Linguistic, archaeological and DNA Evidence favouring origin of some breeds of the Domestic Horse “Equus caballus” from India
by P. Priyadarshi, FRCP Edin
“Equus sivalensis is the oldest true horse known, it has more highly specialised teeth than the Oreston and Newstead ponies. After Lydekker. Palaeontologia Indica, Ser. x. vol. ii.” (Ewart 1911: 366)
Abstract: Cognate words of the Sanskrit asva (PIE *akwa) are found in nine out of the ten branches the Indo-European family of languages, indicating that the original Indo-European homeland had horse. Although horse bones have been found from the archaeological remains of the Indus Valley Civilization, the oldest domesticated “true horse” bones too have been recovered from India from 8000 BP layer, and wild from 20,000 years back. The DNA studies of horse shows that the Aryan-horse association is a myth, and that the horse was domesticated at many places. Archaeology shows that the Central Asians were late to use horse, say about 50 AD, and the Central Asian Bactria-Margiana-Archaeological Complex had no horse at all. Thus there was an archaeological disconnect between the Ukrainian and the South Asian horse domestications, meaning that horse was domesticated independently at the two places. This is consistent with the DNA findings. The Indian sivalensis horse has survived as many modern breeds of horse, and the Arabic, the Thoroughbred of Europe and the Blood races have evolved from the sivalensis. There is a geographical population structuring of Indian horses, indicating that the Indian horses are indigenous and have not been imported.
Indo-European Linguistics: Horse from water
The PIE root-word for horse e uo-s (Pokorny:301-302) has been derived from another PIE root akwā-, ǝkwā or ēkw(Po orny:23) meaning “water, river, sea”. Starostin (p. 824) thinks that the horses were sacrificed to the sea-god (for navigational safely), hence they got named after “water”. However, sacrifices evolved in civilizations much later than language, and the words for animals like horse must have been coined much before any sacrificial rituals came into practice. Hence this view, is at best a good folk-etymology, and cannot be true. We need to search a different relationship between sea and horse.
Rig-Vedic Account Consistent with Linguistic theory
The derivation k -s (horse) from akwā (water) is not understandable unless we take into account the Rig-Vedic mention that horse came from the ocean. Rig-Veda 1.163 (Hymns for the Horse) says: 1. What time, first springing into life, thou neighedst, proceeding from the sea or upper waters, Limbs of the deer hadst thou, and eagle pinions. O Steed, thy birth is nigh and must be lauded. 4. Three bonds, they say, thou hast in heaven that bind thee, three in the waters, three within the ocean. To me
thou seernest Varuna, O Courser, there where they say is thy sublimest birth-place. The abode of Varuna, the God of waters, is in the Arabian Sea. The foregoing is a picturesque description of retreating horses from the submerging coasts of the Gulf of Cambay in the Arabian Sea following the sea-level rise after the LGM. Just after the Last Glacial Maximum, about 16,000 years back, the sea-level started rising, forcing the coastal fauna, which included the wild horse, into mainland. It may be noted that the horse does not want to live in dense forests (Linlater), and it must have lived on the coasts in large numbers in India. Clearly, this would have given impression to the people at that time that the horses were coming out of the sea. Our studies have indicated that the earliest portions of the Rig-Veda pertain to the end of the Last Glacial Maximum. This is a literary evidence for presence of wild horse in India during or just after the Last Glacial Maximum. We have to examine whether it corroborates well with archaeology. Examination of archaeology and geology shows that the common notion among the historians that India did not have horse before 1500 BCE is no more than an untruth spoken thousand times taking shape of a fact.
