Monday, 12 April 2010

A voice from Greece for a New Indology


There is one interesting site, made by an interesting Greek institute, Omilos Meleton (http://www.omilosmeleton.gr/en/indology_en.asp),
where are collected articles and letters by Kazanas (the director of the institute), Michel Danino and others. Particularly interesting for me are the paper about the "Mainstream Model", which suggests "that “fresh thinking” on all matters of Indian proto-history is absolutely necessary", and the letters of Steve Farmer and Aklujkar about the conference in California on 'Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization' which I mentioned in a previous post.
Farmer's letter seems to show that there is a sort of academic league centered on Michael Witzel against the critics of the Aryan Invasion Theory, who are heavily ridiculed with the typical American 'bon ton', or easily demonized as followers of political 'Hindutva' agendas. Quo usque tandem, we would say quoting Cicero's oration against Catilina: "till when" the supporters of AIT will go on with these tactics and prejudices and superiority complex?   

10 comments:

  1. Ciao Giacomo,
    Thanks a lot for this post, and for the reference to Kazanas’ website. Months ago I have red a booklet of him (“Vedic and Mesopotamian Interactions”, Adyar Library) in which he tries to depict a possible way of interpreting ancient Indian heritage on the light of what we know about Sumerian, Hittite, etc. culture.
    On this line, particularly interesting is the work of the late Giovanni Semerano. See for instance his “L’infinito: un equivoco millenario”, where you can find his interpretation of the genesis of words such as ātman, etc., or “La favola dell’indoeuropeo”, where he points out the debt Indo-Aryan languages have towards Mesopotamian/Accadic vernaculars. Well, it must be noted – at least according to me – that not always Semerano’s word-derivation sound good. And that he was mostly interested in finding the origins of Greek and Latin rather than of Sanskrit, Prakrit, etc. Nonetheless, his (monumental) effort represents something new in the panorama of classical studies, by which one can be inspired for further researches also in other fields. If it is true that we cannot assume that ancient north-Indian languages (and Sanskrit in particular) derives from Mesopotamian languages (Indo-Aryan linguistic family is indeed quite different from Semitic linguistic family), it is likewise true that traders have done more than savants could do. From commercial exchanges, languages developed their complexity. During these last years we can notice among scholars an increasing interest for the commercial net that Mesopotamian civilizations had in far-east and west countries. The fact that Mesopotamian traders had a written language surely influenced also those populations without it (see for instance Brāhmī script which is clearly “inspired” to Aramaic).
    Now the question is: who knows whether these linguistic contaminations reflect also genetic mixtures or not?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not much of interest that I can see. Dating ṚV on the basis of supposed astronomical observations seems dubious at best - and it ignores the hard evidence (Like the Mitanni documents). No wonder Witzel et al lose patience at times. Kazana seems a good representative of the kind of scholar who makes up his mind in advance what the evidence is going to tell him, then reads the evidence as support for his theory. His invective against Witzel is a lot less dignified than Witzel's polemic (which itself lapses into invective at times), and a lot less justified.

    ReplyDelete
  3. To Krishna: it's funny to write in English between Italians about an Italian author, but it's right here. I do not sympathize very much with Semerano, because he had no method, he was too sure of his guesses, and was obsessed by Semitic and Mesopotamian origins. You say that there is an increasing interest for the commercial net of Mesopotamian civilizations, can you cite some studies? About Aramaic, I would not say that Brahmi derives from it. Kharoshthi, I've read, derives clearly from Aramaic (it goes also from right to left), but about Brahmi, already Pisani supported the origin of this script from the Indus script, and there are some similarities, also in the system of combination. I think that it is not impossible that the Indus script survived during the centuries, used on perishable materials, and reappeared as the Brahmi when it was used, imitating the Persians, on stone. I do not think that Vedic civilization could function entirely without script. S.R. Rao even suggested that Semitic script derived from Indus script, and why not? Also Indians where good merchants, and we know that the Arabs took the numbers from them!
    About genetics, I do not know exactly. There is a good percentage of R1a1 in Oman, probably coming from South Asia, and of J2b2 in India, coming from the west, probably already during Neolithic if not earlier.

