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Central Asia, Mesopotamia and Sarasvati Sindhu civilization

Sarasvati Sindhu civilization is one tip of the triangle linking with the central Asian and Mesopotamian cultural areas.

Bactrian-Margian Archaeological Complex (BMAC)

flacon1.jpg (2335 bytes)flacon2.jpg (6327 bytes) Bactria; cosmetic flacon, fig. 1.2 and fig. 1.6 (V.Sarianidi, p. 646); there is an exact replica of the flacon with a chequered body and distinctive base, fig. 1.6 at Chanhudaro (Mackay 1943: pl. LXXIII 39). Similar falcons have been found in Luristan.
bactseal.jpg (2104 bytes) Bactria: tablet depicting an animal with its head looking back; similar pictorials are seen in seals at Chanhudaro  (Mackay 1943: pl. L1).
dashlypin.jpg (29334 bytes) Bactria; metal pins; fig 2.10 is a pin with a head in the shape of two sitting rams; this resembles a pin was found in Mohenjodaro with a head in the form of seated goats with helically bent horns (Mackay 1937: pl. C3). Pins with zoomorphic heads is typically noticed in southwest Iran and the Near East.  Fig. 2.11-12 show pins with heads in the shape of clenched fist with parallels of similar pins in Mesopotamian royal tombs of Ur (Maxwell-Hyslop 1971: 13, fig.11). Good examples of Iranian-Afghan-Indian ties.
bactaxes.jpg (34208 bytes) Bactria; axes [ (i)utilitarian: figs. 4.5,6; with analogies in the Indus valley, southern regions of central Asia and in late bronze age Iran). Unique are the spur-head axes in Bactria (fig. 4.1-4); (ii) cultic: so-called because of their characteristic heads, cast in the form of a 'cock tail' which have parallels in Luristan axes (Schaeffer 1948: fig. 265.8)] Fig. 4.2 is perhaps the head of a mace, cast as a massive cylinder with spikes and thickenings at ends resembling similar spiked Luristan heads (Amiet 1976: nos. 5,6).

"It transpired that in the 2nd millennium BC there existed in the territory of ancient Bactria a highly-developed, largely original culture of the ancient-oriental type. A close, or rather identical culture spread at that time through the southern regions of central Asia, particularly in Margiana, which gave grounds for singlign out a special Bactrian-Margian Archaeological Complex (BMAC). The basic features of this complex are: the coexistence of non-fortified settlements and of rectangular fortresses with round corner turrets. The latter belonged to individual families or clans... Occurring in sufficient quantities, along with stone and flint tools and wapons, are copper and bronze ones. These are sickles, knives, adzes, awls, razors, daggers, massive spearheads, battle axes; of the ornaments there are mirrors, toilet pins, cosmetic falcons, bracelets, ear-rings, rings... At present we may regard as an established fact the existence of an Iranian-Turkmenian metallurgical province where, beginning from the turn of the 5th and 4th millennia BC, uni-typical wares take shape and exist for a long time. There is every ground to assume the dissemination from it of metal-works (celts, daggers, pins) and specific forms of earthenware (stemmed vases, saucers, etc.) in the eastern direction down to the vally of the Indus, by way of exchange, trade and cultural contacts. This period embraces the existence of the Harappan civilization and does not presuppose the arrival of any new tribes. This is strikingly proved by the Harappa culture itself, which demonstrates a continuous line of development without any invasions from outside... We shall merely remark that southwestern Iran and possibly Caucasus emerge as a zone where numerous metal articles come to be produced (mid- 2nd millennium BC), while Iranian Khorassan is doubtlessly the main venue for their penetration into the souther areas of central Asia, Bactria and possibly the valley of the Indus river."(Viktor I. Sarianidi, 1979, New Finds in Bactria and Indo-Iranian Connections, pp. 643-659, in: South Asian Archaeology 1977, Naples).

Horse in Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization

MEL Mallowan (1965, Early Mesopotamia and Iran, London, Thames and Hudson, p. 123) notes:

" Tepe Hissar IIIB a little before 2000 B.C... in Hissar IIIB the skull of a horse was found and furthermore the horse is alleged to have been domesticated at Shah Tepe much earlier still, thus long anticipating the first appearance of it at Boghazkoy in Central Asia Minor in the early Hittite period...."

Tepe Hissar is a key archaeological site with vivid links to the Sarasvati Sindhu civilization with many seals, motifs, artefacts...

A.K.Sharma, The Harappan horse was buried under the dunes of..., in Puratattva, Bulletin of the Indian Archaeological Society, No. 23, 1992-93, pp. 30-34]: "At Surkotada the bones of the true horse (equus caballus Linn.) identified are from Period IA, IB and IC. (radiocarbon dates: 2315 B.C., 1940 B.C. and 1790 B.C respectively). With the correction factors, the dates fall between 2400 B.C. and 1700 B.C... In 1938 Mackay (FEM, Vol. I, p. 289) had remarked on the discovery of a clay model of horse from Mohenjodaro. 'I personally take it to represent horse. I do not think we need be particularly surprised if it should be proved that the horse existed thus early at Mohenjo-daro'. About this terracotta figurine Wheeler wrote: (Indus Civilization, Cambridge, 1968, p. 92): 'One terracotta from a late level of Mohenjodaro seems to represent a horse, reminding us that the jaw bone of a horse is also recorded from the same time, and that the horse was known at considerably early period in northern Baluchistan... It is likely enough that camel, horse and ass were in fact all familiar feature of the Indus caravans.'... appearance of true horse from the neolithic sites of Koldihwa and Mahagara in Uttar Pradesh..." (Note: camel is also not depicted on Harappan inscriptions) The identification by Sharma has been endorsed by Prof. Sandor Bokonyi, Director of the Archaeological Institute, Budapest, Hungary (an archaeozoologist); he wrote in a letter dated 13 Dec. 1993 to the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India: 'Through a thorough study of the equid remains of the prehistoric settlement of Surkotada, Kachchha, excavated under the direction of Dr. J.P. Joshi, I can state the following: The occurrence of true horse (equus caballus L.) was evidenced by the enamel pattern of the upper and lower cheek and teeth and by the size and form of incisors and phalanges (toe bones). Since no wild horses lived in India in post-Pleistocene times, the domestic nature of the Surkotada horses is undoutbtful. This is also supported by an intermaxilla fragment whose incisor tooth shows clear signs of crib biting, a bad habit only existing among domestic horses which are not extensively used for war."