Evidence from Indian Archaeology
Paleontological and archaeological evidence shows that the wild horses were widely distributed all over Europe and Asia
throughout the Upper Palaeolithic period between 10,000 BP and 35,000 BP. India was a principal home of horse during that period. At Imamgaon, 80 kilometers east of Poona, 20,000 years old radiocarbon dated level yielded wild animal skeletons including Equus namadicus and Equus sivalensis (Badam:413), the types belonging to “caballus” species. The latter breed was ancestral to many of the domesticated horse lineages of today like the Arabic horse and the Thoroughbred horse (vide infra). Equus caballus, hemionus and other species have been found from Aq Kupruk of Afghanistan dating back from 8,000 to 16,000 BP (Meadow:2526). Wild true horse bones were found from 20,000 BP strata of Bolan and Son valleys (G.R. Sharma:110 ff.; Kazanas 1999:3334), and domesticated horse bones from dates 8500 BP and 6500 BP of the Bolan and Son valleys (Sharma:110 ff.). R.S. Sharma (1996:17) too noted domesticated horse bones from Mahagara Neolithic complex of 7000 BP and Bagor (Rajasthan) 6500 BP (R.S. Sharma:16). However he prefers to ignore them and overall supports invasion by the Aryans on horse-chariots. In view of the findings of the domesticated “true” horse bones from the Central India (Mahagara, Bolan and Son Valleys) dating back to 8500 BP to 6500 BP, the pre-agricultural hunter (Mesolithic) society as depicted in the Bhimbetka Rock Paintings should be dated 8,000 BP or older. Unfortunately, the paintings have been dated later than 3,500 BP because they contain horse in it and the general view of the historians does not accept horse in India before the Aryan Invasion date of 3,500 BP.
Bhimbetka rock painting
While Equus caballus was present ubiquitously in all sites from Asia and Europe, it was accompanied by one smaller species of Equus which was different for Asia and Europe. In Asia, it was Equus hemionus which was found along with Equus caballus, whereas in Europe it was Equus hydruntinus (Forsten and Sharapov:309). Forsten and Sharapov found that this general formula was broken at Palestine and Tajikistan, where all the three species of horse were found at about 15,000 years back. It may be noted that the generic term Equus caballus included many varieties or races of horse. For India, it was generally
sivalensis and namadicus, while for Europe it was generally the stenonis. Although, the namadicus and the sivalensis are the same race of wild caballus horse, yet there are slight differences. Forsten and Sharapov noted that the namadicus horse was larger, and comparatively younger in archaeological findings than the sivalensis (ibid.:310). During the glacial peak between 25,000 and 19,000 years ago, and then again between 12,700 and 11,500 years ago, there was extreme cold and aridity in the northern latitudes of Eurasia, and also in the West Asia and Iran. There were no herbs for the horses to feed on in the Ukrainian and Turkestani tundra climate of the Last Glacial Maximum. Most of the horses of Eurasia died during these cold and arid periods (Achilli:4 of pdf version). Following warming of climate, horse population re-expanded from some eastern location (ibid). It is possible that the relatively cold adapted Przewals ii’s horse may have survived in U raine during the Last Glacial Maximum. However DNA studies have proved that these horses have nothing to do with our domesticated or the “caballus” horse, which have descended from other Asian and European races, but not from the Przewals ii’s horse of the steppe region (Achilli et al). Yet India, the Iberian Peninsula of Europe and the Southeast Asia were the places where climate was not so bad and horses survived in these refugia, and flourished during the Last Glacial maximum (Warmuth). Thus after the end of the LGM up to 10,000 years before present India was a prime home of the wild horses.
Today, the Rann of Cutch is a place on the western coast of Gujarat, where there is a natural habitat for wild horses and asses, and ghur (Equus hemionus) is found in the wild there. Before 10,000 BP, wild “true horses” of sivalensis type were found in India widely. It is claimed that they became extinct after 10,000 BP. However, no one mentions how, or why they became extinct. Extinction of Equus sivalensis did not occur because of any climatic difficulty in India. The wild stock of Equus sivalensis became extinct largely because of dense anthropization of India about 10,000 BP, leading to loss of habitat to the wild horses. Added to this, regular hunting for food, as well as regular capturing for domestication led to extinction of the wild stock of the Equus sivalensis. However, the gene of the wild Equus sivalensis survives today in the domesticated horses of India, Arabia, Southeast Asia and Europe. Hence the supposed extinction of the wild sivalensis from India at 10,000 BP, does not allow another assumption that at 10,000 BP, India became devoid of all horses, and that there were no domesticated horse in India after that time.
