Definitions

Indo-Iranians

Indo-Iranians

[in-doh-i-rey-nee-uhn, -i-rah-, -ahy-rey-]
Indo-Iranian peoples consist of the Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Dardic and Nuristani peoples, that is, speakers of Indo-Iranian languages.

Origin

The Indo-Iranians are commonly identified with the Andronovo culture, Vedic civilization, Iranian Culture and their homeland with an area of the Eurasian steppe that borders the Ural River on the west, the Tian Shan on the east (where the Indo-Iranians took over the area occupied by the earlier Afanasevo culture), and Transoxiana and the Hindu Kush on the south. Historical linguists broadly estimate that a continuum of Indo-Iranian languages probably began to diverge by 2000 BC, if not earlier, preceding both the Vedic and Iranian cultures. The earliest recorded forms of these languages, Vedic Sanskrit and Gathic Avestan, are remarkably similar, descended from the common Proto-Indo-Iranian language. The origin and earliest relationship between the Nuristani languages and that of the Iranian and Indic groups is unrecoverably obscure.

Expansion

Two-wave models of Indo-Iranian expansion have been proposed by and .

First wave

The Indo-Iranians and their expansion are strongly associated with the chariot. It is assumed that this expansion went into the Caucasus, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia. They also expanded into Mesopotamia and Syria and introduced the horse and chariot culture to this part of the world. Sumerian texts from EDIIIb Ngirsu (2500-2350 BC) already mention the 'chariot' (gigir) and Ur III texts (2150-2000 BC) mention the horse (anshe-zi-zi).

They left linguistic remains in a Hittite horse-training manual written by one "Kikkuli the Mitannian". Other evidence is found in references to the names of Mitanni rulers and the gods they swore by in treaties; these remains are found in the archives of the Mitanni's neighbors. The time period for this is about 1500 BC.

The standard model for the entry of the Indo-European languages into South Asia is that this first wave went over the Hindu Kush, either into the headwaters of the Indus and later the Ganges. The earliest stratum of Vedic Sanskrit, preserved only in the Rigveda, is assigned to roughly 1500 BC. From the Indus, the Indo-Aryan languages spread from c. 1500 BC to c. 500 BC, over the northern and central parts of the subcontinent, sparing the extreme south. The Indo-Aryans in these areas established several powerful kingdoms and principalities in the region, from eastern Afghanistan to the doorstep of Bengal. The most powerful of these kingdoms were the post-Rigvedic Kuru (in Kurukshetra and the Delhi area) and their allies the Pañcālas further east, as well as Gandhara and later on, about the time of the Buddha, the kingdom of Kosala and the quickly expanding realm of Magadha. The latter lasted until the 4th century BC, when it was conquered by Chandragupta Maurya and formed the center of the Mauryan empire.

In eastern Afghanistan and southwestern Pakistan, whatever Indo-Aryan languages were spoken there were eventually pushed out by the Iranian languages, such as that of the Avesta-like Kamboja. Most Indo-Aryan languages, however, were and still are prominent in the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Today, Indo-Aryan languages are spoken in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Second wave

The Second Wave is interpreted as the Iranian wave. The Iranians would take over all of Central Asia, Iran, and for a considerable period, dominate the European steppe (the modern Ukraine) and intrude north into Russia and west into central and eastern Europe well into historic times and as late as the Common Era.

The first Iranians to reach the Black Sea may have been the Cimmerians in the 8th century BC, although their linguistic affiliation is uncertain. They were followed by the Scythians, who are considered a western branch of the Central Asian Sakas. Sarmatian tribes, of whom the best known are the Roxolani (Rhoxolani), Iazyges (Jazyges) and the Alani (Alans), followed the Scythians westwards into Europe in the late centuries BCE and the first and second centuries of the Common Era (The Age of Migrations). The populous Sarmatian tribe of the Massagetae, dwelling near the Caspian Sea, were known to the early rulers of Persia in the Achaemenid Period. In the east, the Saka occupied several areas in Xinjiang, from Khotan to Tumshuq.

The Medes, Parthians and Persians begin to appear on the Persian plateau from ca. 800 BC, and the Achaemenids replaced Elamite rule from 559 BC. Around the first millennium of the Common Era (AD), the Iranian Pashtuns and Baloch began to settle on the eastern edge of the Iranian plateau, on the mountainous frontier of northwestern Pakistan in what is now the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan, displacing the earlier Indo-Aryans from the area.

In Central Asia, the Turkic languages and culture have replaced Iranian, but a substantial minority remains in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as well as in south western Xinjiang (Sariqoli). Otherwise, the Iranian languages are now confined to Iran, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and the Caucasus (Ossete).

Archaeology

Archaeological cultures associated with Indo-Iranian expansion include:

suggests the following identifications:
date range archaeological culture identification suggested by Parpola
2800-2000 BC late Catacomb and Poltavka cultures late PIE to Proto-Indo-Iranian
2000-1800 BC Srubna and Abashevo cultures Proto-Iranian
2000-1800 BC Petrovka-Sintashta Proto-Indo-Aryan
1900-1700 BC BMAC "Proto-Dasa" Indo-Aryans establishing themselves in the existing BMAC settlements, defeated by "Proto-Rigvedic" Indo-Aryans around 1700
1900-1400 BC Cemetery H Indian Dasa
1800-1000 BC Alakul-Fedorovo Indo-Aryan, including "Proto-Sauma-Aryan" practicing the Soma cult
1700-1400 BC early Swat culture Proto-Rigvedic = Proto-Dardic
1700-1500 BC late BMAC "Proto-Sauma-Dasa", assimilation of Proto-Dasa and Proto-Sauma-Aryan
1500-1000 BC Early West Iranian Grey Ware Mitanni-Aryan (offshoot of "Proto-Sauma-Dasa")
1400-800 BC late Swat culture and Punjab, Painted Grey Ware late Rigvedic
1400-1100 BC Yaz II-III, Seistan Proto-Avestan
1100-1000 BC Gurgan Buff Ware, Late West Iranian Buff Ware Proto-Persian, Proto-Median 1000-400 BC Iron Age cultures of Xinjang Proto-Saka

Language

The Indo-European language spoken by the Indo-Iranians in the late 3rd millennium BC was a Satem language still not removed very far from the Proto-Indo-European language, and in turn only removed by a few centuries from the Vedic Sanskrit of the Rigveda. The main phonological change separating Proto-Indo-Iranian from Proto-Indo-European is the collapse of the ablauting vowels *e, *o, *a into a single vowel, Proto-Indo-Iranian *a (but see Brugmann's law). Grassmann's law and Bartholomae's law were also complete in Proto-Indo-Iranian, as well as the loss of the labiovelars (kw, etc.) to k, and the Eastern Indo-European (Satem) shift from palatized k' to ć, as in Proto-Indo-European *k'ṃto- > Indo-Iran. *ćata- > Sanskrit śata-, Old Iran. sata "100".

Among the sound changes from Proto-Indo-Iranian to Indo-Aryan is the loss of the voiced sibilant *z, among those to Iranian is the de-aspiration of the PIE voiced aspirates.

See also

Notes

Sources

  • .
  • Jones-Bley, K.; Zdanovich, D. G. (eds.), Complex Societies of Central Eurasia from the 3rd to the 1st Millennium BC, 2 vols, JIES Monograph Series Nos. 45, 46, Washington D.C. (2002), ISBN 0-941694-83-6, ISBN 0-941694-86-0.
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