"Perhaps the most interesting of the model animals is one that I personally take to represent a horse.' (Mackay 1938, vol. I, p. 289; vol. II, pl. LXXVIII).  Lothal has yielded a terracotta figure of a horse. It has an elongated body and a thick stumpy tail, mane is marked out over the neck with a low ridge. Faunal remains at Lothal yielded a second upper molar. Bhola Nath of the Zoological Survey of India and GV Sreenivasa Rao of the Archaeological Survey of India note (S.R.Rao, 1985, p. 641): 'The single tooth of the horse referred to above indicates the presence of the horse at Lothal during the Harappan period. The tooth from Lothal resembles closely with that of the modern horse and has pli-caballian (a minute fold near the base of the spur or protocone) which is well distinguishable character of the cheek teeth of the horse.' "However, the most startling discovery comes from the recent excavation at Nausharo, conducted by Jarrige et al. (in press). In the Harappan levels over here have been found clearly identifiable terracotta figurines of this animal." (Lal, 1998, opcit., p. 112).

Central Asia: Altyn-depe and Parkhai

Harappan contacts with Central Asia are now beyond doubt especially after the discovery of; (1) a few Harappan pottey types in Namazga V sites, (2) a Harappan inscribed seal at Altin Depe, (3) comparable ivory objects at Altin Depe, and (4) a close similarity in a few copper artefacts (Gupta 1979: Vol. 2)...

"The discovery in Altyn-Depe of a proto-Indian seal with two signs deserves special mention. V.M. Masson pointed out, that what the seal depicted was a pictogram and not just a representation of animals. In his opinion this means that some of the ancient residents of Altyn-Depe were able to read this text.(G. Bongard-Levin, 1989,  Archaeological Finds in Central Asia throw light on Ancient India, Jagdish Vibhakar and Usha Gard (Eds.), Glimpses of Ancient India through Soviet Eyes, Delhi, Sundeep Prakashan)

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Finds at Atlyn-depe: ivory sticks and gaming pieces (?) obtained from Sarasvati Sindhu civilization; similar objects with dotted circles found in Mohenjodaro and Harappa.

Two seals found at Altyn-depe (Excavation 9 and 7) found in the shrine and in the 'elite quarter'

Bronze artefacts found in Parkhai cemetery II: double-edged knives, small fragments and spiral-headed pins; the pins of different sizes had spirals no fewer than four lops; six spiral-headed pins are known from the northern foothills of Kopet Dagh; one came from Kysyl Arvant and dated to Namazga IV period; all identical to the Parkhai examples and considered an import from the Sumbar Valley; the remainder---two from the southern mound at Anau, two from Namazga-depe and one from Shor-depe -- had small loops twisted only 1.5-2 times. They were found in Namazga V levels from cemeteries in northern Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Slightly twisted spiral-head pins from Mundigat (periods IV, I-IV, 3) and multi-looped spiral-headed pins from Tepe Hissar (period IIB), which are identical to those from Parkhai II, are also related to this period; the dates of Parkhai finds are ca. middle of the third millennium B.C.

V.M. Masson, Seals of a Proto-Indian Type from Altyn-depe, pp. 149-162; V.M. Masson, Urban Centers of Early Class Society, pp. 135-148; I.N. Khlopin, The Early bronze age cemetery in Parkhai II: The first two seasons of excavations, 1977-78, pp. 3-34 in:  Philip L. Kohl (ed.), 1981, The Bronze Age Civilization in Central Asia, Armonk, NY, ME Sharpe, Inc.

Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization and Mesopotamia: cultural parallels and armour


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Bronze in Mohenjodaro

Copper-bronze artefacts from Mohenjodaro exhibited at the Mohenjodaro museum (Dr. Abdul Jabbar Junejo and Mohammad Qasim Bughio, 1988, Cultural Heritage of Sind, International Arabi Conference, University of Sind, Hyderabad, Sindhi Adabi Board); out of 13 artefacts analysed. 6 were found to contain between 4.51% to 13.21% tin; the artefacts were: bronze rod, bronze button, bronze chisel, bronze slab, bronze chisel and bronze lump.

Evidence of contact between Sarasvati Sindhu and Mesopotamian civilizations:

Cylinder seal showing running goats turning their heads, appearing in perpetual motion; ca. 2800 B.C. (Uruk IV) (M.E.L.Mallowan, 1965, Early Metopotamia and Iran, London, Thames and Hudson); the antelope with its head turned backward is a typical motif on the seals of the Sarasvati Sindhu civilization.

Dark grey steatite bowl carved in relief. Zebu or brahmani bull is shown with its hump back; a male figure with long hair and wearing akilt grasps two sinuous objects, representing running water, which flows in a continuous stream. Around the bowl, another similar male figure stands between two lionesses with their head turned back towards him; he grasps a serpent in each hand. A further scene (not shown) represents a prostrate bull which is being attacked by a vulture and a lion. 

The zebu is reminiscent of Sarasvati Sindhu seals. The stone used, steatite, is familiar in Baluchistan and a number of vessels at the Royal Cemetery at Ur were made out of this material. 

The bowl dates from c. 2700-2500 B.C. and the motif shown on it resembles that on a fragment of a green stone vase from one of the Sin Temples at Tell Asmar of almost the same date.

By the Early Dynasty III period, the Mesopotamian craftsmen had mastered the techniques for working copper, lead, silver, gold and tin. The Royal Cemetery at Ur has yielded a corpus of metal work where true tin bronze is found, apart from the common arsenical bronze and precious metals: gold, silver and electrum. Metal blades were produced in many sizes to serve as arrows, spears, daggers. Also found are sickles and hoes. Axes come in many shapes and sizes, some cast and some hammered with the tang beaten round a haft (See the drawing of a Sumerian soldier carrying spear and axe.) (Crawford, H., p. 133). Muhly (1983) quotes a passage from the late third millennium Laws of Eshnunna that a workman issued with tools for the harvest must return the same weight of metal at the end of the season, even if some of it is scrap. This is an indication that temples had metalsmithies where metal could be melted down and recast. Simug was the metalsmith.

In the Ur III period, the royal mausoleum of Shulgi at Ur yielded scraps of gold leaf which seem to have been part of architectural decoration, as was the case in the Jemdat Nasr period where the altar of the Eye temple at Tell Brak was decorated with gold leaf. The texts state that large numbers of metal-workers were employed by both the temple and the palace to produce a whole range of goods from tools to jewellery. These workers at Ur worked in groups under a foreman who reported to a general overseer. An assay office issued the metals to the foreman and weighed the finished article before counter-signing the receipts issued by the general overseer. In provincial towns, the governor himself issued metal from the treasury. Private metal merchants handled the supply of raw materials. (Mallowan 1947; Crawford, op.cit., p. 134).

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Sources of minerals and metals

The sources for the minerals and metals and semi-precious stones were: Baluchistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia, the lands bordering the Persian Gulf as well as interior, peninsular India (Map based on Shashi Asthana, Harappan Trade in Metals and Minerals: A Regional Approach, in: Frontiers of Indus Civilization.)

Sources of gold: Coimbatore (Hadabanatta, Kavudahalli and near Porsegaundanpalayam), Wynaad and Kolar (Marshall 1931: 674). "South of the Caucasus, in Armenia, the famous metal workers, the Chalybes, are credited with rich mines. This probably means the deposits near the Taldjen River, close to Artwin... The Muruntau mountains in the Kyzyl Kum desert has the largest deposit of gold (Forbes 1971: 166; Kalesnik and Pavlenko 1976: 202)... The discovery of the famous Fullol Hoard in the Hindu Kush of northern Afghanistan (Tosi and Waradak 1972: 9-17) contained a number of gold objects with Mesopotamian and South Turkmenian motifs. This proves that the region (the Oxus basin--northern Hindu Kush) was as important to the Middle East for gold as it was for lapis lazuli. Incidentally, the Harappan trading posts at Shortugai are also in the same region (Francfort and Potter 1978:29).

Cupellation was used ca. 3000 B.C. to refine gold and also silver. Silver was a product of the district associated with the Hittites, the name of whose capital was written with the ideograph for silver. Silver and lead were found in the mineral called galena (lead sulphide). This mineral could be converted into a lead-silver alloy by roasting it. The roasting oxidizes some of the sulphur. The next step of heating it to a higher temperature further reduced the sulphur content, yielding the alloy at the bottom of the furnace where the charcoal fuel prevented reoxidation. Sometimes, seams of galena contained metallic silver. The silver-lead alloy was melted in a porous clay crucible (the cupel), blowing a blast of air upon it. This oxidized the lead and removed it. The process if completed when a shining button of silver appears suddenly. (T.K.Derry and Trevor I. Williams, 1961, A short history of Technology, New York, Oxford University Press, p. 116).

Lead is plentiful in Mohenjodaro (Marshall 1931: 524)... Rajasthan (Rao 1973: 116), Bihar and Orissa (Marshall 1931: 675) contain several silver-bearing lead deposits; but these are small... the Ajmer and Jawar mines in Rajasthan are likely sources for these metals... Gold mines at Kolar and Anantapur also yield silver with gold, but not in quantity enough for commercial purposes... Lead mines, which could have been a source for silver as well, are situated in Faranjal in the Ghorband Valleyof Afghanistan and are common in southern Afghanistan, especially at Hazara Jat. Well-known silver mines are also known to have existed near the head of the Panjsher Valley in the southeastern Hindu Kush and in the vicinity of Herat... Lead was added to copper to increase the feasibility of molding and has been extensively reported in Harappan artefacts (Agrawal 1971: 156)... Lead might have been used mainly as a smelting flux. This is evident because of the discovery of copper ore together with a small piece of lead in a bricklined pit in a house at Mohenjodaro (Mackay 1938: 41)...

Rajasthan copper mines are at Khetri, Singhana, Kho-Dariba (Alwar), Delwara Kirovli (Udaipur) and Debari (Udaipur) (Seth 1956)... spectroscopic analysis of the Harappan artefacts and various ores shows that there is a close correspondence with the Khetri mines (Agrawal 1971: 175)... there are copper celts, Indus arrowheads and pottery of the third millennium B.C. (Agrawala 1978, 1979) from Ganeshwar (Sikar District)... Khetri is only 60 kilometres from Ganeshwar... There are copper deposits in Zhob district (Mughal 1970: 194), Robat (Hunting Survey Corporation 1961) and Shah Bellaul (Forbes 1972) area of Baluchistan... Huan Tsang mentions copper mines in Afghanistan and ancient workings have been located near the Safed-Kuh between Kabul and Kurram (Forbes 1972: 13). Shah Maqsud also contains rich veins of copper ore and it is said that Nadir Shah exploited them (Forbes 1972: 13). Rich ores are also said to occur at Nesh, 100 kilometers from Kandahar. Other localities are Tezin, east of Kabul, Musai in the Shadkani Pass and the Silwatu Pass (Forbes 1972:13). Iran is rich in copper, and metallurgy has a long tradition going back to the fifth millennium B.C. at Tal-i Iblis in Kirman (Caldwell 1967). The best mines are in Kirman as well as Kal-seb Zarre, Sabzwar and Cahr Daud near Meshad, Kaleh near Astrabad and in Elburz mountain districts of Kashan Kohund and Isfahan and Anarak (Wertime 1968)... Kyzyl Kum desert has a copper industry at Temba Bulach but this is of uncertain antiquity (Kalesnik and Pavlenko 1976). The eastern Iranian border also has a long belt of copper deposits...

The ore cassiterite yielded tin. Antimony was another alloy with copper to make bronze; antimony was derived from Caucasian ores. Arsenic  was also used as an alloy to yield brass.

Stein collected a few bronzes from Shahi Tump, Mehi, Siah Damb and Segak Mound, all of which have a high tin percentage... tin was a precious commodity as is evident from the findings of bronze scraps, stored along with other valuables in copper vessels at both Harappa and Mohenjodaro (Vats 1940: 381; Marshall 1931: 488). According to Agrawal (1971: 168) only 14 percent of Harappan tools were alloyed in the optimum range of 8 to 12 percent tin. Furthermore tin bronze is more abundant (23 percent of the tools) in the upper levels of Mohenjodaro than in the lower levels (6 percent)... Tin deposits known in India are located in Palampur region of Maharashtra, Dharwar district in Karnataka and Hazari Bagh District of Bihar (Marshall 1931: 682). Bhilwara in Rajasthan and Hosainpura in Gujarat are also known to have a limited quantity of tin (Chakrabarti 1979: 70). Outside India, on the western frontier, tin is known to occur in Kuh Banan, Karadagh and Khorasan (Marshall 1931: 483-484; Vats 1940: 378-82) between Astrabad and Shah Rud in Iran (Gowland 1912) and between Bukhara and Samarkand in Soviet Central Asia (Crawford 1974; Masson and Sarianidi 1972: 128)... The main supply of tin may... have come from the western regions: Khorasan and the area between Bukhara and Samarkand (Chakrabarti 1979: 70) through sites like Shortugai... Tin was one of the commodities which the Sumerians got from Meluhha (Leemans 1970; Muhly 1976: 306-307)... it is possible that tin was basically a trading item which the Harappans were obtaining from Khorasan and Central Asia for export to Mesopotamia, just as they obtained lapis lazuli from Badakshan for export there...

Based on the presence of arsenic, nickel and lead in artefacts from Mohenjodaro and Harappa, Ullah (1940) determined the sources of their copper to have been Khetri, Alwar, Singhbhum and Afghanistan mines where nickel and arsenic both are supposed to be present in the copper ores. He held that the Sumerian ores could be distinguished from Indian ores since the former are virtually free from arsenic (Ullah 1940)... Agrawal's Table 11 (1971) shows that at Khafaje and Ur, 88 percent of the artefacts contain arsenic.

...literary sources... sources of silver, including Dilmun, Aratta, Elam, Marhashi and Meluhha, all of which are to theast or south of Mesopotamia, Sargon of Akkad referred to a locale in Anatolia as the 'Silver Mountain'...

Archaeology and Language

"As the archaeologist armed with pick and shovel, descends into the depths of the earth, in order to trace the footsteps of the past in bone and stone-remains, so the student of language-- washed on the shore of history from ages immeasurably remote-- to reconstruct the picture of the primeval age... (Evolving a new method called the 'Comparative Antiquities')... It is on this triple basis that the present work is founded, being designed as a comprehensive account of what we know at present about the pre-historic period of the Indo-European race."Schrader, O.,  Pre-historic Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples, 1890, Translation   by Jevons, F.B.,from German Sprachvergleichung und Urgeschichte, 1890 (From the Author's Preface to the English Translation,  p. iii-iv)

Finds of svastika on seals and finds of weapons

"A copper blade (Marshall 1931: pl. 136, f.3) found in one of the upper levels, though termed a spear-blade, may conceivably have been a knife (Plate IX, no.1). An exactly similar blade, but with a slightly longer tang, was found in the A mound at Kish (Mackay 1929a: pl. 39, gp. 3, f.4)... attention should be called to a steatite seal from Kish, now in Baghdad Museum, which bears the svastika symbol. This seal, both in shape and design upon it, exactly resembles the little square seals of steatite and glazed paste that are so frequently found at Mohenjodaro (Marshall 1931: pl. 144, f. 507-15). I do not think that I err in regarding the Kish example, which was found by Watelin, as either of Indian workmanship or made locally for an Indian resident in Sumer... The curious perforated vessels shown (Marshall 1931: pl. 84, f. 3-18) are very closely allied to perforated vessels found at Kish (Mackay 1929a: pl. 54, f. 36), especially in the fact that besides the numerous holes in the sides there is also a large hole in the base, which suggests that by this means they were supported on a rod or something similar... I have suggested, from evidence obtained by Sir Aurel Stein in southern Baluchistan, that these perforated vessels were used as heaters...(E.J.H.Mackay, Further links between ancient Sind, Sumer and elsewhere, Antiquity, Vol. 5, 1931, pp. 459-473).

Substrate language of Sumer and Indian lexemes

'One of the most significant and impressive archaeological achievements of the twentieth century centers around the discovery of the ancient Indus civilization which probably flourished from about 2500 to 1500 B.C., and extended over a vast territory from the present Pakistan-Iran border to the foot of the Himalayas and to the Gulf of Cambay... That there was considerable commercial trade between Sumer and Indus land is proved beyond reasonable doubt by some thirty Indus seals which have actually been excavated in Sumer-- and no doubt hundreds more are still lying buried in the Sumerian ruins-- and which must have been brought there in one way or another from their land of origin. There is, therefore, good reason to conclude that the Sumerians had known the name of the Indus land as well as some of its more imortant featues and characteristics, and that some of the innumerable Sumerian texts might turn out to be highly informative in this respect... According to a long-known Sumerian 'Flood'-story, Dilmun, the land to which Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah, was transported to live as an immortal among the gods, is 'the place where the sun rises', and was therefore located somewhere to the east of Sumer. In another Sumerian text, Dilmun is described as a blessed, prosperous land dotted with 'great dwellings', to which the countries of the entire civilized world known to the Sumerians, brought their goods and wares... The only rich, important land east of Sumer which could be the source of ivory, was that of the ancient Indus civilization, hence it seems not unreasonable to infer that the latter must be identical with Dilmun... there are two faces of the Indus civilization which are especially significant for its identification with Dilmun: the cult of a water deity and sea-plowing ships... the god most intimately related to Dilmun is Enki, the Sumerian Poseidon, the great Sumerian water god in charge of seas and rivers. Thus we find a Sumerian Dilmun-myth which tells the following story: Dilmun, a land described as 'pure', 'clean', and 'bright', a land which knows neither sickness nor death, had been lacking originally in fresh, life-giving water. The tutelary goddess of Dilmun, Ninsikilla by name, therefore pleaded with Enki, who is both her husband and father, and the latter orders the sun-god Utu to fill Dilmun with sweet water brought up from the earth's water-sources; Dilmun is thus turned into a divine garden green with grain-yielding fields and acres. In this paradise of the gods eight plants are made to sprout by Ninhursag, the great mother goddess of the Sumerians, perhaps more originally Mother Earth... because Enki wanted to taste them, his messenger, the two-faced god Isimud, plucks these plants one by one and gives them to his master who proceeds to eat them each in turn. Whereupon the angered Ninhursag pronounces the curse of death against Enki and vanishes from among the gods. Enki's health at once begins to fail and eight of his organs become sick. As Enki sinks fast, the great gods sit in the dust, seemingly unable to cope with the situation. Whereupon the fox comes to the rescue and after being promised a reward, he succeeds by some ruse in having the mother goddess return to the gods and heal the dying water god. She seats him by her vulva and after inquiring which eight organs of his body ache, she brings into existence eight corresponding deities-- one of these is Enshag, the Lord of Dilmun-- and Enki is brought back to life and health...

