How old is all this

The myth of the Sun's boat could be of any antiquity, as seagoing vessels had existed for thousands of years before the break-up of the proto-Indo-European unity. On the other hand, as noted in the Introduction, the myth of the horse-drawn chariot, as we have it in the Rigveda, the Greek poets, and elsewhere, cannot be proto-Indo-European, because such a vehicle only became possible with the invention of the spoked wheel, which first appears near the close of the third millennium. Of course, the sun might have been pictured before that as a block wheel, or the god as driving a block-wheeled cart, drawn by a stronger animal such as a bull; or he might have ridden on horseback. But whether the horse and chariot version represents the modernization of an older myth or a completely new concept, we have to suppose that it spread like a wave, together with the techniques of chariot construction and warfare, across Indo-European territories that were already well on the way towards developing separate languages and cultures.

It was probably spread primarily by the fast-moving, chariot-borne warrior bands that roamed widely in the mid-part of the second millennium and by the poets who followed in their wake. The Scandinavian rock-carvings and the Trundholm sun-horse are products of the Bronze Age culture that flourished in southern Sweden and Norway, Denmark, and north Germany contemporaneously with the Mycenaean civilization in Greece, and archaeological links with south-eastern Europe can in fact be traced.54 There can be no doubt that the people who brought it to the north, warriors with horses, chariots, and battle-axes who had themselves interred in great round tumuli, were Indo-Europeans. We have noted elsewhere that the early Mycenaean civilization may itself have received input from Iranian-speaking invaders from the steppes.

The notion that the Sun-god commands a yoked team of animals of some

54 Gelling-Davidson (1969), 102 f., 122, 128 f.; Glob (1974), 101, 109-11, 129, 158; cf. H. