This article first appeared in the Journal Systematics Volume 1 Number 3, December 1963
It followed an article on Geo-Physics And Human History: New Light On Plato's Atlantis And The Exodus Volume 1 Number 2, September 1963


by J. G. Bennett


The hypothesis of historico-geo-physical correspondence is applied to the problem of the origin of the Indo-European language and culture system. The modern world is assumed to be the resultant of a triple interaction between three cultures: Indo-European, Turanian and Syro-Egyptian. These are associated with inflective languages and Saviour-God beliefs, agglutinative languages and Spirit-God beliefs and triliteral languages and Creator-God beliefs respectively.

Tilak's Arctic Home theory that the earliest Vedic hymns were written in the circumpolar regions is developed into an account of the origin of the Indo-European linguistic-culture system. This 'Hyperborean Hypothesis' is examined in the light of Ewing and Donne's theory of the Ice Ages and of the Vedic, Avestan and prehistorical evidence of a culture isolated for a long period prior to 10,000 B.P. on the littoral of the Arctic Ocean in the region bounded by the Ob and Yenisei Valleys. The material is subjected to systematic analysis and the tentative conclusion is reached that the Hyperborean hypothesis may account best for the known facts. The paper is to he regarded as an essay in systematics rather than an attempt to prove a case, for which much further research would be needed.

  1. Introduction
  2. The Three Cultures
  3. The Origin of the Indo-European Culture
  4. The Hyperborean Hypothesis
  5. Evidence for an Open Arctic Sea
  6. Linguistic Evidence
  7. Evidences from Prehistory
  8. Systematics of the Situation
  9. Summary and Conclusions

1. Introduction top

In an earlier paper [1], I put forward the geo-historical hypothesis that there may be a connection between the hidden patterns of geophysical occurrences and those of human history. This hypothesis is suggested by the general systematic postulate that there is a pattern in the world process responsible, not only for the regularities observed as the laws of nature, but also for those of a non-causal or structural type. The synchronous correspondence of geophysical and historical patterns would belong to the non-causal structure system.

This system, built up from a small number of fundamental structural types, repeats itself again and again on different scales and in different external forms. This permits the application of systematics to the study of general structures somewhat as mathematics can be applied to the study of general laws. If the general systematic postulate is valid, it is reasonable to suppose that there may be a community of pattern in events occurring simultaneously on different scales, as for example those involving changes of the earth's surface and atmosphere, and those in the history of mankind.

In the present paper, I shall endeavour to reconstruct, using the method of systematics, the circumstances of the arising of the culture commonly known as Aryan [2] with its associated linguistic forms, religious beliefs and social organization. The event occurred before the beginning of history, as is proved by the fact that we cannot assign the origin of the Indo-European languages to any time later than the fifth millenium B.C. which is the earliest period for which even approximate archaeological dating is possible. The hypothesis to be tested in this paper is that the distribution of languages, religious beliefs and social organization of the Indo-European peoples is best accounted for by assuming diffusion from an area in the Arctic Circle probably on the western Siberian hinterland of the Arctic Ocean. The great Celtic scholar J. Rhys [3] suggested, on mythological grounds, that the Celtic Islands of the Blest should be assigned to some spot in the Arctic Circle. The `Arctic Home' theory of the origin of the Aryan cultures was first seriously advocated by B. G. Tilak[4] in his book Arctic Home in the Vedas published in 1904. Tilak's book, though well-argued from the standpoint of Vedic exegesis, gives no valid reason for supposing that the Arctic regions have enjoyed an equable climate within the past 40,000 years. Recent scientific discoveries have shown that it is plausible to assume that the Arctic Ocean was open during the last glaciation and that a temperate climate prevailed on its shores. This gives new interest to Tilak's theory. In the present paper, I shall bring forward other arguments which appear to give it independent support. There is, furthermore, strong evidence of a decisive change in the social habits of the peoples of Europe and Asia about 10,000 years before the present, when the retreat of the glaciers opened up the new routes and contacts.

2. The Three Cultures top

The modern world has been produced by the fusion of three great cultures, the Aryan, the Central Asian and the Syro-Egyptian. These cultures have produced three language systems, three basic conceptions of man and God, and three types of society. They have influenced one another, sometimes to the extent of an intimate fusion; but, until the Christian era, they remained recognizably distinct. They can be characterized as the Creator culture, the Spirit culture and the Saviour culture. The corresponding language systems are still clearly distinguishable, and offer the best approach to establishing the antiquity of the cultures and their probable origin. The first are the inflective languages of the Indo-European group. The second is the agglutinative system of the Turanian languages. Thirdly, there is the triliteral* scheme of the languages of Egypt and south-west Asia.

* I shall use the term `triliteral' in preference to Semito-Hamitic [5] which has sometimes been used to designate all the languages, having certain common features, which are spoken in S. West Asia and N. Africa. They include Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Coptic, Berber, Bedja and Somali. All have a common basis in the triliteration of the word-stems: all different shades of meaning and parts of speech being produced by variations in the position, quality and length of the vowels. The structure of sentences also points to a common origin going back at least five thousand years and probably double that time. The central African languages and the relics of ancient forms of speech that have made no distinctive contribution to the modern world are not taken into account in the present enquiry

Associated with each of these language systems is a specific type of religious belief. The earliest Indo-European literature, the hymns of the Rig Veda and the Avestas, provide decisive evidence that the primary religious worship of these people was based upon the concept of a Saviour God. Tilak argues that such a concept would arise only in the Arctic region, where the sun appears every year to be threatened with extinction and a main pre-occupation is the salvation of mankind from the threat of endless darkness. The agglutinative languages are associated with spirit worship, of the kind that developed from animism into shamanism. This again would arise among nomadic peoples whose strongest experience of immensity is the vault of heaven and whose existence is dependent upon wind and rain. Life is breath or anima, and God is Tangri: the Vault of Heaven [6]. The third type of religious belief is that which directs worship towards an all-powerful creator. Such a vision is evoked by the overwhelming power of the sun in the southern latitudes, especially in Egypt and in the relatively dry regions north of the tropics. According to the theory to be developed, the three cultures developed in mutual isolation during the Ice Ages, and contacts only began to be made when migrations were forced by climatic changes and made possible by the withdrawal of the glaciers. It is noteworthy in this connection that the earliest walled city of Jericho - associated with the notion of a Creator God - is ascribed to the eighth millenium. The dessication of the Central Asian and North African areas now desert followed soon after this time. With this came the emergence of the earliest agricultural communities of the Neolithic cultures.

These considerations suggest a natural association of geophysical conditions with religious beliefs. It is not so obvious that the three types of condition would produce the three types of language. There is, how-ever, in the immensely complex inflective structure of the primitive Indo-European language, evidence of a very long period of stable culture with ample leisure for the development of exact modes of expression. It may also be that the subject-predicate form of language would naturally be suggested by climatic conditions where there were drastic changes between summer and winter, day and night. Such alterations would be conducive to dyadic mentation and hence to Boolean language.

On the other hand, the changing conditions due to uncertain rain-fall in the sub-tropical regions combined with the almost unchanging intensity of solar radiation, would encourage the development of linguistic form where meanings germinated in the interior of roots, and where structures correspond more to the character of the triad than of the dyad.* The unique character of triliteral word forms lends itself to monotheism.

* The point here is not that old Egyptian and Semitic roots are almost all triliteral; but that the combination of fixed root form with variable word constructions and intermediate vowel arrangement, corresponds to the character of the three-term system or triad. There must have been a common origin of the Semitic (S. W. Asia) Egyptian and Hamitic (N. E. Africa) groups of languages.

The agglutinative languages with meanings built up by the arrangement of syllables correspond more closely to the monad as unity in diversity. Animism is a monadic religious form, that does not allow relatedness, and is quite different from henotheism or monotheism. We should thus associate soteriological polytheism with extreme northerly conditions, animistic pantheism with the steppes and mountain regions and henotheism developing towards monotheism with the sub-tropical environment. These speculative suggestions receive considerable support from the study of the history of beliefs during the past six thousand years.'