'The land Dilmun is holy, Holy Sumer--present it to him, The land Dilmun is holy, The land Dilmun is holy, the land Dilmun is pure, The land Dilmun is clean, the land Dilmun is holy... In Dilmun the raven utters no cry, The wild hen utters not the cry of the wild hen, The lion kills not... He (the god Enki) cleaned and purified the land Dilmun, Placed the goddess Ninsikilla in charge of it. '

In fact the very name of the goddess whom Enki placed in charge of Dilmun is a Sumerian compound word whose literal meaning is 'the pure queen'... the Indus civilization depended largely on water-borne trade, coastal and riverine... one of the Sumerian rulers by the name of Ur-Nanshe, who lived as early as about 2400 B.C., speaks of timber-carrying Dilmun boats arriving at his city, Lagash... In the myth 'Enki and the World Order' mentioned earlier, Enki boasts of the moored Dilmun boats. Ivory-bearing boats from Dilmun to Ur have already been mentioned; according to the texts these also carried timber, gold, copper, and lapis lazuli. No wonder that in the 'Paradise' myth cited above, Dilmun is described as 'dockyard-house of the (inhabited) land.'...the pre-Indus settlements excavated at Harappa, Kot Diji, or Amri, which could be regarded as the forerunner of the Indus cities and towns with their carefully planned buildings and streets, their water cult and purification rites, their well-developed pictographic script, and their bustling water-borne trade...

The names of the two great Mesopotamian rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, or idiglat and buranun as they read in the cuneiform texts, are Ubaidian-- not Sumerian-- words. So, too, are the names of the most important centers of 'Sumer': Eridu, Ur, Larsa, Isin, Adab, Kullab, Lagash, Nippur, and Kish. In fact the word Dilmun itself may, like the word buranun for the Euphrates, be Ubaidian. More important still, such culturally significant words as engar (farmer), udul (herdsman), shupeshdak (fisherman), api_n (plow), apsin (furrow), nimbar (palm), sulumb (date), tibira (metal worker), simug (smith), nangar (carpenter), addub (basket maker), ishbar (weaver), ashgab (leather worker), pahar (potter), shidim (mason), and perhaps even damgar (merchant), are probably all Ubaidian rathern than Sumerian, as has been usually assumed... Another crucial word which may turn out to be Ubaidian, is Ea, one of the two names by which the Mesopotamian water god is known in the cuneiform texts, the other being Enki... while the latter is a typical Sumerian compound with the meaning 'Lord of the Earth', Ea is a word whose linguistic affiliations are still uncertain... The Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta uses in his titles the expression 'king of Dilmun and Meluhha' ... There is another king by the name of Hundaru in whose days booty taken from Dilmun consisted of objects made of copper and bronze, sticks of precious wood, and large quantities of kohl, used as an eye-paint. A crew of soldiers is sent from Dilmun to Babylon to help King Sennacherib raze that city to the ground, and they bring with them bronze spades and spikes which are described as characteristic products of


from the myth 'Enki and the World Order', the god Enki boasts of the moored Dilmun boats.

The lands of Magan and Dilmun
Looked up at me, Enki,
Moored (?) the Dilmun-boat to the ground (?),
Loaded the Magan-boat sky high.

(Samuel N. Kramer, The Indus Civilization and Dilmun: The Sumerian Paradise Land, Expedition, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1964, pp. 44-52).

"(1) Some inscriptions (Luckenbill 1926: Vol. 2, sect. 41, 70, 92 and 185; Cornwall 1944: Vol. 2, sect. 81 and 99) of Sargon of Assyria state that Uperi, King of Dilmun, 'lives a fish 30 beru away in the midst of the sea of the rising sun.'.. (2) 30 beru may refer to the number of hours required to reach Dilmun by sea from the starting point... at a speed of 5 miles an hour a bark  would have to travel 600 miles... "(Peter B. Cornwall, On the location of Dilmun, Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, No. 103, 1946, pp. 3-11).

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Tepe Hissar, ca. 2000 B.C.: spears with medial ribs and ridge-stopped tangs (Mallowan, Ill. 133) Tepe Hissar yielded gold, variegated jewellery, copper and silver vessels, many varieties of beads, among them much lapis lazuli; perhaps, Hissar was an entrepot in trade with taking the stone from the mines of Badakhshan.

Spears with medial ribs have parallels from Carchemish and Ugarit in north Syria dated a century before 2000 B.C. Such spears do not appear to occur in Mohenjodaro or other Harappan sites.

axeadzetepehissar-t.jpg (2196 bytes) Tepe Hissar; from the 'Burnt Building' in level IIIB, ca. 2000 B.C. after Schmidt; combination of the basic forms of an axe and adze produced the axe-adze. Similar instrument was found in the reign of Shalmaneser III, ca. 850 B.C. Typical trough-sprouted vessels found at Tepe Hissar are similar to the types used in the karum at Kultepe in Cappadocia. Use of lead vessels is also paralleled in Kultepe, ca. 1900 B.C.  [Kultepe is the place in Anatolia, with tin mines, see Yener's notes.]

Hissar III B dated a little before 2000 B.C. yielded the skull of a horse; the horse was domesticated at Shah Tepe much earlier, thus long anticipating the first appearance of it at Boghazkoy in Central Asia Minor in the early Hittite period. (Mallowan, p. 123).


Smiths (Sum. simug, Akk. nappa_hum), responsible for (s)melting and casting, were distinguished from metalworkers (Sum. tibira, Akk. gurgurrum) who worked metal and created objects. These, on the other hand, were distinctly different from jewellers (Sum. zadim) and goldsmiths (Sum. ku-dim/dim, Akk. kutimmum)... Given the large number of metal tools, weapons and vessels recovered from sites in southern Mesopotamia, there is, as with ceramics, a frustrating lack of excavated workshop facilities.(D.T.Potts, Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations, 1997, Ithaca, Cornell University Press).

