Mythos 52 – Gathic Avestan

 

The Avesta is the collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism including the Gathas, the Yasna Haptanghaiti, and later Zoroastrian texts. While the Gathas and the Yasna Haptanghaiti are written in Gathic Avestan, also known as Old Avestan, the newer sections of the Avesta are written in Younger Avestan. The two languages are branches of the Avestan language that evolved in different regions; the Younger Avestan language is not considered a descendant of the Old Avestan language. The names Younger Avestan and Old Avestan also called Gathic Avestan were applied to the language because the older parts of the Avesta are written in the Old or Gathic dialect, while the younger portions are written in the Younger dialect. This strange classification by linguists was only possible, because there are no other known texts of this language anywhere in the world. This language with its two dialects is only found in one book: the Avesta.(1)Mary Boyce (1984) Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism Other ancient Zoroastrian texts are mostly written in Persian.

Amudaryamap

Drainage Map Showing Rivers Following Into the Amu Darya, and then into the former Aral Sea.

Whenever Zarathustra lived, his language Gathic Avestan, does not have any of the Dravidian elements that linguists have noted in later Vedic Sanskrit,(2)Ferenc Ruzsa (2013) “The Influence of Dravidian on Indo-Aryan Phonetics,” in Jared S. Klein and Kazuhiko Yoshida. Indic across the Millennia: From the Rigveda to Modern Indo-Aryan, Page 145–152 meaning that where-ever Zarathustra was living, his culture had not come into contact with Dravidian peoples. This indicates that Zarathustra did not live within the sphere of the Indus civilization, which had trade routes as far north as Shortugai, near the modern Afghan-Tajik border. Shortugai was an Indus civilization trading colony established around 4,000 years ago on the Amu Darya river historically known as Oxus River(3)George Passman Tate (1911) The Kingdom of Afghanistan: a historical sketch, Page 11 and Gozan River(4)Moshe Gil and David Strassler (2011) Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages, Page 428 and Jayhoun River.(5)William C. Brice (1981) Historical Atlas of Islam The Amu Darya flows northwest into what was the Aral Sea, indicating a very high probability that the ancient Indus traders visited the region of the Aral Sea by at least 4,000 years ago, and were trading in Central Asia at the time. Shortugai was a trading post in Indus times connected with lapis lazuli mines located in the surrounding area,(6)Gary W. Bowersox and Bonita E. Chamberlin (1995) “Gemstones of Afghanistan,” Geoscience Press, Page 52 and probably had connections with the regional tin and camel trades.(7)Upinder Singh (2008) A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India : from the Stone Age to the 12th century, Page 169

Seal Found at Shortugai With Indus Script

Seal Found at Shortugai With Indus Script

This northern reach of the Indus civilization does not present a problem in regard to the evolution of the Indic languages which most linguists believe likely happened in Central or South Asia, but does present a problem for Avestan, which many linguists believe either evolved in the Aral region, or in modern Afghanistan. As the Avestan languages do not have Dravidian elements, they either developed in a region far from the Indus civilization, or before the rise of the Indus civilization. The mystery of the Aryan homeland has been an ongoing line of research for more than two centuries, since Europeans first began studying the Vedic texts and Avesta in the 1700s and 1800s. Hindus traditionally assumed the Vedas were composed in South Asia, while the Zoroastrians generally assumed the Avesta was composed in Iran or Afghanistan.

Comparative linguistics discovered that the dominant languages of Europe, Iran, and South Asia were related, and comparing the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic religions of Europe, Iran, and India, found than many of the same gods and stories were present. This led to the obvious conclusion that Europeans and Indo-Iranians were descended from a common group of ancestors, the Aryans of the Vedas and Avesta. Various methods have been used to attempt to locate the mythical homeland, known in the ancient Zoroastrian book Vendidad, as Airyana Vaejo, meaning ‘expanse-of-the-Aryans.’ The Vendidad is another enigma within the Zoroastrian canon, as the dialect it is composed in is neither proper Young nor Old Avestan, combining elements of both. Linguists do not have a consensus as to what it represents linguistically, whether a third dialect or an attempt to write in Old Avestan by a Younger Avestan speaker, but do generally agree the Vendidad is older than 2,800 years old.

References   [ + ]

1. Mary Boyce (1984) Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism
2. Ferenc Ruzsa (2013) “The Influence of Dravidian on Indo-Aryan Phonetics,” in Jared S. Klein and Kazuhiko Yoshida. Indic across the Millennia: From the Rigveda to Modern Indo-Aryan, Page 145–152
3. George Passman Tate (1911) The Kingdom of Afghanistan: a historical sketch, Page 11
4. Moshe Gil and David Strassler (2011) Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages, Page 428
5. William C. Brice (1981) Historical Atlas of Islam
6. Gary W. Bowersox and Bonita E. Chamberlin (1995) “Gemstones of Afghanistan,” Geoscience Press, Page 52
7. Upinder Singh (2008) A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India : from the Stone Age to the 12th century, Page 169