The Post-Glacial Indian Population Expansion, and the exit route out of India
Following the glacial phase, the sea-level started rising shifting the coastal population to the interior (Soares, 2008:). It was a massive shift of population, and its effect was most marked near
the Gulf of Cambay. The better climate (warmer and humid) also led to enhanced food availability leading to population growth. Because of these two factors, the carrying capacity of South Asia became saturated, and some of the population was forced to migrate out. The route of migration out of India between 16,000 BP and 10,000 BP has been deciphered with the help of DNA technology. The human Y-chromosomal haplogroup R1a1a (M17) was studied by Underhill et al. They found its population expansion at about 16,000 BP in Gujarat, India, and spread through southern Central Asia to the north Black Sea region in the next few thousand years.
Fig. Origin and migration of R1a1a (M17), after LGM. Source Underhill et al, 2009.
The study of DNA of domestic mouse sub-species Mus musculus musculus also provides a route map for mice, going out of India to the north Black Sea region, almost at the same time.
Fig. Migration route of domestic mouse sub-species Mus musculus musculus, mar ed ‘m’. Source: Boursot 1996
Fig. Another DNA study showing migration route of Mus musculus musculus (on the top side towards the north Black Sea region. Source: Bonhomme.
Fig. Composite route map of migration of man (R1a1a lineage) and mice (Mus musculus musculus) out of India to the north Black Sea region, just following the Last Glacial Maximum. This seems to be the common route for many other migrations like that of wild horse.
We have seen that the human migration just after the LGM was accompanied with mouse, yet perhaps it was not accompanied by domesticated animals like cattle and horse. The Indian wild horses (sivalensis) must have too followed the same route of migration to the steppe, yet there is evidence that the Russians and the Ukrainians did not get the proper Indo-European word for horse “akwa” (PIE) or aśva (Old Indian). This is probably because the horse had not been domesticated by that time. Hence the Ukrainian word for horse is kin’. Words for horse in other Slavic languages are: Old Church Slavonic k n”ь “horse”, Russian kon” “horse”, Czech k “horse”, k n , Slovak
“horse”, k Slovene
, Polish k kònj “horse”
“horse”, Serbo-Croatian kò j (Starostin:825). Had Indo-
European origin and domestication of horse occurred in the Ukrainian steppe, the Slavic languages must have had the word akwa- or asva. No cognate word outside the Slavic branch has so far been suggested for the word konj. Sanskrit kuJjara (kunjara) is a suitable candidate. Kunjara means “one which moves in the orchards, or an elephant. The words for horse in Lithuanian (arklys, arklinis), Latvian (zirgs), and Estonian (hobun, hobu) too are not from akwa. Yet some words in the Old Lithuanian were from this root: O.Lith. ašva, ešva “mare”, Lith. ašviénis “stallion”, family name Ašvine and Ašva. Another notable point in the last figure is the fact that from East Iran to the north Pontic (Black Sea) region, the area over the route was occupied by the Scythians, an East Iranian linguistic group. Even the Kurgan culture of Ukraine (about 6000 years BP) has been identified with the Scythians (an East Iranian tribe). This link of north Pontic region with the East Iranian can only be explained by accepting that the route from East Iran to the north Pontic region was used for migration later also. In the north Pontic and Caspian region, we get river and place names based on Indian or Iranian river-name or places respectively e.g. Don R. (after Danu R. Iran); Danube R. (after Danu R. Iran); Dnieper R. and Dniester R. (after Danu nazdya); Tyras R. (after Tūr , Tv r rapid); Jamna / Yamna for Black Sea
(after Yamuna/ Jamuna the black river of India); Volga (Sanskrit Rasā River MW:870 > Scythian Rā > Russian Volga).
Where was the horse domesticated: the DNA Evidence?