"The Avesta kows the beginning or source of the Aryans as Airyana Vaejo (Pahlavi Iran-Vej). The Avestan Vaejo corresponds to the Sanskrit bi_j meaning 'beginning or source'. The Avesta describes it as a place of extreme cold that became over-crowded (Vend. I. 3-4; II. 8-18). ... Whether the Mitannian kings (1475-1280 B.C.) on the upper Euphrates were a direct offshoot of the Aryans or not there names are certainly Aryan, for example Saussatar, Artatama, Sutarna, Tusratta and Mattiuaza (H. Oldenburg: in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1909, p. 1094-1109)... Mattiuaza, in his treaty with the Hittite king Aubbiluliuma signed in 1380 B.C. at Boghazkoy, invokes not only Babylonian gods to witness the treaties, but Mitra, Varun.a, Indra, and Na_satya in the form in which they appear in the Rigveda (S. Konow: Aryan gods of the Mitani people, 1921, pp. 4-5). They occur in the treaty as ila_ni Mi-it-ra-as-si-il ila_ni A-ru-na-as-si-il In-da-ra ila_ni Na-sa-at-ti-ya-an-na. Since the form for Na_satya is quite different in the Avestan language (Naonhaithya) it is argued that the Mitannian did not speak Iranian but Indo-Aryan (E.Meyer: Sitzungsberichte der K. Preuss. Akad. der Wissen, 1908, I, p. 14f.)... The name for 'fire' in the Persian Avesta is quite different, being atar, and this does not occur in the Indian Veda except in the Vedic proper name Atharvan, which corresponds to the Avestan name of the fire priest. Agni, as a messenger between gods and man, was known to the Vedas as Nara_-s'amsa. This corresponds with the Avestan messenger of Ahura, Nairyo_-sangha. (R.A. Jairazbhoy, 1995, Foreign Influence in Ancient Indo-Pakistan, Karachi, Sind Book House). [Note the use of the word san:ga in the Sumerian substrate language to connote a priest. san:ghvi_ (G.) means a priest leading the pilgrims.]

Some inscriptions were used as bills of lading

"The addresses on fragments of clay at Tello prove that sealings were employed on bundles despatched from city to city (L.W. King: A history of Sumer and Akkad, 1910, pp. 236-7)...

Tilmun, Telmun, Dilmun, the land of the famous red stone

Documents of the Larsa period in Ur were on tablets. Volume UET V includes texts which deal with Ur as the port of entry for copper into Mesopotamia during the time of the Dynasty of Larsa. The copper was imported by boat from Telmun. (Tilmun is associated with the famous red stone, of which Gudea speaks repeatedly as being imported from Meluhha.) "This 'Telmun-trade' was in the hands of seafaring merchants--called alik Telmun-- who worked hand in hand with enterprising capitalists in Ur to take garments to the island in order to buy large quantities of copper there... In our period-- that of the fifth to seventh king of the Dynasty of Larsa-- the island exported not only copper in ingots but also copper objects, beads of precious stones, and-- most of all-- ivory... Travels to Telmun are repeatedly mentioned in a group of tablets whih come patently from the archives of the temple of the goddess Ningal and list votive offerngs, incoming tithe, etc. The contexts suggest that returning sailors were wont to offer the deity in gratitude a share of their goods. In UET V 526 we read of a small amount of gold, copper and copper utensils characterized as 'tithe of the goddess Ningal from an expedition to Telmun and (from) single persons having gone (there) on their own', during the first 3 months of the year. UET V 292... listing of merchandise is more extensie; besides' red' gold, copper, lapiz lazuli in lumps, various stone beads, ivory-inlaid tables, et., we find also 'fish-eyes'--perhaps pearls. (The meaing 'pearl' for IGI.HA has been proposed by R.C. Thompson (1936y: 53, n2) on the basis of UET V... The appearance of rather numerous references to IGI.HA in Ur and especialy in connection with imports from Tilmun must be considered an argument in favor of an interpretation which is not based on philological evidence. The lack of archaeological proof for the use of pearls is of course an important arguent against the identification but its value is somewhat diminished when one considers that no ivory object has been found in Ur although the texts report on ivory as raw material as well as on ivory objects.) ... UET 78, recording ivory combs, eye-paint and certain kinds of wood, not to mention designations which we fail to understand... UET V 367: '2 mina of silver (the value of): 5 gur of oil (and of) 30 garments for an expedition to Telmun to buy (there) copper, (as the) capital for a partnership, L. and N. have borrowed from U. After safe termination of the voyage, he (the creditor) will not recognize commercial losses (incurred by the debtor); they (the debtors) hae agree to satisfy U (the creditor) with 4 mina of copper for each shel of silver as a just (price(?)].'.. babtum must denote some kind of customs or dues imposed on the merchants by the city administration... all extant Old and Neo-Babylonian contracts on partnership reserve for the tamkarum   not only the invested capital (plus interest) but also an equal share of the profit yielded by the business venture... The complex legal relationship between the investing and the travelling merchant has created a number of loan types of which at least two are mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi. One of them uses the characteric term tadmiqtu. We encounter this word in the paragraphs 102-103 of the Code and in a few documents of that period... UET V 428: '5 shekels of silver as a tadmiqtu-loan PN1 has borrowed from PN2. He will return the silver at a moment (yet) to be determined (?) (This) he has sworn by the life of the king.' The specific designation of the loans as tadmiqtu 'favor, kindness' (in Sumerian: 'friendly word') should not, in spite of the obvious etymology of these terms in both languages, induce us to presume that this business transaction was not as completely under the sway of the laws of economic life as any other loan... As to the main object of the Telmun trade, the copper (termed URUDU), we obtain most of the evidence from the letters (UET V 22,29, 71 and 81) addressed to a certain, a travelling merchant and importer of Telmun copper. The metal came in large quantities (UET V 796 mentions more than 13,000 minaz of copper according to the weight standard of Telmun) and often in ingots termed gubarum which weighed up to 4 talents each (UET V 678). The ingots are sometimes qualified as damqu (UET V 22,81) as is also the copper itself (UET V 20 wariam la damqam, but wariam dummuqam in UET V 5 and 6). The quoted passages do not entitle us to speak of refining of copper, because was not a coppersmith but a merchant and because the meaning of damqum as well as dummuqum as 'good (in quality)' is borned out by such letter passages as UET V 5:28 or 22: 10-13 ('show him 15 ingots so that he may select 6 damqu ingots' ... UET V 81, lines 33-39: 'I myself gave on account of you 19 talents of copper to the palace and S'umi-abum gave (likewise) 18 talents of copper, apart from the sealed document which we both handed over to the temple of Shamash.'... is supposed to have imported a large copper kettle (UET V 5:25)... UET V 428: '1 mina of...silver, 1/2 mina of... silver to buy (precious stones), 'fish-eyes' and other merchandise on an expedition to Telmun, PN2 has borrowed from PN1...'... ivory as raw material (UET V 546) as well as finished ivory objects have been imported from Telmun. Among the latter we find exactly the same objects which we know so well from the dowry inventories, etc. of the Amarna letters: ivory combs (UET V 292, 678), breast plates (UET V 279), boxes (UET V 795), inlaid pieces of furniture (UET 292) and spoons (UET V 795)... Southern Mesopotamia had to rely exclusively upon ivory imported from the East, to be exact: via Telmun... we have from Mohenjodaro actual ivory combs... UET V 82 refers to the karum as a locality in which business accounts have been settled, which in Old-Babylonian practice is normally done in the temple of Shamash... A certain Lu-En-li_l-la_ is said in UET III 1689 (Ibbi-Sin, 4th year) to have received large amounts of garments and wool from the storehouse of the temple of Nanna in order to buy copper in Makkan (nig.s'am.marudu Ma.gan ki, literally: equivalent for buying copper in M.)... When Sargon of Agade proudly proclaims (Legrain 1923: 208f., col. v-vi) that ships from or destined for Meluhha, Makkan and Telmun were moored in the harbor which was situated outside of his capital, this obviously proves the existence of flourishing commercial relations with the East... We even know the name of a person, a native of 'Great-Makkan' i.e. Ur-Nammu (UET III 1193). In the period, Makkan-- 'the country of mines' seems to have been the only importer of copper... After the collapse of the Dynasty of Ur, Telmun replaces Makkan in the Eastern trade of the city... Telmun, as against Makkan, seems never to have completely lost contact with Mesopotamia... Telmun had lost contact with the mining centers of Makkan and with those regions which supplied it with stone and timber, etc. some time between the fall of the Dynasty of Larsa and the decline of power of the Hammurabi Dynasty... It turned again into an island famous only for its agricultural products, its sweet water, etc. Copper, precious stones, and rare woods have now to come to Southern Mesopotamia either over the mountain ranges and from the West along the river routes... Sometime in the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C., Telmun seems to have come in closer contact with the rulers of Southern Babylonia (Goetze 1952)... We are fortunate indeed to have three letters at our disposal, two written by Assurbanipal's general Bel-ibni mentioning Hundaru, king of Telmun, and one written by Assurbanipal and addressed to Hundaru. The details of the dealings of the king of Telmun in his fight for survival are of little interest in the present context, far more revealing is the mention of metal (bronze), precious woods and 'kohl' i.e. eye-paint in these letters. We read of great amounts of kohl, 26 talent of bronze, numerous copper and bronze objects, of sticks of precious wood as part of the booty taken from Telmun, while another speaks of the tribute of Telmun mentioning, at the same time, bronze, perfumes and likewise 'sticks' of precious wood offered by merchants from Bit-Naialu... a passage of the inscription KAH 122 of Sennacherib which describes the tools of the crew of corvee-workers sent from Telmun to Babylon to assist the Assyrian king to tear down the city. Their tools are characterized as follows: 'bronze spades and bronze pikes, tools which are the (characteristic) product of their (native) country.' Thus, it becomes evident that Telmun has again access to the copper mines of Makkan, to the spices, perfumes and rare woods of the East... Assurbanipal's inscription in the temple of Ishtar in Niniveh mentions another island-- beyond Telmun--: '[x-y]-i-lum, king of the [ ]-people who resides in Hazmani which is an island alongside Telmun' whose messengers had to travel a long way across the sea and overland to Assyria. "(A.Leo Oppenheim, The Seafaring Merchants of Ur, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 74, 1954, pp. 6-17).

See Kyzyl Kum which was an area of copper mines in Central Asia

Rigveda: references to metalsmithy

Dialects of the Mleccha

Copper-smelting had to occur on the outskirts of a village. Hence, the semantic equivalence of milakkha as copper.

Mleccha in Pali is milakkha or milakkhu to describe those who dwell on the outskirts of a village. (Shendge, Malati, 1977, The civilized demons: the Harappans in Rigveda, Rigveda, Abhinav Publications). A milakkhu is disconnected from va_c and does not speak Vedic; he spoke Prakrt. " na a_rya_ mlecchanti bha_s.a_bhir ma_yaya_ na caranty uta: aryas do not speak with crude dialects like mlecchas, nor do they behave with duplicity (MBh. 2.53.8). a dear friend of Vidura who was a professional excavator is sent by Vidura to help the Pa_n.d.avas in confinement; this friend of Vidura has a conversation with Yudhisthira, the eldest Pa_n.d.ava: "kr.s.n.apakse caturdasyām rātrāv asya purocanah, bhavanasya tava dvāri pradāsyati hutāsanam, mātrā saha pradagdhavyāh pa_n.d.avāh purus.ars.abhāh, iti vyavasitam pārtha dha_rtara_s.t.ra_sya me šrutam, kiņcic ca vidurenkoto mleccha-vācāsi pa_n.d.ava, tyayā ca tat tathety uktam etad visvāsa on the fourteenth evening of the dark fortnight, Purocana will put fire in the door of your house. ‘The Pandavas are leaders of the people, and they are to be burned to death with their mother.’ This, Pa_rtha (Yudhis.t.ira), is the determined plan of Dhr.tara_s.t.ra’s son, as I have heard it. When you were leaving the city, Vidura spoke a few words to you in the dialect of the mlecchas, and you replied to him, ‘So be it’. I say this to gain your trust.(MBh. 1.135.4-6). This passage shows that there were two Aryans distinguished by language and ethnicity, Yudhis.t.ra and Vidura. Both are aryas, who could speak mlecchas’ language; Dhr.tara_s.t.ra and his people are NOT aryas only because of their behaviour.