    ReplyDelete
  4. To Jayarava: I find the site interesting not only for the arguments against AIT but also for the comparison between Greek philosophy and Indian tradition. About the date of ṚV, I support a chronology different from that of Kazanas, a much lower one. I find good his letter to Witzel, only too polemical, but it seems that Witzel has a special skill in stimulating polemics. And I find that your description of Kazanas is fit for Witzel too! I would not say that Witzel &co. lose patience, but that they have a strong prejudice against AIT critics, and they are not interested to listen to their reasons, only to destroy them. The same can be said probably for the opposite party, with the difference that they have stronger arguments! :) There is a war, but the reactionaries disguised as enemies of rightist Hindutva should not remain in their castle, they should rather ask for a peace treaty!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ciao Giacomo,
    Of course you are right, it was a copy&paste error: it is obviously Kharoṣṭhī to derive from Aramaic, not Brāhmī.
    As regards “writing”, my point is as follows: I do not uphold that Indian culture was based on writing only or on oral tradition only, I rather think that something survived in oral traditions (for centuries) and something other in written tradition (now mostly lost because of the perishableness of the materials). But at a certain point writing became fundamental as far as it allows the fixation of texts into a – so to speak – “invariable” form, which gives also more authority to the texts themselves… and this could have been inspired – I suppose – by the use the traders had to write records to “fix” their business. Now, in this process it is plausible that some key words in certain fields passed from one language to the other, like the case of the etymology of āpsu as it has been suggested by Semerano. This obviously means that the “shiftings” occurred on both directions (from East to West and from West to East). The crux of the matter is – I think – that the distinction between Semitic and Indo-Aryan linguistic families fits not always good for philological purposes.
    Now to Semerano: I agree with you that he was a bit exaggerated in his – mostly – “romantic” derivations, nonetheless I appreciate his effort… I think that some – few – suggestion (like the āpsu one, which really persuades me, particularly after having red “Amlet’s Mill”, De Santillana, Dechend – “Il mulino di Amleto”, Adelphi) of his are quite right. In my opinion, future philologists will find good job on comparing words and texts in a Semerano-like (similarity not sameness is here intended) manner, keeping off Semerano-like (sameness not similarity is here intended) “over-impressions”, or “obsession” as you call it.
    Many articles or chapters of books have been published on Mesopotamian commercial net, you can find references on-line in bibliographies, articles, etc. (once, few years ago, I have red a long Italian article exactly on this subject, but now I cannot remember the author… it was probably inserted in a catalogue of an exposition on Mesopotamia).
    Ah, many thanks for your observations on genetics (a field in which I know nothing!)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Semerano could be right in some etymologies about European words and toponyms: the neolithic revolution arrived from the Near East, and that may have left some linguistic traces. But we should not imitate his way of proceeding: he played with assonance without any criterion and historical justification. It's interesting that he was appreciated by philosophers (Severino, Cacciari, Galimberti): this shows that their way of using words is similar to that of Semerano, seeing the meaning more than the form, and neglecting history. The work of Bernardini Marzolla on Etruscan, on the contrary, is based on quite rigorous phonetic laws.
    About 'apsu', I don't know exactly what are you alluding to. It seems that 'apsû' is the Accadian from 'ab-zu' 'deep water' in Sumerian. It is interesting that Sumerian 'ab' meant water: apparently, there is a relationship with Indo-European 'akwa', Indo-Aryan 'ap(a)'. But we should not confuse Accadian 'apsû' with skt. 'apsu', locative plural, meaning 'in the waters'.
    About Mesopotamian commercial net, it is well known that in the mature Harappan period there were exchanges between Mesopotamia and South Asia (named 'Meluhha'): some Harappan seals were found in Mesopotamia and Bahrein, and in India we find cylinder seals, typical of Mesopotamia, but with 'Harappan' motives. In Lothal were found typical Bahrein seals, but Mesopotamian seals are absent in India (Upinder Singh), so Mesopotamian traders probably did not go directly there. For the 'Meluhhan' presence in Mesopotamia, give an eye to this interesting post:
    http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/2010/03/the-indus-colony-in-mesopotamia/

