Royal "Chariot" Burials of Sanauli near Delhi and Archaeological Correlates of Prehistoric Indo-Iranian Languages


  • Asko Parpola


The article describes the royal cart burials excavated at the Late Harappan site of Sanauli near Delhi in the spring of 2018 on the basis of the available reports and photographs. The author then comments on these finds, dated to about 1900 bce, with the Sanauli cart burials being the first of their kind in Bronze Age India. In his opinion, several indications suggest that the Sanauli “chariots” are actually carts yoked to bulls, as in the copper sculpture of a bull-cart from the Late Harappan site of Daimabad in Maharashtra. The antennae-hilted swords associated with the burials suggest that these bull-carts are likely to have come from the BMAC or the Bactria and Margiana Archaeological Complex (c.2300–1500 bce) of southern Central Asia, from where there
is iconographic evidence of bull-carts. The ultimate source of the Sanauli/BMAC bull-carts may be the early phase of the Sintashta culture in the Trans-Urals, where the chariot (defined as a horse-drawn light vehicle with two spoked wheels) was most probably invented around the late twenty-first century bce. The invention presupposes an earlier experimental phase, which started with solid-wheeled carts that could only be pulled by bulls. An intermediate phase in the development is the “proto-chariot” with cross-bar wheels, attested in a BMAC-related cylinder seal from Tepe Hissar III B in northern Iran (c.2000–1900 bce). The wooden coffins of the Sanauli royal burials provide another pointer to a possible Sintashta origin. The Sanauli finds are considered in the context of the author’s archaeological model for the prehistory of the Indo-Iranian languages, which is adjusted to meet recent justified criticism.




How to Cite

Parpola, A. (2020). Royal "Chariot" Burials of Sanauli near Delhi and Archaeological Correlates of Prehistoric Indo-Iranian Languages. Studia Orientalia Electronica, 8(1), 175–198.