Melakkha, island-dwellers

According to the great epic, Mlecchas lived on islands: "sa sarva_n mleccha nr.patin sa_gara dvi_pa va_sinah, aram a_ha_ryām āsa ratna_ni vividha_ni ca, andana aguru vastra_n.i man.i muktam anuttamam, ka_ņcanam rajatam vajram vidrumam ca maha_ dhanam: (Bhima) arranged for all the mleccha kings, who dwell on the ocean islands, to bring varieties of gems, sandalwood, aloe, garments, and incomparable jewels and pearls, gold, silver, diamonds, and extremely valuable coral… great wealth." (MBh. 2.27.25-26).

A series of articles and counters had appeared in the Journal of the Economic and social history of the Orient, Vol.XXI, Pt.II, Elizabeth C.L. During Caspers and A. Govindankutty countering R.Thapar's dravidian hypothesis for the locations of Meluhha, Dilmun and Makan; Thapar's A Possible identification of Meluhha, Dilmun, and Makan appeared in the journal Vol. XVIII, Part I locating these on India's west coast. Bh. Krishnamurthy defended Thapar on linguistic grounds in Vol. XXVI, Pt. II: *mel-u-kku =3D highland, west; *teLmaN (=3D pure earth) ~ dilmun; *makant =3D male child (Skt. vi_ra =3D male offspring. [cf. K. Karttunen (1989). India in Early Greek Literature. Helsinki, Finnish Oriental Society. Studia Orientalia. Vol. 65. 293 pages. ISBN 951-9380-10-8, pp. 11 ff et passim. Asko Parpola (1975a). Isolation and tentative interpretation of a toponym in the Harappan inscriptions. Le dechiffrement des ecritures et des langues. Colloque du XXXIXe congres des orientalistes, Paris Juillet 1973. Paris, Le dechiffrement des ecritures et des langues. Colloque du XXXIXe congres des orientalistes, Paris Juillet 1973. 121-143 and Asko Parpola (1975b). "India's Name in Early Foreign Sources." Sri Venkateswara University Oriental Journal, Tirupati, 18: 9-19.]

Mleccha trade was first mentioned by Sargon of Akkad (Mesopotamia 2370 B.C.) who stated that boats from Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha came to the quay of Akkad (Hirsch, H., 1963, Die Inschriften der Konige Von Agade, Afo, 20, pp. 37-38; Leemans, W.F., 1960, Foreign Trade in the Old Babylonian Period, p. 164; Oppenheim, A.L., 1954, The seafaring merchants of Ur, JAOS, 74, pp. 6-17). The Mesopotamian imports from Meluhha were: woods, copper (ayas), gold, silver, carnelina, cotton. Gudea sent expeditions in 2200 B.C. to Makkan and Meluhha in search of hard wood. Seal impression with the cotton cloth from Umma (Scheil, V., 1925, Un Nouvea Sceau Hindou Pseudo-Sumerian, RA, 22/3, pp. 55-56) and cotton cloth piece stuck to the base of a silver vase from Mohenjodaro (Wheeler, R.E.M., 1965, Indus Civilization) are indicative evidence. Babylonian and Greek names for cotton were: sind, sindon. This is an apparent reference to the cotton produced in the black cotton soils of Sind and Gujarat.

Milakku, Meluhha and copper

"Gordon Childe refers to the 'relatively large amount of social labour' expended in the extraction and distribution of copper and tin', the possession of which, in the form of bronze weaponry, 'consolidated the positions of war-chiefs and conquering aristocracies' (Childe 1941: 133)... With the publication of J.D. Muhly's monumental Copper and Tin in 1973 (Muhly 1973: 155-535; cf. 1976: 77-136) an enormous amount of data on copper previously scattered throughout the scholarly literature became easily accessible... cuneiform texts consistently distinguish refined (urudu-luh-ha) [cf. loha = red, later metal (Skt.)] from unrefined copper (urudu) strongly suggests that it was matte (impure mixture of copper and copper sulphide) and not refined copper that was often imported into the country. Old Assyrian texts concerned with the import of copper from Anatolia distinguish urudu from urudu-sig, the latter term appearing when written phonetically as dammuqum, 'fine, good' (CAD D: 180, s.v. dummuqu), and this suggests that it is not just 'fine quality' but actually 'refined' copper that is in question... TIN. In antiquity tin (Sum. nagga/[AN.NA], Akk. annaku) was important, not in its own right, but as an additive to copper in the production of the alloy bronze (Sum. sabar, Akk. siparru) (Joannes 1993: 97-8)... In some cases, ancient recipes call for a ratio of tin to copper as high as 1: 6 or 16.6 per cent, while other texts speak of a 1:8 ratio or 12.5 per cent (Joannes 1993: 104)... 'there is little or no tin bronze' in Western Asia before c. 3000 B.C. (Muhly 1977: 76; cf. Muhly 1983:9). The presence of at least four tin-bronzes in the Early Dynastic I period... Y-Cemetery at Kish signals the first appearance of tin-bronze in southern Mesopotamia... arsenical copper continued in use at sites like Tepe Gawra, Fara, Kheit Qasim and Ur (Muhly 1993: 129). By the time of the Royal Cemetery at Ur (Early Dynastic IIIa), according to M.Muller-Karpe, 'tin-bronze had become the dominant alloy' (Muller-Karpe 1991: 111) in Southern Mesopotamia... Gudea of Lagash says he received tin from Meluhha... and in the Old Babylonian period it was imported to Mari from Elam... Abhidha_na Cinta_man.i of Hemachandra states that mleccha and mleccha-mukha are two of the twelve names for copper: ta_mram (IV.105-6: ta_mram mlecchamukham s'ulvam rakt tam dvas.t.amudumbaram; mlecchas'a_varabheda_khyam markata_syam kani_yasam; brahmavarddhanam varis.t.ham si_santu si_sapatrakam). Theraga_tha_ in Pali refers to a banner which was dyed the colour of copper: milakkhurajanam (The Thera andTheriga_tha_, PTS, verse 965: milakkhurajanam rattam garahanta_ sakam dhajam; tithiya_nam dhajam keci dha_ressanty avada_takam; K.R.Norman, tr., Theraga_tha_: Finding fault with their own banner which is dyed the colour of copper, some will wear the white banner of sectarians).[cf. Asko and Simo Parpola, On the relationship of the Sumerian Toponym Meluhha and Sanskrit Mleccha, Studia Orientalia, vol. 46, 1975, pp. 205-38).