The developing of a highly articulated language must be an extremely slow process, it also requires a particular kind of curiosity connected with means of expression which is not likely to be aroused among people engaged in a severe struggle for existence, or whose conditions of life are unstable. We should not expect to find it, for example, among nomadic tribes, or peoples whose mode of life requires incessant day activity throughout the year and heavy sleep during the night. For favourable conditions to be established, there must be fairly high degree of isolation from foreign elements of culture. When there is an active interchange between cultures, the development of a new and stable linguistic form is an impossibility; for the preservation of existing forms in order to safeguard the integrity of culture and cult must take precedence over the evolution and transformation of language. It is likely, therefore, that a new language of very complex structure will develop in conditions which combine isolation of cultural groups with relatively stable conditions of existence. The far northern latitudes, with their long winter nights, have precisely those conditions of enforced leisure which we do not find in southern latitudes.

These very general considerations suggest that we should look to the far northern latitudes for conditions which would permit the development of the Indo-European culture and language. The principal root languages of Asia and Europe developed before the final retreat of the glaciers, which, as is generally now agreed, occurred some 10,000 years before the present. We start from the known fact that there were three stable climatic zones, one in the Arctic region where the Indo-European languages developed, one in the regions where the Turanian languages developed, and finally in the river valleys of Egypt and Mesopotamia where the triliteral languages developed. These three zones produced languages and cultures which corresponded to the general geo-physical and climatic conditions. This is the basic `structural hypothesis' referred to in the Introduction.

3. The Origin of the Indo-European Culture top

In the present paper, I shall confine myself to an examination of the theory that the Indo-European culture is of Hyperborean origin, that is to say, that it was developed in the regions that are now in or close to the Arctic Circle. This is, at first sight, a most unlikely hypo-thesis in view of the inhospitable conditions of existence there and the apparent absurdity of suggesting that an advanced culture enjoying favourable conditions of existence and leisure could have developed on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The arguments in favour of the Central Asian and the more southerly development of the Turanian and Triliteral group languages respectively, are more plausible and generally agreed by linguistic authorities.

The formation of any fundamentally new language system is one of the most extraordinary achievements in human history, all the more extraordinary in that it has never been accomplished within historical times. Recorded written history goes back, at the most, 5,000 or 6,000 years. Before then we have little evidence of the structure of languages except in the diversity of forms which presupposes a considerable prior historical development.

During the millenia of recorded history, no case is known of any entirely new language having been developed, even after very great changes of culture have been followed by a long stable period. An example of this is given by dynastic Egypt, which from the 4th Dynasty (2800 n.C.) until A.D. 700, retained the same basic language undergoing gradual modification, degeneration and enrichment with extraneous forms in much the same way as all other known languages. Notwithstanding all the prodigious achievements and the intense nationalism of the 18th and 19th dynasties, no attempt at linguistic innovation can be traced.

It must be presumed that the development of any language, especially one of the root language systems, must have required a great span of time and an ability for consecutive endeavour which we tend to associate with a highly organized culture. I do not refer here to the first beginnings of human speech, that probably goes back more than half a million years; but to the elaboration of complete linguistic systems with characteristic grammatical forms and syntax enabling abstract ideas and complicated mental constructions to be expressed in words. Languages cannot be created artificially, they have to grow. The great language systems of the world, each of which represents a highly elaborated construction, must have been the product of intentional and systematic work conducted over a very long period of time. When we compare the three main systems of Europe and Asia, inflected, agglutinative and triliteral, we shall probably agree that the original Indo-European language must have been a product more consciously created than either of the other two. Its elaborate structure of grammatical forms goes far beyond anything that could have been produced under the stimulus of the every-day needs of men engaged in hunting, agriculture and other simple conditions of life that prevailed in most parts of the world before the beginning of history.

We have seen, in our times, various endeavours to create a new language, easier to teach and to use than the old tongues, and intended to become a universal language that could be shared by all people of all races. These new languages are not new creations: they take over roots and grammatical forms from existing languages and seek improve-ment by discarding what appears to be unnecessary in order to produce the simplest possible constructions. This is quite a different undertaking from the creation of a new form of language, as will be recognized if we reflect upon the structure of the Indo-European group. Even with the small knowledge of linguistics possessed by the average man, it is possible to look backwards to the past, to realize that we are looking not towards a simple and primitive origin, but, on the contrary, towards a structure far more complex, far more elaborately developed, than any of the present forms. Throughout recorded history, the development of language has been in the direction of simplification, of the kind that would be required by people interested in the practical affairs of life, rather than in the needs of an elaborate ritual and cult. So much so, that we reach the strange conclusion that our remote ancestors who were responsible for producing these languages were more concerned with religious notions and their expression, than those who followed them and who established the great cultures that ushered in history. It is probable also that, before the introduction of writing, the elaborate systematization of linguistic forms was a positive advantage for the memorizing of facts, rules of conduct and historical events. These were no doubt expressed in poetry which is easier to learn by heart than language without a definite form. Nevertheless, there remains the extra-ordinary enigma that one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind, the elaboration of the Indo-European language and culture, occurred at a time when humanity was still apparently at the stage of the late Palaeolithic culture, or at the latest the Mesolithic.'

How could it have happened that people of the Stone Age, could have created these languages ? Where could they have found the leisure, the continuity of culture, the need for expression, to produce these wonderfully complex structures ? It is unthinkable that this could have been the work of the first agriculturists of the Neolithic period; firstly, because we have sufficiently detailed indications of their mode of life to make it unlikely that it was associated with a high culture; and secondly, because they could not have enjoyed the required leisure. In the south temperate regions, where agriculture was first developed, there were no long winter nights when men could devote themselves to those interests which are required for the development of a new language. There is another reason for concluding that the Indo-European languages could not have originated anywhere south of latitude 60; namely that this would imply migrations which could not have resulted in the diffusion of these languages such as has occurred during the last 4,000 years.

They must have originated in some more northerly region from whence they could have fanned out to produce the present distribution. An obvious suggestion is that the centre was in Central Asia and this has been put forward more than once, but Central Asia has always been a region of nomads, lending itself to hunting or herding. The language and culture of the Indo-European peoples* could not have originated in the steppes.

* It is important to note the plural here. The common origin of culture and language does not imply unity of race. It is an error to speak of the `Aryan race', when referring to the language and culture common to several races.

The creation of language is possible only when food supplies are secured without the need for constant work or travelling. That can only happen when the sources of food are not mobile as with herds of deer or domestic cattle. Hunters are constantly on the move after their food supplies. Fishermen can have greater leisure if they have access to very rich fishing grounds; but the question then arises as to where in the northern latitudes there could have been supplies of fish sufficiently secure and plentiful to enable an established culture to remain for the centuries or perhaps even the millenia required for the development of a new language.

Before going further, I should refer to the theory that the Indo-European languages originated in the presumed lost continent of Atlantis. As I showed in the earlier paper, [1] it seems tolerably certain that the Atlantis of Plato's Timaeus was the Island of Crete and that its kingdoms were confined to the Eastern Mediterranean. There is, more-over, no evidence that can be accepted as satisfactory that a continent, or even a very great island, existed in the Atlantic within the last hundred thousand, let alone ten or fifteen thousand years. I think therefore that we must proceed on the assumption that the story of `The Lost Atlantic' belongs to myth rather than to history.

There remains the question whether the Indo-European language and culture originated in Europe. This is probably the most widely held theory at the present time,' but it has little to commend it. It is well established that until the first millenium B.C., Asia was ahead of Europe in its culture. During the millenia when Europe was still in the primitive Stone Age culture, Asia had already advanced from city states to empires with rich architectural and artistic achievements. Agriculture was fully developed in Asia, while Europeans were still living by hunting, fishing and fruit gathering. Mathematics, astronomy and medicine were fully fledged practical arts at latest by the fourth millenium B.C., and probably much earlier. There are no signs of similar achievements in Europe until the second millenium at Stonehenge and Carnac. It is unreasonable to suppose that a culture which originated on the Atlantic seaboard should have bypassed Europe and reached Asia to return to Europe again, several thousand years later. This argument is fortified when one considers that much earlier than this; at the height of the last Ice Age between 18,000 and 25,000 years before the present, there was already a high culture in Western Europe.' This is confirmed by the well-known cave paintings of Spain and France, by the quality of the industries of the late Palaeolithic in Europe: the Aurignacian and Magdalenian cultures. There is fairly conclusive evidence that this great period of the late Palaeolithic culture in Western Europe was succeeded by a period of degeneration which led to debased modes of life. Sites have been excavated showing that Neolithic people lived huddled together on the Atlantic seaboard, collecting and eating shell fish. The kitchen middens of Ireland, Denmark and various parts of the north sea coast, are evidence of the backward condition of Europe from about 10,000 years before the present until the third millenium B.C.