    ReplyDelete
  7. Semerano could be right in some etymologies about European words and toponyms: the neolithic revolution arrived from the Near East, and that may have left some linguistic traces. But we should not imitate his way of proceeding: he played with assonance without any criterion and historical justification. It's interesting that he was appreciated by philosophers (Severino, Cacciari, Galimberti): this shows that their way of using words is similar to that of Semerano, seeing the meaning more than the form, and neglecting history. The work of Bernardini Marzolla on Etruscan, on the contrary, is based on quite rigorous phonetic laws.
    About 'apsu', I don't know exactly what are you alluding to. It seems that 'apsû' is the Accadian from 'ab-zu' 'deep water' in Sumerian. It is interesting that Sumerian 'ab' meant water: apparently, there is a relationship with Indo-European 'akwa', Indo-Aryan 'ap(a)'. But we should not confuse Accadian 'apsû' with skt. 'apsu', locative plural, meaning 'in the waters'.
    About Mesopotamian commercial net, it is well known that in the mature Harappan period there were exchanges between Mesopotamia and South Asia (named 'Meluhha'): some Harappan seals were found in Mesopotamia and Bahrein, and in India we find cylinder seals, typical of Mesopotamia, but with 'Harappan' motives. In Lothal were found typical Bahrein seals, but Mesopotamian seals are absent in India (Upinder Singh), so Mesopotamian traders probably did not go directly there. For the 'Meluhhan' presence in Mesopotamia, give an eye to this interesting post:
    http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/2010/03/the-indus-colony-in-mesopotamia/

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sorry for joining so late… I am now reading the issue of the Indo-European Journal edited by Angela Marcantonio and dedicated to questioning the IE theory from many point of views. Kazanas also contributed to the volume and I would be glad to read your opinion about the volume and the issues it raises.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear Elisa, I have just finished to read the article of Kazanas in that volume. I find good his arguments about IE linguistics, and obviously some archeological and genetic arguments. But I don't agree with his chronology of the RV. His argumenta ex silentio are not compelling, particularly in the case of the RV, which is a very elliptic poetry, naturally excluding prosaic words like 'bricks'. He says that 'pur' is always used for magical defence, but even if it were so, that implies a physical object used metaphorically. About astronomy, it is true what he says about Krttika, but in Kaushitaki Brahmana we find an astronomical observation which cannot be possible before 1800 BC (I asked an astronomer at the University of Pisa). Moreover, the central environment of the Brahmanas is KuruPanchala, which is too Eastern for the Mature Harappan phase, but perfect for the PGW period. He also places the early Up. in the Mature Har. period, but they have a strong connection with Videha... About the MBh, I read that some observations can be true for 3000 as well as for 1500 BC (approximately), which is the date of the Battle we can derive from the Puranas. I have found many elements supporting a chronology much lower than this one of Kazanas, including the names of the kings cited in the RV; the details are in an article which should be published in May in the US.

    ReplyDelete
  10. INDUS SCRIPT WAS TRUE WRITING

    Please find my two papers below and circulate amongst the skeptics, particularly!

    To state the obvious, the Indus script was a logo-syllabic script and a lost corpus did exist.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/46387240/Sujay-Indus-Script-Final-Version-Final-Final

    Published in the ICFAI journal of history and culture, January 2011

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/111707419/Sujay-Indus-Reintroducing-Lost-Manuscript-Hypothesis

    Published in International journal of philosophy and journal sciences , November 2012

    I am also introducing logo-syllabic thesis B in this paper

    The paper is very self-explanatory! does anybody still beg to differ?

    Sujay Rao Mandavilli

    ReplyDelete