Contrary to the general belief that the horse was domesticated from the Przewalskii wild horse by the Aryans, at their homeland located somewhere in the Eurasian steppe, latest DNA evidence suggests widespread horse domestication, and that too exclusively from non-Przewalskii wild horses, indicating that either the Aryan home was not in the Central Asian steppe, or that the Aryan-horse correlation is a myth, or both. Wild horses ancestral to the modern caballus horses lived in India and Spain as survivors of the glacial peak. In other parts of Eurasia, any horse population must have died during the Last Glacial peak (20,000 BP to 16,000 BP). Study by Solis et al (2005) showed that many horse breeds of the Iberian Peninsula are autochthonous and have been domesticated in Europe itself. They are not connected with any Aryan arrival. purest lineage of the Basque horses in Pottoka is the northern Spain
(Solis:677). Another study using the DNA technology found that at least one breed of horse was domesticated in Spain much before Indo-European linguistic arrival to the area (Achilli et al 2011:4 pdf). Trashing older beliefs, the DNA study of Achilli et al noted that two of the horse lineages (i.e. F and pre-JK) were found exclusively in the Przewalskii, meaning thereby that the
Przewalskii is not the wild ancestor of the Asian and European horses, otherwise these DNA lineages (F and pre-JK) would have been found in the caballus i.e. true horses too (ibid: 3). Achille thus concluded, “This finding also supports evidence from other studies that the Przewals ii’s horse is not the mtDNA source for the domestic horse” (ibid). Weinstock et al (2005) found by DNA analysis that the “true horse” is closely related with the American slit-legged horse and the Asian hemionus horses, and that is distant genetically from the Przewalskii horses. Hence earlier clubbing of the Przewalskii horse with the caballus or “true horse” was unfortunate, and genetically spea ing Przewals ii horses are not “true horses”. The Przewalskii has 66 chromosomes, where as the “true horses” have 64 chromosomes. They two are actually two species. On the other hand, all available evidence suggests that the Indian horse sivalensis was and its descendant modern Indian horses are “true horses” and have contributed genes to most of the domesticated caballus horse races of the modern world (vide infra). Moreover evidence from Weinstoc ’s study (supra) makes it clear that the surviving Indian Wild Ass ghur (Equus hemionus of the Runn of Cutch) is genetically closer to the domesticated horses (caballus) than are the Przewalskii wild horse of Central Asia. This, apart from Tibetan kulan, is the closest surviving wild relative of modern “true horse” in the Old World. Skeletons of extinct “true” horse viz. Equus namadicus (Falconer and Cautley 1849; Sonakiya and Biswas 1998) and Equus sivalensis (Falconer and Cautley 1849) have been recovered from India. This is
consistent with the DNA studies which suggest that the modern Indian “true horses” are autochthonous to India, and the morphological studies which suggest that the Equus sivalensis was one of the ancestors of the “true horse”. The Central Asia ranging from the north Black Sea to Mongolia was the original home of wild Przewals ii’s horse. Hence it may be safely inferred that the Central Asia or the Steppe-Region was not the place of early domestication of horse, otherwise the Przewals ii’s would have Przewalskii horses. got domesticated, not the non-
By DNA study of living horses, Vila et al (2002) and Jansen et al (2002) were able to demonstrate that the theory of a regional domestication of horse by Aryans was wrong and that the horses were domesticated at a large number of places from local wild horses throughout Eurasia. Tatjana (2008) found that by 6000 years before present or the Bronze Age both wild and domesticated horses had been widespread over Europe and Asia. It may be noted here that most of the populations of Eurasia were not agricultural societies then, even though technologically, the period may be within the age of farming. Most of the populations depended on hunting, and horse was essentially a hunting help. Assistence from dog and horse combine perfected the art of hunting, leading to more and more live captures of the prey, leading to birth of pastoralism. DNA study of fossil and living wild and domesticated horses by Kavar (2005) showed that there had been many centres for
recruitment of horses for domestication, thus contradicting any compulsory association of the horse domestication and Aryans. In effect, this trashes the Kurgan hypothesis too. By this time, there is a huge collection of such reports and reviewing them all is beyond the scope of this article. Lindgren and colleagues (2004) found in their DNA study that although wild mares had been recruited from all over Eurasia, on the male side only one male had been recruited, from whose breed all the domesticated horses have descended. This male was not the Central Asian Przewalskii, because the latter had split from the modern horse lineage about 120,000 years back. Possibly this progenitor male was of Tarpan or related wild type. However, with the death of the last living wild horse of Eurasia the Tarpan, today we are not in a position to ascertain the location of the wild male progenitor of modern horses. Yet one thing is sure that this male horse had descended from a stallion line originating from a southern location, either the Iberian Peninsula or the South India after the end of glaciations. DNA analysis shows that all modern “true horses” (i.e. excluding donkeys and zebras) have descended from a single gene pool of Pleistocene horses. There was a large scale extinction of horse lineages during the Last Glacial Maximum (20,000 to 16,000 years back). Horses survived the bad glacial period in the southern locations of Eurasia (Iberian Peninsula and India). West Asia and Iran were extremely arid cold deserts (James and Petraglia: S7), and were not habitable for horses during this period.
