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Manfred Mayrhofer’s Studies on Indo-Aryan and the Indo-Aryans in the Ancient Near East: A Retrospective and Outlook on Future Research*

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Abstract Around 100 years ago, the surprising discovery of linguistic traces of an older stage of the Vedic language in the ancient Near East caused an increasing amount of interest in various academic disciplines such as Indo-European linguistics, oriental studies (Assyriology), and Egyptology, among others. In default of a historical name, this language became known as “Indo-Aryan” in the ancient Near East over the course of the 20th century. Its relatively small text corpus, documented in cuneiform archives across the Eastern Mediterranean cultures, contains about two or three dozen termini technici; among them divine names, personal names, legal terms and—proportionally high in comparison to the overall number of the Indo-Aryan textual evidence—terms related to horses and chariots. The scholarly interest circled around linguistically possible Indo-Aryan influences on non-Indo-Aryan languages and cultures in the eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, including Anatolia, and Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom; among them, the hypothesis of the introduction of horses and chariots into the ancient Near East. During the 1930s and 1940s political and ideological developments, especially in German-speaking countries, influenced perspectives and results of studies on Indo-Aryan in the ancient Near East by introducing non-linguistic approaches and methodologies. Manfred Mayrhofer has dedicated a significant part of his long and successful academic career to the linguistic and bibliographical research of Indo-Aryan and its reception in scholarly studies. This retrospective attempts to review specific aspects of Mayrhofer’s studies on Indo-Aryan and the Indo-Aryans in the ancient Near East and adjacent areas and to provide an outlook on further tasks and research deriving from his legacy.

Affiliations: 1: Saratoga, CA


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