts at least six different potential proto-forms" (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:138)!
Therefore, the question now is not whether the elephant is a PIE animal: it definitely is PIE. The question is whether the elephant known to the PIEs was the African (or "Syrian") elephant (in a PIE homeland in the Steppes of South Russia), or the Indian elephant (in a PIE homeland in India), and we will examine the three cases in the next three sections.
But before that, let us examine some other matter in the Rigveda, which indicates a much greater role for the elephant in the Vedic culture than hitherto suspected, under the following heads:
I A. Tugra, Bhujyu and Tugra's ibha-s.
I B. The ṛbhu-s and the elephant.
I A. Tugra, Bhujyu and Tugra's ibha-s:
The word íbha is found five times in the Rigveda, but one notable thing is that out of these five references two occur along with the name of a "person" named Tugra. If the word meant "attendants, servants", it would be strange that such a general or common term as "attendants, servants" should be associated so exclusively with only one particular person in the whole of the Rigveda. The first reference is tugrám śaśvád-ibham in VI.20.8, the second is tugrám smad-íbham in X.49.4. The references seem to confuse both the sets of Indologists: those who translate íbha as "elephant" as well as those who translate it as "servant, attendant". Most of them, belonging to both sets, translate the second as the name of a person Smadibha, and the first as the name of the same person "in abbreviation" as Ibha! Griffith, who belongs to the second set, however, translates the first as "Tugra with all his servants", but the second rather illogically as a name Smadibha - illogical since (apart from the clear identity of the two references) the word smad in the second reference actually means "together with".
It is clear that the reference in both cases means "Tugra with his elephants". And, since in two of the five references in the Rigveda, the word íbha is closely linked with the word Tugra, the question then arises: why should the elephant be so often linked with Tugra? For that, one must first understand who, or what, tugra is in the Rigveda.
The words tugra and ibha, and certain other words directly connected with them (tugrya with tugryā-vṛdh, taugrya, bhujyu and ibhya), are found in the Rigveda as follows:
IV.4.1 (ibha); 27.4 (bhujyu).
VI.20.8 (tugra, ibha); 26.4 (tugra); 62.6 (tugra, bhujyu).
VII.68.7 (bhujyu); 69.7 (bhujyu).
I.33.15 (tugrya); 65.7 (ibhya 'rich'); 84.17 (ibha); 112.6 (bhujyu), 20 (bhujyu); 116.3 (tugra, bhujyu), 4 (bhujyu), 5 (bhujyu); 117.14 (tugra, bhujyu), 15 (taugrya); 118.6 (taugrya); 119.4 (bhujyu); 158.3 (taugrya); 180.5 (taugrya); 182.5 (taugrya), 6 (taugrya), 7 (taugrya).
VIII.1.15 (tugryā-vṛdh); 3.23 (tugrya); 5.22 (taugrya); 22.2 (bhujyu 'rich'); 32.20 (tugrya); 45.29 (tugryā-vṛdh); 46.2 (bhujyu 'rich'); 74.14 (tugrya); 99.7 (tugryā-vṛdh).
X.39.4 (taugrya); 40.7 (bhujyu); 49.4 (tugra, ibha); 65.12 (bhujyu); 95.8 (bhujyu 'snake'); 143.5 (bhujyu).
These above words constitute:
a) a small group of words connected with each other,
b) they are all "Old Vedic words" in the sense that they are almost purely exclusive to the Rigveda among the four Samhitās, and, except for one single reference in the Yajurveda (Yaj 18.42 bhujyu) are not found independently in the other three Samhitās (i.e. there are three Rigvedic verses repeated in the other texts: IV.4.1 ibha in Yaj 13.9; VIII.99.7 tugryā-vṛdh in Sām 2.83 and Ath 20.105.3; and IX.57.3 ibha in Sām 2.1113).
c) they all seem to have connections to contexts having to do with trade and commerce, sea travel, and elephants(/ivory?):
The references to tugra form three distinct groups:
1. The first group is found in Indra hymns in the oldest book 6 (VI.20.8; 26.4). VI.20.8 refers to Indra forcing Tugra with his ibha-s (along with vetasu and daśoṇi) into submission, and VI.26.8 refers to Indra killing Tugra (and vetasu). Wilson's translation suggests this was done for a king (whose name he identifies as Dyotana, a word which appears in the verse). This (Indra forcing tugra with his ibha-s and vetasu into submission) is referred to again in X.49.4. As book 10 of the Rigveda often imitates themes, words and verses from older hymns, this theme would appear to be basically restricted to the oldest book 6.
The one thing clear in these three references is that they are hostile to Tugra, and therefore stand out from the rest of the references to him.
In the light of the references to follow, I would speculate as follows: Tugra was the name for an elephant breeder, and the reference is to some kind of "elephant-raid" (like the cattle raids depicted in the Vedas and Epics) in which the king, or the Vedic Aryans (the Pūru-s), took over the elephants from Tugra (which may be the name of the elephant-breeder, or a generic name for "elephant-breeders"), or the control of the trade in elephants/ivory from the paṇi-s or traders (see below). In this context, note the references to two words, vetasu and daśoṇi, which occur only in the Rigveda and never after that:
a) The word vetasu is found only in the three verses (VI.20.8; 26.4; X.49.4) which refer to Tugra's defeat at the hands of Indra. It is not found in any other context either in the Rigveda itself or in any other text after that. The only word from which it can be derived is vetasa "reed, cane". Clearly, this word, in conjunction with the word ibha "elephant", must be a reference to cane-fields or grounds covered with reeds or bamboos, which constitute the main food of elephants.
b) The word daśoṇi is also found in only three verses (VI.20.4,8; X.96.12) in the Rigveda, and nowhere after that, except for the repetition of X.96.12 daśoṇi, in Ath 20.32.2. But, in this verse, the word has a different meaning, and is translated as "ten fingers", and therefore the word in the two references in VI.20 has no other context. In VI.20.4, the verse talks about Indra driving away the paṇi-s (i.e.traders, merchants) for, or from, daśoṇi. Since oṇi means "protection, shelter", in the Rigveda, daśoṇi could be a reference to elephant-stables.
Thus the verses refer to the take-over of the elephants, cane-fields and elephant-stables of Tugra by Indra (i.e. by the kings of the Vedic Aryans or Pūru-s).
2. The second group is found in an Aśvin hymn (VI.62.6), which refers to the Aśvin-s rescuing bhujyu, the son of tugra (tugrasya sūnu) from the seas or waters with the help of "birds" (i.e. ships).
These references are later found throughout the Rigveda in hymns to the Aśvin-s:
a) A few verses simply refer to bhujyu or taugrya ("son of tugra" as a patronymic, the phrase "tugrasya sūnu" being used only in VI.62.6 above) being "helped" by the Aśvin-s: I.112.6,20; X.40.7; 65.12. (In I.180.5, taugrya is mentioned as a worshipper of the Aśvin-s).
b) Most of the verses specifically refer to bhujyu or taugrya being rescued from amidst the seas or waters by the Aśvin-s and brought to safety: I.116.3,4,5; 117.14,15; 118.6; 119.4; 158.3; 182.5,6,7; VI.62.6; VII.68.7; 69.7; VIII.5.22; X.39.4; 143.5. [One verse, IV.27.4, in a hymn to the falcon, mythically identifies the falcon with the "bird" which carries him to safety].
The following details of this "rescue", given in these verses, are significant:
a) tugra is forced to abandon bhujyu in the waters "as a dead man leaves his riches" (I.116.3). VII.68.7; 69.7 also indicate bhujyu's "abandonment". This seems to indicate the shipwreck of a goods-laden ship in the ocean, or perhaps abandonment of a rich haul of cargo out at sea due to an act of treachery by "wicked friends" (VII.68.7).
b) taugrya is left clinging to a tree in the waters (I.182.7): i.e. clinging to the wreck of a ship, or abandoned on a small island.
c) the "bird" which carries bhujyu to safety becomes "flying steeds" in many verses, and in I.117.14, these are specifically "brown" in colour: i.e. wooden ships.
d) the rescue takes place with the help of "a ship with a hundred oars" (I.116.5), or "four ships" (I.182.6), indicating the large amount of cargo involved.
e) the return journey takes "three days and three nights" (I.116.4).
From all this, it is clear Tugra and his son Bhujyu are sea-faring merchants carrying on trade with distant lands.
That the cargo in which they deal must be ivory is clear:
a) Tugra, as we saw, is specially associated in the oldest hymns with elephants.
b) From the oldest records from India as well as West Asia (see also later on in section 3 of this article), it is clear that ivory was one of the main items exported from India.
c) There is a word ibhya derived from ibha "elephant". It is found only once in the Rigveda: in I.65.7, where it means "rich". Later, it is found in two verses in the Chāndogya-Upaniṣad (10.1,2), where also it means "rich". Later it is found in its Pali form ibbha in Ashoka's Rock Edict No. 5, and in various Pali texts, where it continues to mean "rich (people)" or more specifically "traders, merchants".
d) the name of Tugra's son, bhujyu, has many connotations, all of which seem to point towards elephants/ivory or trade (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:759):
i) "1 bhuj. .... bent, curved" [note: a perfect word for ivory].
ii) "2 Bhuj. Bhuja, m. (ifc. f. ā) the arm .... the hand .... the trunk of an elephant" [note: like karī and hastin/hastī from kara, hasta "hand", bhujyu from bhuja "arm, hand" can certainly mean "elephant"].
iii) "2. Bhujyu, f. (for 2, see col. 3) a snake or viper .... RV. x,95,8" [note: because of the similarity between the snake and the elephant's trunk, many words, e.g. nāga, which mean "snake" also mean "elephant" in Sanskrit].
iv) "4. Bhuj, f. enjoyment, profit, advantage, possession or use of .... 2. Bhujyu, mfn (for 1, see col. 2) wealthy, rich, RV. viii,22,1; 46,20" [note: this meaning coincides with the meaning of ibhya].
3. The third group is found in Indra hymns (and one in an Agni hymn VIII.74) and consists of the word tugrya. All (but one) of them are found in book 8: VIII.1.15; 3.23; 32.20; 45.29; 74.14; 99.7. The last one is in a Kaṇva hymn in the related book 1 (I.33.15).
The word tugrya is generally translated as "the race of tugra", but is used in three different but related senses:
a) In two verses (VIII.3.23; 74.14) it seems to refer to the same theme as in the second group above, since the verses talks of flying steeds bringing tugrya to his dwelling (although there is no direct reference to the sea much less to any crisis out at sea, and the deed in the two verses is credited to Indra and Agni respectively rather than to the Aśvin-s).
b) The Nighaṇṭu 1.12, significantly, gives the meaning of the word tugrya as "waters", and the word is so translated by, for example, Wilson, in I.33.15; VIII.32.20. [Note another related word in VIII.19.37: tugvan "ford". That tugā in later texts means the sap of bamboos, one of the favourite foods of the elephant, may or may not be significant.].
c) In three verses (VIII.1.15; 45.29; 99.7) it is part of Indra's epithet tugryā-vṛdh: "increasing (the wealth of) the tugrya-s" or "favourable to the tugrya-s". This is in sharp contrast to the hostile references to tugra in the references to him in the Indra hymns in the oldest book 6.
It is clear that in the period of book 8, the word refers to naval merchants. It is significant that Indra, who is hostile to tugra in the first group of references in book 6, is particularly the patron and protector of the tugrya-s in these references. Book 8 is the period in which Vedic culture was at its most open and cosmopolitan, and undoubtedly, trade and commercial activities were at their height: it contains the only friendly references to dāsa-s (VIII.5.31; 46.32; 51.9), i.e. non-Vedic people or non-Pūru-s; also, as J.C. Tavadia puts it, it “bears the most striking similarity to the Avesta” (TAVADIA 1950:3); it shows the closest affinity to the Mitanni people who migrated out as far west as Syria-Iraq (even sharing a personal name Indrota, apart from a large number of -atithi names); and, most significantly, it contains two words which have been identified as Babylonian words, which indicate a flourishing trade between the Vedic Aryans and the Mesopotamians (VIII.66.10, bekanāṭa "moneylender", and VIII.78.2 manā "a measure of weight").
I B. The ṛbhu-s and the elephant:
The word ibha, as we saw, is an early Rigvedic word for "elephant", used in later texts as a Vedic word. It is the oldest word for "elephant", found from the oldest book 6, which gets replaced by newer words in later texts. It also has cognate forms in other IE branches. These cognate words can mean either "elephant" or "ivory", or both.
But the significant part of the cognate forms is that they are found in two variants: Vedic ibha- and Latin ebur lead to a reconstructed PIE form *(y)ebh, and Greek el-ephas (extended form el-ephant-) and Hittite la-ḫpa- lead to a reconstructed PIE form *lebh. The l-element in the second form is often tentatively attributed to a borrowing from West Asia of a West Asian word with a prefixed definite article al- as in Arabic. The consideration of the Germanic words (Gothic ulbandus, Old Icelandic ulfalde, Old English olfend 'camel' with the extended Greek form), with meaning transferred to "camel", leads to an extended reconstructed form *lebhonth- or *ḷbhonth-.
In an Indian homeland hypothesis, the elephant would be a very important animal not just from around the period of the separation and migration of the Indo-European dialects, but from long before that. The word would therefore not be just an old Rigvedic word (as its distribution in the texts shows it to be) but a very much pre-Rigvedic (and pre-PIE) word. That this is so is proved by the fact that the word ibha- has no known etymological derivation: Pāṇini does not give the etymological derivation of the word, and its meaning is given in his Uṇādi-Sūtra-s (which lists words not derived by him from verbal roots) as hastī "elephant". Usually this would be taken (in an AIT scenario) as a word borrowed by incoming "Aryan invaders" from some local language, but in this case (apart from the fact that it has cognates in other IE branches) the word is not found in any non-IE Indian language.
Therefore, in this case, the only option is that ibha- could be that rare type of Vedic word: a word so old that it has already undergone a process of Prakritization in the Rigveda. The logical pre-Prakritization form of ibha- would be *ṛbha-. If the more regularly settled meaning of *ṛbha- was "tusk, ivory" (as it is in Hittite laḫpa-, Latin ebur, Myc. Greek erepa, and one of the two meanings of Greek elephas and Rigvedic ibha-, the other meaning being "elephant" itself) the suffix in Greek elephantas and the Germanic words (ulbandus-, etc., and the related Slavic words) would be explained by the suffix -vanta/-manta: *ṛbha-vanta/manta would be "tusker".
In the Rigveda, we have a related word: ṛbhu-, which refers to a race of semi-divine artisans (identified etymologically and mythologically with the elf of Germanic mythology and folklore). As per Macdonell, the word ṛbhu- comes "from the root rabh, to grasp, thus means 'handy', 'dexterous'" (MACDONELL 1897:133). The root (due to r/l alternation in the Vedic language) has two forms in the Rigveda, √rabh and √labh, both meaning the same thing: √rabh: "to take hold of, grasp, clasp, embrace" (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:867) and √labh: "to take, seize, catch" (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:896). [A regular epithet of the ṛbhu-s is su-hastah "deft-handed" (IV.33.8; 35.3,9; V.42.12; VII.35.12; X.66.10)].
The word ibha- ~ *ṛbha- is thus also derived from the root √rabh,√labh: in this case, we have an advantage over Pāṇini in the modern comparative evidence of the word as found in other IE languages. This not only explains the Vedic etymology of the word ibha-, it also explains the PIE etymology: i.e. the l-element in the Greek and Hittite versions (and the reconstructed PIE form *lebh-). [Note that ibha, also derived from the meaning "handy, dexterous", thus actually has the same sense as the later word hastin. This is ironic since the very transparent descriptive etymology of hastin has often been used as a rather pedestrian argument for it being a "new" word coined by "invading Aryans" for a "new" animal encountered by them in India].
It also explains the dual meaning of ibha- in the Rigveda: ibha- "elephant" (*ṛbha- from √rabh,√labh), ibhya "rich" (*rabhya, *labhya): the root √labh is, in later times, regularly associated with profit, wealth and riches, and the Goddess of wealth, Lakṣmī, is regularly depicted surrounded by elephants (and even bears the names lābha-lakṣmī and gaja-lakṣmī).
[The following points in respect of the Rigvedic ṛbhu-s may also be noted, for whatever they are worth:
a) The ṛbhu-s are three in number, and their respective names are ṛbhu, vāja and vibhu. The word ṛbhu is "said […] also of property or wealth, RV.iv,37,5; viii,93,34" (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:226), and is translated as "wealth" in the two verses (IV.37.5; VIII.93.34) by, e.g., Wilson and Griffith. Likewise, the word vāja means "strength, vigour", and also "wealth, booty, prize", and also means "a powerful animal" as a word for "horse" - in a pre-horse environment in India, it could have indicated the elephant. The word vibhu, for what it is worth, rhymes with ṛbhu, and resembles ibha. [Note also the forms ṛbh-van and vibh-van in the Rigveda, and the forms ṛbhu-manta and vāja-vanta (both) in III.52.6 and VIII.35.15]
b) The two epithets of Indra, ṛbhu-kṣaṇ and tugryā-vṛdh, are used together in VIII.45.29.
c) The ṛbhu-s are said to have fashioned the steeds of Indra. In IV.37.4, a hymn to the ṛbhu-s, Indra's "horses" (i.e. vehicles) are said to be fat and corpulent (pīvo-aśva), a phrase used nowhere else. In all (admittedly) later mythology, the vehicle of Indra is the elephant].
There can be no doubt, therefore, that:
1. the word ibha- in the Rigveda means "elephant/ivory".
2. The word is an Old Rigvedic and even a proto-Indo-European word.
3. The elephant is a very important animal in the Rigveda, and an integral part of the Vedic culture, from the period of the Old Books, which, as pointed out in the beginning of this article, pertain to a period, as demonstrable from the evidence in the Rigveda itself, before the separation of the proto-Mitanni and proto-Iranian people (and even the proto-Greek, proto-Albanian and proto-Armenian people) from the Vedic Aryans.
[To speculate: the word *ṛbha/*ḷbha, from the root *labh/*rabh, may have been carried by the early migrants of the proto-Sinhalese language (along with many other archaic words like watura, "water") into Sri Lanka, maybe in the form *aliba or *aluva. The words for elephant in Sinhalese are atha (fem. athini, therefore obviously the equivalent of Vedic hastin), iba (Rigvedic ibha) and ali/aliya (used for tusk-less elephants: unlike Africa, India and southeast Asia, a majority of the elephants in Sri Lanka, almost 95% for unknown reasons, are tusk-less. Could ali/aliya be derived from *aliba, minus the iba "tusk"? The word aḷuwa in Sinhalese is the post to which an elephant is tied (the cerebral l in the word makes no difference since in most languages south of the Vindhyas, including Marathi, Sanskrit dental l rather than ḍ becomes cerebral ḷ). Curiously, the traditional elephant-training community in Sri Lanka is called paṇikkar: connect with the reference referred to earlier, in VI.20.4, which talks about Indra driving away the paṇi-s (i.e.traders, merchants) for, or from, daśoṇi].
Nevertheless, let us, in the next three sections, examine, independently of the above evidence, the case for the African elephant (and the "Syrian" elephant), versus the case for the Indian elephant, as the elephant known to the proto-Indo-Europeans in their Original Homeland.
Section II. The case for the African elephant in a Steppe Homeland.
Let us first take up the case for the African elephant in a Steppe Homeland around 3000 BCE. As the geographical locations of the two places suggest, this is a pretty tall proposition. The only safe alternative for advocates of the Steppe Homeland theory is to completely ignore the evidence for the PIE elephant and act as if it simply does not exist at all. This is what most articles and discussions on the Steppe Homeland theory actually do.
But when scholars trying or feigning to be truly scholarly find themselves compelled to actually deal with the evidence, they do so in any one of two ways:
Alternative 1. By isolating the different IE words for "elephant" and dealing with them independently as having different origins in different areas in different periods of post-IE unity.
Alternative 2. By treating the PIE language speakers as having acquired a "migratory word" or "wanderwort" for the African elephant in the PIE Steppe Homeland itself during the period of PIE unity.
Alternative 1: Václav Blažek, as we saw, postulates that the different IE words for ivory/elephant were independently borrowed by the different branches from different sources all leading back to the African elephant. We have here a case of multipronged special pleading:
To begin with, as we have already seen, Blažek tries to eliminate from the discussion the IE branches farthest away from the influence of Egypt and Africa: viz. the Indo-Aryan and Germanic (and Slavic) branches, by denying that the Rigvedic ibha- means "elephant" at all, and that the Germanic (and related Slavic) words, Gothic ulbandus- "camel", etc., have any relation to the Greek and other IE words for "ivory/elephant".
Then he derives the three other words, from languages (Latin, Greek, Hittite) which were historically in contact with Egypt and North Africa in general, from three totally different sources:
a) to begin with, Latin ebur is derived from "a late Egyptian pronunciation of Egyptian 3bw 'elephant'" (BLAŽEK 2004:14),
b) the Greek elaphas and the Hittite laḫpa-, both having the l-element in the names, are derived, after a long and convoluted discussion (BLAŽEK 2004:15-19, involving listing of the names for "elephant", and even "lion", in various North African languages, tenuously connecting together various hypothetical reconstructed forms of words, interspersed with confusing comparisons, derivations, reconstructions and suggestions) as follows: "Accepting the presented arguments and regardless of the concrete etymology, Egyptian ỉbḥt (attested only in the late language, but certainly older) can reflect *ʔǝ3bḥat = *ʔǝlbḥat. This form, borrowed in the East Mediterranean substratal language knowing only open syllables (judging by the Linear B script), should be remodelled in *ʔǝlǝbhat vel sim. And just this hypothetical reconstruction is well compatible with Greek ὲλέφᾱς < ὲλέφᾱτ(-ς). Hittite/Luwian laḫpa could be borrowed from a source [unspecified and unknown] of the type labḥaw or labḥat" (BLAŽEK 2004:19).
The elimination of the connection of Rigvedic ibha- and the Germanic (and Slavic) words with these three separately "borrowed" forms involves a great deal of special pleading:
1. To begin with, the whole of ancient Vedic interpretation of the word ibha-, prevailing from pre-Paninian times to the advent of the western Indologists, and including the interpretation of many of the most prominent Indologists themselves (Müller, Griffith, Wilson, Pischel, Geldner, etc.), is to be treated as a "misinterpretation" of a word actually meaning "servant, attendant".
2. The Germanic tribes, in the camel-less South Russian homeland itself, are to be treated as independently borrowing a word meaning "hunchback" from Hittite, and, carrying it through their journey through camel-less territories into equally camel-less north-western Europe, applying the name to camels!
3. All these separate words (ibha-, ulbandus-etc., ebur, elephas-/elephantas, laḫpa-) are to be treated as having no connection with each other (three of them being borrowed from three different sources, and the other two being totally unrelated to each other and to the words for "elephant/ivory", or even having that meaning) and it is only a remarkable coincidence that they happen to resemble each other in ways which allow for common reconstructed proto-forms.
But, as we saw, ibha- definitely means "elephant/ivory", and we can logically derive all the words from a PIE root *rebh/lebh, in the form *ṛbha/ḷbha (with an extended form with -manta/-vanta).
Therefore, the different words (in the oldest attested languages belonging to six different, and geographically widely dispersed, branches) can only have been derived from a common PIE word for "elephant/ivory" in the PIE Homeland. Can this have been a PIE name for the African elephant (and its ivory) in a Steppe Homeland, i.e. Alternative 2? Let us examine this step by step through the rest of this section:
Alternative 2: To begin with, the African elephant is found as two species, the Bush/Savannah elephant (loxodonta africana) and the Forest elephant (loxodonta cyclotis), both found in the sub-Saharan areas of Africa. This elephant is geographically far from the Steppe region of South Russia, and, what is equally or more pertinent, none of the names for the elephant in the African languages of these areas even remotely resembles the Indo-European names: most of the eastern African Bantu languages (Swahili, Zulu, Sotho, Kikuyu, etc.) have words of the type ndovo/indlova/indofu/ndovu/tlovu/njovu. Another Swahili word is tembo. Most of the western African Niger-Congo languages, likewise, have different words, which seem to bear some connection with each other: e.g. Yoruba erin, Igbo enyi, Fulani ñiiwa. Most of the Nilo-Saharan languages also have different words: e.g. Kanuri kamagin, Dinka akoon. Any connection of the PIEs living in a PIE homeland in the Steppes of South Russia with the elephant of Africa, or with its name, would have to be through North Africa and West Asia.
However, it is claimed that another species or sub-species of elephant was found, till 2000 years or so ago, in certain parts of northern Africa (west of Egypt) as well.
This raises the following series of questions: were there really elephants in North Africa (west of Egypt) in the relevant period (4000-3000 BCE)? Were these elephants a major source of ivory to Egypt and areas further east? Did a name for "elephant/ivory" in these languages provide the proto-form for a common PIE name? Was the importance of this North African elephant/ivory, and more particularly the name for this elephant/ivory, of such far-reaching significance that it "wandered" or "migrated" through North Africa or Egypt into West Asia and thence as far north as the Steppe region of South Russia as early as 3000 BCE, where it gave birth to a PIE name which, again, was of such significance in the PIE culture that it was individually carried by all the oldest attested IE languages (Rigvedic, Hittite, Myc. Greek, Latin, Gothic, Old Church Slavic) into their respective historical habitats? [This last question is the most important because it is to avoid this question that Blažek tries to eliminate the validity of the Indo-Aryan and Germanic-Slavic names, and to individually derive the Hittite, Greek and Latin names from different sources in their respective historical habitats].
The case can be examined under the following heads:
II A. The Case for the North African elephant.
II B. The Iberian Evidence.
II C. Hannibal's elephants and the elephants of Ptolemy IV.
II D. Egypt as the Conduit for the African Elephant.
II E. The Name of the African elephant.
II A. The Case for the North African elephant:
1. North Africa, in the context of the distribution of elephants, means Saharan Africa: i.e. the northernmost line of African nations (from the east: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Western Sahara; the countries west of Egypt are together also known as the Maghreb) and the northern halves of the second northernmost line of nations (from the east: Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania). The question is: were elephants a significant feature of the fauna of (this) North Africa in the last four millennia BCE? Many scholars insist that they were: "Elephants once inhabited all of Africa, but today are limited to small regions south of the Sahara (Scullard 1974:24). The most northerly African elephant population is in Mauritania, West Africa (north of latitude 17˚10ʹ up to the heights of Tijelat) (Scullard 1974:25, Krzyszkowska 1990:29). This population may represent the remnants of elephant populations spread throughout North Africa before the severe desertification of the Sahara (Scullard 1974:24), and attested in classical times north of the Atlas mountains" (LAFRENZ 2004:34). [Note: the few extant elephants in southern Mauritania, referred to above, became extinct in the 1980s]. Further: "Literature on the Maghreb was inaccessible or nonexistent, and the area is represented by few finds, but historical evidence from the Iron Age and later suggests elephants roamed the Maghreb into the first millennium A.D. These would have been the elephants Hannibal and the Carthaginians utilized in the Punic wars (Gautier et al 1994:13)" (LAFRENZ 2004:36-37).