Indian horses have generally been excluded from the DNA studies of domestication of horse, thanks to the strong belief in the Aryan-Horse Invasion Theory. However some studies have only recently been conducted that show that the Indian horse breeds are autochthonous. Behl et al (2007) studied DNA of five Indian caballus horse breeds viz. Marwari, Spiti, Bhutia, Manipuri and Zanskari vis-à-vis the European Thoroughbred horse. The result showed that the genetic distance varied as the geographical distance between the lineages. There is a geographical structuring of the horse breeds in India. This type of finding necessarily means that the breeds under question have evolved in their present location over a very long period of time, and also that they have not been imported from outside. This finding means that these Indian horse breeds are indigenous of India living in their respective places for a very long period of time. A DNA study of the Spiti horses of the Himachal Pradesh showed that this domesticated breed of the “true horse” has been well in place in the region for a very long time, much before the assumed date of Aryan Invasion on India (Chauhan et al). This finding is consistent with other studies demonstrating that the Indian sivalensis horse gave birth to many horse lineages of India and abroad (vide infra).
Equus sivalensis of India
“Equus sivalensis of the Siwalik deposits of Northern India, is the oldest true horse nown to science” (Ewart 1909:393). He again wrote, “Equus sivalensis is the oldest true horse known, it has more highly specialised teeth than the Oreston and Newstead ponies.” (Ewart 1911:366). This is not an isolated view. This has been the considered opinion of the equinologists of the last two centuries, before Wheeler gave the horse-invasion theory in 1930. J.A. Thompson (1922:1109) wrote “One of these, which
flourished during Pliocene times, was a slender-limbed species, standing about 15 hands high, and having a broad forehead and tapering face, and certain peculiarities of the molar teeth. This type is represented by the Siwalik horse (Equus sivalensis). The Arab may be a descendant of this stock.” In 1916, the New York Academy of Science noted (Annals:310), “A possible contributory to the desert breed of the Pleistocene and of the modern domesticated horses is the animal of the E. sivalensis type of the Upper Pliocene in the Siwaliks of India. This animal is tall, with long, fairly slender limbs, long neck, well elevated tail, long face, which is strongly deflected on the cranium with a slightly convex profile and broad brow, and teeth with a narrow protocone.” Ewart (1909:392) noted, “Of the possible ancestors of the domestic breeds, the following may be mentioned:-- Equus sivalensis, E. stenonis, E. gracilis (Owen’s Asinus fossilis), E. namadicus, E. fossilis and E. robustus.” … (p. 393) “It used to be said that E. sivalensis could not be regarded as an ancestor of
domestic horses because of the shortness of the anterior pillar of the cheek teeth. I find, however, that in some modern horses, the anterior pillars are decidedly shorter than in E. sivalensis, and that in some of the short-pillared domestic horses the face is nearly as strongly deflected on the cranium as in E. sivalensis. There is hence no longer any reason for assuming that this ancient Indian species had no share in the making of domestic breeds. But in the absence of a large and representative collection of skulls of domestic horses, it is impossible to say which modern breeds are most indebted to the large-headed, long- limbed race, which in Pliocene times frequented the area to the east of the Jhelum River, now occupied by the Siwalik Hills. Mr. Lydekker thinks E. sivalensis or some closely allied race " may have been the ancestral stock from which Barbs, Arabs and Thoroughbreds are derived."” “Equus sivalensis of India was a tall, broad-browed horse characterized by a long tapering deflected face and an interorbital prominence, a long neck, high withers and a high-set-on tail.” (United States Bureau Report: 174). The US Bureau report suggested that like the Arab and the Indian horses, which descended from the sivalensis, the latter too may have been a fleet race characterized by an indomitable disposition (ibid:174). The Report noted the features of the Indian Siwalik horse in the following words: “light as well as heavy horses characterized by long pointed ears and a prominence between the eyes, by a long deflected face, high withers (shoulder ridge), and a high-set-on tail include horses of the Siwali type as their ancestor” (174). This is the description of a classical horse. Most of the high quality horses would fit in this description.