It seems that from 25,000 to 15,000 years B.P., Europe was leading the world, but that after that there was a falling off of European culture and that this stagnation continued until culture was revived by the influx of people from Asia. Among these were the Celts who came in north of the Caspian through the oak forests, and the Greeks and others who arrived through the south. All came from Asia via the East and North-East and could not have originated in Western Europe. Recent geological, palaeontological, prehistorical and archaelogical discoveries preclude any suggestion that the culture for which we are searching could have existed, let alone originated, in any part of Europe or from some presumed island or continent of Atlantis.

It may seem reasonable to suggest that the culture originated in the river valleys of India, Mesopotamia and Egypt where, in the fourth millenium, advanced civilizations were already established. There is strong evidence that the Aryans entered these regions as invaders at a much later date than the people of the triliteral culture. The distribution of the Indo-European languages makes it most unlikely that they originated in the sub-tropical zone. No serious value attaches to the suggestion that the Aryan peoples were the original inhabitants of a garden of Eden situated in the valleys of the Tigris or indeed any other place in South West Asia.

4. The Hyperborean Hypothesis top

The thesis now to be examined will be called the `Hyperborean Hypothesis'. This states that the Indo-European culture and language were developed by people living in the circumpolar regions. The term hyperborean is taken from the Greek myth of Islands of the Blest which flourished in far northern waters in the dawn of time. We shall assume that we can accept the evidence that the Aryan language and culture could not have originated anywhere in the region bounded by the Atlantic to the West, India and China to the East, Egypt to the South and the,steppes of Central Asia to the North. If this is accepted we may turn with fresh expectation to Tilak's theory in The Arctic Home. This book contains evidence collected by a first-class Sanskrit scholar that the oldest hymns of the Sanskrit Vedas, must have been written by people living within the Arctic Circle. This led him to suggest that the Indo-European culture originated in the Hyperborean Regions of Northern Siberia and the islands of the circumpolar regions. A similar thesis had been put forward by Dr. Warren, [10] formerly President of Harvard University, in a book called Paradise Found or The Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole. The argument adduced by Warren that the circumpolar regions were inhabitable because the earth would be expected to cool down at the Poles before it did at the Equator was so completely at variance with well-established geophysical knowledge available even at that time, that no serious attention was paid to the rest of his case. In spite of his eminence as President of. Harvard University and his fine scholarship, his book did more to throw ridicule upon the suggestion of an Arctic home than to arouse conviction.

Tilak's work, which is both more scholarly and more specialized, is based upon the assumption that at a certain time the land regions round the North Pole were temperate and enjoyed a perpetual spring. At the time that he wrote this book, and for a long time afterwards, there was no evidence that this could have been true for at least the last 40,000 years. He was, therefore, driven to suggest that those conditions obtained during the last inter-glacial period which ended at least 40,000 years ago. This is scarcely worth consideration, even if there were other evidence in its favour. We can hardly imagine that a language with elaborate rituals, hymns, and legends could have been developed forty thousand years ago and then in some way or other been lost during the long period when the circumpolar regions were presumably uninhabitable. The fact that Tilak was obliged to put his Hyperborean culture so far back into prehistoric times and the resulting contradictions with the growing knowledge of the late Palaeolithic, were no doubt the principal reasons why his remarkable book has made so little impression upon scholars.

5. Evidence for an Open Arctic Sea top

Before reviewing the Vedic texts, we must satisfy ourselves that it is reasonable to assume that the circumpolar regions were habitable during the last great glaciation. Recently, evidence has come forward that the circumpolar regions have in fact gone through periods when the climate was equable, sometimes even sub-tropical, with conditions favourable not only for life, but for human habitation and that these conditions obtained during the height of the last glaciation. We must consider the evidence that the Arctic Ocean was not frozen before the retreat of the glaciers around 10,000 B.C.

It is hard to say why there should have been Ice Ages during any one particular period in earth's history and not at other times. During nearly 20,000,000 years that preceded the Pleistocene, that is since the early Miocene, there were no Ice Ages. The climate of the earth was relatively stable and favourable for the development of mammalian life. How did it come about that after this long period of stability and favourable climate, the Ice Age should have begun? Many theories have been proposed to account for the origin and course of the glaciations." Some attribute it to changes in the heat that the earth receives from the sun, others to the" periodic variations in the position of the earth in its orbit about the sun, the precession of the equinoxes, the inclination of the earth's axis. Others," again, have ascribed the glaciations to causes operating within the earth itself. These include Wegener's continental drift, changes in the energy output from the earth's interior and major dislocations of the crust.

To my mind, the most convincing theory that has been put forward is that of the American climatologists Ewing and Donne," according to whom the onset of the Ice Ages was due to the shifting of the Poles from the open ocean of the North Atlantic and South Pacific to their present locations in the enclosed oceans of the present Polar Regions and the Antarctic Continent. This occurs through a drifting of the earth's crust upon the molten layers below: a movement which is now quite plausibly explained by currents in the semi-liquid magma upon which the crust itself is floating. There is evidence of such movements in the shifting of the earth's magnetic field, as shown by sedimentary rocks which retain traces of the direction of the magnetic field of the earth at the time they were originally laid down. It seems from this evidence alone, that the North and South Poles must have been located very differently prior to the Ice Ages from what they are now. When the Poles shifted into landlocked regions, the equalization of temperature by ocean currents ceased to be so effective, with a greater tendency for the cold winter to be stored up and so produce much greater contrasts of climate both between the northerly and tropical latitudes and also as between winter and summer.

This may be sufficient to account for a transition from a generally stable and equable climate to one of steep climatic gradients, but it does not account for the coming and going of the glaciers. During the 600,000 years of the Pleistocene, there have been four major glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere and between them interglacial periods when the climate has been relatively mild. The variations are certainly in part traceable to astronomical influences of the kind worked out in detail by Milankowitch and his successors; but these latter seem to apply not to the major transitions from glacial to mild conditions; but rather to the minor fluctuations, with periodicities of from 6,000 to 40,000 years. Some intermediate mechanism must be invoked.

This brings us to the major contribution made by Ewing and Donne. Their theory is based upon two premises: first, the presence of intense activity below the solid crust of the earth with resultant mobility of the surface, and second, the peculiar configuration of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. We shall consider first the changes in our assessment of past conditions in terms of what we observe at the present time.

One consequence of the intense activity of the inner life of the earth is that currents are actively flowing beneath the outer crust. They are influenced by changing magnetic fields. These would give a mobility to the surface land masses quite different from the fixed configuration assumed, until recently, to have persisted for hundreds of millions of years. This lends a new plausibility to Wegener's theory of continental drift put forward in 1915. Although no appreciable displacements can have occurred in the last million years, there may have been great and relatively rapid shifts at the earlier times.

We are concerned with the end of the Tertiary period, with its abrupt change of climate that may now plausibly be accounted for as having resulted from a shift of the Poles. The axis of rotation of the earth must remain stable like a gyroscope; but if the skin shifted, then we should observe that the North Pole itself has moved. It seems likely that between two and one million years ago, some such great shift occurred, with the result of shifting the crust of the earth round so that the North Pole came into the Arctic Ocean and the South Pole came over the present Antarctic continent. This brought about a steady deterioration of the climate of the earth through the latter part of the Pliocene.

This is easy to understand. When the poles are over the oceans, the cold of winter is dispersed by the ocean currents, and hence no permanently cold zone can form. On the other hand, the heat of the sun also is not so easily lost, because where it is warmed up at the Equator also this is distributed by ocean currents, and there is less evaporation. When the North Pole was in the Pacific Ocean, as it was until the end of the Pliocene, there were equable climates, with relatively little zoning; and not, as we have now, great differences between the tropical and the circumpolar zones. These conditions were favourable for the development of mammalian life, which then gained its dominating position in the Biosphere.

When the shift occurred, the poles moved into awkward places; the North Pole entered the almost landlocked Arctic Ocean; and worse still, the South Pole came over the Antarctic continent, and therefore there were no longer ocean currents to dissipate the winter cold. Ever since the South Pole has been over the Antarctic, there has been a steady and continuous building up of the ice-cap.

