Indo-Aryan Superstrate in Mitanni
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Indo-Aryan Superstrate in Mitanni

Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni are considered to form (part of) an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion.

In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni (between Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, c. 1380 BC), the deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (Ashvins) are invoked. Kikkuli's horse training text (circa 1400 BC) includes technical terms such as aika (Vedic Sanskrit eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pañca, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round). The numeral aika "one" is of particular importance because it places the superstrate in the vicinity of Indo-Aryan proper (Vedic Sanskrit eka, with regular contraction of /ai/ to [e:]) as opposed to Indo-Iranian or early Iranian (which has *aiva; compare Vedic eva "only") in general.[1]

Another text has babru(-nnu) (babhru, brown), parita(-nnu) (palita, grey), and pinkara(-nnu) (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world. The Mitanni warriors were called marya (Hurrian: maria-nnu), the term for (young) warrior in Sanskrit as well;[2] note mi?ta-nnu (= miha,~ Sanskrit mha) "payment (for catching a fugitive)" (Mayrhofer II 358).

Sanskritic interpretations of Mitanni names render Artashumara (artaumara) as Arta-smara "who thinks of Arta/?ta" (Mayrhofer II 780), Biridashva (biridaa, biriiaa) as Pr?tva "whose horse is dear" (Mayrhofer II 182), Priyamazda (priiamazda) as Priyamedha "whose wisdom is dear" (Mayrhofer II 189, II378), Citrarata as Citraratha "whose chariot is shining" (Mayrhofer I 553), Indaruda/Endaruta as Indrota "helped by Indra" (Mayrhofer I 134), Shativaza (?atti?aza) as S?tiv?ja "winning the race price" (Mayrhofer II 540, 696), ?ubandu as Subandhu "having good relatives" (a name in Palestine, Mayrhofer II 209, 735), Tushratta (t?i?eratta, tu?ratta, etc.) as *t?ai?aratha, Vedic Tve?aratha "whose chariot is vehement" (Mayrhofer I 686, I 736).

Attested words and comparisons

All of the following examples are from Witzel (2001).[3] For the pronunciation of the sounds transcribed from cuneiform as ? and z, see Proto-Semitic language#Fricatives.

Names of people

Transcription of cuneiform Interpretation Vedic equivalent Comments
bi-ir-ya-ma-a?-da Priyamazdha Priyamedha "whose wisdom is dear"; /azd(?)/ to [e:d(?)] is a regular development in Vedic and its descendants (Indo-Aryan in the narrow sense)
bi-ir-ya-a?-?u-wa, bi-ir-da-a?-?u-wa Priyva ~ Pr?tva Pr?tva "whose horse is dear"
ar-ta-a?-?u-ma-ra Artasmara ?tasmara "who thinks of Arta/?ta"
ar-ta-ta-a-ma Artadh?ma(n?) ?tadh?man "his abode is ?ta"
tu-u?-rat-ta, tu-i?-e-rat-ta, tu-u?-e-rat-ta Tvai?a(?)ratha Tve?áratha "whose chariot is vehement"
in-tar-ú-da, en-dar-ú-ta Indrauta Indrota "helped by Indra"; /au/ to [o:] is a regular development in Vedic; ú specifically indicates [u] as opposed to [o]

Names of gods

From treaties of Mitanni.

Transcription of cuneiform Interpretation Vedic equivalent Comments
a-ru-na, ú-ru-wa-na Varuna Varu?a
mi-it-ra Mitra Mitra
in-tar, in-da-ra Indra Indra
na-?a-ti-ya-an-na Nasatya(-nna) N?satya Hurrian grammatical ending -nna
a-ak-ni-i? ?gnis Agni only attested in Hittite, which retains nominative -/s/ and lengthens stressed syllables

Horse training

From Kikkuli.

Transcription of cuneiform Interpretation Vedic equivalent Comments
a-a?-?u-u?-?a-an-ni va-san-ni? a?va-sana- "master horse trainer" (Kikkuli himself)
-a?-?u-wa -a?va a?va "horse"; in personal names
a-i-ka- aika- eka "1"
ti-e-ra- tera- ? tri "3"
pa-an-za- paa- ? pañca "5"; Vedic c is not an affricate,[] but apparently its Mitanni equivalent was
?a-at-ta satta sapta "7"; /pt/ to /t:/ is either an innovation in Mitanni or a misinterpretation by a scribe who had Hurrian ?inti "7" in mind
na-a-[w]a- n?va- nava "9"
wa-ar-ta-an-na vartan(n)a vartana round, turn


  • James P. Mallory. "Kuro-Araxes Culture", Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Chicago-London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997.
  • Manfred Mayrhofer. Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen, 3 vols. Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1992-2001.
  • Manfred Mayrhofer. "Welches Material aus dem Indo-arischen von Mitanni verbleibt für eine selektive Darstellung?", in Investigationes philologicae et comparativae: Gedenkschrift für Heinz Kronasser, ed. E. Neu. Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1982, pp. 72-90.
  • Paul Thieme, The 'Aryan Gods' of the Mitanni Treaties, Journal of the American Oriental Society 80, 301-317 (1960)

See also


  1. ^ Fournet, Arnaud (2010). "About the Mitanni Aryan gods". Journal of Indo-European Studies. 38 (1-2): 26-40.
  2. ^ Manfred Mayrhofer, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen, Heidelberg 1986-2000, II 293
  3. ^ Witzel, Michael (2001). "Autochthonous Aryans? The evidence from Old Indian and Iranian texts". Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies. 7 (3): 1-115. doi:10.11588/ejvs.2001.3.830.

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