Selected Books on the Aryan Migration Theory (AMT) Debate


Note: This section does not discuss the political aspect of the AMT Debate. Although the political aspect is admittedly important, particularly regarding the politics of identity, it is, in the final analysis, a modern debate. The modern political use to which the AMT has been, and is being put, is ultimately a different topic than the investigation of the ancient origins of the Indo-Europeans. Indo-European and Indo-Aryan origins should be determined using only objective methodologies such as archaeology and linguistics and such research should be free from any modern political pressures.


1) Getting Started


2) Going Deeper





1) Getting Started

A) Pro-AMT

The most vocal defender of the AMT is Michael Witzel, Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University. Perhaps the best detailed introduction to the AMT side of the debate is his internet publication in the Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies titled:


Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts, EJVS 7-3, 2001.

 This is one of the few internet resources in this section which focuses on books. It is included because of its importance. Internet resources are in the internet section (coming soon.)


Another valuable resource is the two issues in the Journal of Indo-European Studies devoted to this topic. Although it was originally announced that it would present the positions of both sides, it turned out to be almost entirely AMT-centered with only one OIT proponent and one (or perhaps two) in the middle.

Journal of Indo-European Studies vol. 30

Journal of Indo-European Studies vol. 31



B) In-between

The best detailed introduction of the OIT and other indigenist positions is actually written by someone in the middle of the debate: Edwin Bryant, Associate Professor in Hinduism at Rutgers University. Bryant dispassionately discusses both sides of the debate and often presents the OIT position more clearly than many OIT defenders.

In Quest of the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Invasion Debate

Paperback     Hardback


He has also recently edited, with Laurie Patton, Professor of Early Indian Religions at Emory University, an excellent collection of articles by leading scholars on both sides of the debate:


The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History

Paperback     Hardback



C) Pro-OIT


Some of the leading proponents of the OIT side of the debate include the following authors. Unfortunately many of them do not have professional scholarly training in this area so, while their ideas may be thought-provoking at times, many of their proposals are out of date or uninformed about some of the important technical details critical to a scholarly discussion on the subject.


Talageri's books are among the most comprehensive in scope. He takes into account important evidence that many other indigenists do not: like linguistics and philology. Unfortunately, he is not a professionally-trained scholar so there are some lacunae in his presentation.

1) Aryan Invasion Theory (A Reappraisal)


2) The Rigveda: A historical analysis

by Shrikant Talageri


Also of interest is the following response to Witzel from Talageri:


Sethna is another supporter of the indigenist position who takes into account some of the linguistic and historical evidence

1) The Problem of Aryan Origins: From an Indian Point of View


2) Karpasa in prehistoric India: A chronological and cultural clue

By K.D. Sethna



Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate

by Koenraad Elst

Elst is a professionally-trained scholar who deals with many of the important technical issues from areas such as linguistics and archaeology.



Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization

by David Frawley

Paperback             Hardback

David Frawley is a Doctor of Ayurveda and widely published author on Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology, and indigenist Indology.


These three authors clearly present some of the evidence in favor of the indigenist position.

In Search of the Cradle of Civilization

by Feuerstein, Kak, and Frawley

Paperback             Hardback


Invasion That Never Was

by Michel Danino

A short summary of some of the major OIT positions.





2) Going Deeper


A) Indology and Interdisciplinary

Two important anthologies by mainstream scholars who are, therefore, mostly pro-AMT


1) Aryan and Non-Aryan in India

eds. Madhav Deshpande and Peter Hook


2) The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity

Cheaper version

ed. George Erdosy


Three important books by mainstream scholars who, although not specifically concerned with the AMT-OIT debate, raise some important issues regarding the foundations of the AMT paradigm

1) Imagining India

by Ronald Inden

2) Aryans and British India

by Thomas Trautmann

3) The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalistic Ideas In Europe

by Leon Poliakov



Colonial Indology: Sociopolitics of the Ancient Indian Past

by Dilip Chakrabarti

Chakrabarti is an Oxford archaeologist who criticizes the remnants of Western colonialist thinking in the AMT paradigm


The Vedic Harappans

by Bhagavan Singh

Indigenist supporter Singh claims to locate references to Harappan culture in the Rig Veda




B) Archaeology

The question of whether the Harappan Civilization (c. 2500-1900 BCE) was Vedic (OIT position) or non-Vedic and significantly pre-Vedic (AMT position) has become an important issue in the debate because of the indigenist claims of remarkable continuity in the archaeological evidence of the Harappan and Vedic periods.