Is this in accordance with the facts? Before examining (in section II C) the "historical evidence from the Iron Age and later", the attestations "in classical times", and the elephants of Hannibal, let us see the evidence of fossils in the words of Lafrenz herself: "The earliest evidence for elephants in the northern half of Africa is the subject of a comprehensive article by Gautier et al (1994). The article was prompted by the discovery of an elephant skull in Nabta Playa, a drainage basin in the south of the western desert of Egypt, located approximately 100 km west of Abu Simbel [….] and dated to 'several tens of thousands' of years before present. The authors compiled an inventory of all Holocene elephant finds in the Sahara and adjacent Sudano-sahelian belt, excluding worked ivory (see figure 18 for a map illustrating this inventory)" (LAFRENZ 2004:36)
The map referred to above, figure 18 on p. 37, shows that of the 28 elephant fossils of the Holocene (the period after around 9000 BCE), 10 are well to the south of the Morocco-Algeria-Tunisia belt, 3 arch slightly northwards into S. Libya, and the remaining 15 are (4-5) in southern Egypt and (the rest) southwards along the Nile into Sudan (ancient Nubia)]. Even here (in ancient southern Egypt), as pointed out in detail by B. Adams, the elephant "had been hunted to extinction by 3500 BC, in Early Naqada II times, an interpretation that fits in with the disappearance of elephants from the rock drawings by 3600 BC", and "the objects made of elephant ivory that we find in the famous Main Deposit in the temple of Nekhen at Hierakonpolis" were "imported through the town of Elephantine (present day Aswan) from further south in Africa" (ADAMS 1998:50). "Transportation over a long distance probably also needs to be envisaged to explain the presence of the two elephants at Hierakonpolis. The overview of the Holocene found record of elephants in Northern Africa by Gautier et al (1954) shows that no other physical remains of this species are known from the Nile Valley in Egypt and Nubia. The evidence for elephants in the Western Desert is limited to the Early Holocene finds from Dakhleh Oasis and possibly the Fayum [both within Egypt]; the remains from Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba represent Middle Palaeolithic reworked fossils. The Predynastic inhabitants [of the Nile valley] were familiar with the creature as illustrated by the depictions on Predynastic objects and pottery for the most part datable to Naqada I-IIa" (VAN NEER ET AL 2004:112-13). In short, not a single fossil is found in the Maghreb after around 9000 BCE, except a few in southern Libya, but the elephants were long extinct even in southern Egypt by 3600 BCE. There are some prehistoric pictorial representations on stones in the north, but these do not testify to the actual presence of elephants in that region and only show that the artists were acquainted with these elephants found in the interior of Africa to their south and earlier also in Egypt to their east. Even about the elephant depictions in Late Predynastic and Early Dynastic times in Egypt: "the standardization of these images suggests a symbolic significance that may not be associated with their actual presence" (VAN NEER ET AL 2004:113). [Predynastic Egypt is 5500-3100 BCE].
2. As in the case of actual elephant fossils, the ivory used in Egypt also points to the south and not to the west (the Maghreb): "The archaeological evidence for contact with the South is certainly more prevalent than for any interaction with the coastal areas of North Africa, and it is from the southern reaches that elephants and elephant products were collected" (VAN NEER ET AL 2004:113).
Lafrenz also accepts that "much of the evidence for ivory imports points to the south" (LAFRENZ 2004:39), and gives plenty of details of this evidence (LAFRENZ 2004:38-41). As she notes: "The land to the south from which elephant ivory came was known as Punt and Meroe to the Egyptians and corresponds roughly to Somalia and eastern/southeastern Sudan, respectively [….] tusks were shipped down the Nile [….] Ivory was imported from the Sudan by way of the Nile Valley or the Red Sea during the 18th and 19th dynasties (c. 1550-1186 B.C.)" (LAFRENZ 2004:40).
Lafrenz is a wishful supporter of the "North African" elephant (as a source of ivory): "another source of elephant ivory in the late Bronze Age may have been North Africa" (LAFRENZ 2004:42). But the data she gives is inconsistent with her conjecture, and she can produce no evidence at all for her arguments (pp.47-48) from any archaeological or historical source. In fact the only "evidence" she can produce is one cited by L.G. Hayward (1990), the scholar who "reconstructs" elephants in the 2nd millennium B.C. in Libya, N. Algeria and Tunisia as a source of ivory in the ancient world, and with whom she admits to being in agreement (p. 47), but she is compelled to discount this sole "evidence": "It must be emphasized that this hypothesis, advocated by L.G. Hayward (1990), is based on seemingly shaky ground, according to Krzyszowska (1990:18,29)[….] Krzyszkowska (1990) does not see North Africa as a source for ivory until the 8th century" (LAFRENZ 2004:43).
What is this "evidence"? Hayward "cites one of the obelisks erected by Hatshepsut at Karnak, which bears the inscription 'I brought the goods of Tjehenu [Eastern Libya/Western Egypt] consisting of 700 ivory tusks [….] numerous panther skins (measuring) 5 cubits along the back (and) belonging to the southern panther [….]'. Hayward (1990:107) then proceeds to suggest the tusks 'must have originated further to the west, in North Western Libya …. or, just possibly, south of the Sahara'. How the tusks must have originated further to the west when the panther skins in the same inscription originated from the south seems questionable. Both the ivory and the panther skins could have been traded northwards from south of the Sahara, as Hayward suggests" (LAFRENZ 2004:45).
Further, Lafrenz discusses (LAFRENZ 2004:45-48) the arguments for the possibility of contacts between North Africa and the Aegean, and writes: "the subject is addressed by Knapp (1981) who, after reviewing the above points in favour of such contact, flatly dismisses the hypothesis as insupportable based on the available archaeological record in North Africa" (LAFRENZ 2004:46).
All in all, no scholar is able to produce any evidence for elephants, much less for elephants as a source of ivory in the ancient world, in North Africa. Even if, contrary to all the evidence, elephants are to be hypothetically assumed to have existed at all somewhere deep in the interior of the Maghreb "with low population densities in the Sahara [….] until the second and maybe even the first millennium B.C., although the range was probably fragmented and gradually reduced to the point of extinction by increasing aridity, deterioration of the environment and human activities (Gautier et al 1994:7,16)." (LAFRENZ 2004:38), it is only an academic issue: they, or their ivory, had absolutely no role to play in history.
II B. The Iberian Evidence:
However, there is some very important evidence from a different source which brings out some startling facts: the study and analysis of ivory found in sites on the southern and western coast of the Iberian Peninsula (southern Spain and Portugal) dating from around 3000 BCE. The synopsis at the beginning of the paper publishing the findings of this study tells us: "A recent review of all ivory from excavations in Chalcolithic and Beaker period Iberia shows a marked coastal distribution - which strongly suggests that the material is being brought in by sea. Using microscopy and spectroscopy, the authors were able to distinguish ivories from extinct Pleistonic elephants, Asian elephants and, mostly from African elephants of the savannah type. This all speaks of a lively trade in the first half of the third millennium BC, between the Iberian peninsula and the north-west of Africa, and perhaps deeper still into the continent" (SCHUHMACHER ET AL 2009:983).
The examination covered "all ivory objects from the Iberian peninsula dated from the Chalcolithic at about 3000 BC until the end of the Early Bronze Age, about 1650 BC, in the southeast [....] 1060 objects from 130 sites [....] restricted to the southern part of the Iberian peninsula" (SCHUHMACHAR ET AL 2009:984).
All the sites (but one) are on the west coast of the peninsula on the Atlantic coast, in south-eastern Spain and Portugal well to the west of the Strait of Gibraltar. That one site, Los Millares, is on the eastern tip of southern Spain on the Mediterranean coast well to the east of the Strait of Gibraltar. The two areas show a marked difference in the ivory found: "Whereas in Portugal are found a majority of African savannah elephant in the early chalcolithic, in south-eastern Spain on the contrary we cannot identify this type of ivory before the Early Bronze Age (end of the third and first half of the second millennium BC). So the analysis of ivory from various tombs from the metropolis of Los Millares revealed a majority of Asian ivory (Elephas maximus). The situation in south-western Atlantic Spain, on the other hand, coincides with the one in Portugal, where African savannah elephant ivory can be found in the Early Chalcolithic. This speaks for the existence of an Atlantic route of contact and exchange for the western part of the Iberian Peninsula already in the first half of the third millennium BC." (SCHUHMACHER ET AL 2009:992).
The above evidence shows that:
1. The western Iberian sites on the Atlantic coast have ivory from the African Savannah (Bush) elephant from 3000 BCE, but this African ivory is not found in the southeastern site of Los Millares on the Mediterranean coast till around the end of the third millennium BC. In short: any African ivory that reached the pre-Indo-European inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula from (or before) 3000 BCE till the end of the third millennium BCE was not received from North Africa across the Mediterranean but from distant parts of western Africa much further south via a western Atlantic sea-route.
2. At the same time, the site to the east of the Strait of Gibraltar on the southeastern coast of Spain on the Mediterranean has ivory from the Asian elephant elephas maximus from the earliest period. In short, ivory from the Asian elephant was being traded by sea from as far back as at least 3000 BCE via a Mediterranean route from the east (which must naturally have passed through the Red Sea and past Egypt).
The first point is reinforced by another kind of evidence, showing a marked difference between the North-African-Iberian trade in the pre-Bell-Beaker period (pre-2600 BCE or so) and the Bell-Beaker period (well post-2600 BCE): "Another surprising result was the identification of one of the Leceia pins and three other contemporary objects from the Early Chalcolithic Portugal as ivory from the African savannah elephant (Loxodonta a. africana). In 1977 Harrison and Gilman developed a hypothesis on the ivory exchange between northern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, based on the work of Jodin and Camps (Jodin 1957; Camps 1960; Harrison & Gilman 1977). They supposed this involved an exchange of prestige-goods, African ivory and ostrich egg-shells for Iberian metallic and ceramic productions (Palmela points, tanged swords, halberds, axes and Bell Beakers). In fact, it appears that this kind of exchange really can be demonstrated for the Bell Beaker period because of the quite large quantity of such products of Iberian typology in northern Africa, along both the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts.
Harrison and Gilman had already noticed the difficulties of applying this scheme to the Pre-Bell Beaker Chalcolithic, commenting, '... no characteristic Millaran or VNSP pieces have been found in Northern Africa'. And they asked themselves, '... why were no VNSP channelled, pattern-burnished copos (the so called Importkeramik) sent to North Africa like the luxury ware of a later time (Beakers)?' But nevertheless they argued that the hypothesis need not be discarded out of hand." (SCHUHMACHER ET AL 2009:992).
The conclusion (that ivory in 3000 BCE being imported into western Iberia from western Africa further south on the Atlantic coast, but not into southeastern Spain from North Africa on the Mediterranean coast, indicates that there was no trade between Iberia and the Northern coast of Africa in the earlier pre-Bell Beaker period) is therefore confirmed by the simultaneous absence of other signs of trade with the Mediterranean coastal region of North Africa (in the form of Iberian products) till well into the Bell-Beaker period.
The earlier presence of Asian ivory (elephas maximus) rather than African ivory (loxodonta africana) at the Mediterranean site of Los Millares in Iberia even makes the authors wonder (before the receipt of the evidence from the Portuguese sites) whether the "North African" elephant may not have been a species of elephas after all (rather than loxodonta): "In a former article (Schuhmacher & Cardoso 2007), while still awaiting the results from Portugal, we asked ourselves whether it would not be possible that a species of Elephas, maybe E. iolensis [a species of elephas which had existed in North Africa in pre-Holocene times and become extinct by 10000 BCE], survived much longer than supposed and evolved into the North African elephant, extinguished in Late Roman times (Schuhmacher & Cardoso 2007; cf. Todd 2001: 696 claiming a revision of the African Elephantidae). So in fact, Northern Africa was populated by relatives of the Asian elephant, E. recki and E. iolensis, until the Late Pleistocene, when Loxodonta africana spread into Northern Africa" (SCHUHMACHER 2009:995)! [Although, as we saw, the total absence of Iberian products in the pre-Bell-Beaker period sites in North Africa shows that the place of origin of the Los Millares elephas maximus ivory could not have been North Africa anyway]. In any case, the authors concede: "of course we still cannot exclude an even more distant, Sub-Saharan origin of this African savannah elephant ivory" (SCHUHMACHER ET AL 2009:995).
So the ivory from Asia (i.e. from India) was already being exported by sea around 3000 BCE, through the Red Sea and Mediterranean sea-route, to areas as far west as the southeastern coast of Spain close to the westernmost end of the Mediterranean sea long before any African ivory reached these areas!
II C. Hannibal's elephants and the elephants of Ptolemy IV:
As we saw, many scholars assert that elephants were "attested in classical times north of the Atlas mountains" (LAFRENZ 2004:34), and that the "historical evidence from the Iron Age and later suggests elephants roamed the Maghreb into the first millennium A.D. These would have been the elephants Hannibal and the Carthaginians utilized in the Punic wars (Gautier et al 1994:13)" (LAFRENZ 2004:37)]
In general, African elephants are not historically known to have been tamed: "The African elephant is larger than the Indian form and can be tamed, although African elephants are seldom trained" (ADAMS 1998:49). But "North African" elephants, in full form as war elephants, suddenly appear out of thin air in the historical record in the 3rd century BCE, in the descriptions of two wars which took place in the region around almost the same time:
a) the Second Punic war (218-201 BCE) across the Mediterranean between Carthage (on the northern coast of Africa) and Rome, in which Hannibal, the military commander of Carthage, crossed the Pyrenees and Alps with an army including 40 elephants in order to invade Rome, and
b) the Battle of Raphia (in 217 BCE) near Gaza between on the one hand the Seleucid king Antiochus III, of the Greek Seleucid Empire stretching from the borders of India to Palestine in West Asia, and on the other Ptolemy IV Philopater of Egypt, in which the Egyptian army had 73 elephants, as described by Polypius in his work "The Histories" 5.84.
Before these two wars, there were the Pyrrhic wars between the city-state of Epirus in N.W. Greece and Rome, in which Pyrrhus of Epirus used Indian war elephants against the Romans. But these two latter wars are interpreted as featuring "African war elephants" used by Hannibal (the military commander of Carthage) and by Ptolemy IV respectively. These literary descriptions, in total defiance of all the negative osteological, archaeological and the other literary evidence, are treated as "historical evidence" for the existence of a "North African" elephant as late as the 2nd century BCE, long after they would be universally accepted as extinct in North Africa. This elephant is also suggestively referred to as the "Atlas" or "Libyan" elephant, indigenous to the Maghreb (i.e. the countries of North Africa to the west of Egypt: Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco) and particularly to the Atlas mountains of that area.
These references have been the subject of contentious debate among scholars for decades for the following reason: the two wars refer to African elephants, but Indian elephants figure in both the narratives in a prominent way. In the first case, while Hannibal is referred to as having a troop of African elephants in his army, his own personal elephant is a "Syrian" (Asian) elephant named Surus, and, in the second case, the 73 African elephants of Ptolemy IV are confronted by the 102 Indian elephants of Antiochus III (reportedly the only such confrontation in history). And in both the cases, the Asian elephants are described in the reports of the respective battles as being bigger and more ferocious than the African elephants, which is why Hannibal's own personal elephant is an Asian one, and why the African elephants in the battle of Raphia are reported to have fled in terror from the Indian elephants. All this led to a belief in Europe (whose inhabitants had little direct experience with elephants, much less any occasion to compare the African and Asian elephants) to believe that Indian elephants are indeed bigger and more ferocious than African ones, a belief that persisted till the eighteenth century. However, after the eighteenth century, when European colonists in Africa discovered that the African elephants are far bigger than Indian ones, and almost untamable, the identity of Hannibal's (and Ptolemy's) elephants became a matter of great debate and controversy. So this phantom species of a "North African" elephant, smaller in size than the average African elephant, was created.
The whole debate and controversy is about whether the elephants in question were the African Bush/Savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana) or the African Forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), the latter of which is smaller in size than the former but it is only bones of the former which have ever been found (in the remote past) in North Africa. Many scholars have expended plenty of energy in supporting one or the other species.
However the debate has clearly gone off at a tangent. The issue should have been whether the elephants used in these battles could have been African Bush/Savannah elephants or African Forest elephants brought northwards from the interior of Africa. Most of the scholars insist on creating a totally different phantom species or sub-species, now extinct, of North African elephant from the Maghreb and the Atlas mountains area to the west of Egypt, smaller in size than the average African elephant , which must have existed till the end of the first millennium BCE or the beginning of the first millennium CE, and the debate is about whether this hypothetical "Atlas" elephant was Bush/Savannah or Forest.
But no specimen of "Atlas" elephant of this description has been found in the area from any period either before, during or after the 3rd century BCE. Then where did these African war elephants suddenly appear in North Africa in the 3rd century BCE? Surprisingly, the origin of these African war elephants is a fully documented story:
"The military use of elephants was millennia old in Asia. Greeks and Macedonians first encountered them in battle during Alexander's campaign [….] the Ptolemies and other Hellenistic kings considered these living 'tanks' as essential components of their armies. Ptolemy I had acquired the nucleus of an elephant corps, possibly obtaining some of Alexander's elephants following his victory over Perdiccas in 321 BC and then capturing forty-three of Demetrius Poliorcetes' elephants and their Indian mahouts at the battle of Gaza in 312 BC. The elephants and their mahouts were, however, a wasting asset, as age increasingly eroded their numbers and battle worthiness.
By contrast, the Ptolemies' Seleucid rivals enjoyed ready access to Indian elephants and mahouts thanks to their good relations with the Maurya rulers of north India. If Ptolemy II was not aware of the potential significance of the Seleucids' Maurya connections, it was certainly made clear to him when Antiochus I was able to bring fresh elephants from Bactria to Syria in 275 BC just before the outbreak of the First Syrian War. Ptolemy II had no choice, therefore, except to find and develop an alternative African source for war elephants as well as train new mahouts. He set about this task immediately after the end of the First Syrian War in 271 BC, and his successors continued to pursue it until the great Egyptian revolt of 207-186 BC severed ties between Ptolemaic Egypt and Nubia". (BURSTEIN 2008:140-141).
This is actually recorded in "the triumphal inscription Ptolemy III set up after the Third Syrian War in the port of Adulis in present day Eritrea. The original inscription does not exist, but it was copied in the 6th century AD by Cosmas Indicopleustes at the request of the Axumite governor of Adulis. In it, Ptolemy III boasted that his army included 'elephants, both Trog(l)odytic and Aithiopian', which he claims that he and his father Ptolemy II 'first hunted in these countries, and having brought them back to Egypt, trained for military use'. [….] Wild elephants were hunted and brought back to Egypt for training from two regions: Trogodytice and Aithiopia. The former term in Ptolemaic sources refers to the African coast of the Red Sea and its hinterlands, and the latter to the Nile Valley south of Egypt. Greek graffiti at Ramses II's great temple at Abou Simbel confirm that elephant hunters hunted elephants using the Nile Valley route" (BURSTEIN 2008:141). Burstein (BURSTEIN 2008:141-145) gives the detailed documented particulars regarding these steps taken by Ptolemy II and his successors.
So the African elephants used by Ptolemy IV and Hannibal in the late 3rd century BCE, the simultaneous use of Indian elephants by them in both cases also being well-documented (on Carthaginian coins and Egyptian records of the time: see also CHARLES 2007), were not phantom elephants from the Maghreb and the Atlas mountains as many scholars confidently assert. They were elephants originally from areas to the south of Sudan, brought northwards down the Nile, and trained for war by Ptolemy II and III in the earlier part of the same century.
Logistically, also, the route (northwards) down the Nile into Egypt through Sudan is the most obvious way for either of the two species of African elephants from the south to be brought to the north: the Forest elephants are found from the present day Central African Republic (to the immediate southwest of Sudan) westwards and Bush elephants are found in South Sudan, and even today a small isolated section is found in the Gash-Barka area in Eritrea (far from the other Bush elephant populations of Africa) to the immediate east of Sudan and constitute the northeasternmost Bush elephants in Africa. These elephants are at least 400 miles away from their nearest elephant neighbours, and it is possible that these elephants represent the remnants of an ancient population brought northwards from further south for breeding purposes by the Ptolemaic kings. The reasons they were bred in Eritrea may have been because Eritrea is on the coast of the Red Sea, not far from the Nile either, and it was convenient to get Indian mahouts, for their training, by sea (bypassing the land routes controlled by the Seleucids).
[The only point which at all seems to plead for a "different" variety of African elephant, and therefore an unknown phantom elephant attributable to North Africa, is the supposed "smaller" (than the Indian elephants) size of the African elephants of the Ptolemies. But, this may be an exaggerated subjective opinion of the Greek writers (as suggested by many scholars) who had been used to the myth of huge Indian elephants: the flight of the African elephants may have been not due to their smaller size but due to their relative unfamiliarity with warfare in comparison to the Indian elephants (of the Seleucids) with their millennia old history of warfare and the experienced training of their Indian trainers. Or, as pointed out in the study of Iberian ivory referred to earlier, the whole issue "seems to depend primarily on Punic and Roman images and literary sources indicating that African elephants are smaller than Indian ones. [….] As Sukumar says, however, size is not a good criteria to differentiate between the different species, as even among living Loxodonta a. africana we can observe a great variation in size depending on their living conditions (Sukumar 2003: 86-7)" (SCHUHMACHER ET AL 2009:993), and smaller or younger African elephants may have been used for practical reasons, if the bigger and older ones were more difficult to control.]
In any case, one thing stands out from all this: the only African elephants historically known (through the medium of Egypt) to West Asia and areas further north and north-west "in classical times" and "in the iron age" were southern elephants from the interior of Africa, and it is these elephants (and not phantom elephants from the Maghreb) which were used in wars in the 3rd century BCE by the Ptolemaic kings and Hannibal.
II D. Egypt as the Conduit for the African Elephant:
As we saw, there is no evidence for any North African elephant which (or its name, or the name for its ivory) could have reached the Steppes of South Russia either through southern Europe, through the Aegean or through West Asia, either directly or via Egypt, in a period (pre-3000 BCE) where it could have provided the proto-form for the PIE word for "elephant"/"ivory".
Nor is there any evidence that the sub-Saharan African elephant (or its name, or the name for its ivory) could have reached the Steppes of South Russia either through southern Europe, through the Aegean or through West Asia, via the Maghreb area of North Africa in a period (pre-3000 BCE) where it could have provided the proto-form for the PIE word for "elephant"/"ivory".
Then did the sub-Saharan African elephant (or its name, or the name for its ivory) reach the Steppes of South Russia via Egypt in a period (pre-3000 BCE) where it could have provided the proto-form for the PIE word for "elephant"/"ivory"?
The fact is that elephants and their ivory play a minor role in the history of ancient Egypt. The trail of elephants and ivory through Egypt is as follows:
1. pre-5000 BCE: "Unlike the more or less contemporaneous cave dwellings of France, Spain and Italy, however, the open camps of Egypt's Late Paleolithic people have preserved no paintings or reliefs nor any of the small works of sculpture and decorative art carved of bone, tusk or antler for which the Upper Paleolithic cultures of Europe are deservedly famous. Their failure to develop any effective graving tool, or burin, suggests that they did not, in fact, work in bone, ivory or horn to any extent" (HAYES 1964: 68).
2. 5000-4000 BCE: Different isolated cultures came into existence in Egypt during this period. Speaking about the "Neolithic Fayumis" of northern Egypt: "The complete lack of any articles carved of ivory is not only striking, but puzzling, since both the elephant and the hippopotamus were common in the area and were hunted by the Fayum people, as attested, among other indications, by a number of decayed hippo tusks found in a pot and in one of the middens of Kom W" (HAYES 1964:96).
What ivory was found in the Neolithic Merimde culture (4800-4300 BCE) in Lower (i.e. northern) Egypt was mostly in the rudimentary form of ivory tools and implements: "Two or three hundred implements of bone, ivory and horn were recovered from the ruins of the settlement at Merimda. Most of them were used in the dressing and stitching together of animal skin [....] knife-like implements [....] fine awls, sewing needles [....] ivory fish hooks [....] disk shaped beads [....] ring-shaped bangles of ivory" as also "an ivory plaque [....] possibly [....] it was for mixing of colours" (HAYES 1964:110-111).
The Chalcolithic (i.e. with the use, for the first time, of copper along with stone) Badari culture (220 miles south of modern Cairo, in Central Egypt, 4400-4000 BCE) developed sharper tools, and some stray ivory figures are found.
But all the ivory found in ancient Egyptian period before 4000 BCE is restricted to small and almost isolated cultures in restricted parts of Egypt, and certainly there was no outflow of this ivory out of Egypt into West Asia and beyond.
Most significantly, the ivory throughout this period is probably hippopotamus ivory and not elephant ivory. The elephant is rare in early Egyptian history, and the hippopotamus is one of the most important animals in Egyptian culture, art and iconography: the Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt describes the very prominent faunal presence of hippopotami in sites all over Egypt, from the Khormusan sites (53000-43000 BCE) (BARD 1999:11) to the Epi-paleolithic sites (10000-5500 BCE) (BARD 1999:16), but elephants are not named.
In the site of Merimde (see above) for example, the "typical remains were of small round buildings [….] some of the doorsills were made from the shinbones of native hippopotami [….] their vertebrae and leg bones were sometimes used to form a sort of pillar to support a roof". A unique find in a cooking pot (which had escaped the devastation of most of rest of the site) revealed "five nicely rounded, highly polished axe heads made from a number of variegated stones, part of what appears to be a splendid ivory bracelet, two small circular boxes also made of ivory and probably cut from hippopotamus teeth, and an eroded ivory figurine of a portly hippo sporting what appears to be the head of a gazelle or goat. Here, then, laid out in a domestic stew pot, were some fine axes and various precious little objects cut from the ivory of the most fearsome beast the Merimdan hunters ever stalked" (ROMER 2012).
3. 4000-3000 BCE: The record for the period from 4000 BCE is the same. Most of the ivory used in the earlier parts of this period is hippopotamus ivory, and the hippopotamus is an important figure in Egyptian mythology, art and iconography: Predynastic pottery (3500-3100 BCE) depict "animals such as scorpions, antelopes or gazelles, giraffes, hippopotami, and horned sheep or goats" and "the pursuit with harpoons of hippopotami" (BARD 1999:829). The 4th dynasty pyramid of Djedefre (Redjedef) at Abu Roas contained "a small wooden hippopotamus" (BARD 1999:89). The late Predynastic Cemetery (3250-3050 BCE) contained "a few small carved animal figurines (dogs, lions and a hippoptamus)" (BARD 1999:100). The Predynastic burials at Armant had "two carved stone hippopotami" (BARD 1999:164). "Many scenes in the temple of Edfu show Horus killing Seth, the latter appearing in the shape of a crocodile, a hippopotamus or a donkey" (BARD 1999:321). The excavations from Tell el Rub'a (Greek "Mendes") revealed "several fragments of cattle bones as well as a hippopotamus tooth" (BARD 1999:602). At the temple of El Bahnasa (Greek "Oxyrhynchus"), the main god was Seth, and the second most important was the hippopotamus goddess Taweret with the head of a hippopotamus (BARD 1999:718). Even so late as Ptolemaic times, in Qus (Greek "Apollinopolis Parva"), "texts from the scenes in these ruins show Ptolemy XI harpooning hippopotamus" (BARD 1999:801).
In contrast, the elephant plays hardly any role in Egypt. The only prominent presence of the elephant is in the 3700 BCE burial at Hierakonpolis (the discovery of which was described as "unexpected" in ADAMS 1998:46) , and about this: "the objects made of elephant ivory that we find in the famous Main Deposit in the temple of Nekhen at Hierakonpolis" were "imported through the town of Elephantine (present day Aswan) from further south in Africa" (ADAMS 1998:50). "Transportation over a long distance probably also needs to be envisaged to explain the presence of the two elephants at Hierakonpolis. The overview of the Holocene found record of elephants in Northern Africa by Gautier et al (1954) shows that no other physical remains of this species are known from the Nile Valley in Egypt and Nubia. The evidence for elephants in the Western Desert is limited to the Early Holocene finds from Dakhleh Oasis and possibly the Fayum [both within Egypt]; the remains from Nabta Playa and and Bir Kiseiba represent Middle Palaeolithic reworked fossils" (VAN NEER ET AL 2004:112-13).
In fact, the importance of the elephant in Egypt is represented by the word 3bw (elephant) in the name of the island of (Greek name) "Elephantine" in southern Egypt in this period (and possibly in the name 3bdw of Abydos slightly further to its north, though this is disputed): this island came into prominence in the second half of the fourth millennium BCE, but this had nothing to do with any Egyptian cultural element (as, for example, an elephant-God similar to the Indian Gaṇeśa: the deity of the island was, rather, the antelope-goddess Satet): "It is unclear whether the inhabitants of the early settlement at Elephantine were Egyptianized Nubians [….] or if the site was already an Egyptian outpost [….] because of its location at the northen end of the unnavigable cataract area, functioned as a center for trade with the south. [….] The pharaonic name of the town, which means 'ivory' as well as 'elephant', might well hint at what was traded by the southerners with the Predynastic Egyptians" (BARD 1999:336).
Apart from these few pieces of imported ivory in this period, it is ivory from the hippopotamus that plays the major role in Egypt. As Krzyszkowska points out: "Strictly speaking, usage demands that the term 'ivory' be reserved for the dentine of elephant tusks alone, but a somewhat larger definition encompassing the dentine of other large animals - hippopotamus, walrus, sperm whale - is gaining acceptance […] By dynastic times, if not earlier, the elephant had become extinct within Egypt proper. Elephant ivory was therefore an import [….] By contrast, the hippopotamus was indigenous to the Nile, extinction in the Delta occuring in the seventeenth century AD. It is unlikely that the ivory of other large animals (e.g. walrus or indeed mammoth), attested in northern Europe, ever reached Egypt [….] Even today, no systematic study of Egyptian ivory exists: most published objects are described simply as 'ivory' (and beyond this label may well lurk objects that are really bone). This lamentable state of affairs seems all the more surprising since the hippopotamus is amply attested in Egyptian art and iconography, and the tusks themselves are easily recognized. However the poor record of interest and publication hampers any attempt to discuss the development of ivory working throughout Egyptian history. Changing sources, patterns of exploitation and use are exceedingly hard to verify [….] By stark contrast, ivories from the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean have been well studied in recent years" She reiterates this point repeatedly: "As indicated, hippopotamus tusk and bone are both locally available in Egypt, while elephant tusk had to be acquired further afield" (KRZYSZKOWSKA 2000:320-321).
In short: most of the ivory used in Egypt throughout this period was hippopotamus ivory, though there was some elephant ivory imported from the south through the island of Abu (Greek "Elephantine") in southern Egypt. And this was from the African elephant as well as from the Indian elephant imported by sea through the ports on the Horn of Africa and then transported northwards into Egypt through Sudan via the Nile. A more detailed study of the Egyptian ivory artefacts, to identify the source of its ancient ivory, is likely to reveal just this picture, since, as we have already seen, Indian ivory, obviously passing through the Red Sea and past the Horn of Africa and into the Mediterranean, was already being transported by sea as far west as the southeastern coast of Spain already by 3000 BCE.
4. 3000-2000 BCE: In fact, it is only in the second millennium BCE, after the Mitanni introduced the Indian elephant into Syria and through Syria into Egypt, that there was a spurt of elephant ivory, both African and Indian, into Egypt, and Egypt started exporting items of worked elephant ivory (from tusks and unworked ivory imported from the south as well as from Syria). As Kryzszkowska points out: "some general developments seem to be mirrored in Egypt itself, such as a marked increase in elephant ivory in the middle of the second millennium BC [….] (KRZYSZKOWSKA 2000:320-321): "in Egypt the greatest exploitation of the New Kingdom seems to belong to the reign of Amenhotep III and immediately after" (KRZYSZKOWSKA 2000:324). This spurt in elephant ivory in the 2nd millennium BCE was a result of the historical developments which followed the arrival of the Mitanni.
India was the main source of elephant ivory in West Asia, and before the second millennium BCE, there was no outflow of African elephant ivory from Egypt into the outside world. In fact, as we saw, "Krzyszkowska (1990) does not see North Africa as a source for ivory until the 8th century" (LAFRENZ 2004:43).
II E. The Name of the African elephant:
As we saw, Blažek derives the Latin ebur from Egyptian 3bw or abu-, and, through various reconstructed forms, the Greek elephas/elephantas and Hittite laḫpa from other North African words.
1. First, let us take up the case for the Egyptian word for elephant/ivory: 3bw or abu (and the derived Coptic word (y)ebu). The Egyptian language (with its descendant the Coptic language) constitutes one of the six branches (Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, Cushitic, Omotic, Chadic) of the Afro-Asiatic (formerly known as Semito-Hamitic) family of languages spread out over most of North Africa and (Semitic) West Asia.
Since it was through Egypt that the rest of the western world became acquainted with the African elephant, and the Egyptian elephant came from the south, it is towards the south that we must look for the source of this word. The entire trail for the elephant in Egypt leads southwards: through the city of Abydos "elephant-mountain" in Central Egypt and the island of Abu/Yebu (Greek Elephantinē) in southern Egypt, the trail leads through Nubia (northern Sudan) into the eastern and coastal areas of the Horn of Africa (present-day Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia). This is the area of the Cushitic languages in the east, with the Omotic and (Ethio-)Semitic languages to their west (i.e. in Ethiopia).
The East Cushitic words for elephant are: "East Cushitic *ʔarb- 'elephant': Somali arba, Rendille arab, Arbore arab, Dasenech 'arab, Elmolo árap, Oromo arba, Konso arpa, D'irayta arp, Burji árba, Dullay arap-ka" (BLAŽEK 2004: 15). [the words for ivory are generally "elephant-tooth", e.g. Oromo arba "elephant", ilkan arba "ivory"]. It is also found in the Mbugu language further south (in Tanzania), considered to a mixed register language with Cushitic vocabulary and Bantu grammar, with loss of b: "S.Cush. *'ara > Mbugu áro 'large herbivore elephant'" (BLAŽEK 1994:198).
The Egyptian word 3bw is clearly derived from this East Cushitic word with subsequent loss of r: "The Egyptian 3 substitutes *r here. Hence the original reading of the Egyptian word 'elephant' should be *r[a]baw or *ʔ[a]rbaw [….] The proposed reading is fully compatible with East Cushitic *ʔarb-" (BLAŽEK 2004:17).
As we saw earlier, this word is practically not found at all in the other African language families (Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, Khoisan). In a copiously researched earlier article (1990, published 1994), Blažek has listed all the (well over a hundred) words for the elephant in the Afro-Asiatic language family. Among the branches of the Afro-Asiatic language family, it is not found at all in the Berber languages of North Africa (the Maghreb). It is not prominent even in the adjacent (Ethio-)Semitic and Omotic languages of eastern Africa (i.e. the Horn of Africa), or even in the Central Cushitic languages of Ethiopia. The word is therefore clearly special to the East Cushitic languages: outside this area, the word seems to have diffused westward as a secondary word only into some of the Central Chadic languages (of the Chad-Nigeria-Cameroon area) with modification of r and/or b: "Buduma ambu, [….] Ngala ánve, Makeri árfu, Gulfei árfu(r), Kuseri árvi, Šoe arfu 'elephant'" (BLAŽEK 1994:198), unless the resemblance is coincidental.
But the Chadic words for "elephant" are also generally different: "One of the most widespread words for 'elephant' in CChad and EChad is the form *bakin > Mafa bikine, Gisiga bigine, Mofu-Gudur bégíneg, Mefele bekine, Magumaz bikine, Musugeu bígnī, Muturua bēgīnē, Gidar bḗkne, Lame bìá'nè, (Sachnine) bàknày, Peve bwoknai, Misme bakni, Dari bagnei, Musgu (Barth) fégenē, (Karause) pékene, Mbara pìkìnè, Vulum pèknè, Kera bānà, Kwang bágini" (BLAŽEK 1994:197). Further: "The most widespread Chadic word for 'elephant', reconstructed as *gyiwan (Newman 1977, 25) on the basis (W) Hausa gīwā, Gwandora gyuwo, Montol kān, SBauci: Seya gìwɨ, Bade gìyànw-an, Duwai gīwɨn; (C) Vizik giwan, Wandala guwè, Glavda gunà, Zeghwana gwinè, Gava gwunà, Nakatsa gwona, Paduko gwihana, Lamang gwɨyan, Hidkala gìwàn, Hide gwɨyɨn, Mora gɨwe; (E) Mubi gàwyàn" (BLAŽEK 1994:198-199). Another word for "'elephant' in CChad: Zulgo mbele, Mada mbile, Hurzo, Moreme, Gwendele mbelele, Uldene, Muyang mbele" (BLAŽEK 1994:197). And also, in Western and Central Chadic, we have: "Hausa torō 'giant male elephant' [….] (C) Musgu (Röder) tauraga, Muskun tàwràkà, Baldamu turogo 'elephant'" (BLAŽEK 1994:197). Chadic, and particularly Central Chadic, languages clearly have a great many inherited or borrowed words for "elephant". There is even: "CChad: Margi (Meek) pir 'elephant' (Illich-Svtyich 1966,26: Sem+Margi)" (BLAŽEK 1994:196).
Therefore, the word "East Cushitic *ʔarb- 'elephant'" is clearly special to the East Cushitic languages of the coastal areas of the Horn of Africa, and diffusion of the word took place from this area. But even in these languages, it may not have been the original word, since there is, apart from the Somali word maroodi(ga) (besides arba) "elephant" and fool-maroodi "ivory", a word for the elephant which, in different evolved forms, is common to Cushitic (East, Central, and South Cushitic), Omotic (North and South Omotic) as well as (Ethio-)Semitic, i.e. to the whole of the Horn of Africa: "The most widespread word for 'elephant', common for most of Cushitic and Omotic languages, and attested in CCush: *źaxn- (Ehret 1987, 66) > Bilin žānā, Xamir zohón, Qwara, Dembea, Kemant žānā, Falaša (Beke) djáni, Awngi [….] (Fleming) ziγoni [….] borrowed probably in Ethio-Semitic: Amharic zähon, zohon, Gafat zohuniš, Caha zäxwärä, Ennamor zäxwära, Gogot zegā, Tigriña zihol, [….] Harari doxon, Selti dähano, Ulbareg dehanō [….] ECush: Afar-Saho dakāno, Somali dagon, dogon, Sidamo dano, Hadiya dāneččo, (Borelli) dané, Kambatta danieččoa, (Leslau) zanō, Quabenna zanō, Tambaro (Barelli) zanočo (Dologopolskiy 1973, 107; Leslau 198,125); Yaaku sogómei; SCush: *daxw- (Ehret 1980, 166) > Dahalo dokomi, ḍokomi; Iraqw daṅw, Gorowa, Alagwa, Burunge daw; SOm: Hamer donger, Bako dongor (Fleming 1976, 318); NOm: Bambeši toŋgile, Sezo toŋgili, Hozo taŋgil, toŋgil; Nao, Maji dōr, Šakko dorō; Kafa dangiyō, Moca dängao, Šinaša dangeša, Anfillo dangeččo; Zaise dongor, Wolaita, Gofa, Basketo, Caro dangarsā, Zala, Kullo dangarsa, Doko dangars [….] Janjero zaknō, Kačama, Koyra zākkā, Gofa (Fleming) zakkɨ, Ganjule zakka. The possibilities that the same root existed in Beja is not excluded either.[….] we have here a unique pan-Cushitic - Omotic isogloss" (BLAŽEK 1994:199).
Significantly, even in Egypt, the earlier word 3bw is almost replaced by a new word dnhr in Ptolemaic times. This word is clearly derived from the Omotic words just noted (Zaise dongor, Wolaita, Gofa, Basketo, Caro dangarsā, Zala, Kullo dangarsa, Doko dangars), and this replacement takes place in tandem with the import of African elephants from the south by the Ptolemies already described earlier.
So what is the origin of the somewhat isolated East Cushitic form "*ʔarb- 'elephant'"? Significantly, this word emanated from the coastal areas of the Horn of Africa, which guard the entrance from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea, and which have always been the first port of halt for ships from India sailing into the Red Sea, and the place from where goods from the East have always been downloaded for transport via the Nile to Egypt. We have already seen earlier, in our examination of the Iberian evidence, that Indian ivory was being exported by sea all the way to the southeastern coast of Iberia as far back as 3000 BCE. And the ports on the Horn of Africa would naturally be an early halt for these ships on their way through the Red Sea into the Mediterranean.
The Egyptian 3bw/abu is derived from the early East Cushitic form "*ʔarb- 'elephant'": "the original reading of the Egyptian word 'elephant' should be *r[a]baw or *ʔ[a]rbaw [….] The proposed reading is fully compatible with East Cushitic *ʔarb-" (BLAŽEK 2004:17), and both are clearly derived from the PIE word *ḷbha-/*ṛbha-, like the other early Indo-European words for "elephant": Vedic ibha-, Hittite laḫpa-, Greek erepa/elepha-, Latin ebur < *erbo/*erbu (with metathesis of r, which would not have been possible if the Latin word had been derived from the Egyptian word, which had lost the r long before any Egyptian-Roman contacts), and (with the adjectival suffix -vanta/-manta) the Germanic ulbandus and Slavic velibodŭ "camel".
2. Secondly, Blažek derives Hittite laḫpa- and Greek erepa/elepha-, by two different, complicated and circuitous, undocumented, and purely hypothetical routes, from "North African" words for the elephant.
This process runs into many difficulties:
a) To begin with, as already pointed out earlier, this requires denying that the Vedic word ibha- means "elephant" at all (and thereby escaping the problem of having to demonstrate its African origin), denying that the Germanic ulbandus and Slavic velibodŭ "camel" have any relationship at all to any of the other words for "elephant"/"ivory", and then deriving the three other words (Hittite laḫpa-, Greek erepa/elepha-, Latin ebur) from three different and unconnected sources, in total defiance of the derivability of all these names from a common proto-form.
b) Then, it requires finding African words for "elephant" which can, however tenuously and dubiously, be cited as the proto-forms for the Hittite and Greek words. To this end, Blažek takes the Afro-Asiatic names for the elephant in the Berber languages of the Maghreb: "Common Berber *Hiliw, pl. *Hiliwan 'elephant' (Prasse 1974:124-125): South = Tuareg: Ahaggar êlw, pl. êlwân (Foucauld), Ayr iləw, pl. ilwan, Iullemiden eləw, pl. elwan (Alojaly), Taitoq elw, pl. elwan (Masqueray), Ghat alu (R. Basset); West = Zenaga idjit, pl. adjadan (R. Basset)" (BLAŽEK 2004:15). These are in fact the only African words which bear, in the forms *Hiliw, êlw, iləw, eləw, elw, alu (also Kabyle ilu, etc.), any resemblance to the Hittite and Greek forms, even if only in the initial l-element. He then cites their plural forms *Hiliwan, êlwân, ilwan, elwan, etc., to suggest similarity with the Greek form elephantas. This leaves the middle and main element in the Hittite and Greek names, the labial (p, ph), unexplained: unless the w in the cited plural forms is shown to have changed into p/ph/b in Hittite and Greek: "A hypothetical source of the Greek ὲλέφᾱντ should be sought either in the plural *ʔiliban or in the determined form *ʔilib-Vn" (BLAŽEK 2004:18). Then he delves deeper into north-western Africa, and cites examples from two of the Chadic languages of Chad and N. Nigeria, to the south of the Maghreb, "West Chadic: Tangale labata; East Chadic: Mokilko ʔlbi" (BLAŽEK 2004:15), which actually contain the labial element, and the first also the ending dental.
But, unable to explain, even after citing these words, either the logistical route or the linguistic process by which these Berber or Chadic words could have separately entered Hittite and Greek, through different sources, he turns again to Egypt for the Greek form: "Accepting the presented arguments and regardless of the concrete etymology, Egyptian ỉbḥt (attested only in the late language, but certainly older) can reflect *ʔǝ3bḥat = *ʔǝlbḥat. This form, borrowed in the East Mediterranean substratal language knowing only open syllables (judging by the Linear B script), should be remodelled in *ʔǝlǝbhat vel sim. And just this hypothetical reconstruction is well compatible with Greek ὲλέφᾱς < ὲλέφᾱτ(-ς)" (BLAŽEK 2004:19).
Thus he explains the Greek form to his own satisfaction. But this is at total variance with his own equally (or more) "compatible" equation of the Egyptian form (as the proto-form of the Latin word) with the East Cushitic words: "The Egyptian 3 substitutes *r here. Hence the original reading of the Egyptian word 'elephant' should be *r[a]baw or *ʔ[a]rbaw [….] The proposed reading is fully compatible with East Cushitic *ʔarb-" (BLAŽEK 2004:17)!
And it still leaves the derivation of the Hittite word to some unspecified and unrecorded hypothetical other source: "Hittite/Luwian laḫpa could be borrowed from a source of the type labḥaw or labḥat" (BLAŽEK 2004:19).
3. As we have already seen, there is no evidence that the "North African" elephant existed in the historical period; and, if it did, in some obscure parts of the Maghreb, it certainly had no role to play in history. Strangely, the only Berber word cited by Blažek which comes from an area (southwestern Mauritania and Senegal) on the western coast of Africa where elephants are known to have existed till they became extinct in the 1980s, i.e. from the Zenaga language, is a totally different word bearing no similarity with the other cited Berber words or the Greek form: "West = Zenaga idjit, pl. adjadan (R. Basset)" (BLAŽEK 2004:15).
4. Also, there is no explanation why only two historically and linguistically distant Indo-European languages (Hittite and Greek) should independently have borrowed these *l-p forms for "ivory" from two different sources. Why is it that none of the other non-Indo-European languages from the civilizations of ancient West Asia, the Mediterranean area, or Egypt for that matter, borrowed similar words for "ivory" or "elephant" from the alleged African sources which were allegedly so prominent, ubiquitous and well-represented that they separately gave us the Hittite and Greek forms?
The obvious explanation for the cited similarities is that it is the Greek word which was the proto-form for the words for "elephant" in the Berber languages (and perhaps in the two cited Chadic languages to their south). The influence of Greek civilization over the areas of North Africa in the first millennium BCE is well-known - even ancient Egypt came under the rule of the Ptolemies of Greek origin - and none of the Berber words cited is known from earlier periods, while the Greek Mycenaean word is known from long before.
Section III. The case for the "Syrian" elephant in a Steppe Homeland.
Is it really necessary to look towards either Africa or India to explain the PIE familiarity with elephants and ivory in their alleged Steppe Homeland? Isn't there a place closer at hand which could have been the source of knowledge of elephants and ivory to them in that area?
According to most writers and scholars, there was indeed a source of elephants closer at hand: in West Asia, or in Syria to be precise (although this is not really cited by Indo-Europeanists as the source for the PIE word): "The elephant was still known in the 2nd millennium B.C. in West Syria" (BLAŽEK 1994:205); "Until the early first millennium B.C.E. when it was hunted to extinction, a small species known as the Syrian elephant roamed the northern Levant and provided ivory as well as sport for the elite of the Near East" (MCINTOSH 2005:249); "the Syrian elephant, known from pictorial and literary evidence to have existed in historic times" (ADAMS 1998:49); "there is textual, artistic and isolated osteological evidence for elephants in Syria well into the first millennium BC " (MOOREY 1994:117)", etc.
The case can be examined under the following heads:
III A. The "Syrian" elephant.
III B. The Mitanni.
III C. The West Asian names for the elephant.
III A. The "Syrian" elephant:
1. It must be noted that all the references stress the extinction point of the presence of this "Syrian" elephant in Syria, and give the impression that these elephants were an indigenous variety of elephant which were always present in Syria till the point of time that they became extinct. However, this is not so: in an area which is unique in the world in having written records from at least the end of the fourth millennium BCE, there is not a single mention of Syrian elephants until the 2nd millennium BCE, and it is during this one millennium (the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE and the first half of the 1st millennium BCE) that we suddenly get a flood of references in the records from Mesopotamia to Egypt about the presence of these elephants in Syria.
The first references from Egypt appear in the 16th century BCE: "In the sixteenth and fifteenth centuries BC both Tuthmosis I and Tuthmosis III and one of the latter's generals recorded hunting elephants in Syria, perhaps near Apamea (Caubet and Poplin 1987:298). Soon thereafter, in a Syrian tribute scene painted on the walls of the tomb of the vizier Rekhmire at Thebes, a very large pair of elephant tusks and a small elephant more akin to the modern Indian than to the African elephant, with tusks fully grown are depicted (Davies 1935:pl. XII) [....] it seems likely that it was as babies that elephants were given as gifts and that the tusks were a conceptual feature inserted by the Egyptian artist (Winter 1973:264)" (MOOREY 1994:117).
The references from West Asia also start appearing from the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE: "Tiglath-Pileser I (c.1114-1076 BC) and other Assyrian kings down to Shalmaneser III (c. 858-824 BC) refer to the hunting and killing of elephants in the Khabur region of modern Syria and on the Euphrates in the area of modern Ana in Iraq, and to their trapping for royal zoos (Barnett 1957:166; Mallowan 1966:419: Collon 1977:220). After this the Assyrian records refer only to elephant tusks, hides and to ivory furniture" (MOOREY 1994:117).
"Representations of the elephant in Syro-Palestine are rare. The animal is shown on a cylinder seal and on a pottery cult object from Bethshan in the late Bronze Age [...] A fragmentary elephant-shaped model or vessel was found at Sinjirli in Hilani I, a building probably destroyed in the reign of Asarhaddon (c.680-669 BC) [....] only part of the head with the small ear of the Indian species, trunk, and one foot survive, with the foot of its driver" (MOOREY 1994:118). Likewise: "Representations of the elephant in Mesopotamia are very rare" (MOOREY 1994:119).
2. It is the same case in respect of the geological and archaeological remains of elephants in Syria. Lafrenz, who frankly asserts her personal inclination in favour of the existence of these elephants ["I see no reason for assuming that Syrian elephants did not exist in the region before the 2nd millennium" (LAFRENZ 2004:49)], admits that the "Syrian" elephant is known, in both osteological and historical record, only after 1800 BCE and up to around 700 BCE: "The earliest osteological evidence for Syrian elephants are remains from Babylon (c. 1800 BC) although it is unclear whether these remains are in fact from the Syrian elephant and not the Asian elephant traded in from the east" (LAFRENZ 2004:49). And: "the Al Mina 'tusks' [….] from the 8th century B.C." indicate "the extinction of the Syrian elephant by this time" (LAFRENZ 2004:55).
3. "Some scholars (e.g. Miller 1986) believe the Syrian elephant may have been introduced into the region" not only because of the "dearth of evidence for it before the 2nd millennium" (LAFRENZ 2004:49), but also because of "the small size of the population described by the Egyptian and Assyrian historical sources (cf. Krzyszkowska 1990:15; Miller 1986:29-30: Winter 1973:267-268; Hayward 1990:103; Collon 1977)" (LAFRENZ 2004:49), and because (during its short history) it is restricted only to a small geographical area in Syria and borderline areas of Turkey.
Further: "It has been argued that the 'Syrian' elephants had not been in Syria since the migration of the Indian elephant from Africa in the Pleistocene, but had been subsequently reintroduced as a stocked herd, artificially transplanted from somewhere to the East (Winter 1973:266-7) [....] Winter (1973) particularly has argued that the absence of ivory in the first quarter of the second millennium BC as a recorded commodity in trade across Syria, and down the Euphrates, when it was certainly being traded up the gulf from the Indian subcontinent (Ratnagar 1981:111) may indicate the absence of the elephant from Syria at that time. If this were so, it would have been introduced sometime in the middle of the millennium since it first appears in the Egyptian records of the earlier XVIIIth Dynasty." (MOOREY 1994:117).
"The late Bronze Age Ulu Burun shipwreck also yielded a section of elephant tusk [....] Collon (1977:222) reported that 'two of the actual tusks (from Atchana) are still preserved in the Antakya Museum, however, and they measure 1 m 60 cm in length [....] this is the average length for the Indian elephant" (MOOREY 1994:118).
Therefore, Moorey concedes: "The evidence for the existence of native elephants in Iran in antiquity is tendentious and unconvincing... The so-called Syrian elephant presents special problems" (MOOREY 1994:116), and Lafrenz discreetly puts the matter as follows: "Suffice it to say for now that elephants are known to have inhabited Syria during the Late Bronze Age, based on osteological and historical evidence" (LAFRENZ 2004:49), all this "osteological and historical evidence" being, of course, restricted to the course of one single millennium and a small restricted area.
4. What could be the reason for, or purpose behind, the sudden appearance of elephants in Syria in the 2nd millennium BCE, and their newfound role in the activities of the elites and royalty from Egypt to Mesopotamia? The answer lies in certain elitist and royal practices in West Asia:
Arbuckle tells us: "Representing mastery over the forces of nature as well as an opportunity to display the skills of a war leader, royal hunts and the capture and display of dangerous and exotic beasts have been regular parts of elite, particularly royal, practice in Anatolia and Mesopotamia at least since the 3rd millennium (Coubet 2002: Foster 2002; Hamilakis 2003). Iconography, texts and faunal remains indicate that elites regularly engaged in, and boasted of, the hunting of large game including deer, wild boar, equids, and - occasionally - elephants, as well as large carnivores including lions, leopards, and bears in the Bronze and Iron Ages and used elaborate hunting expeditions to support claims to rulership (van Buren 1939; Clutton-Brock 1992b:85; Collins 2002b; Foster 2002:285; Houlihan 2002)" (ARBUCKLE 2012:217).
"Archaeological evidence confirming the presence of Syrian elephants (Elephas maximus) between the Khabur river and Cilicia in the Late Bronze and Iron Age has only recently emerged from excavations at Tell Sheikh Hamad, Kinet Höyük, and Sirkeli Höyük (Vogler 1997; Ikram 2003; Becker 2008). If these remains represent remnant wild populations, then their absence from pre-historic faunal assemblages in the region is curious, perhaps suggesting that the 2nd millennium elephant populations hunted by Neo-Assyrian kings were intentionally stocked in order to provide truly elephantine prey for royal hunting expeditions" (ARBUCKLE 2012:218).
Garrison also details these elitist and royal sports in West Asia: "the banquet stele of Assurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) [….] The animal hunts depicted on the walls of several rooms of Assurnasirpal's North Palace are some of the most well-known and often-illustrated sculptures from the ancient Near East. Both these reliefs and texts from the Late Assyrian period make it clear that many, if not most, of these hunts were staged affairs conducted in parks reserved for such activity. It may be that some of the parks that were a focus of exotic displays of flora also served as locations to house, display and kill wild animals [….] A particularly evocative passage in Assurnasirpal's banquet stele lists the following animals that he killed: lions, wild bulls, ostriches, and elephants; the same passage notes the receipt of elephants as tribute and Assurnasirpal's forming of herds of wild bulls, lions, ostriches and monkeys (Grayson 1991a:no. A.O.101.30 84b-101)" (GARRISON 2012:41).
Three points emerge from all this:
a) Herding all manner of wild and exotic fauna in special reserved areas for hunting as an elitist and royal sport was the practice in West Asia right from the 3rd millennium BCE to the 1st millennium BCE.
b) These herded assemblages of fauna included "exotic" fauna like ostriches, not native to the region.
c) And elephants only appear into the picture well into the 2nd millennium BCE.
5. But why do elephants appear into the picture in Syria only in the 2nd millennium BCE? The answer is: because the Mitanni Indo-Aryans appear in Syria only in the 2nd millennium BCE. And all the references to the "Syrian" elephants in the "Egyptian and Assyrian historical sources" refer to "Syrian" elephants only in the Mitanni area, only in the Mitanni era and a small period after that, and (at first) only in historical contexts pertaining to the Mitanni.
What would one say if a group of Indian "scholars" gathered together a huge amount of data on the widely spread cultivation of chillies, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, tobacco and pineapples in India from the 17th century onwards, their various local varieties, the different uses of most of these ingredients in local dishes, and the trade and export of these plant products from India (see the references to "Indian chillies" in the literature of England of the period, e.g. in W. M. Thackeray's "Vanity Fair"), and presented it as "evidence" that these were not products originally introduced from the Americas (mainly) by the Portuguese, but related "native" species and sub-species indigenous to India (in spite of all the historical evidence to the contrary) since ancient times? Amazingly, this is exactly what is being done, not only by amateur writers in media articles and on the internet, but by a great many academic scholars in academic papers, books and journals, in respect of the sudden mysterious appearance of "native" elephants in Syria in the 2nd millennium BCE (followed by their disappearance within a millennium)! These "Syrian" elephants are suggestively referred to in countless academic papers, books and journals as "native" elephants roaming Syria "until the early first millennium BCE", presumably from ancient times, on the basis of references from the second millennium BCE!
III B. The Mitanni.
The Mitanni kingdom in Syria of the second millennium BCE was a kingdom with kings of Indo-Aryan origin ruling a (non-Indo-European language) Hurrian speaking land: "from 1500/1480-1350/1340 B.C., the Mitanni controlled an area stretching from north-west Iran, through north Iraq and the very north of Syria to the southwestern corner of Anatolia (the western boundary in the vicinity of Maras, where the where the bone samples hail for this present thesis). This region included the city-states of Alalakh (Tell Atchana), Aleppo, Emar, Taide, Alshe, Ugarit (held briefly), and the regions of Assyria (north Iraq) and Arrapha (Kirkuk region) (Yener 2001; Kuhrt 1995:283-296). Two city-states which shall figure prominently in the correlation of the ivory trade are Alalakh and Ugarit" (LAFRENZ 2004:6).
The chronology of the Mitanni kingdom is estimated to be from somewhere around 1500 BCE, but there could have been earlier colonies: "The first Aryans [in West Asia] were the Mittanians and the isolated Aryan groups, mentioned in Palestine and Syria by the time of the 18th Egyptian dynasty. The very first mention could be a note in the Hattušili annals about Hanigalbat, the Mittanian Western state, if it is not a later interpolation. If it is original, then there had been a Mittanian state circa 1650 B.C. Next to come the 15th century texts from Nuzi and Alalakh; and the Aryan names in Egyptian texts about Palestine date from the same time [….] (BRENTJES 1981:145-46). In any case, it is accepted that the Indo-Aryan speaking ancestors of the Mitanni people (or kings) were present in West Asia centuries before their establishment of any Mitanni colony or kingdom, and the Indo-Aryan elements in the religion and names of the Kassites (whose recorded presence in West Asia dates from the 18th century BCE when they attacked Babylonia during the reign of Samsu-Iluna, the son of Hammurabi) are attributed to proto-Mitanni influence (if the proto-Kassites were not themselves a related branch of people).
In fact, in this period, the history of West Asia seems to have been dominated by Indo-European and Indo-Aryan-related groups: "Egypt's major competitors in the Middle East around 1500 BC were Babylon (then ruled by the Kassites), the Hittites in Anatolia, and the Hurrian-speaking kingdom of Mitanni in the northern Levant, Syria and Assyria. According to Egyptian sources, the first king to mount a large-scale and wide-ranging campaign northward was Thutmose I (c. 1504-1492 BC) (Redford 1992:153-5). His troops reached the Euphrates in an area the Egyptians called Nahrin and on the way back the king indulged in hunting Syrian elephants in Niya" (HIKADE 2012:842). [Likewise: "in the second mill. BC (the Egyptian pharao Tuthmose III hunted elephants in the land of Niy, probably east of Aleppo) and even still in the first millennium BC (the Assyrian king Tiglat-Pilesar I killed ten elephants in the land Harran)" (BLAŽEK 2004:13)].
"Egypt had expelled the Hyksos by the middle of the 16th century B.C. [….] A large portion of Palestine came under Egyptian control, with the result that Egypt shared a border for the first time with another major military power: the Mitanni in the 15th century B.C. [….] Egypt formed an alliance with the Mitanni in an attempt to curtail the growing presence of the Hittites to the west, and a long period of peace followed under Amenophis III (ruled 1390-1352 B.C., low chronology) whose reign also signaled the beginning of the Amarna period. The period is named after the site of Tell el-Amarna, where the next pharaoh Akhenaten (1352-1336 B.C) based his distinctive social and religious reforms" (LAFRENZ 2004:5).
All the references to Syrian elephants in the Egyptian records contain direct or indirect references to the Mitanni: "the wall painting in western Thebes of the Vizier Rekhmire, who served under Thutmose III and his successor and regent Amenhotep II. In this tomb, men from the Levant and Syria bring various precious objects as tribute such as [….] and a Syrian elephant (Davies 1944:pls.21-23)" (HIKADE 2012:843). The Syrian tribute scene depicts the Mitanni as these "men from the Levant and Syria" sending tusks (and the elephant) as tribute.
Therefore it is clear that it was the Mitanni who brought ivory and elephants into West Asia on a major scale. [Perhaps baby elephants, which were easier to transport: " it seems likely that it was as babies that elephants were given as gifts and that the tusks were a conceptual feature inserted by the Egyptian artist (Winter 1973:264)" (MOOREY 1994:117)]. This fits in perfectly with the fact that peacocks and the peacock motif also appear prominently in West Asia along with the Mitanni. This was brilliantly presented in a paper by Burchard Brentjes as far back as 1981, but the paper has, for obvious reasons, been soundly neglected by most academic scholars discussing related issues. As Brentjes points out: "there is not a single cultural element of Central Asian, Eastern European or Caucasian origin in the archaeological culture of the Mittanian area [….] But there is one element novel to Iraq in Mittanian culture and art, which is later on observed in Iranian culture until the Islamisation of Iran: the peacock, one of the two elements of the 'Senmurv', the lion-peacock of the Sassanian art. The first clear pictures showing peacocks in religious context in Mesopotamia are the Nuzi cylinder seals of Mittanian time [7. Nos 92, 662, 676, 856, 857 a.o.]. There are two types of peacocks: the griffin with a peacock head and the peacock dancer, masked and standing beside the holy tree of life. The veneration of the peacock could not have been brought by the Mittanians from Central Asia or South-Eastern Europe; they must have taken it from the East, as peacocks are the type-bird of India and peacock dancers are still to be seen all over India. The earliest examples are known from the Harappan culture, from Mohenjo-daro and Harappa: two birds sitting on either side of the first tree of life are painted on ceramics. [….] The religious role of the peacock in India and the Indian-influenced Buddhist art in China and Japan need not be questioned" (BRENTJES 1981:145-46).
"The peacock was therefore subordinated to Indra and connected with the thunderbolt, so that in some Buddhist images Indra is sitting on a peacock throne. It is even possible to trace the peacock as the 'animal of the battle' in Elam till the late 3rd millennium B.C - if it is possible to identify two figured poles from Susa with 'peacock' symbols" (BRENTJES 1981:147).
"Yet the development of the Andronovo culture did not start before 1650-1600 B.C. So that we are forced to accept that the Indo-Aryans in what is now Iran, especially Eastern Iran before 1600 B.C., were under the Indian influence for such a long period that they could have taken over the peacock veneration. In that case, they could not be part of the Andronovo culture, but should have come to Iran centuries before" (BRENTJES 1981:147).
Note: Brentjes is not an advocate of the OIT, he is only presenting some hard facts - perhaps to be somehow incorporated by other scholars (even AIT ones) into their narrative. His only point seems to be that, on chronological grounds (since the developed Andronovo culture is dated by him from 1650 BCE), the Indo-Aryans could not have been part of the Andronovo culture to the north of Bactria, where they would still be on their way to India and still basically unacquainted with Indian religious motifs. But that they must in fact have been far to the south already in a much earlier era, and for "such a long period" (even if they had not yet actually reached India in an AIT narrative) that they were strongly influenced by India - even perhaps an India not yet "invaded" and therefore still "non-Aryan" - so that the Mitanni, parting from the other Indo-Aryans (still on the borders of India) in "Eastern Iran" (Afghanistan) could have carried the peacock motif with them to West Asia already by the early 2nd millennium BCE (and to Elam even earlier, on their way westwards).
But the evidence of the peacock is now confirmed by the evidence of the "Syrian" elephant: denying the role of the Mitanni in introducing the peacock and the elephant into West Asia on a major scale is like denying the role of the Portuguese in introducing various American plants and plant products into India.
III C: The West Asian names for the elephant:
As we saw, there was no "Syrian" elephant native or indigenous to Syria: the only elephants known to West Asia were Indian elephants and African elephants.
But "Syrian" elephants were only a side-issue in our discussion. The main issue was: did the Proto-Indo-Europeans get their common name for "ivory"/"elephant" from non-Indian elephants? This, in effect, means African elephants. But, whether African elephants or indigenous "Syrian" elephants, any acquaintance of the Proto-Indo-Europeans with non-Indian elephants or ivory (or, in any possible hypothetical, half-baked and far-fetched modification of the case as an after-thought to all the points raised here, even with Indian elephants in a non-Indian homeland), or, more pertinently, with the name for elephants/ivory, if their proto-IE Homeland was in the Steppes of South Russia, could only have been through Egypt and West Asia (including the Aegean) via the Caucasus region.
As we saw, Blažek tries to derive the Greek and Latin words separately from two totally different (and one of them extremely dubiously reconstructed) reconstructions of a proto-Egyptian form of the Egyptian word 3bw/abu, and yet has to leave the Hittite word to a third hypothetical (undocumented and unnamed) source. And all this after initially disqualifying the other Indo-European words from the discussion (by rejecting that Vedic ibha- means elephant, and totally rejecting any proto-connections between the old Germanic-Slavic words for "camel" and the Greek word for "elephant"). All this is untenable, and we will discuss here only whether the cognate Indo-European forms and the reconstructed PIE forms for "elephant" could be derived from a word transmitted from Africa (or, far-fetchedly, from the east) through West Asia to the Steppes of South Russia:
1. In West Asia, the Egyptian word abu is found as ab in the Biblical Hebrew of the Old Testament. The reference in I Kings 10:22 (repeated in III Chronicles 9:21) goes: "once every three years, the fleet of ships of Tarshish would come loaded with gold and silver, ivory, apes and peacocks". The place to which this reference (datable to around the 10th century BCE) alludes is obviously India:
a) It is the only place where one could get all these products (particularly the peacock which is native to India and parts of southeast Asia).
b) Many scholars have deduced that the reference to "once every three years" also points towards India: it would have taken roughly this period of time to travel to India by sea and back in that period.
c) The three words in the references which refer to "ivory, apes and peacocks" are shen-h-abb-im, qoph-im and tukkiy-im. The first two words (abb and qoph) have been identified with Sanskrit ibha "elephant" and kapi "ape/monkey", and the third (tukkiy) with the Tamil/Malayalam tokei "Peacock", and the source of these three imports is therefore located on the coast of south India or Sri Lanka.
Therefore the only reference to the Egyptian word ab in West Asia, or anywhere outside the Egyptian context, is in the Hebrew Old Testament (twice only) in a reference to the export of ivory from India.
However, Blažek rejects this identification of shen-h-abb-im as "tooth (of) the elephant". He points out that the word ivory is found many times in the Old Testament (e.g. it is found elsewhere in I Kings 10:18; 22:39; II Chronicles 9:17; Solomon 5:14; 7:4; Ezekiel 27:6; 27:15; Amos 3:15: 6:4), but in all the other references the word for ivory is merely shen "tooth". So Blažek suggests that "The Hebrew šεnhabbȋm is more probably corrupt for *šēn(wə)hābnȋm 'ivory and ebony' (West 1993:128; the source of ebony was Egyptian hbnj 'ebony(-tree)' (from the 5th dynasty) - see Spielberg 1907:131" (BLAŽEK 2004:14).
Ezekiel 27:15, for example, has the phrase šen w hebnīm "ivory and ebony", but it is rather presumptuous to decide that the šεn habbȋm of I Kings 10:22 and II Chronicles 9:21 is the same word in a "corrupted" form, against the testimony of centuries of tradition. Ivory can be of different kinds, and hippopotamus ivory is known to have been used in Egypt and Palestine on a large scale, so the specification of "elephant tooth" in these two references would be in line with the other products named along with it, all of which came from India.
In any case, if Blažek is right, this means that the Egyptian word has no similar-sounding word (whether of Egyptian or Indian origin) in West Asia at all for "elephant", since the post-Biblical word in Hebrew (pīl) is different, so there can be no way in which any form similar to the Egyptian word could have "migrated" or "wandered" all the way to the Steppes of South Russia, bypassing all the other areas on the way, and become (in some linguistically unfathomable way) the PIE word which was carried away by so many branches into their historical habitats.
2. There is a word for elephant which was used in the Sumerian language: am-si. However:
a) The records make it clear that there were no elephants in the Sumerian area or anywhere nearby, and that the elephant was an import from the east.
b) The word am-si is used also for camels (with or without a qualifier) and perhaps also for certain other exotic animals: am indicates that the animal is a quadruped and si indicates that it has a protuberance of some kind (hump, horn, tusks, trunk).
c) The word am-si, at any rate, is not the proto-form for the PIE word.
3. There is only one comparably similar word in West Asia, and it means "ox". As Blažek admits: "Semitic *ʔalp- continuing in Akkadian alpu 'ox, cattle', Phoenician ʔlp, Ugaritic alp 'ox', Hebrew ʔέlεp, [….] 'ox [….]', Empire Aramaic ʔlpʔ 'ox', Soqotri ʔalf 'heifer' [….] Masson 1967:82 mentions that none of the quoted words was used for 'elephant' or even 'ivory'" (BLAŽEK 2004:13). And linguistically also, it cannot yield any proto-form for the different Indo-European words.
4. There is a common West Asian word for "elephant", though: "Arabic fīl 'elephant' is related to its counterparts in other Semitic languages: Syrian pīlā, Postbiblical Hebrew pīl, Akkadian (Old Babylonian, Middle Assyrian) pīru(m), pīlu id." (BLAŽEK 2004:17). In fact, this word is also found in various Iranian languages: Old Persian pīru-, Middle and New Persian pīl, Sogdian pyδ, Khwarezmian pyz. It is also found in the later Sanskrit lexicon as pīlu, and in Armenian as p'igh. In fact, incredibly, it is even found in Old Norse and Icelandic as fill.
As all serious scholars are unanimous that there were no elephants in Mesopotamia (and only falter in this conviction when talking about the "Syrian" elephants already referred to, which seem to have been invisible through most of their alleged "indigenous" presence in Syria) and that the Mesopotamians received their ivory and elephants from foreign lands, there is the strong likelihood that this word was also imported from outside. There are various possibilities:
a) Did they receive this word from Africa? There is one isolated word in a Central Chadic language of Nigeria which can be compared to the common Semitic word: "CChad: Margi (Meek) pir 'elephant' (Illich-Svtyich 1966,26: Sem+Margi)" (BLAŽEK 1994:196), and Blažek also draws attention to the similarity. However, there is no earthly way in which this isolated word from Nigeria could have been exported to West Asia and have given birth to so many forms - not even if we connect together some other possibly similar African words in the same area: "'elephant' in CChad: Zulgo mbele, Mada mbile, Hurzo, Moreme, Gwendele mbelele, Uldene, Muyang mbele" (BLAŽEK 1994:197).
b) There is also a theory that this Semitic word is derived from the Berber forms of North Africa, preceded by the Late Egyptian/Coptic definite article: "Lokotsch 1927:48 […. derives the Arabic-etc. forms] from 'Hamitic', concretely Tuareg elu, plus prefixed Egyptian article p-!" (BLAŽEK 2004:12). This "idea of the prefixed (late) Egyptian article p- was first formulated by Hommel (1879:381)" (BLAŽEK 2004:17).
This is an extremely far-fetched derivation: that a Berber word should be combined with a Late Egyptian/Coptic definite article by people in West Asia, including the Mesopotamians, and be widely used as a word for "elephant", without there being any intermediate form in Egyptian records, is rightly rejected by most scholars - if seriously considered at all.
Even more ridiculous is the attempt to derive the common PIE form from the Arabic word fīl preceded by the Arabic definite article al-: i.e. al-fīl! Among many other things, this definite article al- is found only in Arabic: Late Egyptian/Coptic had pi-, Hebrew had ha-, Amharic and Akkadian had no definite article at all, Aramaic had a suffixed -a'/-ā, and South Arabian dialects (in Yemen, etc.) had a suffixed -n/-hn. And the Arabic al- is found only after the 5th century BCE!
c) Finally, there is the eastern connection. Where did the ivory/elephant in Mesopotamia come from? The evidence is very clear:
"By the late Early Dynastic era, as references to ivory figurines in the pre-Sargonic texts (RTC 19, DP 490) from Lagash attest, ivory objects had begun to reach southern Mesopotamia (Heimpel 1987:54). While these, in theory, could have come from either Africa or the Indus region, it is generally believed that the ivory was of Indian origin for the earliest representation of an elephant in Mesopotamia, occuring on a cylinder seal from Tell Asmar in the Diyala region of late Old Akkadian date (van Buren 1939:77; Frankfort 1955: Pl. 161.642) (Fig.XII.5), is definitely of the Indian as opposed to the African country.
Third millennium representations of elephants in Mesopotamia are, however, extremely rare and aside from the Tell Asmar seal just mentioned none of the other elephants can be taken as confirmed (cf. Moorey 1994:119) [….] ivory was certainly reaching the area. A text from the time of Gudea and Ur-Baba (RTC 221), which is a list of items dedicated to a temple (?) preserves the earliest attestation of ivory (zu-am-si) arriving in Mesopotamia in raw form, listing two pieces of ivory by length and thickness (Heimpel 1987:78). The evidence of ivory import continues to grow during the succeeding Ur III period. Most of our information comes from Ur, at this time the main gateway for goods entering the region from the south and east [….] in contrast to the pre-Sargonic texts mentioning the import of finished goods in ivory, the craftsmen of Ur were in receipt of sizable quantities of raw ivory, which they then fashioned themselves into objects" (POTTS 1997:260-261).
After giving the details of these imports of ivory, Potts concludes: "From all the foregoing D. Collon has concluded that the ivory used in Mesopotamia always came from the Indian elephant (Elaphas maximus) and that the animals themselves were imported intermittently as well (Collon 1977:222). From the discussion of watercraft in Chapter V it may seem unlikely that elephants were ever brought by sea from the Indus region, and indeed an examination of the imports of elephants in the Seleucid era, when they were used militarily, confirms that elephants always arrived in Mesopotamia by land, generally travelling from India via Bactria and the overland route through Iran (later known as the Great Khorassan Road) [….] In fact, when the Seleucids lost Bactria around 240 BC, no more elephants seem to have been obtained from the region.
There is a fundamental difference, however, between the desire for exotic objects of ivory in late third- and early second-millennium Mesopotamia, and a wish to actually keep elephants in captivity. Indeed, for the Seleucids the elephant was an important instrument of war, and they used elephants in all of their major military campaigns. Their initial stock of five hundred war elephants had been received by Seleucus I (305-285 BC) as a gift from the Mauryan king Chandragupta in exchange for bringing the war between them to an end" (POTTS 1997:260-261).
If the ivory and elephants came into Mesopotamia from the east, the name also must obviously have come from the east. And the word is indeed found in all the Iranian languages (Old, Middle and New Persian, Old Khwarezmian, Old Sogdian, and most modern languages from Pashto to Armenian, though Armenian is of course not an Iranian language, only an Iranian-influenced one - as well as in the Sanskrit lexicon, though admittedly not in the Vedic texts). The only logical conclusion is that this is a word which originated in the Indo-Iranian area, and more particularly among the proto-Iranians, in the north-west of India.
In any case, the one fact which emerges from all this is that there is no way at all that the African elephant or its ivory, much less an African word for "ivory"/elephant", could possibly have "migrated" or "wandered" from Africa, through Egypt and West Asia, and over the Caucasian mountains into the Steppes of South Russia, in a pre-PIE or PIE era, to contribute a common PIE word for "ivory"/elephant" which was carried by all the earliest attested Indo-European languages (Vedic, Hittite, Mycenaean Greek, Latin, etc.) into their historical habitats.
Section IV. The case for the Indian elephant in an Indian Homeland.
The case for the Indian elephant having provided the common PIE name for "elephant"/"ivory" in a PIE Homeland situated in India is invincible.
The case can be examined under the following heads:
IV A. The Trail of Elephants and Ivory from India.
IV B. The Trail of the Name from India.
IV A. The Trail of Elephants and Ivory from India:
There is a clear trail of elephants and ivory leading from India to the west by land:
1. Pre-5000 BCE: "An elephant tusk from level IIA at Mehrgarh in Pakistan, c.5500 BC, grooved by artisans, is the earliest evidence for the working of an Asian elephant's tusks (Jarrige 1984:24)" (MOOREY 1994:116).
2. 4000-3000 BCE: "Asian elephants were domesticated at least as far back as 3500 B.C.E. by the Harappan people of the Indus Valley" (CHAIKLIN 2010:534).
3. 3000 BCE: "A seal and a gaming piece of elephant ivory from Mundigak (III) in Afghanistan, c.3000 BC, are the earliest ivory artefacts so far discovered outside India (Jarrige and Tosi 1981:39)" (MOOREY 1994:116).
4. Early post-2500 BCE: "By the late Early Dynastic era, as references to ivory figurines in the pre-Sargonic texts (RTC 19, DP 490) from Lagash attest, ivory objects had begun to reach southern Mesopotamia (Heimpel 1987:54). While these, in theory, could have come from either Africa or the Indus region, it is generally believed that the ivory was of Indian origin for the earliest representation of an elephant in Mesopotamia, occuring on a cylinder seal from Tell Asmar in the Diyala region of late Old Akkadian date (van Buren 1939:77; Frankfort 1955: Pl. 161.642) (Fig.XII.5), is definitely of the Indian as opposed to the African country. Third millennium representations of elephants in Mesopotamia are, however, extremely rare and aside from the Tell Asmar seal just mentioned none of the other elephants can be taken as confirmed (cf. Moorey 1994:119) [… but ...] ivory was certainly reaching the area" (POTTS 1997:260).
4. Late pre-2000 BCE: "A text from the time of Gudea and Ur-Baba (RTC 221), which is a list of items dedicated to a temple (?) preserves the earliest attestation of ivory (zu-am-si) arriving in Mesopotamia in raw form, listing two pieces of ivory by length and thickness (Heimpel 1987:78). The evidence of ivory import continues to grow during the succeeding Ur III period. Most of our information comes from Ur, at this time the main gateway for goods entering the region from the south and east [….] in contrast to the pre-Sargonic texts mentioning the import of finished goods in ivory, the craftsmen of Ur were in receipt of sizable quantities of raw ivory, which they then fashioned themselves into objects" (POTTS 1997:260-261).
"At this time (c. 2150-2000 BC) ivory from Meluḥḥa is mentioned only in connection with ivory bird figurines (Oppenheim 1954:11, 15n, 24). Otherwise, in the body of texts from Ur dating to about 2000 BC ivory is attributed to Dilmun (Bahrain), where it had presumably been shipped up the Gulf from the Indus, where ivory was plentiful on the sites of the Harappan period, both as tusks and as objects (Ratnagar 1981:113)" (MOOREY 1994:118).
5. 2000 BCE on: By this time, there is now evidence for "an ivory industry in Anatolia in the 'Assyrian Colony Period' (c. 2000-1750 BC) (Barnett 1982:32 ff; including a sawn tusk section at Acem-höyük); carved ivory in Middle Bronze Age 'royal' tombs at Ebla (Matthiae 1979: figs. 69 ff) and carved ivories in Palestine and Jordan at the time (Barnett 1982), even if some of it is hippopotamus ivory" (MOOREY 1994:117).
"In the Aegean, elephant ivory is first securely attested in LBA I (c. 1600-1450 BC) with quantities increasing in LBA II-III (1450-1200 BC; see Krzyszkowska 1988:228-33)" (KRZYSZKOWSKA 2000:324).
As we saw earlier, the trail by sea leads much further westwards in an older era than the trail by land: the examination of "ivory objects from the Iberian peninsula dated from the Chalcolithic at about 3000 BC [....] brought in by sea" (SCHUHMACHER ET AL 2009:984) excavated from the metropolis of Los Millares in the south-east of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea "revealed a majority of Asian ivory (Elephas maximus)", but African ivory is not found here "before the Early Bronze Age (end of the third and first half of the second millennium BC)" (SCHUHMACHER ET AL 2009:992).
IV B. The Trail of the Name from India:
As in the case of the actual elephant/ivory, the trail of the name for the elephant/ivory can also be traced from India:
The original pre-Rigvedic word, as we saw earlier, can be reconstructed as *ḷbha-/*ṛbha-. This word comes, like the word ṛbhu-, "from the root rabh, to grasp, thus means 'handy', 'dexterous'" (MACDONELL 1897:133). This root (due to r/l alternation in the Vedic language) has two forms in the Rigveda, √rabh and √labh, both meaning the same thing: √rabh: "to take hold of, grasp, clasp, embrace" (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:867) and √labh: "to take, seize, catch" (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:896). The Rigveda name ibha- for the elephant thus has substantially the same semantic meaning as the word hastin.
The original PIE form of the word: a) started out with the meaning "elephant", b) increasingly came to be used specifically for "ivory", and c) developed a new form for "elephant" from the secondary word "ivory" with the adjectival suffix -vanta/-manta/-vat. So Rigvedic ibha-, Hittite laḫpa-, Latin ebur, Myc. Greek erepa- and Greek elephas/elephantas, are all directly derived from the original PIE form.
As I have shown in my books, the first IE dialect to leave the Indian Homeland was Anatolian (Hittite), which migrated northwards from Afghanistan into Central Asia, and after inhabiting the western parts of Central Asia (i.e. Turkmenistan) for a long time, expanded westwards and southwards around the Caspian Sea into northeastern Turkey and into the pages of history. The second dialect to migrate northwards was Tocharian, which settled down in the eastern parts of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan) and adjoining areas through most of its existence. Later, Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic, in that order, migrated northwards into Central Asia, and, over a period of time, migrated all the way northwards and westwards into Europe in the First Great IE Migration. The Second Great IE migration took place later via a southern route westwards from Afghanistan, taking the Albanian, Greek, Armenian and Iranian dialects all the way to southeastern Europe.
The Hittite, Italic and Greek dialects took the PIE name for "elephant"/"ivory" all the way to their historical habitats. As it would naturally be more likely that these migrating tribes could have taken some ivory objects rather than actual elephants with them through their migrations, they have all preserved the word with the meaning "ivory". The Greek dialect, migrating through a southern route, through areas which were slowly becoming acquainted with the Indian elephant, also preserved the meaning "elephant".
Two of the north-westwards migrating dialects, Germanic and Slavic, which inhabited the areas of northern Central Asia for a period of time before moving on, transferred the name of the "elephant" to the other big mammal inhabiting that region, the Bactrian camel, and (it being possible that they even took some of those camels along with them during the earlier parts of their westward migrations across Eurasia) carried those words (later Gothic ulbandus, Old Icelandic ulfalde, Old English olfend, Old Church Slavic velibodŭ) with them into their historical habitats.
The word ṛbha-, carried (as we have seen) by ships exporting ivory as far to the west as the southeast of Spain and as early as the end of the fourth millennium BCE, was borrowed by the languages of the people on the Horn of Africa, which must have been one of the early stopovers for these ships, in the form "East Cushitic *ʔarb- 'elephant'", and this word was carried along the Nile into Egypt as the proto-form of Egyptian 3bw "elephant".
The word ibha- was already acquiring an archaic status, and, in the areas of present day Pakistan and Afghanistan, a new word pīru/pīlu (from the root pīl-, "to obstruct", no. 521 in Panini's Dhātupāṭha) came into use particularly among the proto-Iranian sections of the area (the word is found only as one of the words for the "elephant", pīlu, in Sanskrit lexicons and in post-Vedic Sanskrit texts), and the word survives in most of these Iranian languages: Old Persian pīru-, Middle and New Persian pīl, Sogdian pyδ, Khwarezmian pyz, as well as in Armenian p'igh. Along with the Indian elephant, the word travelled into Mesopotamia: Akkadian (Old Babylonian, Middle Assyrian) pīru (m), pīlu (n). It replaced the older Sumerian word am-si with bilam. It also replaced the older (Biblical) Hebrew abb with pīl. It became fīl in Arabic. The Old Norse/Icelandic word fill is rather difficult: it is explained as a word which may have been borrowed by the Vikings (from Arabs?) during the course of their travels, but that is a bit far-fetched, and it could equally well be one more IE survival, from a period of time when the earlier name of the elephant was transferred to the Bactrian camel.
The trail of the elephant and its ivory, as well as of the earliest names for "elephant"/"ivory" in the different oldest attested Indo-European languages, as well as in the ancient civilizations of western Asia and the Mediterranean, is clearly traceable to India and the pre-Vedic, early Vedic, late Vedic and post-Vedic periods of Indian history. Let us return once more to the geographical environment of the Rigveda, in respect of its flora and fauna, to understand the fundamental nature of the evidence.
Section V. The Flora and Fauna of the Rigveda vis-à-vis the PIE world.
As we saw, the Rigveda refers to the elephant right from the period of the oldest book, Book 6.
To begin with, I will repeat what is given at the beginning of Section I of this article: one thing that must be constantly kept in mind is the early chronology and antiquity (both in terms of date as well as of PIE history) of words and references found in the non-redacted portions of the Old Books of the Rigveda.
In my earlier blog article "The Recorded History of the Indo-European Migrations - Part 2, The chronology and geography of the Rigveda", I have shown that the overwhelming mass of names, name types, words and metres common to the Rigveda, the Avesta and the Mitanni records are found as follows:
1. In not a single one of the 280 Old Hymns and 2351 verses in the Old Books 6,3,7,4,2: i.e. in 0 % of the hymns and verses.
2. In 15 of the 62 Redacted Old Hymns and 23 of the 890 Redacted verses in the Old Books 6,3,7,4,2: i.e. in 24.19 % of the hymns but only 2.58 % of the verses.
3. In 425 of the 686 New Hymns and 3692 of the 7311 verses in the New Books 5,1,8,9,10: i.e. in 61.95 % of the hymns and 50.50 % of the verses, and in all subsequent Vedic and Sanskrit texts.
In short, unless positive proof to the contrary can be produced in respect of any particular word or reference, words found in the non-redacted portions of the Old Books (2,3,4,6,7) of the Rigveda:
1. can go back beyond 2500 BCE at the least in terms of absolute chronology, and
2. represent a period anterior to the period of "Indo-Iranian" and Mitanni unity, and at least, as demonstrated in Part 3 of my above article, contemporary to the period of "South Indo-European" (i.e. Indo-Aryan-Iranian-Greek-Armenian-Albanian) unity.
In this section, we will examine the geographical evidence in the Rigveda, in respect of its flora and fauna, under the following heads:
V A. The Flora and Fauna of the Old Books vis-à-vis the New Books.
V B. PIE Flora and Fauna of the North-west and beyond.
V C. Soma, Honey, Wine and Aurochs, Horses and Cows.
V A. The Flora and Fauna of the Old Books vis-à-vis the New Books:
We have already seen that the elephant is found in the Old Books of the Rigveda, i.e. in a period a) beyond 2500 BCE at the least, b) anterior to the period of "Indo-Iranian" and Mitanni unity, and even c) at least contemporary to the period of "South Indo-European" (i.e. Indo-Aryan-Iranian-Greek-Armenian-Albanian) unity.
A look at some important Rigvedic fauna of the Old Books vis-a-vis the New Books is very enlightening. First of all, take the following eastern animals which are native to the eastern interior areas of India but not native to the north-west (i.e. Afghanistan and beyond): the elephant (ibha-, vāraṇa, hastin), the Indian bison (gaura), the peacock (mayūra), the buffalo (mahiṣa, anūpa) and the spotted deer or chital (pṛṣatī/pṛṣadaśva).
II.22.1; 34.3,4; 36.2.
III.26.4,6; 45.1; 46.2.
IV.4.1; 16.14; 18.11; 21.8; 58.2.
VI.8.4; 17.11; 20.8.
VII.40.3; 44.5; 69.6; 98.1.
I.16.5; 37.2; 39.6; 64.7,8; 84.17; 85.4,5; 87.4; 89.7; 95.9; 121.2; 140.2; 141.3; 164.41; 186.8; 191.14.
V.42.15; 55.6; 57.3; 58.6; 60.2; 78.2.
VIII.1.25; 4.3; 7.28; 12.8; 33.8; 35.7; 45.24; 69.15; 77.10; 87.14.
IX.33.1; 57.3; 69.3; 73.2; 82.3; 86.25,40; 87.7; 92.6; 95.4; 96.6,18,19; 97.41,57; 113.3.
X.5.2; 8.1; 27.23; 28.10; 40.4; 45.3; 49.4; 51.6; 54.4; 60.3; 65.8; 106.2; 128.8; 140.6; 189.2.
References to these eastern or Indian animals are found in every single book of the Rigveda (and only the two underlined references in the Old Books are in Redacted Hymns). Further, as we noted above, these references in the Old Books pertain to a period: a) beyond 2500 BCE at the least, b) and they are anterior to the period of "Indo-Iranian" and Mitanni unity, and even c) at least contemporary to the period of "South Indo-European" (i.e. Indo-Aryan-Iranian-Greek-Armenian-Albanian) unity. Therefore all these eastern animals (and, as we saw in part 2 of this article, so also the eastern rivers, eastern places, and eastern lake) are familiar to the Indo-Aryans in the era before the common "Indo-Iranian" culture of the New Books of the Rigveda.
And the references to these eastern animals are not casual ones. It is clear that the animals and their environment form an intimate part of the idiomatic lore and traditional imagery of the Rigveda: the spotted deer, for example, are the official steeds of the chariots of the Maruts; and the name of the buffalo (like that of the bull, boar and lion) serves as an epithet, applied to various Gods, signifying great strength and power. The Gods approaching the place of sacrifice to drink the libations evoke the image of thirsty bisons converging on a watering place in the forest. The outspread tails or manes of Indra's horses evoke the image of the outspread plumes of the peacock's tail. The references to the elephant have already been discussed earlier.
Compare these with the references to certain animals which are originally native only to the north-west of India (Kashmir and areas to its west, the NWFP and Afghanistan), at least in the context of Rigvedic geography (for that matter, wild mountain goats are found in the eastern Himalayas, and the Nilgiri Tahr is found as far south as in the Nilgiri hills of Tamilnadu; and wild boars are also found in the south and east): the mountain goat (chāga), the sheep (meṣa) and lamb (urā), the Bactrian camel (uṣṭra), the Afghan horse (mathra), the ass (gardabha, rāsabha) and the wild boar (varāha, sūkara). Most of the names of these north-western animals, unlike the names of the eastern animals that we just saw above, are found in the Avesta as well: maēša (sheep), ura (lamb), uštra (camel) and varāza/hūkara (boar). [The Avestan name for the ass (xara) is found only later in the Sutras (khara), but there is an unexpected Central Asian equivalent for Rigvedic gardabha in Tocharian kercapo]. All these are found in the Rigveda as follows:
I.29.5; 34.9; 43.6; 51.1; 52.1; 61.7; 88.5; 114.5; 116.2,16; 117.17,18; 121.11; 138.2; 162.3,21; 181.5.
VIII.2.40; 5.37; 6.48; 34.3; 46.22,23; 56.3; 66.8; 77.10; 85.7; 95.3; 97.12.
IX.8.5; 86.47; 97.7; 107.11.
X.27.17; 28.4; 67.7; 86.4; 91.14; 99.6; 106.5.
These north-western animals are found mentioned only in the New Books and only in two Redacted Hymns in the Old Books, and therefore clearly represent animals of the north-west which were unfamiliar to the Vedic Aryans until they moved out into the north-west from their original areas in the east.
It will be noticed that while the word meṣa for sheep has its cognate only in Iranian (e.g. Avestan maēša) among the IE branches, there is an "older" Vedic word for sheep common to Vedic and other IE languages: ávi- (Latin ouis, Greek ówis, oîs, Lithuanaian avìs, Old Church Slavic ovĭca, Anatolian ḫawa, ḫawi, English ewe). This word is "older" in the sense that it is found in languages which represent an "older" connection preceding the "Indo-Iranian" phase, and it is a word not found in Iranian. So, does this represent an older, "pre-Rigvedic", contact with the north-west? The following is the distribution of the word ávi-, with the meaning "sheep", in the Rigveda:
It will be seen that, like the rivers of Afghanistan, the sheep of Afghanistan are completely missing in the three Oldest Books (6,3,7) and make their first appearance in the Rigveda only in Book 4, which represents the westernmost thrust of Indo-Aryan expansion during the period of Sudās' descendants Sahadeva and Somaka and the battle "beyond the Sarayu" (IV.30.18) in Afghanistan. That the sheep in the Rigveda are indeed the sheep of Afghanistan is confirmed by the reference in I.126.7, which directly calls them "gandhārīṇām avikā": the sheep of Gandhara.
Further, the word ávi-, and its derived words ávya-, ávyaya-, and avyáya-, all signifying "woollen filters" (for filtering the Soma juice), are distributed as follows in the Rigveda (again, the words are totally missing in the three Oldest Books):
IX.6.1,5; 7.6; 12.4; 13.1,6; 16.6,8; 20.1; 28.1; 36.4; 37.3; 38.1; 45.5; 49.4; 50.2,3; 52.2; 61.17; 62.8; 63.10,19; 64.5,25; 66.9,11,28; 67.4,5,20; 68.7; 69.34,9; 70.7,8; 74.9; 75.4; 78.1; 82.1; 85.5; 86.3,8,11,13,25,31,34,48; 91.1,2; 92.4; 96.13; 97.3,4,12,16,19,31,40,56; 98.2,3; 99.5; 100.4; 101.16; 103.2,3; 106.10,11; 107.2,10,17,22,68; 108.5; 109.7,16; 110.10.
The word ávi- (with its derived forms) is thus more regularly used for the "woollen filters" (for filtering the Soma juice) than for the actual sheep. The Rigveda also has the regular PIE word for "wool" (with cognates in most of the IE branches), ūrṇa-/ūrṇā-, as follows:
Again, the word ūrṇa-/ūrṇā-, (like the sheep and rivers of Afghanistan) first appears in Book 4. It is found only once, in a Redacted Hymn, in the three Oldest Books. So for all practical purposes, all the above words for "sheep" and "wool" (like, in fact, the names of the rivers, lake, places and mountains of Afghanistan, as well as the earlier examined "Indo-Iranian" word meṣa) are missing in the three Oldest Books (6.3,7).
What is the logic by which "old" PIE words like ávi- and ūrṇa-/ ūrṇā-, with cognates in other (than Iranian) IE branches, appear only in the New Books or, at best, first appear only in Book 4 which represents the westernmost thrust of Indo-Aryan expansion during the period of Sudās' descendants Sahadeva and Somaka and the battle "beyond the Sarayu" (IV.30.18) in Afghanistan? We will examine this in next sub-section V B on the "PIE Flora and Fauna of the North-west and Beyond".
Meanwhile, it may be noted there are many other purely native Indo-Aryan (i.e. IE) names for many Indian animals in the Rigveda: e.g. siṁha (lion), śiṁśumāra (Gangetic or river dolphin), sālāvṛka (hyaena), kusumbhaka (scorpion), etc. There are also some animal names which, in the Rigveda (or in the names of its composer ṛṣi-s), appear only in or as personal names of particular persons rather than in references to the animals themselves (though they appear as animals in the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda): kaśyapa (tortoise), kapi (monkey), vyāghra (tiger), pṛdāku (leopard). Other such purely Indo-Aryan names which appear in the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda include śārdūla (tiger), khaḍga (rhinoceros), ajagara (python), nākra (crocodile), kṛkalāsa (chameleon), nakula (mongoose), jahakā (hedgehog), śalyaka (porcupine), kūrma (tortoise), jatū (bat), etc.
[Note: it is not intended to provide here a list of all animals named in the Rigveda: this would include the names for many of the animals common to India as well as Europe: the wolf, bear, lynx, fox/jackal, deer/elk, bull, cow, hare, squirrel, mouse, duck/swan, dog, cat, horse, mule, bull/cow, snake, fishes, various birds and insects, etc., some of which can have multiple names in the Rigveda and the other Samhitas (e.g "deer"/ "antelope": ruru, eṇi, ṛśya, hariṇa, etc.). Generally, we will discuss animal names relevant to the AIT/OIT debate. But the following Indo-Aryan names of some birds, in the Rigveda (where specified) or at least in the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda, may be noted: cakravāka (brahminy duck. II.39.3), ulūka (owl, VII.104.22; X.165.4), anyavāpa (cuckoo), kṛkavāku (cock), kapota (pigeon, I.30.4; X.165.1-5), kapiñjala/tittiri (partridge); kalaviṅka (sparrow), kaṅka/krauñca (crane), cāṣa (wagtail, X.97.13), śyena/suparṇa (eagle, multiple references), gṛdhra (vulture, many references), śuka (parrot), etc.].
Most significant of all is the important role in the Rigveda, and later the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda, of some plants and trees native to India and extremely important to this day in Indian religion or commerce, all of which are found in these texts with purely Indo-Aryan names: in the Rigveda we have śiṁśapa (dalbergia sissoo, the sissoo or shisham or North Indian rosewood tree, one of the most important Indian timbers to this day) and khadira (acacia catechu, the heartwood tree) both mentioned in III.53.19 as used in the manufacture of chariots; and śalmalī (salmalia malabaricum, the silk-cotton tree) and kiṁṣuka (butea monosperma, the flame-of-the forest) both mentioned in X.85.20 as used in the manufacture of chariot wheels. Śalmalī is mentioned elsewhere also in VII.50.3, and as śimbala in III.53.22, and the flame-of-the forest is mentioned again in X.97.5 as the parṇa tree. The two important medicinal species vibhīdaka (terminalia bellerica, the belleric myrobalan or behra, one of the three ingredients in the famous Ayurvedic tonic or medicine triphala churna) and araṭva (terminalia arjuna, the arjuna tree) are mentioned in VII.86.6 and X.34.1, and in VIII.46.27, respectively. The aśvattha or pippala tree (ficus religiosa, the sacred fig tree, the peepal) is mentioned in I.135.8; 164.20; X.97.5. The urvāruka (cucumis sativus, the cucumber, a very important Indian vegetable) is mentioned in VII.59.12. The vetasa (calamus rotang or rattan/cane, used in cane furniture) plant is mentioned in IV.58.5. Six sacred grasses, darbha, muñja, śarya, sairya, kuśara and vairiṇa, are mentioned in I.191.3.
The Yajurveda and Atharvaveda mention many more important Indian plants and trees with purely Indo-Aryan names: for example, ikṣu (saccharum officinale, the sugarcane plant), bilva (aegle marmelos, the bael fruit plant), nyagrodha (ficus benghalensis, the banyan tree), śamī (prosopis cineraria, the shami tree), plakṣa (ficus infectora, the white fig tree), and pippalī (piper longum, long pepper, an important spice), not to mention a very long list of Indian medicinal herbs mentioned in the Atharvaveda, clearly the ancient heritage of a long period of local medicinal traditions. In short, the flora and fauna of the eastern interior of India form the heart of the Rigveda (and this is amplified by the data in the subsequent Samhitas: the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda), while the flora and fauna of the northwest make only a very late appearance on the Rigvedic horizon.
V B. PIE Flora and Fauna of the North-west and Beyond:
Al this brings into focus the utter disconnect between the data analyzed above and the case which has been presented by western Indologists all these years (or rather for the last more than a century): e.g. (to take a random quote) Dyens talks about "some clues regarding where the Proto-Indo-European languages had been spoken: the Indo-European languages and words for certain flora and fauna (bears and beech trees are well-known examples). By plotting on a map the natural environment of these diagnostic flora and fauna, philologists established that the Indo-European Homeland was a fairly primitive place in the temperate zone" (DYENS 1988:4). This refrain, about the reconstructed PIE flora and fauna depicting a "temperate zone" area, on the grounds that the reconstructed list includes only "temperate zone" flora and fauna and not tropical ones or peculiarly Indian ones, has been a recurring argument in spite of the fact that even many prominent western Indologists and scholars from the earliest days, who basically accepted the AIT, rejected it as illogical and plain stupid (Weber 1857, Keith 1933, Dolgopolsky 1987, etc). As they reasonably pointed out, any people travelling from one particular area to a new and distant one would naturally (over the course of centuries) forget about the flora and fauna of their original area if those were not present in the new area. The point is that the reconstructed flora and fauna are found in both India and Europe, so it cannot in itself indicate that the movement was from India to Europe or from Europe to India. If the names of typical Indian flora and fauna are missing in the IE languages of Europe, so are the names of typical European flora and fauna missing in the IE (Indo-Aryan) languages of India.
In the particular example quoted above, for example, the reference to "bears and beech trees" as being typical examples of the flora and fauna which establish the Homeland in the "temperate zone", illustrates the circularity and bias behind the arguments:
1. Beech trees are found only in Europe. The cognate words for "beech", from the reconstructed PIE form *bhaHk'o-, are found only in the five European branches (Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic), and even among them, the Baltic and Slavic forms seem to be borrowed from Germanic (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:534). Greek and Albanian have different words for "beech", and the forms which seem to be derived from *bhaHk'o- mean "oak". The word is totally missing in Anatolian, Tocharian, Armenian, Iranian and Indo-Aryan. And yet, a "beech argument" is being discussed since over a century, claiming that a common proto-form for "beech" proves a "temperate zone" European Homeland!
2. Bears are treated as indicators of a "temperate zone" Homeland in the Steppes.
In actual fact, there are eight species of bear in the world. Three of them are restricted to places outside the historical IE areas: ursus americanus (the American black bear, to North America), tremarctos ornatus (the spectacled bear, to South America) and ailuropoda melanoleuca (the panda bear, to Tibet and China). A fourth species, ursus maritimus (the polar bear) is restricted to the arctic areas, but this does include Scandinavia. One species, ursus arctos (the old world brown bear) is found all over the historical IE world (including Europe, the Steppes of South Russia, Anatolia, and India). The three other bears, ursus thibetanus (the Himalayan black bear), helarctos malayanus (the Malayan sun bear), and melursus ursinus (the sloth bear) are all found in parts of India: the third, in fact, only in India (and Sri Lanka). So India has four species of bears, and the "temperate zone" Steppe region has only one! Further, the common PIE root *h2ṛetk- from which the common words for bear are derived (PIE *h2ṛtkos-, Vedic ṛkṣa-, Avestan arəšə-, Greek arktos, Latin ursus, Old Irish art, Armenian ar, Hittite hartagga) "is otherwise seen only in Skt. rakṣas- 'destruction, damage, night demon'" (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:138)!
Unfortunately, such fake arguments about "temperate zone" flora and fauna are made even today by prominent participants in the debate, even as they exhibit full awareness of the fakeness of the arguments. Michael Witzel, for example, tells us: “Generally, the PIE plants and animals are those of the temperate climate” (WITZEL 2005:372), and argues that “we do not find any typical Old Indian words beyond South Asia, neither in the closely related Old Iranian, nor in Eastern or Western IE […] In an OIT scenario, one would expect ‘emigrant’ Indian words such as those for lion, tiger, elephant, leopard, lotus, bamboo, or some local Indian trees, even if some of them would have been preserved, not for the original item, but for a similar one (e.g. English [red] squirrel > North American [gray] squirrel)” (WITZEL 2005:364-365). He reiterates this argument later: “the search for Indian plant names in the west, such as lotus, bamboo, Indian trees (aśvattha, bilva, jambu, etc.), comes up with nothing. Such names are simply not to be found, also not in a new meaning” (WITZEL 2005:373).
Note the multiple fraudulence in the argument:
1. Witzel argues that the absence of names of Indian flora and fauna in IE languages outside India disproves an Indian Homeland (which, as we saw in this article, is not strictly correct since names for many typical Indian animals like the elephant, tiger leopard, lion, ape, etc. are found outside India). But he clearly knows why the logic behind his argument (even if it is accepted as factual) is fake, since, shortly afterwards, he rejects the counter-argument that the names of “most of the IE plants and animals are not found in India” by arguing that this is because their names “have simply not been used any longer and have died out” (WITZEL 2005:374). So clearly, to paraphrase his own words, “most of the Indian plants and animals are not found in Iran or Europe” and so their names “have simply not been used any longer and have died out”
2. To compound his fake argument with a lie, he further argues that “The hypothetical emigrants from the subcontinent would have taken with them a host of ‘Indian’ words ― as the gypsies (Roma, Sinti) indeed have done." (WITZEL 2005:364-365). But he does not give the gypsy (Roma, Sinti) words for typical Indian flora and fauna (demanded by him for the languages of Europe and Iran) "such as lotus, bamboo, Indian trees (aśvattha, bilva, jambu, etc.)" or "such as those for lion, tiger, elephant, leopard, lotus, bamboo, or some local Indian trees, even if some of them would have been preserved, not for the original item, but for a similar one", since he is aware that in actual fact these names are "simply not to be found, also not in a new meaning" in these languages as well! Instead, clearly fully conscious of the fact that he is lying, he tries to substantiate his claim with ludicrous examples: “The Gypsies, after all, have kept a large IA vocabulary alive, over the past 1000 years or so, during their wanderings all over the Near East, North Africa and Europe (e.g. phral ‘brother’, pani ‘water’, karal ‘he does’)” (WITZEL 2005:366)!
Witzel further argues that many of these "temperate zone" words, in spite of not being typical of the Rigvedic area, are found in Sanskrit, and some more (though missing in Sanskrit) are found in Iranian: “It is theoretically possible that these words belonged to the supposed original IE/IA vocabulary of the northwestern Himalayas. Even if we take into account that the Panjab has cool winters with some frost and that the adjoining Afghani and Himalayan mountains have a long winter season, neither snow nor birch are typical for the Panjab or the Indian plains. Therefore, words such as those for ‘wolf’ and ‘snow’ rather indicate linguistic memories of a colder climate than an export of words, such as that for the high altitude Kashmirian birch tree, to Iran, Central Asia and Europe” (WITZEL 2005:373). His point is that many of the common PIE words represent things which are not typical "for the Panjab or the Indian plains" (i.e. the Vedic area), and they are found not just in European languages but even in Iranian languages, so how does this fit in with the Indian Homeland theory? According to him, it fits in with the AIT in which the "incoming Indo-Iranians" retained European or Steppe words till the borders of India and the Indo-Aryans only lost them after entering India.
But the main trouble with Witzel is that he is, all the time, answering an OIT theory which would make the Vedic/Sanskrit language, of "the Panjab or the Indian plains", the ancestor of all the IE languages of the world. But that (linguistically unsound) theory is not our theory, and nor does it accord with the recorded data. The recorded data shows that the Vedic Aryans, living in Haryana and further east, spoke a Pūru dialect (Vedic); while the speakers of the ancestral forms of the other IE branches spoke various Anu and Druhyu languages and dialects which were spoken in areas further west and northwest, and had words (many of them in common with each other) for northwestern flora and fauna (and doubtless many other items of vocabulary) peculiar to their areas but missing in Vedic.
The proof for this, in fact, is that many of these words are missing in the Rigveda or its earlier parts, and only entered the Vedic language (or subsequent Sanskrit) as the Vedic Indo-Aryans expanded northwestwards. More western words along the same trajectory, in areas in which the Indo-Aryans never expanded (or expanded only superficially) may reasonably be found in many other IE branches (including Iranian) but not found at all in either Vedic, later Sanskrit or the still later Indian languages.
The chronology of appearance or occurrence of the names of flora and fauna follows a distinct pattern:
1. Flora and fauna peculiar to the interior of India (elephant, chital/spotted deer, Indian bison, buffalo, peacock, lion, brahminy duck, arjuna tree, silk-cotton tree) are found right from the Old Books (6,3,7,4,2). These flora and fauna would not be likely to be found among the Anu-s and Druhyu-s of the northwest to begin with, and would certainly stand very little chance of being retained by the (Anu and Druhyu) languages and dialects after centuries of migrations and settlement in distant areas where these flora and fauna are totally unknown: note that even the Indo-Aryan Gypsy/Sinti/Romany lost the words for these flora and fauna within a thousand years.
2. Peculiarly "common Indo-Iranian" words for northwestern flora and fauna appear later only in the New Books (5,1,8,9,10), or even later: meṣa/maēša (sheep), urā/ura (lamb), uṣṭra/uštra (camel), varāha/varāza and sūkara/hūkara (boar), kaśyapa/kassiapa (turtle), khara/xara (ass), jahāka/dužuka (hedgehog), etc. These words represent the common northwestern vocabulary of the New Books (or later) and the Avesta (or Iranian in general).
3. The much flaunted "temperate zone" PIE words for flora and fauna of the northwest only appear in the Rigveda in the New Books (5,1,8,9,10), or even later:
a) As we saw, "old" PIE words like ávi- and ūrṇa-/ ūrṇā-, with cognates in most other IE branches, are missing in the three Oldest Books and appear only in the New Books or, at best, first appear only in Book 4 which represents the westernmost thrust of Indo-Aryan expansion during the period of Sudās' descendants Sahadeva and Somaka and the battle "beyond the Sarayu" (IV.30.18) in Afghanistan.
b) Witzel refers to the wolf and ice as "linguistic memories of a colder climate". As wolves are found over most of India, this is an extremely stupid statement. As for ice (and snow): ice and snow appear in the Rigveda only in the New Books. The word hima, in 10 verses in the Rigveda (I.34.1; 64.14; 116.8; 119.6; II.33.2; V.54.15; VI.48.8; VIII.73.3; X.37.10; 68.10), means "winter" (and winter is an all-India phenomenon, e.g. the derived Marathi word for "winter" is hivāḷā, although notably the only reference in the three Oldest Books is in a Redacted Hymn), and it is only in the very late reference in X.121.4 (a reference to the snow-covered mountains of the Himalayas or the northwest) that it means "snow", and in another reference in a New Book, in VIII.32.26, it could possibly refer to a weapon made of ice. Further, far from depicting "memories" of a cold climate, in 4 of the references, the verses seem to talk about winter offering relief from the burning heat of the Indian summer.
c) The word bhūrja for "birch", which Witzel refers to, is missing in the Rigveda, and appears for the first time in the Yajurveda. Significantly, the name is well represented in the Dardic, Nuristani and Iranian languages of the extreme north and northwest: "in the Dardic languages of mountainous northwestern India we have Phalura brhuǰ, Dameli brūš, Gawar-Bati bluz 'birch' (Mayrhofer 1963:11.514-15); Waigali bruǰ 'birch' (Morgenstierne 1954:238), Khotanese Saka braṁja 'birch', bruṁjə 'birchbark', Wakhi (Pamir Iranian) furz, Sanglechi barež, Shugni baruǰ 'birch', Os. bærz/bærzæ 'birch', Pashto barǰ 'birchbark band', Tajik burz, burs 'juniper' (with semantic transfer)" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:531-532). Again and again, we have this evidence of northwestern words entering the Rigveda in its later parts (or in later texts) as the Vedic Indo-Aryans expanded northwestwards.
4. The Avesta has a vocabulary starting from the period of the New Books of the Rigveda (as we have seen in detail in my earlier blog article "The Recorded History of the Indo-European Migrations - Part 2, The chronology and geography of the Rigveda"). But the Avesta represents an even later chronological stage than the New Books, since by the time of composition of the Avesta the proto-Iranians have moved out into Afghanistan and are in contact with more western areas and with more western IE words: i.e. with Anu words developed in common with the other Anu groups (Greek, Armenian, Albanian to the west) and even local words developed in common with, or adopted from, the Druhyu groups (Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic, Italic, to the north). The development of common Iranian-Druhyu words (missing in Indo-Aryan) took place in the snowy mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Central Asia, and some of the words clearly reflect this situation:
Av. bərəz- "hill, mountain" with cognates in Slavic, Germanic and Celtic.
Av. snaēzaiti "snows" (verb) with cognates in Germanic, Celtic and Italic (and also Greek).
Av. aēxa "frost, ice" with cognates in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic.
Oss. tajyn "thaw, melt" (verb) with cognates in Slavic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic (and also Greek and Armenian).
Av. udra "otter" with cognates in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic.
Av. bawra-/bawri- "beaver" with cognates in Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic.
Oss. wyzyn "hedgehog" with cognates in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic (and also Greek and Armenian).
Oss. læsæg "salmon" with cognates in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic (and also Armenian).
Av. θβərəsa- "boar" with cognates in Celtic.
Av. pərəsa- "piglet" with cognates in Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic.
Pehl. wabz- "wasp" with cognates in Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic.
Av. staora- "steer" with cognates in Germanic.
[Witzel repeatedly cites the name of the non-Indian beaver (Old English bebr, beofor, Latin fiber, Lithuanian bēbrus, Russian bobr, bebr, and Avestan baβri) with the name of the Indian mongoose (Sanskrit babhru) as evidence for the AIT (WITZEL 2005:374). But the common non-Indian word, in the OIT scenario, developed in the region of Afghanistan and Central Asia, among the European dialects and proto-Iranian. And there is no case for any movement of the name into India: the word babhru occurs in the Rigveda, and in Mitanni IA, but as a name for a particular horse-colour. In the east, the colour word (in much later Sanskrit) was separately used as a name for the mongoose, but this cannot be as part of an Aryan movement into India in an AIT scenario, because in that case, the Aryans would have remembered the Rigvedic word babhru (which, seeing that it is also found in the Mitanni IA language, supposed, in the AIT scenario, to have separated from Vedic in Central Asia itself before the separation of the proto-Iranians, makes the meaning quite old and consistent) rather than a long-forgotten non-Indian use of the word in a distant land before an immigration already forgotten even in the Rigveda. And, as Gamkrelidze points out, after a short discussion: “It is notable that the Indo-Iranian languages are split by this isogloss: Sanskrit shows the more archaic situation, while Avestan displays the innovation” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:448).]
That the mountainous region of Afghanistan and Central Asia was a central part of the PIE Homeland is indicated in detail by Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:525-531), who point out the primary position of the oak tree, oak forests, high mountain oaks struck by lightning and the presence of a tempestuous "all-powerful thunder-deity who bore the name of the mountain oak" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:529) in the reconstructed environment of the PIE Homeland. They actually place the Homeland much further west, in Anatolia to be exact, but they point out that the landscape indicated by the data stretches over the area "including the Transcaucasus, Iran and Afghanistan" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:529). The oak tree is of great importance in this reconstructed environment: Gamkrelidze examines the oak tree first among the common PIE trees, and points out that the reconstructed common PIE form (*t'e/orw-, *t're/ou-) for "tree/wood" (Skt. dru-/ druma-/ dāru-/ taru-) has cognates in eight branches (Anatolian, Tocharian, Baltic, Slavic, Germanic, Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Greek), but in three historically diverse branches (Celtic, Albanian and Greek) the name for "oak" is derived from this reconstructed form (Greek has both the words, "tree" as well as "oak", derived from the same proto-form). The Armenian and Italic branches preserve the word for "wood" in the adjective "hard" as applied to wood, thus the word originally meant "tree/wood" in all the branches, but is specifically applied to the oak in three branches.
[Note: the original word for "tree" (*t'e/orw-, *t're/ou-) remained "tree/wood" in nine of the twelve IE branches. In three other branches, the meaning became "oak", one of them being Celtic. The same root gave birth to the word Dru-hyu, the Rigvedic/Puranic name of the speakers of the five European branches - Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic - in "the mountainous region inhabited by these ancient Indo-European tribes" in Afghanistan and Central Asia, as well as to the connected word dru-i/dru-id, the name of the priestly classes of these tribes (still retained by the Celts in Ireland)].
5. But there is another reconstructed word (*pherkhou-) meaning "oak/oak forest/forest/mountain forest" (but never "wood"): the word means "oak" in Italic, Celtic and Indo-Aryan (Skt. parkaṭī-, actually a name of the white fig tree, but Punjabi pargāi refers to the holly oak, quercus ilex), and the word has a transferred meaning to "fir/pine/tree/forest" in Germanic: the Germanic, e.g. English, word for "forest" is itself derived from this word. The reconstructed PIE word is derived from the root *pheru- "cliff/mountain/rock" (found in Sanskrit and Hittite) from which we also get the Sanskrit parvata- "mountain". The name of a common PIE thunder-god is derived from the same two words (with a suffix, as *pherkhou/n- and *pheru/n-): Indo-Aryan (Vedic) Parjanya, Baltic Perkūnas, Slavic Perun, Germanic Fjǫrgyn (mother of the thunder-god Thor). As Gamkrelidze points out: "The connection between the Proto-Indo-European thunder-god *pher(kho)u-n- and terms for 'mountain oak, 'oak forest on mountain-top', 'mountain', 'cliff', *pher(kho)u-, can be explained if we assume the ancient mythological pattern of lightning striking great oaks on mountain-tops. This view must reflect some recurrent feature of the mountainous region inhabited by the ancient Indo-European tribes" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:528).
So does all this prove that the Rigveda contains "linguistic memories" of "the mountainous region inhabited by the ancient Indo-European tribes" in Afghanistan and Central Asia, or much further beyond? On the contrary:
1. The oak, by any name, is totally missing in the Rigveda and in fact in any Vedic text. The word parkaṭī-, when it does appear in much later Classical Sanskrit texts, means the Indian white fig tree, ficus infectora, already mentioned in the Atharvaveda with the name plakṣa-. The name is however found in Punjab in much later times as pargāī, one of the many names of a species of oak tree, the holly oak (quercus ilex), a tree native to the Mediterranean, and therefore clearly a name imported at a very late date from the west.
2. There are clearly two "thunder-gods" in the Rigveda: Indra and Parjanya. The name Indra has its origin in the word indu- "drop", and therefore he is a thunder-god associated with the actual rain-drops, and (apart from the fact that he is basically restricted to the Indo-Aryan branch) is clearly a god of the monsoon region of Haryana and its interior areas. The name Parjanya (apart from the fact that it has equivalents in three other European branches) has its origins, as we saw, in the oak-forests of the north-western mountains.
Indologists and AIT scholars, with their inverted logic, classify Parjanya as the original PIE and therefore also Vedic thunder-god because he is found in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic mythology as well, and Indra as a "new" thunder-god who increasingly replaced the original PIE thunder-god in India. The facts, however, indicate the opposite picture:
a) Indra is the most important deity in the Rigveda, and has over 250 hymns addressed to him or glorifying him (out of a total of 1028 hymns in the Rigveda). Parjanya has only 3 hymns addressed to him or glorifying him. Even more significantly, while Indra is present in every part of the text, old and new, and is mentioned (by this name alone, not counting his other numerous special epithets) 2415 times in 538 hymns, Parjanya is mentioned only 36 times in the following 25 hymns:
Old Books (6,3,7,4,2):
VI.49.6; 50.12; 52,6,16; 75.15.
VII.35.10; 101.5; 102.1,2; 103.1.
New Books (5,1,8,9,10):
V.53.6; 63.4,6; 83.1-5,9.
VIII.6.1; 21.8; 102.5.
IX.2.9; 22.2; 82.3; 113.3.
X.65.9; 66.6,10; 98.1,8; 169.2.
It will be seen that all the references except one (VII.35.10) are in New Books or in Redacted Hymns (underlined), and include the notoriously late hymns towards the end of Books 4,6 and 7 (there being no reference to Parjanya at all in Books 2 and 3). The sole exception (VII.35.10) is clearly just a case of a late added name in a long list of deities in a Viśvedeva ("all-gods") hymn.
This proves that Parjanya is a deity of the northwest who entered the Rigveda in the period of the New Books, as the Vedic Indo-Aryans expanded northwestwards into the mountainous areas from the monsoon area in Haryana and east. As the deity is found only in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic, it also confirms the presence of (at least the remnants of) the ancestral Slavic, Baltic and Germanic dialects in Central Asia during the period of the New Books of the Rigveda.
b) Further, while Indra is otherwise found only in Indo-Aryan (and, by opposition, as a demon in the rival Iranian tradition recorded in the Avesta), he is also represented in Hittite mythology in the name of the goddess Inara who helps the (unnamed) rain god to kill the Great Serpent who was interfering with the rainfall. Hittite (Anatolian) was linguistically the first IE branch to separate from the other branches in any hypothetical Homeland; and the presence of Inara in Hittite mythology confirms either the greater antiquity of Indra (to Parjanya), or the presence of the proto-Hittites in Central Asia at the time of the north-westward expansion of the Vedic Aryans, or both.
An examination of the flora and fauna (and related climatic, topographical and cultural entities like ice and snow, mountainous areas and Parjanya) thus unambiguously shows that words from the northwest enter the Rigveda only in the period of the New Books as the Indo-Aryans expanded westwards, with the Iranians expanding further westwards ahead of them, and the other Anu and the Druhyu (or European) dialects expanding to the farthest areas having totally new flora and fauna.
V C. Soma, Honey, Wine and Aurochs, Horses and Cows:
The true picture of Vedic flora and fauna vis-à-vis PIE flora and fauna, as we saw, is one of a movement from the monsoon areas of India into the mountainous regions of the northwest. But, in the long history of Indology and the "Aryan" debate, there are many specific items of flora and fauna which have played, or rather been made to play, an important part in the debate. They have been repeatedly cited by AIT enthusiasts as evidence of the "Aryans" entering India from the west.
[Before going further, let me reiterate once more the one basic fact we must keep in mind while examining the data: the division of the Books of the Rigveda into Old and New and the fact that the two sets of books practically belong to two different epochs (bridged by the Redacted Hymns in the Old Books). In addition to this, we have: a) the fact that the culture of the New Books started many hundreds of years before the first arrival of the Mitanni Indo-Aryans in West Asia in the 18th century BCE; b) the fact that roots of the Old Books are completely eastern, and there is a east-to-west expansion depicted in the chronological sequence of the Rigvedic data; and c) the fact that we arrive at a minimum date of around 3000 BCE for the period of the Old Books. All this is explained in detail in my books and in my earlier blog: "The Recorded History of the Indo-European Migrations - Part 2, The chronology and geography of the Rigveda". The evidence is so total and final that most western Indologists, linguists and historians don't dare to even dream of trying to disprove the data and conclusions presented by me: they realize that their safest bet is to act as if my books don't exist and to continue on with their make-believe Indological cottage industry game. But we will see again below why the Rigvedic data is so powerful (and to the Indologists, so much to be feared, avoided or denied).]
In citing this evidence, there are two fallacious principles adopted by Indologists and other protagonists of the AIT in deriving historical conclusions from the Rigvedic data:
The first fallacious principle is that any datable item of flora, fauna, culture or technology that we see in the Rigveda automatically dates the entire text terminus a quo (i.e. as the earliest date of the text).
One typical argument (the basis of a major e-mail debate in 2003, with Witzel and Farmer taking the AIT offensive against some Indian writers) was that since spoked-wheels were invented in the second half of the third millennium BCE, and the Rigveda "everywhere" refers to spoked-wheels, it proved that the Rigveda was composed a long time after the invention of spoked wheels. The Indian side was left with no answers, except the wishful plea that spoked-wheels "must have been invented long before 3500 BCE, only the archaeological evidence has not yet turned up". However, when I pointed out that spokes in the Rigveda are mentioned only in the New Books, and are totally missing in the Old Books, and that this proved that the Old Books were far anterior to 2500 BCE, the tables were turned on Witzel and Farmer. It was then they who had to resort to wishful pleas, urging that any references in the Old Books to "fast" moving vehicles be treated by inference as references to spoked-wheeled vehicles (as if references to "flying vehicles" in the Rigveda were also to be treated as references to aeroplanes)!
The second fallacious principle (which we will be examining in detail here) is that any item of flora, fauna, culture or technology that we see in the Rigveda shows the specific (external) area from which (or through which) the Vedic Aryans "came" to India.
Thus, Soma, honey and horses show that the Vedic Aryans "came" from the western areas to which these items are native. We will examine each of these three items, as well as the evidence of cows, wine and the aurochs (i.e. wild European cattle):
[Incidentally, we have seen above how the Vedic Aryans used Indian timbers in the manufacture of different parts of the chariot: śiṁśapa (dalbergia sissoo, the sissoo or shisham or North Indian rosewood tree), khadira (acacia catechu, the heartwood tree), śalmalī (salmalia malabaricum, the silk-cotton tree) and kiṁṣuka (butea monosperma, the flame-of-the forest). On the other hand, in the case of the “Egyptian war chariot”, Tarr points out that “the timbers in question were not of Egyptian origin but ‘came from the north’. […] The timbers used were holm-oak for the axle and the spokes, elm for the pole, ash for the felloes, the chassis and the dashboard, hornbeam for the yoke and birch bark for wrapping and for joining the spokes with the felloes and the hub […] The wooden material of the Egyptian chariots came from the Caucasus” (TARR 1969:74). Further, as we also saw earlier on, the ivory and other materials used by the ancient Egyptians for their artefacts came mostly from the interior of Africa. Yet no-one would dream of using any of this as an argument that the ancestors of the ancient Egyptians came from the Caucasus or from the interior of Africa. In the case of the Vedic Aryans, however, the Indologists have no compunctions or inhibitions in making claims of this kind using such "logic"].
According to the scholars, the Soma plant was a species of ephedra found in the extreme northwestern parts of the Himalayas extending to Central Asia and beyond. Species of ephedra found further eastwards (in the Himalayas) were not capable of yielding the kind of juice described in the Rigveda. Hence, the fact that the ritual use of Soma formed such an integral part of the Rigvedic religion in every period of the text (and that this feature is shared with the Iranians) proves that the Vedic Aryans entered India from the northwest, bringing the Soma plant and cult with them.
However, the evidence in the Rigveda shows that:
1. The Soma plant and its rituals were originally introduced to the Vedic Aryans and their priests in the east in very early times by the Bhṛgu-s, priests of the Anu Iranians from the Soma-growing areas to their northwest.
2. The actual Soma-growing areas were distant and unknown to the Vedic Aryans in the Old Books of the Rigveda, and became known to them only later after they expanded westwards.
3. The expansion of the Vedic Aryans (and, by a chain of events, the dispersion of the Indo-Europeans) into the west and northwest was a direct consequence of their quest for Soma.
The evidence in detail:
1. The special priests of the Vedic Aryans (i.e. of the Bharatas) were the Aṅgiras-as, Vasiṣṭha-s and Viśvāmitra-s. These priests, however, are not specially associated with the Soma plant and ritual. The priests very specially associated with Soma are the Kaśyapa-s and Bhṛgu-s.
The Kaśyapa-s are very closely associated with Soma: 70.60% of the verses composed by them are dedicated to Soma Pavamāna, and the āprī-sūkta of the Kaśyapa -s is the only āprī-sūkta dedicated to Soma (all the other nine āprī-sūkta-s are dedicated to Agni). But while the Kaśyapa-s are exclusive Soma priests, the fact is that they entered the Rigveda at a late stage: they became exclusive Soma priests in the period following the expansion of the Vedic Aryans into the Soma-growing areas.
As we have repeatedly seen, the Bhṛgu-s, except for one branch consisting of Jamadagni and his descendants, are associated with the proto-Iranians living to their north and northwest. The identification of the Bhṛgu-s with Soma is deeper, older and more significant: it is clear that the use of the Soma plant originated among the Bhṛgu-s, and it is they who introduced the plant and its rituals to the Vedic Aryans and their priests:
a. The word Soma, which occurs thousands of times in the hymns of the Rigveda, is found in the name of only one composer ṛṣi: Somāhuti Bhārgava.
b. The word pavamāna, which occurs more than a hundred times in the Soma Pavamāna Maṇḍala (Book 9), is found only once outside Book 9: in VIII.101.14 attributed to Jamadagni Bhārgava.
c. Both the Rigveda and the Avesta are unanimous in identifying Bhṛgu-s as the earliest preparers of Soma: as Macdonell puts it: "The RV and the Avesta even agree in the names of ancient preparers of Soma; Vivasvat and Trita Aptya on the one hand, and Vivanhvant, Athwya and Thrita on the other" (MACDONELL 1897:114). According to the Avesta, the first preparer of Soma was Vīuuaŋvhaṇt (Vivasvat), the second was Āθβiia (Aptya) and the third was Θrita (Trita). Vivasvat in the Rigveda is the name of the father of two persons: Yama and Manu. In the Avesta also, Vīuuaŋvhaṇt is the father of Yima. Both Vivasvat and Yama Vaivasvata are identified in the Rigveda as Bhṛgu-s (see the references to the Bhṛgu group of ṛṣi-s in TALAGERI 2000:31-32), and Manu Vaivasvata is identified in the anukramaṇī-s of VIII.29 with Kaśyapa. Trita Āptya is not clearly identified with any family in the Rigveda, but it is significant that he is described by the Gṛtsamadas (Kevala Bhṛgu-s) in II.11-19 as belonging to "our party" (Griffith's translation).
d. Almost all the hymns to Soma in Book 9 are composed by ṛṣi-s belonging to the Middle and Late Periods of the Rigveda (though there are fictitious ascriptions to older composers in the "saptaṛṣi" hymns); however the hymns attributed to the Bhṛgu-s include twelve hymns which are ascribed (even if possibly composed or redacted by their descendants) to remote ancestral Bhṛgu-s of the pre-Rigvedic period, who are already ancient and mythical even in the oldest Books: Vena Bhārgava (IX.85), Uśanā Kāvya (IX.87-89) and Kavī Bhārgava (IX.47-49, 75-79). The oldest Soma hymns in the Rigveda therefore appear to be composed exclusively by Bhṛgu-s.
e. The Rigveda clearly indicates that it was the Bhṛgu-s who introduced Soma to the Vedic Aryans, and to their Gods and priests. According to at least three references (I.116.12; 117.22; 119.9), the location or abode of Soma was a secret; and this secret was revealed to the Aśvins by Dadhyanc, an ancient Bhṛgu ṛṣi, already mythical in the Rigveda, and older than even Kavi Bhārgava and Uśanā Kāvya. Dadhyanc is the son of Atharvaṇa, and grandson of the eponymous Bhṛgu.
f. Even the symbolism inherent in the eagle who brought Soma to the Vedic Aryans probably represents this role of the Bhṛgu-s: according to Macdonell, "the term eagle is connected with Agni Vaidyuta or lightning (TB 3, 10, 51; cp. 12.12)" (MACDONELL 1897:112) and likewise, "BERGAIGNE thinks there can hardly be a doubt that bhṛgu was originally a name of fire, while KUHN and BARTH agree in the opinion that the form of fire it represents is lightning" (MACDONELL 1897:140) (see also Griffith's footnote to IV.7.4).
2. Soma is regarded as growing in distant areas: this area is so distant that it is constantly identified with the heavens (IV.26.6; 27.3, 4; VIII.100.8; IX.63.27; 66.30; 77.2; 86.24, etc.):
a. The only specific thing known about the place of origin of Soma is that it grows on mountains (I.93.6; III.48.2; V.43.4; 85.2; IX.18.1; 62.4; 85.10; 95.4; 98.9, etc.). Nothing more specific is mentioned in the Family Books (2-7).
b. The area of Soma is clearly not part of the Vedic area (nor is there even the slightest hint anywhere in the Rigveda that it ever was): it is constantly referred to as being far away (IV.26.6; IX.68.6; X.11.4; 144.4). This area is also known as the "dwelling of Tvaṣṭṛ" (IV.18.3); and this is what the scholars have to say about Tvaṣṭṛ: "Tvaṣṭṛ is one of the obscurest members of the Vedic pantheon. The obscurity of the concept is explained [….] (by) HILLEBRANDT (who) thinks Tvaṣṭṛ was derived from a mythical circle outside the range of the Vedic tribes" (MACDONELL 1897:117).
c. Soma is mythically (and repeatedly) reported to be brought by an eagle to the Vedic people, and even to their Gods, from its place of origin:
IV.18.13; 26.4-7; 27.3, 4.
IX.68.6; 77.2; 86.24; 87.6.
X.11.4; 99.8; 144.4, 5.
That this place of origin is alien to the Vedic people is clear from the fact that this eagle is reported to have to hurry (IV.26.5) to escape the guardians of Soma, who are described as attacking the eagle (IV.27.3) to prevent it from taking the Soma away.
"Tvaṣṭṛ is especially the guardian of Soma, which is called 'the mead of Tvaṣṭṛ' (I.117.22)" (MACDONELL 1897:116), and Indra is described as conquering Tvaṣṭṛ in order to obtain the Soma.
In his footnote to 1.43.8, Griffith refers to "the people of the hills who interfere with the gathering of the Soma plant which is to be sought there".
d. The Family Books are generally ignorant about the exact details of the Soma-growing areas. Whatever specific information is there is in the non-family New Books (1,8,9,10): The prime Soma-growing areas are identified in VIII.64.11 as the areas near the Suṣomā and Arjīkīyā rivers (the Sohān and Hāro), northeastern tributaries of the Indus, in the extreme north of the Punjab and northwest of Kashmir, and near Śaryaṇāvān (a lake in the vicinity of these two rivers). In VIII.7.29, the reference is to the Suṣoma and Arjīka (in the masculine gender, signifying mountains; while the rivers of these names are in the feminine gender), clearly the mountains which gave rise to the two aforesaid rivers, and again Śaryaṇāvān, which also appears in X.35.2 as a mountainous area, perhaps referring to the mountains surrounding the lake of the same name.
In another place (X.34.1), the best Soma is said to be growing on the Mūjavat mountains: the Mūjavat tribes are identified (Atharvaveda V-XXII-5, 7, 8, 14) with the Gandhārī-s, i.e. in adjacent parts of Afghanistan.
That Gandhārī (Afghanistan) in the Rigveda is associated with Soma is clear from the specific role assigned in the Rigveda to the Gandharva or gandharva-s (mythical beings associated in the Rigveda with that region). In the words of Macdonell: "Gandharva is, moreover, in the RV often associated (chiefly in the ninth book) with Soma. He guards the place of Soma and protects the races of the gods (9.83.4; cp. 1.22.14). Observing all the forms of Soma, he stands on the vault of heaven (9.85.12). Together with Parjanya and the daughters of the sun, the Gandharvas cherish Soma (9.113.3). Through Gandharva's mouth the gods drink their draught (AV.7.73.3). The MS (3.8.10) states that the Gandharvas kept the Soma for the gods [….] It is probably as a jealous guardian of Soma that Gandharva in the RV appears as a hostile being, who is pierced by Indra in the regions of air (8.66.5) or whom Indra is invoked to overcome (8.1.11) [….] Soma is further said to have dwelt among the Gandharvas [….]" (MACDONELL 1897:136-137).
All these names are found mentioned only in the non-family New Books (1,8,9,10), with a single reference (to gandharva-s) in Book 3 in a Redacted Hymn described in the Aitareya Brahmana (VI.18) as a late interpolated hymn in Book 3:
I.22.14; 84.14; 126.7; 163.2.
VIII.1.11; 6.39; 7.29; 64.11; 77.5.
IX.65.22,23; 83.4; 85.12; 113.1-3.
X.10.4; 11.2; 34.1; 35.2; 75.5; 85.40,41; 123.4,7; 136.6; 139.4-6; 177.2.
e. While Soma was well known to the Vedic Aryans as a product of the distant north-western areas, imported through the Anu-s and other people further northwest, its use became more widespread and ritually important only in the period of the New Books, so much so that a whole separate book (Book 9) was compiled to accommodate the hymns composed for it. However, with the passage of time (i.e. in post-Vedic times), the importance of the Soma ritual was slowly lost in Indian religion as the focus shifted eastwards and new rituals and philosophies of more eastern people supplanted the Soma ritual. However, the importance of the Soma plant and ritual continued in its original territories and among its original adherents: the ephedra plant is known as haoma/homa (or derived words) in the Iranian languages (Persian, Pashto, Baluchi, as well as most of the Dardic and Nuristani languages of the extreme north/northwest) and as soma-lata even in parts of the Indian Himalayas (including in Nepal), and is used to this day in Zoroastrian ritual.
3. The expansion of the Vedic Aryans into the west and northwest was a direct consequence of their quest for Soma:
The westward movement commenced with the crossing of the Śutudrī and Vipāś by Viśvāmitra and the Bharatas under Sudās, described in hymn III.33; and the fifth verse of the hymn clarifies both the direction and purpose of this crossing.
Griffith translates III.33.5 (in which Viśvāmitra addresses the rivers) as: "Linger a little at my friendly bidding; rest, Holy Ones, a moment in your journey"; but he clarifies in his footnote: "At my friendly bidding: according to the Scholiasts, Yāska and Sāyaṇa, the meaning of me vācase somyāya is 'to my speech importing the Soma'; that is, the object of my address is that I may cross over and gather the Soma-plant".
This crossing, and the successful foray into the northwest, appears to have whetted the appetite of Sudās and the Bharatas for conquest and expansion: shortly afterwards, the Viśvāmitras perform a horse ceremony for Sudās, described in III.53.11: "Come forward Kuśika-s, and be attentive; let loose Sudās' horses to win him riches. East, west, and north, let the king slay the foeman, then at earth's choicest place [vara ā pṛthivyā = Kurukṣetra] perform his worship" (GRIFFITH).
While some expansion took place towards the east as well (Kīkaṭa in III.53.14), the main thrust of the expansion is clearly towards the west and northwest: the first major battle in this long drawn out western war is the dāśarājña on the Paruṣṇī, and the final one in southern Afghanistan beyond the Sarayu.
While Sudās was still the leader of the Bharatas in the battle on the Paruṣṇī, the battle beyond the Sarayu appears to have taken place under the leadership of his remote descendant Sahadeva in the Middle Period of the Rigveda.
Sahadeva's son (referred to by his priest Vāmadeva in IV.15.7-10), who also appears to have been a participant in the above battle beyond the Sarayu, may have been named Soma-ka in commemoration of earlier conquests of the Soma-growing areas of eastern Afghanistan by his father Sahadeva.
The evidence in the Rigveda thus clearly shows that the Soma plant and rituals were brought to the Vedic Aryans from the Soma-growing areas of the northwest by the Bhṛgu-s, priests of the Anu-s (the proto-Iranians) from those areas, and the Vedic Aryans themselves became acquainted with the actual Soma-growing areas only in the period of the New Books after they expanded into those areas.
Honey occupies a very important place in the Rigveda, and the word has cognates in every language, showing it was a central part of PIE culture and religion in any assumed Homeland. According to many scholars, honey and beekeeping developed in Egypt and the Mediterranean area and spread as far east as Iran. Therefore, the important position of honey in the reconstructed PIE culture shows that the PIEs lived somewhere near this beekeeping region, or passed through this area in prehistoric times. Parpola, for example, tells us (quoting another scholar Hadjú) that the honey bee "was unknown in Asia until very recent times, with the exception of Asia Minor, Syria, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China [….] On the other hand, the bee is found west of the Urals in eastern Europe" (PARPOLA 2005:112). He further informs us: "Apis mellifera is native to the region comprising Africa, Arabia and the Near East up to Iran, and Europe up to the Urals in the east and to southern Sweden and Estonia in the north; its spread further north was limited by arctic cold, while its spread to the east was limited by mountains, deserts and other barriers. Another important limiting factor was that the cool, temperate deciduous forests of Europe extend only as far east as the Urals and do not grow in Siberia (see later). The distribution of Apis mellifera was confined to this area until c. AD 1600, when it started being transported to other regions" (PARPOLA 2005:112).
[Incidentally, the Finnish scholar Parpola is a strong proponent of the theory that the Indo-Iranians, before "migrating" eastwards to their historical habitats, were inhabitants of a far western region to the southeast of the Uralic, or more properly the Finno-Ugric, people. He regularly, including in the above article, cites the evidence of the huge number of Indo-Iranian, Iranian or Indo-Aryan loans in Finno-Ugric to this effect. This is a diversion from the main topic, but I must point out here the utter untenability of this lame-brained logic: there are genuinely huge numbers of very important ancient Indo-Iranian/Iranian/Indo-Aryan words borrowed into Finno-Ugric, but decades of desperate efforts have failed to locate any Finno-Ugric words borrowed into the Indo-Iranian languages of the east. Except to extremely motivated scholars with a disdain for data and logic, this cannot indicate that the Indo-Iranians of the east came from the west, but only that certain Indo-Iranian groups (now lost to history, like the Mitanni Indo-Aryans) must have migrated westwards into the Finno-Ugric areas from the east in ancient times. Indian languages have large numbers of words borrowed from Arabic/Persian (during the centuries of Islamic rule in India), the Austric and Sino-Tibetan languages of southeast Asia and northern Asia have large numbers of Sanskrit borrowings, the Konkani dialects of Goa have large numbers of Portuguese borrowings (many, like balde "bucket" and paõ "bread", have spread to other Indian languages), English (following the Norman invasion of England) has many French borrowings, the Tamil dialect of Pondicherry has many French borrowings, many languages in former British colonies have large numbers of English borrowings. The reverse rarely takes place (except where colonialists move back to their home areas with words borrowed from the colonies, as in English, and write literature popularizing those words). So the evidence in fact strongly disproves the idea that the Indo-Iranians came from the west, and shows that the presence of Indo-Iranian words in Finno-Ugric (matched by the absence of Finno-Ugric words in Indo-Iranian) shows a situation of Indo-Iranian migrants to, and not from, the Finno-Ugric areas].
Gamkrelidze, likewise, tells us: "there can be no doubt that beekeeping and the word for 'bee' are Proto-Indo-European, in view of the word for 'honey' in Indo-European, the developed beekeeping economy among the Indo-Europeans, and the religious significance of the bee in all the ancient Indo-European traditions" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:516-517), and traces this to the Mediterranean area: "It is in the Mediterranean area that the transition from primitive beekeeping to more evolved types first takes place. Here we find the second stage, sylvestrian beekeeping, where bees are kept in the forest, in specially carved hollows in trees or in hollow logs set up in forest apiaries; we also find the third stage, domestic apiculture, where domestic bees are kept in manufactured hives near the homeland" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:522). Finally, he tells us about the word for "honey": "The word entered East Asia together with honey and beekeeping, brought in by Indo-European tribes who migrated eastwards" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:524).
However, here are the actual facts and evidence:
1. The Wikipedia entry on "Honey Bee" tells us: "Honey bees appear to have their centre of origin in South and Southeast Asia (including the Phillipines), as all the extant species except Apis mellifera are native to that region. Notably, living representatives of the earliest lineages to diverge (Apis florea and Apis andreniformes) have their center of origin there".
The scholars discussing the evidence tell us about the geographical range of the western bee, Apis mellifera, about "the transition from primitive beekeeping to more evolved types" involving this species in Egypt and the Mediterranean area, and about the importance of honey in the PIE branches, and conclude that the different branches of PIEs took these "evolved types" of beekeeping from the Mediterranean to their historical areas. However:
a. There is absolutely no evidence that the honey central to early PIE culture, or Vedic culture, was the honey from Apis mellifera. After telling us all about the history of Mediterranean beekeeping, Parpola discreetly tells us: "Another species of cavity-nesting honey bee, Apis cerana, is native to Asia east and south of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Korea and Japan" (PARPOLA 2005:123). The largest honey bees are the Species of Apis dorsata found in India and further east.
b. These eastern honey bees have been a source of honey in India from ancient times, and honey gathering is an ancient traditional occupation even in the remotest tribal and hill areas in the interior of the country: ancient Mesolithic rock paintings dated 8000-6000 BCE in Bhimbetka and Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh depict honey gathering: "The collection of honey is depicted in three paintings at Pachmarhi and one at Bhimbetka. A painting in the Jambudwip shelter at Pachmarhi shows a man driving out bees and a woman approaching the beehive with a pot. Both are standing on ladders. In a second Pachmarhi painting at Imlikhoh shelter a woman is driving away the bees. In a third painting at Sonbhadra shelter two men climbing a scaffold are surrounded by bees. The painting at Bhimbetka shows a man touching a beehive with a round-ended stick. The man holds a basket on his back and appears to be suspended by a rope. There are three men below him, including one standing on the shoulders of another man" (MATHPAL 1985:182). These rock paintings represent the oldest representation of honey gathering in the whole of Asia, and are only comparable to similar rock paintings of similar age in Spain and Australia.
2. The linguistic evidence in fact disproves any connection of the PIE honey culture (as distinct from the honey culture of certain specific historical IE branches, as we will see) with the domestic apiculture developed in Egypt and the Mediterranean area:
a. While there is a common PIE word for "honey", there is no common PIE word for "bee", "bee-hive", "beeswax" and "beekeeping/apiculture", all of which would have been expected in a culture which practiced evolved domestic apiculture.
This is also the case regarding the evidence from the Rigveda, which is the oldest IE language record in existence: honey (madhu-, sāragha-) is important right from the Oldest Books of the Rigveda, the Old Books pre-date the New Books, and the culture of the New Books represents a period centuries older than the period of the first appearance of the Mitanni Indo-Aryans (as well as the Hittites) in West Asia in the first half of the second millennium BCE. But the Rigveda has only a few references to bees (called makṣ/makṣikā), and none whatsoever to bee-hives, beeswax or anything which would indicate the existence of any evolved forms of beekeeping/apiculture.
b. The actual linguistic evidence of the PIE words for honey is even more devastating: the common reconstructed PIE word for "honey" is *medhu-. It is found with two distinct meanings: firstly "honey", and secondly "mead/wine/any intoxicating drink" from the primitive practice of making mead from honey. It is found with both the meanings in five branches: Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Tocharian, Slavic and Baltic. It is found with only the secondary meaning "mead/wine/any intoxicating drink" in three branches: Greek, Germanic and Celtic, where a new PIE formation *melith- has replaced the primary word *medhu- as the word for "honey". In the remaining four branches, Anatolian (Hittite), Armenian, Albanian and Italic, the word *medhu- is completely lost, but even here, *melith- only signifies "honey", and there are new words for "mead/wine/any intoxicating drink".
This evidence is startling: the branches having only the word *medhu- include the Early branch Tocharian, the European branches Slavic and Baltic, and the Last branches Indo-Aryan and Iranian. The branches having only the word *melith- include the Early branch Anatolian, the European branch Italic, and the Last branches Armenian and Albanian. In short, this isogloss cuts across all the different chronological groups of IE branches. So what is the common factor?
The answer is very clear: it is an east-west division:
i) All the five more eastern branches from each of the three groups (Early, European and Last), i.e. Tocharian, Slavic, Baltic, Indo-Aryan and Iranian, have retained the original word *medhu- and have not acquired the new word *melith-.
ii) All the other seven more western branches from the three groups have acquired the new word *melith-: of these, of the five of them closest to the Egyptian and Mediterranean world, four (Anatolian, Armenian, Albanian and Italic) have completely lost the original word *medhu-, and one (the more archaic Greek) has retained the word *medhu- for "mead/wine/any intoxicating drink" while replacing it with the new word *melith- for "honey" due to the strong influence of the beekeeping culture of the Egyptian-Mediterranean region.
iii) Likewise, the remaining two western branches (Germanic and Celtic), at a little distance from the direct influence of Egypt and the Mediterranean, have also retained the word *medhu- for "mead/wine/any intoxicating drink" while replacing it with the new word *melith- for "honey".
iv) But, notably, all the five European branches (Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic) have borrowed the word for "bee" (reconstructed *bhe(i)-) from the Egyptian word bj.t. Three branches further south-east, Greek, Armenian and Albanian, derive words for "bee" from the word *melith-, honey. "The Hittite word for 'bee' is unknown; texts use the Sumerogram NIM.LÀL." (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:516, fn.81), so the Hittite word could have been something similar. So only the three eastern branches (Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Tocharian) definitely do not derive their words for "bee" directly from the Egyptian form or from the word *melith-.
[Note 1: Incidentally, as in the case of the Indo-Iranian words in Finno-Ugric languages, the academic scholars apply a kind of brazen anti-logic in their pronouncements. Gamkrelidze tells us that the PIE word *medhu- is derived from the Semitic word *mVtķ "sweet": "In contrast to the native Indo-European word for bee honey, *meli(th)-, the Semitic loan *medhu- began to be used in Indo-European to mean 'sweet intoxicating beverage'" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:771). As we saw:
1. The word that he claims to be a "Semitic loan" is found for both "honey" and "intoxicating beverage" in the five branches (Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Tocharian, Baltic and Slavic) whose early historical habitats were completely out of the area of Semitic influence, while out of the five branches (Italic, Albanian, Greek, Armenian and Hittite) totally within the area of Semitic influence, this "Semitic loan" is completely missing in four of them, and is found (for "intoxicating beverage") in only one (Greek). Simultaneously, the word he claims to be a "native Indo-European word" is totally missing in the first group of five branches which were out of the area of Semitic influence, but found only in the other seven branches which were within the sphere of Semitic influence!
2. Further, in the history of bees, honey and mankind, the early primitive stages of honey gathering had an equal place for honey and mead (the intoxicating beverage prepared from honey). It was only with the evolution of domestic apiculture on a major scale that honey became an important commercial product and the manufacture of mead eventually became insignificant or even non-existent. The word *medhu-, meaning both "honey" and "mead", found in the five branches historically spoken in areas far from the influence of the Semitic areas of domestic apiculture, clearly represents the "native Indo-European word". The word *melith-, meaning only "honey", found only in that sense in the seven branches historically influenced by Semitic apiculture, in four of which (spoken right in Semitic territory or in its immediate border areas) any cognate word for "intoxicating beverage" has been completely lost, clearly represents the "Semitic loan". That "honey-mead" was the original position, and "only honey" the new position, is proved by the fact that the westernmost Iranian language Ossetic, deep in the sphere of influence of Semitic domestic apiculture, retained the word *medhu- and did not acquire the word *melith-, but, nevertheless: "The Ossetic reflex of *medhu-, Oss.myd, means only 'honey'" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:520,fn 84).]
[Note 2: The PIE word *medhu- was also historically borrowed into ancient Chinese (from Tocharian) and into the Finno-Ugric languages (from Indo-Aryan migrants). In the cock and bull stories of AIT writers, the Finno-Ugric languages borrowed all these words somewhere near South Russia from the ancestral speakers of Indo-Aryan and Indo-Iranian: in short, as far away as in South Russia and as long ago as in remote pre-Vedic times, the putative "Indo-Iranians" already had words like ārya, dāsa, *medhu- (but not *melith-), and even a name for the Bactrian camel!]
That the western branches alone reflect the influence of this Egyptian- Mediterranean-West Asian beekeeping culture proves one very fundamental principle in IE migrations: migrations of branches took place from the east to the west, hence important words from the central areas (the West-Asia-Anatolia-Caucasus region) are found in the western branches (which passed across the longitudes of these central areas or settled down there), but are missing in the branches to the east of the central areas (since these eastern branches, being in the east from the beginning, never crossed these central areas during their formative stages).
We will now immediately see two more instances of the validity of this principle:
3. WINE AND AUROCHS:
Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, in their bid to claim proto-Semitic influence on PIE in its early stages, list seventeen potential "loanwords" from Semitic. Mallory and Adams (pointing out the limited dialectal distribution of many of these words in the IE branches) reduce the list to four: "The more significant Semitic-Indo-European comparisons are Proto-Indo-European *medhu- 'honey': Proto-Semitic *mVtk- 'sweet'; Proto-Indo-European *tauros 'wild bull, aurochs': Proto-Semitic *ṯawr 'bull, ox'; Proto-Indo-European *septṁ 'seven': Proto-Semitic *sab'atum; and Proto-Indo-European *wóinom 'wine: Proto-Semitic *wayn 'wine'" (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:82-83).
Two of these comparisons clearly represent coincidental similarities. We have already dealt with the comparison between "Proto-Indo-European *medhu- 'honey': Proto-Semitic *mVtk- 'sweet'". The second one, "Proto-Indo-European *septṁ 'seven': Proto-Semitic *sab'atum" is equally untenable: that either of the two families should have borrowed the word for "seven" from the other is incomprehensible. Especially when those advocating this "comparison" would reject a much more credible comparison of the very first four numerals in Proto-Indo-European (*sem, *dwōu/*dwai, *tri and *qwetwor: note Tocharian sas/se 'one', Romanian patru 'four', Welsh pedwar 'four') and Proto-Austronesian (*esa, *dewha, *telu and *pati/*epati: note Malay sa/satu 'one', dua 'two', tiga 'three', epat 'four') as far-fetched or coincidental.
But the other two words certainly offer very fair instances of Semitic words borrowed into Indo-European languages. But into Proto-Indo-European in its formative stages in its Homeland? Let us see the facts of the case:
The Proto-Semitic word *ṯawr 'bull, ox' is represented in all the major Semitic languages: Akkadian šȗru, Ugaritic ṯr, Hebrew šȏr, Syriac tawrā, Arabic ṯawr, South Arabic ṯwr. In Indo-European, it is found in Italic (Latin taurus), Celtic (Gaulish tarvos, Irish tarb), Germanic (Old Icelandic ƥjórr), Baltic (Lithuanian taũras), Slavic (Old Slavic turǔ), Albanian (tarok) and Greek (taȗros). The Hittite word for "bull" is not known since it is represented by a Sumerian ideogram whose Hittite reading is not known (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:483), and Armenian has borrowed a Caucasian form (tsul) for bull. In short, here we again have a distinct case of the Semitic influence being found only in the western branches: this Semitic loan for "bull" or "aurochs" is completely missing in the three eastern branches Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Tocharian. Again it illustrates the phenomenon of migration of IE branches from east to west.
The evidence of the words for "wine" is even more devastating for the AIT. The word is either a "Semitic loan" word, or "an ancient Near Eastern migratory word" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:559) found in both in the Semitic (*wayn-, Akkadian īnu, Ugaritic yn, Hebrew yayin, Hamitic Egyptian wnš) and South Caucasian (*ɣwino- "wine", Georgian ɣwino, Mingrelian ɣwin-, Laz ɣ(w)in, Svan ɣwinel, and *wenaq- "vineyard", Old Georgian venaq, Mingrelian-Laz binex- Svan wenäq) languages. Gamkrelidze also refers to "the considerable development of viticulture and wine-making in the Transcaucasus" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:560 fn 64), even as he suggests that the PIEs could also have originally developed this word in the West Asian-Transcaucasus region.
Whether an original Semitic or Caucasian word, or an original development in PIE, the geography of the word is undoubtedly the West Asian-Transcaucasus region. And again:
1. The word is completely missing in the three eastern branches Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Tocharian, but is found in all the other nine western branches.
2. Furthermore, the word for wine is found in the nine western branches in three grades (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:557-558): *wi(o)no- with zero grade vocalism, *weino- with e-grade vocalism, and *woino- with o-grade vocalism, exactly corresponding to the three chronological groups of IE branches:
a. The Early branch which migrated to the west, Anatolian, has words derived from *wi(o)no-: Hittite wiyana-, Luwian winiyant, Hieratic Luwian wiana-.
b. The five European branches have words derived from *weino-: Italic (Latin uīnum), Celtic (Old Irish fīn, Welsh gwin), Germanic (German wine, English wine), Baltic (Lithuanian vynas, Latvian vĩns), Slavic (Russian vino, Polish wino).
c. The three Last branches which migrated to the west have words derived from *woino-: Greek (Mycenaean Greek wo-no, Homeric Greek oȋnos), Albanian (vēnë), Armenian (gini).
Different forms of the word were adopted into the three different groups of IE branches as they migrated westwards, while the branches which remained in the east remained unaffected.
And now we come to that animal which most advocates of the Steppe Homeland (with no justification whatsoever, as we will see) think is the clinching weapon in their arsenal: the horse. There have been so many absurd allegations, claims and theories from both sides on this issue that we must first note what is actually factual in the matter. There are basically only three indisputable facts:
1. The horse is known to the PIEs, and cognate words are found for the horse in almost every single branch: PIE *ekhwos, Anatolian (Hieratic Luwian) á-sù-wa, Tocharian yuk/yakwe, Indo-Aryan (Vedic) áśva, Iranian (Avestan) aspa-, Armenian ēš "donkey", Greek (Mycenaean) iqo, (Homeric) híppos, Germanic (Old English) eoh, (Gothic) aihwa, Celtic (Old Irish) ech, (Gaulish) epo-, Italic (Latin) equus and Baltic (Lithuanian) ešva. Ironically, it is missing only in the one branch actually spoken in the Steppes, Slavic, and the Albanian word has also not survived in the records. But this proves that the horse was very well known to the PIEs in their Homeland, before 3000 BCE, when different branches started dispersing from that Homeland.
2. The horse was known to the Vedic people throughout the period of composition of the text.
3. The horse is not native to India, but is native to a large area spread out over northern Eurasia from the Steppes of South Russia in the west to Central Asia in the east.
The first two facts are not generally disputed, but the third one is disputed by opponents of the AIT, some of whom suggest that the horse referred to in the Rigveda is not the northern horse of the Steppes, but an indigenous species: notably the Siwalik horse equus siwalensis, a sturdy species of horse indigenous to a large part of northern India in ancient times, but believed to have become extinct around 8000 BCE or so. The fact that the Rigveda I.162.18 and the Shatapatha Brahmana 13.5 describe the horse being sacrificed as having 34 ribs (when the true horse has 36 ribs, but some varieties of the Siwalik horse are supposed to have had 34 ribs) is taken as added evidence of the presence of the Siwalik horse in India in Vedic times, the lack of fossil evidence being explained as irrelevant since (as we will see) fossil evidence of the true horse is also absent in India during later periods when, and in areas where, it is known that they were abundantly present. Further, it is possible that the word *ekhwos originally referred to any equid species in general (including the onager or hemione, one of the fastest mammals known, a wild ass abundantly present in ancient north India and still native to arid regions in Kutch and Ladakh), as indeed the word "equid" as used today does. Also, sometimes in the Rigveda, the word áśva is sometimes used for mounted animals other than the horse which are used as vehicles for riding: in IV.37.4, the phrase "fat áśva" may be a reference to an elephant, and, in many verses, the phrase "spotted áśva", as vehicles of the Maruts are accepted as definitely referring to spotted deer: I.87.4; 89.7; 186.8; II.34.4; III.26.6; V.42.15; VII.40.3 (although, of course, this could also be a poetical transfer of a word originally meaning "horse" to the spotted deer). However, we will leave aside all these interesting arguments (the references to 34 ribs certainly warrant an explanation) and only concentrate on the evidence as pertaining to the true horse "of the Steppes" which was not native to India.
From the three facts regarding horses noted above, the supporters of the AIT draw the following conclusion: the horse was not present or known in India before the arrival of the "Aryans", since no bones of the horse have been found in the Harappan sites and there is no representation of the horse in the Harappan seals. Hence the Harappan civilization must be "non-Aryan", and it was the "Aryans" who brought the horse into India from their Homeland in the Steppes of South Russia. Hock, for example, puts it as follows: “While disagreeing on minor details, those familiar with Indo-European linguistic paleontology and with the archeological evidence in Eurasia agree that the use of the domesticated horse spread out of the steppes of the Ukraine, and so did the horse-drawn two-wheeled battle chariot, as well as the great significance of the horse in early Indo-European culture and religion. Indo-Europeanists and specialists in general Eurasian archeology are therefore convinced, too, that these features spread into India along with the migration of Indo-Aryan speakers.” (HOCK 1999a:12-13).
This conclusion represents one of the most fraudulent propositions in the whole "Aryan" debate:
1. The horse was not present in India, but it was present in Central Asia to the north of Afghanistan since the earliest times. As of date, the evidence of the first fully domesticated horses in the world, more than a thousand years earlier than formerly believed, comes from the Botai culture in Kazakhstan: by 3500 BCE, the Botai culture was a fully horse breeding culture where horses were bred, milked, and ridden (examination of the teeth and jaw-bones found on the sites have confirmed that bridles and bits were being used). But, even closer to home, strong evidence has been found that horses were domesticated, or at least tamed and kept amidst human settlements at even earlier dates, in Uzbekistan to the north of Afghanistan: see LASOTA-MOSKALEWSKA 2009 (A Problem of the Earliest Horse Domestication. Data from the Neolithic Camp Ayakagytma 'The Site', Uzbekistan, Central Asia. pp. 14-21 in Archaeologia Baltica Volume 11, Klaipeda University, Lithuania, 2009). The team of archaeologists and archaeozoologists who scientifically examined the material on the site, some 130 km. north of Bukhara city, point out that there are "two clearly separated phases: an Early Neolithic, 14c dated to ca 8000-7400 cal. BP, and Middle Neolith one, 14c dated to ca 6000-5000 cal. BP" (with a 1500 year gap caused by flooding at the site), and there is "a rich collection of animal remains, connected directly with the Neolithic settlements. Among the bone and tooth fragments, the horse remains played a very important role. Already in the earliest horizons a share of the pieces identified as belonging to the Equidae family reached 30.0-40.0 % (Table 1). In comparison with other Eurasian Neolithic sites, such numbers are rather unique" (LASOTA-MOSKALEWSKA 2009:14-15). On the basis of various factors: "the extremely high share of the Equidae remains, sometimes exceeding 40% [….] the height in withers [….] the width of the sole surfaces measured on the basis of the hoof prints [which] indicate that the animal who left them was much larger than an average wild individual, but fit well to the size of horses domesticated for a long time [….] [and] the presence [along with the horse remains on the site] of the other fully domesticated species of mammals: cattle, sheep/goat,pig and dog [….] leads us to the more than probable conclusion that the horse was domesticated since the very beginnings of the Central Asian lowlands Neolithic, which is dated to a turn of the ninth and eighth millennium cal. BP. At the same time, it would be the earliest date for horse domestication that we have today" (LASOTA-MOSKALEWSKA 2009:19-20). So, the horse did not come with invading "Aryans" who left the Steppes of South Russia around 3000 BCE. Horses, whether fully domesticated, or in various stages of semi-domestication, were already abundantly present in human settlements to the immediate north of Afghanistan as far back as 6000 BCE.
Further, the Indian Homeland was not confined to the interiors of India. The recorded evidence shows us that by pre-Rigvedic times, the Indo-European groups, the Druhyu-s and Anu-s, had already spread out from the interior of India into the areas of Central Asia to the north of Afghanistan. The period of the Old Books of the Rigveda goes back beyond 3000 BCE, and by that time, Central Asia was already home to the proto-Anatolians, the proto-Tocharians and the vanguard of the proto-European Druhyu groups. The horse-domesticating, or at least horse-rich, areas of Central Asia were already part of the heartland of the Druhyu-s who formed the northern continuum of the expanded Druhyu-Anu-Pūru Homeland in 3000 BCE. Therefore, the development or adoption of a common PIE name for the horse, one of the most magnificent animals of the time (whether in the wild or in domestication) was natural and inevitable.
2. The claim that horses were unknown since horse bones are not found in the Harappan sites is also a blatant lie. Horse bones have been found in Indus sites and further in the interior of India in periods prior to the alleged "Aryan invasion of India" after 1500 BCE. As Bryant points out: "The report claiming the earliest date for the domesticated horse in India, ca. 4500 B.C.E., comes from a find from Bagor, Rajasthan, at the base of the Aravalli Hills (Ghosh 1989a, 4). In Rana Ghundai, Baluchistan, excavated by E. J. Ross, equine teeth were reported from a pre-Harappan level (Guha and Chatterjee 1946, 315–316). Interestingly, equine bones have been reported from Mahagara, near Allahabad, where six sample absolute carbon 14 tests have given dates ranging from 2265 B.C.E. to 1480 B.C.E. (Sharma et al. 1980, 220–221). Even more significantly, horse bones from the Neolithic site Hallur in Karnataka (1500–1300 B.C.E.) have also been identified by the archaeozoologist K. R. Alur (1971, 123). [.......] In the Indus Valley and its environs, Sewell and Guha, as early as 1931, had reported the existence of the true horse, Equus caballus Linn from Mohenjo-Daro itself, and Bholanath (1963) reported the same from Harappa, Ropar, and Lothal. Even Mortimer Wheeler identified a horse figurine and accepted that “it is likely enough that camel, horse and ass were in fact all a familiar feature of the Indus caravan” (92). Another early evidence of the horse in the Indus Valley was reported by Mackay, in 1938, who identified a clay model of the animal at Mohenjo-Daro. Piggott (1952, 126, 130) reports a horse figurine from Periano Ghundai in the Indus Valley, dated somewhere between Early Dynastic and Akkadian times. Bones from Harappa, previously thought to have belonged to the domestic ass, have been reportedly critically re-examined and attributed to a small horse (Sharma 1992–93, 31). Additional evidence of the horse in the form of bones, teeth, or figurines has been reported in other Indus sites such as Kalibangan (Sharma 1992–93, 31); Lothal (Rao 1979), Surkotada (Sharma 1974), and Malvan (Sharma 1992–93, 32). Other later sites include the Swat Valley (Stacul 1969); Gumla (Sankalia 1974, 330); Pirak (Jarrige 1985); Kuntasi (Sharma 1995, 24); and Rangpur (Rao 1979, 219)." (BRYANT 2001:169-170). Also, horse bones (Dhawalikar), as well as a terracotta figurine of a horse, have been found at Kayatha in the Chambal Valley in Madhya Pradesh in all the chalcolithic levels, dated 2450-2000 BCE. Also, there is a very distinctive horse figure in a "chess set" found at Lothal. Further, one of the finds (the one in Surkotada in the Kutch region of Gujarat) has been certified by the topmost horse specialist archaeologist of the time: "the material involved had been excavated in Surkotada in 1974 by J. P Joshi, and A. K. Sharma subsequently reported the identification of horse bones from all levels of this site (circa 2100–1700 B.C.E.). In addition to bones from Equus asinus and Equus hemionus khur, Sharma reported the existence of incisor and molar teeth, various phalanges, and other bones from Equus caballus Linn (Sharma 1974, 76) [....] Twenty years later, at the podium during the inauguration of the Indian Archaeological Society's annual meeting, it was announced that Sandor Bökönyi, a Hungarian archaeologist and one of the world's leading horse specialists, who happened to be passing through Delhi after a conference, had verified that the bones were, indeed, of the domesticated Equus caballus: “The occurrence of true horse (Equus caballus L.) was evidenced by the enamel pattern of the upper and lower cheek and teeth and by the size and form of incisors and phalanges. Since no wild horses lived in India in post-pleistocene times, the domestic nature of the Surkotada horses is undoubtful" (reproduced in Gupta 1993b, 162; and Lal 1997, 285)" (BRYANT 2001:170-171).
The AIT scholars resort to any one of two tactics: complete silence, or flat denial. Hock tries a middle path, and admits: "The question whether the archeological evidence supports the view that domesticated horses were a feature of the Harappan civilization is still being debated; see the summary of arguments in CHENGAPPA, 1998", but continues on to: "Significantly, however, to my knowledge no archeological evidence from Harappan India has been presented that would indicate anything comparable to the cultural and religious significance of the horse or the important role of the horse-drawn two-wheeled chariot which can be observed in the traditions of the early Indo-European peoples, including the Vedic āryas. On balance, then, the ‘equine’ evidence at this point is more compatible with migration into India than with outward migration” (HOCK 1999a:12-13).
But, according to the AIT (and Hock himself), the horse and the "horse-drawn two-wheeled battle chariot" came from the Steppes of Ukraine and South Russia with the "Aryans", who settled down for a long period in the BMAC area in Central Asia for a period of time where they developed the common "Indo-Iranian" culture and borrowed local "BMAC" words, and then moved into the Punjab after 1500 BCE where they composed the Rigveda by 1200 BCE, and then moved further eastwards into the Gangetic plains where they composed the Yajurveda, and then later spread out all over northern India. Is any of this scenario supported by "archeological evidence [....] that would indicate anything comparable to the cultural and religious significance of the horse or the important role of the horse-drawn two-wheeled chariot which can be observed in the traditions of the early Indo-European peoples, including the Vedic āryas"? Note:
a. No archaeologist has yet been able to produce any archaeological trail of horse bones (or chariots) from the Ukraine to the BMAC, from the BMAC to the Punjab, and from the Punjab to the other eastern parts of northern India, in sequence with the accepted areas and time-frames of the AIT.
b. Bryant notes: "Another observation that needs to be pointed out is that a number of scholars are prepared to consider that the Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC), which will be discussed in the next chapter, is an Indo-Aryan culture. The horse has been evidenced in this culture in the form of representations in grave goods. However, no horse bones have been found despite the availability of a large number of animal bones. This again underscores the point that lack of horse bones does not equal the absence of horse. Nor, at least in the opinion of those who subscribe to the Indo-Aryan identification of the BMAC, does this lack equal the absence of Indo-Aryans. Therefore, anyone prepared to associate the BMAC culture with the Indo-Aryans cannot then turn around and reject such an identification for the Indus Valley on the grounds of lack of horse bones in the latter" (BRYANT 2001:173-174). [The BMAC culture had horses, of course, and they were "Aryans": not "Aryans" on their way to India, but Anu-s and Druhyu-s who had earlier emigrated from India to the northwest].
c. Not a single specimen of the Vedic chariot (which Hock tells us was brought all the way from the Ukrainian Steppes by the "Aryans") has yet been discovered by any archaeologist anywhere in India. The earliest stone carvings depicting the chariot are found from the Mauryan period, after 350 BCE.
d. In fact, the occurence of horse bones in the Punjab and Haryana from 1500 BCE till at least 500 BCE is almost nil. [Any stray finds reported (for example a sole reported finding of horse bones in Bhagwanpura/Bhagpur in northeastern Haryana around 1000 BCE) certainly cannot "indicate anything comparable to the cultural and religious significance of the horse or the important role of the horse-drawn two-wheeled chariot which can be observed in the traditions of the early Indo-European peoples, including the Vedic āryas", and does not represent any notable change in the situation after 1200 BCE. Further, note that the earliest horse bone findings accepted by the AIT naysayers are in the southern (Kutch) and eastern (northeast Haryana) corners of northwest India: any "Aryan horse bones" in the stretch from the BMAC area to the Greater Punjab area seem to be invisible].
Note also what the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Vol. 9, p.348, has to say in the course of a description of Indian archaeology: “Curiously, however, it is precisely in those regions that used iron, and were associated with the horse, that the Indo-Aryan languages did not spread. Even today, these are the regions of the Dravidian language group”.
Witzel, for example, even while claiming that "linguistic and textual studies confirm the presence of an outside, Indo-Aryan speaking element, whose language and spiritual culture has definitely been introduced, along with the horse and the spoked wheel chariot, via the BMAC area into northwestern South Asia", immediately admits that: "However, much of present-day Archaeology denies that. [....] So far, clear archaeological evidence has just not been found” (WITZEL 2000a:§15).
Therefore, unless one is willing to accept that no such people as the "Vedic Aryans", and no such things as the Vedic chariot and Vedic horse, ever existed, it must be accepted that the whole set of arguments concerning (the alleged absence of) horse bones in the Harappan civilization are fake, fraudulent and irrelevant. Insisting on the "Aryan" presence in the BMAC and the Punjab areas in the concerned periods in spite of the absence of horse bones, and denying their presence in the Harappan areas and period on the grounds of (the alleged) absence of horse bones amounts to extreme special pleading.
3. The Linguistic evidence clearly completely disproves any idea that the horse was unknown to the non-Indo-European language speaking people of India before "Aryans" brought it all the way from the Ukrainian Steppes and introduced it to them. The evidence shows that the horse, whether as a magnificent exotic wild beast from beyond the northwest or as an already domesticated animal, was individually and separately known to the "non-Aryans" of India: as I pointed out in my first book: “Sanskrit has many words for the horse: aśva, arvant or arvvā, haya, vājin, sapti, turanga, kilvī, pracelaka and ghoṭaka, to name the most prominent among them. And yet, the Dravidian languages show no trace of having borrowed any of these words; they have their own words kudirai, parī and mā […] The Santali and Mundari languages, however, have preserved the original Kol-Munda word sādom. Not only has no linguist ever claimed that the Dravidian and Kol-Munda words for ‘horse’ are borrowed from ‘Aryan’ words, but in fact some linguists have even sought to establish that Sanskrit ghoṭaka, from which all modern Indo-Aryan words are derived, is borrowed from the Kol-Munda languages!” (TALAGERI 1993:160).
The above point is “echoed” by none other than Michael Witzel: “Dravidian and Indo-Aryan (IE) words for domesticated animals are quite different from each other, for example, Drav. DEDR 500 Tam. ivuḷi, Brah. (h)ullī, 1711 Tam. kutirai, etc. DEDR 3963 Tam. pari ‘runner’, 4870 Tam. mā ‘animal’ (horse, elephant), Tel. māvu ‘horse’, cf. Nahali māv ‘horse’ […]; they have no relation with IA aśva ‘horse’ and various words for ‘runner’ (arvant, vājin, etc.).” Further, he adds: “Obviously, use of horses is not linked to speakers of an IA language” (WITZEL 2000a: §15). So, clearly, horses were not introduced to the "non-Aryans" of India by "invading Aryans". [In an article in an Indian newspaper, as part of a political media campaign in 2002, Witzel, however, alleges that the words in the "non-Aryan" languages of India are borrowed from different West Asian, and even Chinese, sources. He naturally does not explain the mode by which those words landed into these "non-Aryan" Indian languages and became so central to them. But, in any case, it still means that the horse was known to the non-Indo-European language speakers of India by means other than through an introduction by "Aryans"].
4. The literary evidence in the Rigveda clearly shows that the horse was a well-known and respected animal right from the period of the Old Books. Naturally, this exotic, rare and much-prized animal from the (then) areas of the Anu-s and Druhyu-s in Central Asia could not possibly have been unknown to the Vedic Aryans in 3000 BCE: but the horse clearly became commoner and more important only with the invention of the spoked wheels in the period of the New Books:
a. The word ara- for "spoke" is found only in the New Books (5,1,8,9,10):
I.32.15; 141.9; 164.11,12,13,48.
b. Likewise, names with aśva and ratha appear only within the New Books:
V.27.4,5,6; 33.9; 36.6; 52.1; 61.5,10; 79.2.
I.36.18; 100.16,17; 112.10,15; 116.6,16; 117.17,18; 122.7,13.
VIII.1.30,32; 9.10; 23.16,23,24; 24.14,22,23,28,29; 26.9,11; 35.19,20,21; 36.7; 37.7; 38.8; 46.21,33; 68.15,16.
X.49.6; 60.5; 61.21.
c. And also in the names of composers of the following hymns:
V.47, 52-61, 81-82.
VIII.14-15, 23-26, 35-38, 46.
d. The Bhṛgu ṛṣi, Dadhyañc, who introduced the secrets of the northwest to Indra, is supposed to have the head of a horse (I.116.12; 117.22; 119.9), and the Bhṛgu-s (IV.16.20) and the Anu-s (V.31.4) are credited with inventing the chariot for Indra. This may show the direction of movement of innovations concerning the horse and the chariot (but obviously it does not show the movements of the Vedic Aryans themselves).
The horse, though not native to India, was definitely known to the PIEs in their homeland, but this fits in perfectly well with the Indian Homeland scenario recorded in the Indian texts.
Finally, we come to that animal which is most central to the Indo-European ethos: much more central than the horse: i.e. the cow. In spite of all the rhetoric about "Aryans" and their horses, it is the cow which is central to the identity of the "pastoral Aryans", but, unlike the other flora and fauna discussed so far, the cow rarely seems to form a central point of discussion in faunal debates on the location of the Homeland (by advocates of the South Russian Steppes theory), for obvious reasons, as we will see. The cow/bull/cattle is probably the only animal (other than the dog, domesticated from prehistoric times) which has a form of the reconstructed PIE name in every single branch: PIE *gwṓus, Indo-Aryan Skt. gáuh, Iranian Av. gāuš, Armenian kov, Greek boûs, Albanian ka, Anatolian Hier.Luw. wawa-, Tocharian keu, Italic Latin bōs, Celtic Old Irish bō, Germanic German kuh, Baltic Lithuanian guovs, Slavic OCS govēždi.
Gamkrelidze, an advocate of the Anatolian Homeland theory, points out that "the economic function of the cow as a dairy animal can be reconstructed for a period of great antiquity" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:485), and further that "The presence of cows and bulls among domestic animals goes back to an ancient period well before the domestication of the wild horse. Evidence of domesticated bulls and cows is found by the beginning of the Neolithic" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:489). But then follows some misdirection to fit in with his Anatolian Homeland theory. Gamkrelidze tells us: "There are two major centers of cattle domestication in Eurasia: a European zone where the ancestral wild cow was the huge European bison (Bos Primigenius Boj.), and a western Asian area where the ancestral wild cows were distinct species [....] the western Asian area is considered the center of first domestication of wild cattle" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:489-490). He repeatedly proceeds to refer to these as "the two centers of domestication" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:490). Then, he adds the clincher: "Indo-European dialects preserve words from a common base *thauro-, - originally 'wild cow, wild bull' in Indo-European - a Near Eastern migratory term, which shows that the speakers of these dialects were acquainted with the wild cows found specifically in the Near East" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:491).
The above contains many glaring misrepresentations, which will become clear when we see the actual facts, all of which point unanimously to an Indian Homeland:
1. There are indeed "two centers of domestication" of the cow (i.e. of domestic cattle), and they are not the subject of any controversy. The wikipedia article on "Cattle" unambiguously tells us: "Archeozoological and genetic data indicate that cattle were first domesticated from wild aurochs (Bos primigenius) approximately 10,500 years ago. There were two major areas of domestication: one in the area that is now Turkey, giving rise to the taurine line, and a second in the area that is now Pakistan, resulting in the indicine line [….] European cattle are largely descended from the taurine lineage". All other academic sources regularly point out that "the Indus Valley Civilization" was one of the two centers of domestication of cattle. [So much for the glaring difference between the "urban Harappans" and "pastoral Aryans"].
2. The Rigveda is an extremely cow-centered text. Not only is the cow mentioned many more times than any other animal (including the horse), but the word go-/gau- in the Rigveda is replete with many naturalistic and mystic meanings (where it represents the rays of the sun, the earth, the stars, and many other more mystic things not within the scope of this article) showing it to be a central feature of the Rigvedic religion and socio-economic environment. But even more linguistically important is that the Sanskrit language contains every single common IE word associated with cows and cattle, except, significantly, the "Near Eastern migratory term" referred to by Gamkrelidze (the implications of the absence of which, in the three eastern branches, definitely shows that "the speakers of these dialects were not acquainted with the wild cows found specifically in the Near East" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:491 paraphrased) as already discussed earlier). Mallory tells us there are three different words for "cow" in the IE languages, *gwṓus, *h1eĝh, and *wokéha-. The first, as we saw, is found in all the twelve branches. As for the other words for cow, bull, cattle, they are found in Indo-Aryan + different other branches:
a. *h1eĝh "cow": Skt. ahī-, Armenian ezn, Celtic (Old Irish) ag.
b. *wokéha- "cow": Skt. vaśā-, Italic (Latin) vacca.
c. *phekhu- "livestock": Skt. paśu-, Iranian (Avestan) pasu-, Italic (Latin) pecū, Germanic (Old English) feoh, Baltic (Lithuanian) pēkus.
d. *uk(w)sēn "ox": Skt. ukṣan-, Iranian (Avestan) uxšan, Tocharian okso, Germanic (English) ox, Celtic (Old Irish) oss.
e. *wṛs-en "bull": Skt. vṛṣṇí-, Iranian (Avestan) varəšna-.
f. *usr- "cow/bull": Skt. usra/usrā, Germanic ūro (from ūrochso).
g. *domhoyos "young bull": Skt. damya-, Celtic (Old Irish) dam, Albanian dem, Greek damálēs.
This last is particularly significant. Gamkrelidze points out the following: "that speakers of Proto-Indo-European were among those who domesticated wild cattle is also shown by the presence in Indo-European of another term for 'bull', derived from the verb *t'emH- 'tame, subdue: bridle: force': OIr dam 'bull', Ved. damya- 'young bull to be tamed', Alb. dem 'young bull', (Mayrhofer 1963:II.35), Gr. damálēs, 'young bull to be tamed', damálē 'heifer'" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:491). The weight of the evidence, however, shows that this "taming" took place in the area of the Vedic people, and not in West Asia as Gamkrelidze tries to suggest.
Further, the following two words also illustrate the developed role of dairying in the PIE world: a) Skt. goṣṭhá- and Celtiberian (an extinct Celtic language spoken in Spain) boustom, "cattle-shed"; and b) a common PIE word for "udder": Skt. ūdhar-, Greek oŭthar, Latin ūber, Germanic (English) udder. Again, Indo-Aryan is the common factor.
3. The Vedic Indo-Aryan and Iranian branches, with their earliest recorded history located in northwestern India, have preserved the original verb "to milk": Ved. duh-/dugh- and Iranian dox-. This verb is lost in all the other branches, but the fact that this is the original verb is proved by the occurrence of the root in a very basic family relationship name indicative of the centrality of the dairying culture in the PIE world: "The dialect words for 'daughter' are an important set that go back to this root: Skt. duhitár- 'daughter', Avest. dugədar, Arm. dustr, Gk. thugátēr [....] Engl. daughter, OPruss. duckti, Russ. doč', Toch B. tkácer" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:486, fn.41). The word has long been believed to signify "milkmaid", indicating that milking the cow was an important part of the duties of the daughter of the house in a typical PIE household.
The Vedic Indo-Aryan branch also derives its basic word for "milk" from this root: dugdhá-. Iranian, however, uses two other words: Avestan xšvīd- (modern Persian šīr) and Avestan paēman, (modern Persian pīnū, "sour milk"). Both these words have their counterparts in Vedic: kṣīr- and payas-, both also meaning "milk". The words have counterparts in other branches as well (Albanian hirrë "whey", Baltic Lithuanian svíestas "butter", píenas "milk"). Another Vedic word ghṛta "cream, butter, ghee" is found as gert "milk" in Celtic Irish. And Vedic dádhi (gen. dadhnás) "yogurt/curds, sour milk" is found as dadan "milk" in Baltic Old Prussian and djathë "cheese" in Albanian.
However, there is another very widespread word for the verb "to milk", found in eight branches: PIE *melk'-, Tocharian mālklune, Celtic Irish bligim, Italic (Latin) mulgeō, Germanic (English) to milk, Baltic (Lithuanian) mélžti, Slavic (Old Russian) mlĕsti, Greek amélgo, Albanian mjel. Four of them also derive the noun "milk" from this root: Tocharian malke/malkwer, Celtic Old Irish melg/mlicht/blicht, Germanic (English) milk, Slavic (OCS) mlĕko, (Russian) moloko. From this circumstance, Gamkrelidze treats this root as the original word for "milk", and writes: "It is noteworthy that Indo-Iranian replaces both the original verb 'milk', *melk'-, and the original noun 'milk'. This may have had to do with specific details of the evolution of dairying among the cattle-breeding Indo-Iranian tribes after their separation from the other Indo-European tribes" (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:486). But the idea that this was the original word is disproved by the fact that:
a) it is totally missing in the Indo-Aryan (apart from the Iranian) branch which retains every major common word associated with cattle-breeding and dairying, and which is situated in the heart of one of the two primary centres of cattle-domestication in the world (as Gamkrelidze puts it: "In Sanskrit and Old Iranian we already find a highly developed terminology associated with the dairying function of cows" GAMKRELIDZE 1995:485, fn.35), and it would be strange that they should completely have forgotten the original word for "milking/milk" (if it were *melk'-),
b) it is also totally missing in the Anatolian (Hittite) branch, and
c) the Indian root duh-, which is also the root for the word for "daughter" (as the "milkmaid" in the typical pastoral PIE family), proves to be older and more primitive and deep-rooted.
So, clearly, PIE *melk'- is a new word developed among the PIEs in their secondary Homeland in and around Central Asia after they migrated out from the northwest.
There is also another word for "milk" found in Greek gála- (gen. gálaktos), Italic (Latin) lac (gen. lactis), both meaning "milk" (note: the word galaxy "the milky way"), and Hittite galattar "a pleasant-tasting plant juice" (note Greek gála- is also "plant sap", as is Latin lac herbārum). This is another word which may have developed separately in Central Asia. [Pure speculation: could it be connected with Sanskrit go-rasa "milk" from go- "cow" and rasa "plant sap/juice"?]
In any case, to sum up, a comparison of the flora and fauna in Indo-Aryan with the flora and fauna in PIE and the various Indo-European branches points towards India as the original Homeland, and shows a changing landscape of flora and fauna as the IE branches migrated north-westwards into Afghanistan and Central Asia and then further westwards and north-westwards into their historical areas. The elephant, with which we started, symbolizes the original Indian ethos of the PIE environment.
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