These findings go well with the earlier findings that many of the caballus horses of Europe have descended from Equus stenonis, which was a close relative of Equus sivalensis (Ewart), and that most of the caballus horses of Asia have descended from the Indian horse sivalensis. These two were different from the Central Asian Przewalskii horse. Ponies too of both Asia and Europe are caballus in status, and are most closely related to the sivalensis and stenonis. Indian horse breeds of today like Marwari, Manipuri, Spiti and Bhutia exhibit features of sivalensis and have most likely been domesticated from it. There is evidence that the sivalensis horses were taken along with the Neolithic migrations from India to the Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Paterno (1981:396) noted, “This contention is based on some isolated preservation of E. sivalensis traits. However, rather fully-sivalensis types have been described from Neolithic strata (8000-4000 BCE) at Lemery, Batangas in the Philippines together with dog remains.” Alba (1994) too notes that the E. sivalensis features are still found in the horses of the so-called "Sulu Horse" and its relatives in Borneo, Sumatra and Malacca. This description implies domestication of sivalensis horse in India before 8000 BCE (10,000 BP). Ewart (1911) presented a good discussion on the Indian Equus sivalensis and found that this particular wild horse has made a large contribution to modern “true horse” or caballus population of the world. The Thoroughbred breed which is used worldwide today for racing, hunting, polo etc is descended from Equus sivalensis (Ewart:369).
Certain breeds of modern British racehorses have descended from Newstead horse which was a connecting link between the modern British horse breeds and the Indian sivalensis (ibid:370). The Barb breed of North African coast and also the so called Arab breed of horse in fact are descendants of the Equus sivalensis (ibid:369). Lydekker, another specialist of equine breeds too opined that the horses of Arabia, North African coast and the Thoroughbred breed have descended from the Indian Equus sivalensis. (quoted in ibid:369; also Lydekker:19-21). Lydekker, and also Ray Lan ester, found that the “blood-horse” too was of Indian origin. (quoted in The Origin and Influence of Thoroughbred Horse, CUP Archives.). This is logical. The term blood-horse is a short form for “warm-blooded horse”. Manansala (p. 396) notes, “In other words, Lyde er now
realizes that all the modern breeds are not characterized by longpillared molars, and says that there is a probability that Barbs, Arabs and Thoroughbreds are descended from Equus sivalensis”. He further adds, “However, rather fully sivalensis types have been described from Neolithic strata (8000-4000 BCE) at Lemery, Batangas in the Philippines together with dog remains.” (ibid). In spite of the widely held belief that Equus sivalensis went extinct about 10,000 years back, we have evidence of their existence in the true horse population of India. US Bureau on Animal Industry Fifth Report noted that “Throughbreds built on the lines of Stockwell and Persimmons are probably more intimately related to Equus sivalensis than to Prof Ridgeway’s ‘fine bay horse’ (Equus caballus libycus) of North Africa.” (page
174). In fact, the Central Asian ancient wild horse was like Indian sivalensis horse (ibid:168), and the skeletal features of the latter have been retained in many modern breeds of horse of Europe (ibid: plate IX, Fig.3, opp. p. 168). Ewart noted in the report that there were four types of domesticated horses in the world, the “steppe”, “forest”, “plateau” and “siwali ” types. (p. 163) It is not possible to discuss the whole report of the US Bureau here. The concluding remar noted, “But notwithstanding the absence of well preserved skulls it has been possible by making use of the new methods to obtain a considerable amount of evidence that the domestic horses had a multiple origin, that they include amongst their ancestors not only varieties allied to the wild horse which still survives in Mongolia, and varieties adapted for a forest life, but also varieties specialized for ranging over boundless deserts and plateaus, and for living amongst foothills and upland valleys.” (page 165) On the other hand, many authors hold that these breeds (Arab, Thoroughbreds, Blood-horse etc) have not fully descended from the sivalensis, but yet have got a significant contribution from sivalensis horse of Pleistocene India. This sensible research in modern horse evolution came to an abrupt end probably as a consequence of the World Wars, which diverted scholarly attention to more acute issues, and following the Wars, infused an element of Nazism in the scholars. By the time the World War II ended, people had forgotten the sivalensis horse, and much more spirited Eurocentric minds relied more on conjectures supporting the White pride, rather than the
facts unearthed by generations of horse specialist zoologists and paleontologists. Thus the evidence says that the presumed to be extinct Indian wild horse Equus sivalensis was in fact domesticated, and has contributed significantly to the numbers of modern domesticated caballus horses, particularly those living in India today.
The Central Asians and the Horse
Another myth of history is the assumption that the Central Asian steppe people must have been the first domesticators of the horse. A recent archaeological research by Frachetti and Benecke (2009) showed that the Central Asians were quite late to keep horse. They did not have domesticated horses even after they had adopted the pastoral practices. It was only after 50 AD that the Central Asians took interest in keeping horse. “Thus the data from Begash draw into question the still common view that Eurasian pastoralism diffused eastward as a result of mounted horsemen in the Bronze Age” they write. More importantly, they found that association with horse was related to increased adoption of “hunting” mode of subsistence: “At Begash, there is a correlation between a slow increase in horses and evidence for increased ranges of hunting.”… “Significantly, faunal data from Begash contradict the notion that the emergence of Eurasian pastoralism was sparked by the rapid domestication and riding of the horse.” (p.1025).
At Begash, the layers with increased pastoral activity had more of sheep, goat and cattle bones, and very few horse bones (Fig. 2 on p. 1029). Thus horse riding was probably invented by the hunter societies, as has been depicted in the Bhimbetka rock paintings. This is the reason why we get more importance of horse in the Vedic literature, but the importance of cattle increases as Vedic society moved towards greater pastoralism and agriculture. Hence Kazanas (2009) is correct in his assessment that the Indus Valley civilization, a largely farming society with much less emphasis on horse, was a post-Rig-vedic society. By this evidence we may say that the earliest portion of the Rig-Veda is a transformation zone from hunting to pastoral society, which we call Mesolithic in archaeological terminology. Outram et al (2009) found at Botai (Kazakhstan) that horse was domesticated there for meat and mare’s mil , although it may have been ridden also. In all event, there is no archaeological evidence of movement of humans or horse from the Central Asia to Iran or India. The BMAC (Bactria-Margiana-Archaeological Complex, 4300-3700 BP) is the southern Central Asian cultural complex. It has been found that there was no horse in the BMAC (Witzel 2003:7 of 12, pdf). No horse related furniture has been found. This clearly rules out any migration of horse or horse riding Aryans from this route to Iran or India. Clearly Indian antiquity of horse is older than that of the Central Asia. That means horse was domesticated in India and Ukrainian steppe independently of each other.
Moreover, Hiebert (1998:153) noted, “no steppe nomadic complex has been found on the Iranian plateau, not even evidence of indirect contact or interaction... The only evidence for interaction ... comes from the Central Asia desert oasis cultures." Thus any migration of man or horse from steppe to Indo-Iran is ruled out by archaeology.
The Linguistics of Horse Harmatta showed that many languages borrowed Indo-Aryan words for ‘horse’. The North-Western Caucasian languages Udi (4000 BC) had ek, Circassian and Kabardian šv, and Abkhaz a-čv. Similarly Southeast Caucasian too had such words meaning horse from the Indo-Aryan: Lak č ; Khinalug spa ass; Chechen gaur, Ingush gour horse (c.f. Persian gor wild ass, RV gaura wild cow, Hindi ghor horse; quoted in Mishra:222). On the other hand the PIE root for horse akwa- is absent from Hittite (Kazanas 2009:174), implying that Anatolia was not the place of origin of the Indo-European languages, because the IE languages are so strongly identified with the word akwa. In the Celtic again, there is confusion: ech and Epona, implying
borrowing from other branches (vide infra). In the Germanic group too, eoh (the cognate of akwa-) was there earlier, but seems to have been lost and retained only in a few personal names, or compound words today. In the Slavic, akwa- is not in use (vide supra). Thus Indian and Iranian are the only two branches of Indo-European, where this root is firmly present. There are two sets of cognates one each for southern and northern route languages, both being present in India: 1. Southern Route Cognates of śv (meaning horse): *ekwo(PIE); Sanskrit ashva; Avestan aspa; Latin equus; Greek hippos; O. Irish ech; Tocharian A yuk, Toch. B yakwe. We do not know whether Tibetan yak is a loan from Tocharian. Welsh ebol means “any young animal”. Although Greek hippos has been derived by citing examples of “ ” to “p” mutation. Such a view is no better than the folk-etymology. A more logical explanation would be : Sanskrit Latin śv > Avestan aspa, and also Persian aqva; Such a derivation needs a serious
Avestan aspa > hippos, epona etc. From Persian aqva > equus. consideration. 2. Old English eoh; Gothic aihwa- (in compound word
aihwatundi, a herb); OCS ehu-; all meaning “horse”. Also of note is English “ass” (don ey). Although cognates of Sanskrit śv have been noted in the Germanic languages, they occur as vestigial words of folk-memory, as compound
words in which the meaning “horse” is not often explicit, but has been made out by us as a product of semantic analysis of the words. For example: aihwa- (Goeth.) occurs only as the compound word aihwa-tundi (bramble, prickly bush). Similarly Old Saxon ehu- is found only as a compound word in ehu-scalc stable-keeper (Lehmann:15). In many languages the meaning has changed. 3. Northern Route Cognates of Horse: *kurs- (PIE, to run), *hursa- (P. Gmc.), hross (O. Norse), hors- (O. Fris.), ors (M. Du), hros (OHG), khura, kharu (Sk. horse), hreS- (Sk. neighing of a horse), hari (Sk. horse), h ry śv (Sk. a bay horse of reddish-brown colour, c.f. E. “horse”, MHG hross, Ger. ross etc), harya (Sk. horse). khara (Sk. donkey). In Sanskrit other words are: harSa “erection of male sex organ”, hrasva. Also important are Sanskrit sartR, sthaura and sthurin and English “stallion”.
In the Celtic branch, Old Irish had ech from akwa-. Gaul epo(horse) also does not occur independently, but as a first part of compound word “eporedorix” (horse of the redo=ratha=chariot of the rix= king), and in the name of goddess Epona. In fact Greek hippos may be a word borrowed from Gaul/Proto-Celtic elements existing in Greece before the second wave of IndoEuropean arrival in the area. That leads us to suggest that there were actually three waves of Indo-European entry into Europe. And we are aware that actually three waves of DNA lineages entered Europe at different times: a) R1b/R1b1b, b) R1a1a, and c) J2b.
Lehmann remar s that “phonological difficulties may point to borrowing introduced when the horse became known to the Indo-Europeans through an unidentified steppe people.” (ibid). However this conclusion has to be read in conjunction with the recent DNA studies of human migration. Probably, the first wave of Indo-European speakers reached Central and South Europe as R1b1b, and north Europe from India as R1a1a Y chromosomal haplogroup. At that time they had not carried horse (and cow). Hence the word for “horse” was lost from the Germanic and Balto-Slavic language. The words for horse were re-borrowed into the north European languages later from arrivals from South Europe, who had domesticated local horse after subsequent waves of Indo-European arrivals from South Asia and Iran (as J2b).
Bhimbetka Horse Rock Art
Upper Pliestocene Horse Shivalik Type (Fig 55 on page 364 of Ewart 1911)
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