In the North it is different, because the Pole is over water; but it is water that is more or less surrounded by land; Greenland, Canada, passing round the narrow bring Straits, right through Siberia, to Scandinavia, and then there is a submarine ridge that goes past Spitzbergen and Iceland, back to Greenland. The Arctic is not an open ocean, but a partly enclosed sea. The bed of the extreme North Atlantic is relatively shallow; so that if there were a rise or fall in the level of the oceans, this will make it harder or easier for the water to flow in and out of the Arctic Ocean. At the present time, there is a considerable flow of warmish water that originates as the Gulf Stream, and comes up past Novaya Zemlya, alongside the Siberian coast and then drifts inward. There is also an outward flow of cold water partly fed by the water that comes off the rivers of Northern Canada and those of Siberia, the Ob, the Yenisei, the Lena. There is also water from summer melting of ice to be got rid of. All this results in an outflow of cold water which explains why the east of Greenland is so cold as compared with the warm climate of Norway, which is at more or less the same latitude. Between Alaska and Siberia is the warm Pacific current that breaks away to the south, because the small opening here of the Bering Straits between Alaska and Siberia is closed by the outflow of the cold waters and it very seldom happens that there is an inward flow of warm water there.

It will be apparent that the dissipation of the cold in the North is more effective than it is in the South, and that is why the northern regions have not been continually iced like the Antarctic. But the warmth is precarious, for it depends upon whether or not this special mechanism of inflow and outflow is maintained. If a great deal of the water is withdrawn in the form of glaciers, then the level of the water fails and less warm water is able to penetrate. No doubt various earth movements have taken place so that the ridges have been rising and falling. This includes one that runs over the North Pole; the Lomonosov ridge, which has been acting as a kind of valve that sometimes has allowed the warm waters to warm up the Arctic, sometimes has cut them off so that it has remained frozen.

This must have some very close connection with the ice ages. The primary starting impulse for a period, such as the world has lived through for the last million years, was probably the migration of the Poles into their present position, and the alternation of glacial and inter-glacial conditions will not be ended until the Poles move again out of their present position. But although that may be sufficient to explain how the ice ages began, it does not explain why there have been glacial and inter-glacial periods. For that, it seems that we can look to the mechanism of the melting and freezing over of the Arctic Ocean proposed by Ewing and Donne.

This would account for the fact that for long periods comparatively favourable conditions have obtained followed by a disturbance. The ice reformed, and the whole of the northern hemisphere was subjected to the glacial conditions. This does not account for the minor fluctuations that have also been observed. There are quite reliable ways of telling how the temperatures were moving at any given period of the earth's history. It seems clear that there have been fluctuations in temperature; these were probably connected with the Milankovitch astronomical effects. We have these three distinct mechanisms at work; one in the interior (Polar drift) one on the surface (ocean currents) and one astronomic (precession' and inclination of axis). If snow is cut off, the glaciers begin to melt away, and do so increasingly fast, especially if they lose their reflectiveness, if they become dirty, and therefore absorb more sunlight. The extension of glaciers requires a constant supply of fresh snow. The weight of evidence is that the glaciers have been thickest in the north, and that they moved from the north towards the south or from the north-west towards the south-east, as they did across England, for example. If the glaciers began in the north, it seems probable that the snow came from the north. It is very difficult to see where the snow could have come from except from the Arctic Ocean. Enormous quantities of snow: snowfalls lasting not hours, nor days, nor years, but thousands of years, are required to build up glaciers covering millions of square miles. Millions of cubic miles of ice have to be formed. Where 'could all this snow have come from ?

No amount of the cold will produce glaciers without snow; nothing else will form ice above the level at which water is available to freeze. Now the Arctic Ocean in itself has an area of about five and a half million square miles. If the Arctic Ocean were free from ice, then it would absorb a great deal more heat from the summer sun than it does now. Several times more is absorbed by open water than is absorbed by ice, because ice reflects heat. Therefore if the Arctic Ocean were open, without an ice covering, there would be considerable evaporation during the sunlight of the Arctic summer. If the Arctic Ocean were open and free from ice, during the long summer days a great deal of water would evaporate. There must have been a very different distribution of winds under those conditions from what there is now. This has been worked out in some detail, and the results show that, if the Arctic Ocean were open, there would be certain paths down which the snowladen winds would come and deposit their snow. This would not happen at the very beginning, because in order to come down as snow there would already have to be a high degree of cooling. Therefore the beginning would be a great increase in rainfall at distances much further away from the North Pole than at present. That would produce conditions that are now quite well established as having obtained in Glacial times. Where there are now deserts: the Sahara, the Arabian Desert, the Gobi, the Kara Kum and so on, there would be considerable rainfall. Many regions which are now desert would have been fertile. There is increasing archaeological evidence that the deserts were in fact inhabited during the Ice Ages and that they were able to support considerable life, animal and human. This would only be possible if the distribution of rainfall were very different from what it is now.

The explanation put forward by climatologists is that this would happen when the Arctic Ocean was unfrozen, and then the greatly increased evaporation from the Arctic Ocean would come down and produce this rain further south. The next stage after that would be the coming of the great snows. The first stage of the great rainstorms might last a long time; but it would inevitably be succeeded, owing to the general cooling, by the greatest snowstorms than can be imagined. These snows would begin to build up the glaciers, and this condition would continue as long as the Arctic Ocean remained open. And this would happen as long as the channels were freely available. That would of course be the case when there was still plenty of water in the oceans, as they were thirty to fifty fathoms deeper than they are now, before the ice was withdrawn.

The Arctic Ocean would be kept warm, partly by the flow of the Gulf Stream right up to the very north, partly also by the greater amount of sun heat absorbed by the water than is now absorbed by the ice. But while the Arctic Ocean and its land and sea population would support a human population in comfort, there would be a cooling down of the continental areas along the lines of the snowstorms. Those lines pass through East Siberia, Canada, Greenland, and northern Europe. That is how these tremendous glacial areas were built up.

If, during a climatic optimum such as occurred about 15,000 years ago, large numbers of human emigrants were tempted into the far northerly regions, they would find themselves trapped by the glaciers and might remain for thousands of years isolated from the people of the tropical regions living in safety south of the glacial belt. Though the evidence is still uncertain and Ewing and Donne's theory is by no means generally accepted by geologists and climatologists, it justifies the search for independent evidence that people were living in the circumpolar regions up to the final retreat of the glaciers about 10,000 years before the present.

6. Linguistic Evidence top

The linguistic primitive unity of the Indo-European culture was first deduced from studies of the Germanic and Indic, Sanskrit and Iranic with their descendant languages, subsequently extended to include Celtic, Greek, Latin, Armenian, Lithuanian, Lettish and all the Slavonic tongues. These languages, now spoken by 40% of the world's population, can all be traced back to a common source. This original Indo-European language cannot, unfortunately, be reconstructed. because of extensive inter-actions with other root stocks during the times of the great migrations from 10,000 to 6,000 years before the present.

The first impression one receives in studying the words for commonly used articles which are common to nearly all the Indo-European languages is that they must have been agriculturalists. Dr. Palmer [14] starting from a close study of the earliest Greek culture (say 3000 B.c.), concludes that the first Indo-Europeans were a settled people owning land and socially organized in three castes. A similar account was put forward by Childe [15] in his book, Prehistoric Migrations in Europe. It seems to me that these authors, admittedly great authorities in their own field, start too late in the story. They base their studies mainly upon archaeological evidences: Palmer in S.E. Europe and Childe in S.W. Asia. It is, no doubt, true that a neolithic agricultural society existed in Mesopotamia as far back as the fifth millennium B.c. - I have seen evidences of it myself when I visited the area - but the point is that the people who established this culture arrived with fully developed languages and customs from somewhere to the North.

Trubewtzkoy [16] is almost certainly right in objecting to theories which do not take account of migrations and the mutual impact of different cultures. He suggests that Indo-European origins are to be sought in a region bordered on one side by the Ural-Altaic-Finno-Ugrian group that I have called agglutinative for short and the Caucasian-Semitic-Hamitic group, that is my triliteral, on the other. This suggestion goes a long way towards meeting my own speculative reconstruction, except that I would say that the Indo-European language was subjected, after its full elaboration—to the influence of these two other groups—in the course of the spreading out of the people.

Let us examine a few words that are generally agreed to go back to the very beginning of the Indo-European culture. For animals we have several words such as: horse (Sanskrit asvas, Zend aspa, Greek hippos, Irish ech, Latin equus, and Lithuanian asziva). There is no doubt that the horse must have been well-known to the people from whom all these races sprang. The same goes for sheep, pig and deer. Now these are the very animals known to have existed in the Arctic Circle at the end of the Ice Age. Other animals, such as camel, which are common to all triliteral languages are unknown to the Indo-Europeans. The Semitic word for camel has the meaning of `burden-heaver'.

The Indo-European languages have a common root for the notion of burden bearing still used from India to Iceland: the stem har which is Sanskrit is hhar, in Greek and Latin fero and in Old Gothic havia. This is not connected with the name of an animal and may go back to a time when men carried their own burdens.

A telling point in favour of our theory is the ubiquity of the word for night. Sanskirt naktis, Greek (stem) nukt, Latin (stem) noct, Gothic nahts, Lithuanian naktis, Old Slavonic nosti, Russian noch. This suggests that night, so dominant in the Arctic winter, was equally dominant for our Aryan forebears.

The roots for I and see and know are also common to all branches. This indicates an interest in speculation that is found in the grammatical forms also. The essential character of the original language was the use of a monosyllabic stem which was scarcely ever used alone. A complex system of inflections enabled a wide variety of meanings to be expressed. It is hard to see how this could have developed unconsciously by a process of natural selection. It seems more plausible to accept Palmer's theory of an independent caste of priest—scholars who elaborated both language and ritual and who were also poets of no mean order, as we shall see when we come to study the oldest Indo-European hymns.

The view that there was more than one stage of diffusion has been advanced by Powell [17] who considers that the first occurred about 7,000 years ago and was neolithic and agricultural, while the second was chalcolithic and metallurgical. This certainly does not go far enough back; because as I have several times remarked, the language and culture were already fully developed by the fifth millennium B.C. The tendency to disregard this point is probably due to the feeling that the cultures must have originated somewhere in the areas where they are now strongest - that is in Europe and S.W. Asia. This comes out clearly in such studies as Trager and Smith [18] have made of the chronology of the Indo-Hittite.

It seems that the explanation is that by the time the Indo-European language separated into the main groups, there was already a three-tier structure. The basic language was developed in a restricted area where animals wild or domestic were all important. It was carried by migrants into the neolithic agricultural epoch and acquired an additional vocabulary but no changes of grammar. Finally, the bronze age culture introduced more new words many of which were evidently adapted from the culture with which the Indo-Europeans were now mixed. There is nothing strange about the ubiquity of words associated with agriculture which presumably originated in S.W. Asia and spread through the entire oecumene, bringing with it its own names for implements and crops; we see the same happening with our modem inventions.

On the other hand, it must be recognized that a serious weakness of our theory is the failure to find common words for ships and fishing. This would seem to rule out the view that the earliest Indo-Europeans fished in the Arctic Ocean and bring us back to a continental origin. It must be remembered that words are preserved in language only if one of two conditions are satisfied:

  1. the word is in regular use for the common activities of the people or
  2. it stands for an important cultural or ritual object.

Neither of these conditions would hold once the Indo-Europeans began their southward trek. For thousands of years they were far from the sea and must have forgotten the part it played in their origins. The words that belonged to the Salvation Ritual would have been preserved, even though their origin was forgotten.

The general conclusion from linguistic considerations is that there is no strong evidence or grounds of language alone in favour of the Hyperborean hypothesis, but also no cogent reasons for rejecting it.

We may, therefore, go straight to the literary evidence of the Sanskrit Vedas and the myths of the Indo-European peoples from Ireland to India. The Vedic Evidence

The Rig Veda is a compilation of instructions for the performance of sacrifices, of myths, of theological speculations together with many beautiful hymns and invocations belonging to several different periods. No single principle of interpretation can be applied to material so diverse; but it is generally agreed by scholars that some of the texts were composed at a very early date, before the Aryan invasion of India. The Rig Veda is one of the oldest documents of the Indo-European culture, and incomparably the most important of those that go beyond history. Some of the hymns display such astonishing maturity of under-standing that scholars have been reluctant to admit that they may have been composed before the dawn of history and that they refer to a stage in the evolution of the Aryan culture earlier than any yet disclosed by archaeological research.

The dating of certain early passages of the Vedic literature is made possible by the position of the equinoxes. The great compilation known as the Taittiriya Samhita must belong to the Krittika period about 2800 B.c. to which I would refer the conjunction of the three cultures discussed in Section 2. By that time, the Aryan culture was already far advanced in maturity, as is evident from the content of the Samhita. The oldest Vedic hymns were certainly older than this. According to Tilak's theory they were composed by poets living within the Arctic Circle. This is what we have to test.

Two characteristics of the polar regions are unknown elsewhere. One is the 'midnight sun' or the long day when the sun remains above the horizon for 90 to 180 days according to the distance from the pole. The other is the unchanging altitude of the constellations which make it appear as if the heavens were revolving about an axis. If we find in literature or mythology, references to days and nights lasting up to six months and the rotation of the dome of heaven we are entitled - to suspect that the authors had known the circumpolar regions and probably lived there.

Applying this test to the Vedic literature, [19] we do find passages which compare the motion of the heavens to that of a wheel, and describe the celestial vault as supported on an axis. Thus in Rig. X, 89, 4, Indra is said `to uphold and separate by his power, heaven and earth as the two wheels of a chariot are held by the axle.' The same idea occurs in other places, and sometimes the sky is described as being supported even without a pole, testifying thereby to the great might of Indra (II, 15, 2; IV, 56, 3). In X, 89, 2, Indra is identified with Surya the Sun God and he is described as `turning the widest expanse like the wheels of a chariot'. The word for `expanse' is varamsi, which Sayana understands to mean `lights', or `stars'. Whichever meaning we adopt, it is clear that the verse in question refers to the revolution of the sky, and compares it to the motion of a chariot wheel. Now, the heavens in the temperate and the tropical regions may be described as moving like a wheel from east to west and then back again to the east, though the latter half of this circuit is not visible to the observer. But we cannot certainly speak of the tropical sky as being supported on a pole, for the simple reason that the North Pole, which must be the point of support, will not be close enough to the zenith. If, therefore, we combine the two statements, that the heavens are supported as on a pole, and that they move like a wheel, we may safely infer that the reference is to a motion of the celestial hemisphere such as can be witnessed only by an observer near the North Pole.

In the Rig Veda I, 24, 10, the constellation of Ursa Major, Rikshah, is described as being placed `high' Guchhah, since this can refer only to the altitude of the constellation, it follows that it must have been over the head of the observer, which is possible only in the circumpolar regions. Unfortunately, there are few other passages in the Rig Veda which describes the motion of the celestial hemisphere or of the stars therein, and we must, therefore, take up another characteristic of the Polar Regions, namely, `a day and a night of six months each', and see if the Vedic literature contains any references to this singular feature of the Polar regions.

The idea that the day and the night of the Gods are each of six months' duration is so widespread in the Indian literature, that a selection of passages must suffice. It is found, not only in the Puranas, but also in astronomical works, and as the latter state it in a more definite form we may start with the later Siddhantas. Mount Meru is the terrestrial North Pole of the Hindu astronomers, and the Surya-Siddhanta, XII, 67, says: — 'At Meru, Gods behold the sun after but a single rising during the half of his revolution beginning with Aries.'

Now according to the Puranas, Meru is the home of all the Gods, and the statement about their half-year-long night and day is thus easily and naturally explained. All astronomers and exegetists have accepted the explanation. The day of the Gods corresponds with the passage of the sun from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, when the sun is visible at the North Pole, or the Meru; and the night with the southern passage of the sun, from the autumnal back to the vernal equinox.

The next authority is Manu I, 67. In describing the divisions of time, Manu says: `A human year is a day and a night of the Gods; thus are the two divided, the northern passage of the sun is the day and the southern the night.' The day and the night of the Gods are then taken as a unit for measuring longer periods of time such as the Kalpas. We are not concerned with the later development of the idea that the day and night of the Gods each lasted for six months. What is important, from our point of view, is the persistent prevalence of this tradition in the Vedic and the Post-Vedic literature, which can only be explained on the hypothesis that originally it must have been the result of actual observation.

I shall, therefore, next quote the Mahabharata, which gives such a clear description of Mount Meru, the lord of the mountains, as to leave no doubt about its being situated at the North Pole. In chapters 163 and 164 of the Vanaparvan, Arjuna's visit to the Mount is described in detail, and we are therein told, `At Meru the sun and the moon go round from left to right every day, and so do all the stars.' Later on the writer informs us: — `The mountain, by its lustre, so overcomes the darkness of night, that the night can hardly be distinguished from the day'. A few verses further, and we find, `The day and the night are together equal to a year to the residents of the place'. These quotations are sufficient to convince one that, at the time when the great epic was composed, Indian writers had a tolerably accurate knowledge of the meteorological and astronomical characteristics of the North Pole. This knowledge cannot have been acquired by mathematical calculations alone. The reference to the lustre of the mountain is specially interesting; as, in all probability, it is a description of the splendours of the Aurora Borealis visible at the North Pole. So far as the Post-Vedic literature is concerned, we have, therefore, not only the tradition of the half-year long night and day of the Gods persistently mentioned; but the Mount Meru, or the North Pole, is described with such accuracy as to lead us to believe that we have here an ancient tradition, whose origin must be traced to a time when these phenomena were daily observed by the people. This is confirmed by the fact that the tradition is not confined to Post-Vedic literature.

Passing on, therefore, to the Vedic literature, we find Mount Meru described as the seat of seven Adityas in the Taittiriya Aranyaka I, 7.1, while the eight Adityas are said never to leave the great Meru. Kashyapa is further described as communicating light to the seven Adityas, and himself perpetually illuminating the great mountain. In the Taittiriya Brahmana, (III, 9, 22, I), we meet with a passage which clearly says, `That which is a year is but a single day of the Gods.' The statement is so clear that there can be no doubt about its meaning. These passages are given added significance by comparison with texts in the oldest Iranian documents which not only refer to the spinning of the heavens, but also to a day and night of the Gods of six months' duration.

The Rig Veda does not contain any specific references to six months' day-light; but it does refer in many passages to the long dawns that characterize the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The six months' day and night apply strictly only to the North Pole itself. At 10° from the Pole this phenomenon is replaced by the strange and wonderful approachof the sun which heralds the long day. Warren [10] gives a beautiful description from personal observation:-

"First of all appears low in the horizon of the night-sky a scarcely visible flush of light. At first it only makes a few stars' light seem a trifle fainter, but after a little it is seen to be increasing, and to be moving laterally along the yet dark horizon. Twenty-four hours later it has made a complete circuit around the observer, and is causing a larger number of stars to pale. Soon the widening light glows with the lustre of `Orient pearl'. Onward it moves in its stately round, until the pearly whiteness bums into ruddy rose-light, fringed with purple and gold. Day after day, as we measure days, this splendid panorama circles on, and, according to atmospheric conditions and clouds, present more or less favourable conditions of reflection kindles and fades-fades only to kindle next time yet more brightly as the still hidden sun comes nearer and nearer his point of emergence. At length, when for two long months such prophetic displays have been filling the whole heavens with these increscent and revolving splendours, the sun begins to emerge from his long retirement, and to display himself once more to human vision. After one or two circuits, during which his dazzling upper limb grows to a full-orbed disk, he clears all hill-tops of the distant horizon, and for six months circles around and around the world's great axis in full view, suffering no night to fall upon his favoured home-land at the Pole."

We find in the Rig Veda many reminiscences of such an experience. Ushas, the Goddess of the Dawn, is one of the favourite deities of the early Vedas. She is celebrated in about twenty hymns and mentioned more than three hundred times, sometimes in the singular and some-times in the plural. The hymns are among the most beautiful of all ancient litreature. The importance they attribute to the Dawn Goddess is quite out of place for people living in sub-tropical regions where the day comes so quickly that the dawn is scarcely noticed.

The long duration of the Vedic dawn, is suggested in the Aitareya Brahmana N, 7. Before commencing the Gavamayana sacrifice, there is a long recitation of not less than a thousand verses, to be recited by the Hotri priest. This Ashvina-shastra, as it is called, is addressed to Agni, Ushas and Ashvins, which deities rule at the end of the night and the commencement of the day. It is the longest passage to be recited by the Hotri, and the time for reciting it is after midnight, when "the darkness of the night is about to be relieved by the light of the dawn," (Nir. XII, 1; Ashv. Shr. Sutra, VI, 5, 8). The same period of time is referred to also in the Rig Veda VII, 67, 2 and 3. The shastra is so long, that the Hotri, who has to recite it, is directed to refresh himself by drinking beforehand melted butter after sacrificing thrice a little of it, (Ait. Br. N, 7; Asv. Shr. Sutra, VI, 5, 3). `He ought to eat ghee', says the Aitareya Brahmana, `before he starts to recite. Just as in this world a cart or a carriage goes well if smeared with oil, so his recitation goes well if he be smeared with ghee.' If such a recitation has to be finished before the rising of the sun, either the Hotri must embark upon his task soon after midnight when it is dark, or the duration of the dawn must have been long enough to enable him to finish. The first supposition is out of the question, as it is expressly laid down that the Shastra is not to be recited until the darkness of the night is relieved by light. So between the first appearance of light and the rising of the sun, there must have been time enough to recite the long laudatory song of not less than a thousand verses. In the Taittiriya Samhita (II, I, 10, 3), we are told that sometimes the recitation of the shastra, though begun at the proper time, ended long before sunrise, and in that case, the Samhita requires that a certain animal sacrifice should be performed. Ashvalayana directs that the recitation should then be continued up to sunrise by reciting other hymns (Asv. S.S. VI, 5, 8). Apastamba, (S.S. XIV, 1 and 2), after mentioning the sacrifice referred to in the Taittiriya Samhita, adds that all the ten Mandalas of the Rig Veda may be recited, if necessary, in such a case. It is evident from this that the actual rising of the sun above the horizon was a phenomenon often delayed beyond expectation, at the time the ritual was instituted. In several places in the Taittiriya Samhita (II, 1, 2, 4) we are told that the Devas had to perform a prayashitta sacrifice because the sun did not rise as expected.

There are several explicit references to a dawn that lasts for many days. The seventh Mandala contains several dawn hymns. Rig. VII 76.3 reads: `Verily, many were those days which were aforetime at the uprising of the sun and about which, O Down, thou wast seen moving on, as towards a lover, and not as a woman, who forsakes'. Tilak" discusses this verse in great detail and concludes that it must refer to a dawn lasting continuously for many days, which is possible only in the Arctic regions. To clinch the matter, the Taittiriya Samhita (IV. 3. II) expressly states that the dawns are thirty sisters and that they go round and round in five groups reaching the same appointed place. This corresponds exactly to what would be observed by priests on the shores of the Northern Ocean watching for the rising of the sun to begin the intense activity of the circumpolar summer. It would be impossible here to summarize the remarkable analysis made by Tilak of many Vedic texts and the supplementary study of the Avestan documents especially the first two Fargards of the Vendidad. Further corroborative evidence comes from Nordic, Celtic and Greek mythology.

We must turn our attention to the basic beliefs associated with these astronomical observations. I have said that the Hyperborean culture gave birth to the notion of God as Saviour. The central theme of the earliest sacrificial ceremonies was the liberation of the sun from captivity and the release of the waters. Indra is the saviour God who overcomes the serpent power Vritra who has taken the sun captive into the nether regions.

When all the material is put together, it gives a remarkably accurate picture of the conditions described by Ewing and Donne in their theory of the Ice Ages. Vritra not only takes the sun captive, but closes the mountains so that the warm waters cannot flow up and bring renewal to vegetation and animal life. The following passage1e makes remark-able reading in view of the conception of an open Arctic Ocean annually warmed by a gulf-stream far more extensive and more powerful than at present.

".. the conquest over waters was something grander, something far more marvellous and cosmic in character than the mere breaking up of the clouds in the rainy season; and under these circumstances it was naturally considered to be the greatest of Indra's exploits, when, invigorated by a hundred nightly Soma sacrifices, he slew with ice the watery demon of darkness, shattered his hundred autumnal forts, released the waters of the seven rivers upstream to go along their aerial way and brought out the sun and the dawn from their place of confinement inside the rock caves, where they had stood still since the date of the war of the Gods, which broke out in higher latitudes every year on the 40th day of Sharad or autumn and lasted till the end of winter. The story of the release of captive waters is an ancient story; for Vritra appears as Orthros in the Greek mythology, and Vritrahan, as Verethragna, is the God of victory in the Parsi scriptures. Now this Vritra-han may not have been originally the same as Indra, for the word Indra does not occur in European Aryan languages, and it has, therefore, been suggested that the conquest of waters, which was originally the exploit of some other Aryan deity, was probably ascribed to Indra in the Vedic mythology, when Indra became the Saviour God in the Vedic pantheon. The fact that Tishtrya, and not Verethraghna, is said to be the releaser of waters and light in the Avesta, lends some support to this theory. But whichever view we adopt, it does not affect the explanation of the Vritra legend. Clouds and rain cannot constitute the physical basis of the legend, which is evidently based on the simple phenomenon of bringing light to the people who had anxiously waited for it during the darkness of the long night in the Arctic regions. Indra may have become a storm-god afterwards; or the conquest over Vritra, originally achieved by some other deity, may have come to be ascribed to Indra, the rain-god in later times. But whether the exploits of Vritrahan were subsequently ascribed to Indra, or whether Indra, as the releaser of the captive waters, was afterwards mistaken for the god of rain, like Tishtrya in the Avesta, one fact stands out boldly amidst all details, viz., that the captive waters were in the nether world, and that their captivity was associated with the annual struggle between light and darkness in the original home of the Aryans in the Arctic regions.

We shall now examine some of the results of archaeological and prehistoric research done since Tilak's book was published.

7. Evidences from Prehistory top

Two kinds of evidence interest us here. Palaeolithic settlements have been found over a wide area within the Arctic Circle and even as far North as latitude 80° on Ellesmere Island and Spitzbergen. If these can be ascribed to dates prior to 10,000 B.P. they belong to the Ice Age and reinforce our interpretation. The second type of evidence is climatic. If temperate vegetation existed in the Circumpolar regions during the Ice Age, then conditions for human life were also present.

Ewing and Donner [13] refer to evidences of Ice Age settlements in the Far North of Canada and on Ellesmere and other islands of the Arctic Ocean. These may not be relevant to our theme as the precursors of the Eskimos probably migrated southwards to populate the American continent in waves starting about 10,000 B.P. These American races were isolated from the proto-Europeans by the glacial barriers at the Bering Straits and the Greenland Sea.

Of greater relevance are the palaeolithic settlements of the extreme north of Norway and Finland. The so-called Komsa culture is assigned to the latest phase of the last glaciation. The main sites were investigated by the Norwegian archaeologist, A. Nummedal, who considers that they belonged to a people who remained for a very long time in the same region and based their economy on fishing and the fauna of the Arctic coast. Nordhagen assigns this culture to the late glacial period between 10,000 and 12,000 years before the present. The Komsa folk were connected with the Scandinavian fishermen of a later period, but they were almost certainly not our Indo-European forebears. If they had been we should have a quite different distribution of languages and cultures. It seems more probable that they represent a separate branch cut off from Europe by the great fenno-scandian glaciation, also cut off from the more extensive settlements of the Ob and Yenisei valleys to the East of the Urals.

There are still ancient peoples who inhabit the far northern regions, beyond the vast forest barrier that divides central Asia from the Arctic coast. Little is known of the prehistoric settlements, but it is reported that there is ample evidence of a palaeolithic culture contemporary with that of the Komsa people and the early Eskimos.

Further East, in the valley of the Lena River the Russian explorer A. P. Okhladnikov'' has been the pioneer of field work in regions almost inaccessible from the South. He found numerous Palaeolithic settlements that he believed to be autochthonous, or at least to date back to the glacial period more than 10,000 years before the present.

None of the sites excavated show traces of an advanced culture in the sense of refined industries or stone constructions. This is not surprising, if we remember that the conditions of existence in the far North are inappropriate for permanent buildings, and that, in the period we are studying, there were no advanced industries in any part of the world. It is sufficient for our argument that the circumpolar regions were in fact inhabited during the Ice Age.

Evidences of climate come mainly from plant remains. The best evidence of a period of temperate climatic conditions in the far north comes from Finland and the work of E. Hyyppa. [25] He found that, in the late glacial times, between 15,000 and 10,000 years before the present, there was a late glacial warmth-phase with warm continental summers. Pollen analysis shows that the spruce spread in areas which, before and after, were mainly tundra with a frozen sub-soil.

In the extreme north of Western Siberia, and especially in the valleys of the Ob and Yenisei, the forests penetrated further north in the last four or five thousand years of the Ice Age than they do at present. It seems even that a varied fauna was living right up to the shores of the Arctic Ocean and that this included large numbers of wild horses. This makes an important link with the Vedic hymns in which the horse sacrifice is closely connected with the rituals of the Arctic dawn.

These observations also suggest a solution to the question of the Southward migrations of the proto-Indo-Europeans when the circumpolar regions became uninhabitable about ten thousand years ago. The routes were probably meridianal up the valleys of the three great rivers. The migrations would lead into different continental environments. Those to the East would meet a powerful impact of the agglutinative spirit-worshipping nomads of Central Asia. Those to the west would eventually bring the Saviour cult into contact with the creation cults of S.W. Asia. We can recognize, in these influences, the notion of the formative influence of migration routes first developed by Frederick le Play [26] and the Science Sociale of the late ninteenth century.

It cannot be said that the data cited in this section are positive evidence in favour of the Arctic home hypothesis: but they do strongly suggest a connection between geophysical processes and human history. Our next task is to assemble the data in the form of a series of systems defined by the basic hypothesis that there were three independent sources of the languages, beliefs, customs and social organization of the modern world. Within this total conception, we have the specific Hyperborean Theory developed in the present paper. It is obvious that the cogent evidence in favour of the theory is found in the human material: ancient hymns, legends, beliefs and customs that have been preserved for thousands of years. But all this evidence would have no weight if the geophysical and paleontological circumstances were such as to rule out the theory of an Arctic Home.

8. Systematics of the Situation top

We start by observing that there is a fact to be accounted for: the arising at some time and place of the complex cultural and linguistic heritage of the Aryan peoples. The fact enables us to identify a monad and to enumerate at least a part of its content.

The Monad. Geography: the place must satisfy the requirements of isolation, stability, ease of food supply, seasons of enforced leisure. These requirements suggest the shores of the Arctic Ocean and the circumpolar islands.

Climate: marked stratification in different latitudes such as would obtain during the ice age when the winds and rainfall are stabilized by the glaciers.

Industries: simple tools. Appropriate and favourable conditions of food collection. Absence of interest in building or other motives that would distract from language and culture creation.

Communications: a high degree of mutual segregation of cultures developing simultaneously at different latitudes. Once development completed a reversal of conditions permitting free migrations and interaction of cultures. Migrations probably forced by climatic pressures.

People: poetic and mystical trends combined with love of speculation and generalization: absence of constructional abilities.

The Dyad. All the influences can be assigned to two groups: the causal and the structural. Mankind emerges from its past along various causal lines: genetic, traditional, social and environmental. These have no inherent principle of integration. There is also the group of influences due to the total structure of the environment, of the human society and its stage of development. These collectively are manifested in the Zeitgeist or synchronous structure to which the event tends to conform.

The two factors are incompatible as principles of explanation: each claiming total relevance. They cannot be divided among the elements of the situation as the human and non-human. The causal nexus runs through everything. But the structural pattern is equally pervasive.

We are confronted with a typical dyad: the event has a two-fold character. It produces a highly specific cultural, linguistic and social group and it also transforms the entire human situation by opening the way to the eventual realization that man is the bridge between the finite and the infinite. This realization comes through the notion of the Saviour God who performs a human act reproduced in the sacrificial common to all branches of the Aryan inheritance. The dyad itself offers two mutually excusive accounts of the same phenomenon. One says that is merely a stage in the evolution of ancient magic. The other sees it as the expression, valid only in precise conditions of time and place, of the terrors of the Arctic night. Neither account is adequate to explain the persistence, after environmental and social conditions had completely changed, of the notion of ritual sacrifice or its association with a particular linguistic form; the Indo-European inflective group.

The Triad. The event could not have been accomplished without a positive urge: for new powers of communication and action. This urge must have been concentrated in a particular group within the total society. We may see here the arising of a new kind of society; such as was brought into the world by the migrating Aryans who required a relationship of leader and led unlike that of a hunting tribe of a sedentary sub-tropical population. We can discern three social orders: the leaders, the led and the creative minority responsible for the linguistic and ritual developments. This triad plays a dominant role in the Vedic hymns and remains dominant throughout the history of the Aryan peoples irrespective of race, habitat or religious belief.

The Tetrad. Man in the circumpolar regions stands between two immense problems: immediate survival and ultimate destiny. Anthropological studies of the races of Northern Siberia and Finland show that they are aware of them to this day. To deal with these problems, two means were available: invention and ritual. The inventiveness of the early Aryans went far beyond commonsense. It was the only hope of a successful response to the perils of the North. Their ritual was quite different from spirit magic. It led to the creation of new instruments of communication and a new social order.

We thus have a tetrad represented in the diagram: —

The four terms with the six connections enable us to reconstruct the essential character of the life of the people who created the European languages. The dominance of climatic influences and the ever present sense of dawn associated with the long circumpolar night were combined with the glory of the Arctic summer. This led to a ritualistic society in which every day of the year had its significance. The reflections of this condition are found throughout the Vedic and Avestan poems. Invention and ritual have endowed their descendents with that confidence in their power to overcome the forces of nature which has produced the modern world. The situation must have had a high degree of fluidity and inner spontaneity, combined with external conservation imposed by the conditions of life. In the course of centuries, the structure was stabilized and could be preserved even in totally different climatic and social environments.

The Pentad. The Indo-European languages differ from the agglutinative and triliteral in their power of exact expression and also in their limitations. Similarly, the precise theogonies of the Indo-European peoples differ from the vaguer, but, in some respects, more profound intuitions of the Egyptian and Semitic groups, as well as from the immediacy of spirit-worship that leads ultimately to the equation Atman=Brahman.

We are led to postulate the ability to concentrate significance narrowly upon specific notions as a characteristic of the Hyperborean culture. This is what we should expect from conditions of long isolation and the opportunity for slow development. The quintessence of the event was the concentration of a power that could be transferred and spread all over the world. When, about 5,000 years ago, this power met and blended with the powers of the two other cultures, there was an explosion of new life that produced our modern world. We can trace back to this remote past, the tendency to analysis and specialization that characterizes the speakers of the modern languages of the Indo-European family.

9. Summary and Conclusions top

The culture associated with the Indo-European languages has a recognizable unity that has persisted since the earliest historical times. This unity allows us to treat it as a system which can be used to test the historico-geo-physical hypothesis cif structures common to geophysical occurrences and human history.

The culture system is one of the three principal sources of the modem world. The other two, associated with the agglutinative and triliteral language complexes, probably originated in Central Asian and the S.W. Asia—N. African regions respectively. For a variety of reasons, we are led to postulate a Hyperborean, or far-northern, origin of the inflected or Indo-European group. The postulate assumes that human occupation of the region was possible prior to the diffusion that began about 8000 B.c. This is made probable by the internal evidence of the languages, cults, myths and earliest literature of these peoples.

The evidence is not conclusive but suggests that the Hyperborean hypothesis put forward in 1904 by B. G. Tilak should be more seriously re-examined.

Applying the method of Systematic analysis we find that a reason-ably consistent account of the complex problem can now be given. The next step would be to examine the total event whereby the cultural complex of Asia, Europe and Northern Africa came into existence at some date prior to 4000 B.C. which is at present the start of recorded history. We have, however, the pregnant suggestion that the ability to isolate problems and solve them in detail, which characterizes the modem world, can be traced back to the Hyperborean home. The power to make synthetic judgments is associated with the triliteral languages. This is closely allied to Sun-worship with its implication of an unique Creator-God leading to prophetic monotheism. The Spirit-Worship of the agglutinative people leads to the belief that the Spirit-Power can enter an individual which is the central dogma of Shamanism. In each case, the geo-physical pattern, the culture and the religious belief are found to exhibit a common pattern. The unification of the three patterns in Christianity was the beginning of a new era; but we are at the present time, dominated by the Indo-European language culture pattern with its emphasis upon Salvation as the central theme of the belief and ritual. We may now be entering upon a further phase in which the implications of the Trinitarian Dogma will be more fully understood. This could lead to an immense transformation of language, culture and religion that will produce a truly New World.

The present paper makes no claim to establish a proven case. The Ice Age theory of Ewing and Donne is not widely accepted. The Vedic evidence, though striking, could be interpreted in other ways. We must therefore, conclude that if we have opened a field of research, we have not adequately explored it.


1. J. G. Bennett, Geophysics and Human History in Systematics I.2. The present paper is developed from the third and fourth lectures of a series : Natural Catastrophies that have Changed History given under the auspices of the Institute in London in October 1962.

2. The conclusions reached in this paper differ radically from those of A. Kuhn and Max Muller who introduced the notion of an Aryan culture. Kuhn, in his Zur Alteste Geschichte der Indogerm. Volker, derived all the peculiarities of the Indogermanic languages, cults and customs from exclusively human considerations of human speech and behaviour. He and his followers virtually ignored the equally significant development of totally different linguistic forms and cultures and paid no attention at all to the geophysical factors. Muller's Origin and Growth of Religion went evenfurther in disregarding all factors outside the peculiarities of human speech. In 1926, V. G. Childe in his book The Aryans associated the languages of the Aryans with a culture that existed before any written record. He accepts the importance of migration routes, but does not reckon with geo-physical conditions. The same applies to Sir Mortimer Wheeler's The Indus Civilization 1953.

3. Rhys, J., Hibbert Lectures published in 1888 as Celtic Heathendom. The entire Celtic mythology is based upon the notion of bright and dark worlds such as are suggested by the long days and nights of the circumpolar regions. Cf. also the Article on Celtic Abode of the Blest in Hastings Encyc. R. & E Vol. II pp. 689-94. Much that seems quite fanciful makes sense if referred to an Arctic Home.

4. B. G. Tilak Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas 1893 and The Arctic Home in the Vedas 1903.

5. Lefebure, G. Grammar of The Classical Egyptian Language 1940 discusses the connection between Ancient Egyptian and the semitic languages of Asia on the one hand and the hamitic languages of N. Africa on the other. The Coptic dialects tend towards the latter, but are not true descendants of the primitive tongue. Cf. also Diamond A. S. The History and Origin of Language 1959 pp. 74-76.

6. The importance of Tangri for understanding the Turanian beliefs was emphasized by Paul Vambéry. The word was adopted by Kemal Ataturk as the Turkish equivalent of Allah. This is based on a complete misunderstanding. Tangri is nearer to the Tengris who are sky spirits and to Torunga, the spirit of the Tungu Shaman.

7.Cf. Saurat, D. A History of Religions London 1938.

8. Hencken Hugh, Indo-European Languages and Archeology in the American Archeologist Vol. 57 1955, writes "one gets the impression that the Indo-European languages existed a long time before the second millenium B.C."

9. Cf. Abbé Breuil 40,000 Years of Parietal Art and his many other works on the late Paleolithic in Europe.

10 Hubert Warren Paradise Found published in 1883. Dr. Warren published many articles in support of his thesis which was completely discredited in his own day.

11 Including at one time, Fred Hoyle.

12 Croll J. put forward in 1875 the suggestion that changes in eccentricity of the orbit could produce Ice Ages. Ball R. in The Cause of an Ice Age 1892 made a more detailed analysis, but it was not until in 1920 that the Yugoslav Climatologist M. Milankowitch produced exact calculations, that the theory could seriously be tested. The `Astronomical Theory' of glaciations is usually associated with his name.

13 Maurice Ewing and William Donn, A New Theory of Ice Ages, "Science", June 1956 and May 1958. A summary was published in Harpers Magazine for 1958 and in the American Review Volume I No. 4 1961 by Betty Friedan.

14 Palmer, L. R., Achaeans and Indo-Europeans, 1955.

15 Childe, V. G., Prehistoric Migrations in Europe, Antiquity, Vol. 23.

16 Trubetzkoy, N. S., Thoughts on the Indogermanic Problem, Acta Linguistica, Antiquity 24, pp. 436-7 1959.

17 Powell, T. G. E. Celtic Origins J. R. Anthr. Inst. 1948.

18 Trager, G. L. and Smith H. L. A Chronology of Indo-Hittite Culture Linguistics No. 8, 1950.

19 The examples cited are almost all drawn from Tilak's Arctic Home which is the main source of the argument here developed.

20 Arctic Home pp. 88-93.

21 Ibid. pp. 295-6.

22 Ibid. second paper.

23. Nummedal, A. 1923 quoted by Zeuner F. E. Dating the Past. 3rd Edn. 1952 p. 82.

24. Okhladnikov's work is discussed critically by D. B. Shimkin in American Antiquity 24 pp. 436-7 1959.

25.. Hyyspo, E. 1933. The Climate and Forestry of Late Glacial Times in Finland and 1936 On the Late Glacial Development of North Finland. Cf. Zeuner loc cit.

26 Le Play, P. G. F. and Edmund Desmolins Comment la Route Crée le Type

Social, Paris 1877. i