The following two books written by archaeologists are probably the best in-depth introductions to the Harappan Civilization. Although they do not generally address the AMT-OIT debate, they generally accept the mainstream AMT position.

1) The Indus Civilization : A Contemporary Perspective (2003)

by Gregory Possehl

This is the most recent in-depth book on the subject; nicely illustrated.


2) Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization (Paperback)

by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer

Beautifully illustrated and, although older than Possehl's book, it is still very valuable


Forgotten Cities of the Indus

eds. Jansen, Mulloy, Urban

This beautifully produced European publication is difficult to get but has valuable articles by various scholars.



The following two Indian archaeologists identify archaeological continuity between the Harappan and Vedic cultures.

1) S.P. Gupta

(Chairman of the Indian Archaeological Society)

The Indus-Saraswati Civilization: Origins, Problems, and Issues


2) B.B. Lal

(Lal is the Retired Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India. He originally supported the AMT and some of his early articles are still cited by AMT supporters. He has since changed his opinion as reflected in these books:)

A) Earliest Civilization of South Asia

B) India 1947-1997: New light on the Indus civilization

C) The Sarasvati flows on: The continuity of Indian culture

D) The Homeland of the Aryans


Two good general overviews of Indian archaeology

1) The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan

by Bridget and Raymond Allchin


2) The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia : The Emergence of Cities and States

by Raymond Allchin




C) Indo-European

The AMT-OIT debate is a part of the larger debate over the homeland of the Indo-European language family


In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth

by J.P. Mallory

This excellent and readable overview of the Indo-European question supports the preferred mainstream homeland of the Pontic-Caspian region.


Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture

by Gamkrelidze and Ivanov

These two linguists propose alternatively that the Indo-European languages originated in the Caucasus region.


Archaeology and Language : The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins

by Colin Renfrew

Renfrew proposes an Anatolian homeland for the Indo-Europeans and that the language spread at a much earlier date than most other theories along with the advance of agriculture.




D) Linguistics

The AMT originated in linguistics and understanding this field is still critical to the debate.


Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction

by Robert P. Beekes

A popular introduction to Indo-European linguistics -- it's shorter than most.


Principles of Historical Linguistics

by Hans Henrich Hock

Possibly the best in-depth book on the subject


Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship: An Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics

by Hans Henrich Hock & Brian D. Joseph

An valuable in-depth introduction to Comparative Linguistics that serves as a good stepping-stone to the more in-depth texts listed here.


Two important in-depth books on the languages of India

1) The Indo-Aryan Languages

by Colin Masica

2) Indo-Aryan Languages

ed. George Cardona


The Aryan Problem: A Linguistic Approach

by S.S. Misra

By the only major professional linguist on the indigenist side


The Sanskrit Language

by Thomas Burrow


The Indus Age: The Writing System

by Gregory Possehl

Valuable overview of the numerous attempts to decipher the Indus (Harappan) Script


Various scholar's theories about the language of the Indus (Harappan) Script

The Indus script: Texts, concordance, and tables

by Iravatham Mahadevan

It's Dravidian.

The Decipherment of the Indus Script

by S.R. Rao

It's Indo-Aryan (Vedic-derived.)

Deciphering the Indus Script (Hardcover)

by Asko Parpola

No, it's Dravidian.



E) More AMT vs. OIT, Indology and Interdisciplinary


The Vedic People: Their History and Geography

by Rajesh Kocchar

This book argues that a major part of the Rigveda was composed in south Afghanistan (after c.1700 BC) before the Rigvedic people entered South Asia


Agni: The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar

ed. Frits Staal

In-depth coverage of the Vedic fire sacrifice and articles by other Vedic scholars


The Aryans in the Rigveda

by F.B.J. Kuiper

Classic text often cited by AMT authors


Looking for the Aryans

by R.S. Sharma


The Meaning of Pur in Vedic literature

by Wilhelm Rau

Rau's book is widely cited to support the idea that the Vedas do not know cities ('pur') and so cannot be Harappan



Archaeology and Language I; Theoretical and Methodological Orientations

Archaeology and Language II; Archaeological Data and Linguistic Hypotheses

Archaeology and Language III; Artefacts, Language and Texts

Archaeology and Language IV; Language Change and Cultural Transformation

Series ed. Roger Blench


Early contacts between Uralic and Indo-European: Linguistic and archaeological considerations

eds. Carpelan & Parpola


Three books by OIT writer N.S. Rajaram:

Aryan Invasion of India: The Myth and the Truth

Politics of History, Aryan Invasion Theory and the Subversion of Scholarship

The Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization


These authors claim the Harappan script is Vedic.

The Deciphered Indus Script: Methodology, Readings, Interpretations

by N. Jha and N. S. Rajaram


Purana Text of the Dynasties of the Kali Age

by Frederick E. Pargiter

Classic but dated text on the Indian historical, or quasi-historical, documents, the Puranas



F) More Archaeology/Anthropology


A Peaceful Realm : The Rise And Fall of the Indus Civilization

by Jane McIntosh

This is a beautifully produced book by an archaeologist with some interesting perspectives


Two authors who are often cited because of their evidence that there was no major population influx during the time postulated for the Aryan Migration

1) The People of South East Asia: Biological Anthropology of India, Pakistan and Nepal

ed. by John Lukacs


2) God-Apes and Fossil Men : Paleoanthropology of South Asia

by Kenneth A.R. Kennedy



Chronologies in Old World Archaeology, Vols. 1& 2

by Robert Ehrich

Useful chronological overview of the ancient cultures of the Old World from Europe to East Asia


Indus Age: The Beginnings

by Gregory Possehl

A massive book on the origins of the Harappan civilization.


Lothal, a Harappan port town

by S.R. Rao


Urbanisation in Early Historic India

ed. George Erdosy


The Bronze Age & Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern Central Asia

ed. Victor Mair


History of Civilizations in Central Asia -- Vol. 1

eds. Masson, Dani & Harmatta


The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West

by James Mallory and Victor Mair


Bronze Age Cultures in Central and Eastern Europe

by Marija Gimbutas


Excavations at Tepe Yahya, Iran, 1967-1975, (Volume III), The Third Millennium

by Potts, Pittman, Kohl, and Lamberg-Karlovsky


Mesopotamia & the East: An Archaeological & Historical Study of Foreign Relations 3400-2000 BC

by Timothy Potts


The Earliest Wheeled Transport from the Atlantic Coast to the Caspian Sea

by Stuart Piggot

One of the points in the AMT debate is the Rig Vedic 'Chariot'. This books gives background on the larger issue of the development of wheeled vehicles.


The following books are older collections of articles on Harappan archaeology

1) Harappan Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective (1982)

ed. Gregory Possehl


2) Ancient cities of the Indus (1979)

ed. Gregory Possehl


3) Frontiers of the Indus civilization: Sir Mortimer Wheeler commemoration volume

ed. B.B. Lal


4) The Dawn of Indian Civilization (Vol. 1, Part 1: History of Science, Philosophy & Culture in Indian Civilization)

ed. G.C. Pande


Old Problems and New Perspective in the Archaeology of South Asia



These 3 books were written by the original excavators decades ago.

1) Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus Civilization (3 Volume Set)

by John Marshall


2) Excavations at Harappa

by M.S. Vats


3) Further Excavations at Mohenjo-daro

by E.J.H. Mackay



G) More Linguistics


Historical and Comparative Linguistics

by Raimo Antilla


Introduction to Indo-European Linguistics

by Oswald Szemerérenyi


Theoretical Bases of Indo-European Linguistics

ed. Winfred Lehmann


The Harappan Civilization and Its Writing: A Model for the Decipherment of the Indus Script

by Walter Fairservis



F) More  Indo-European


Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture

ed. J.P. Mallory


The Coming of the Greeks

by Robert Drews

The Greek side of the Indo-European expansion



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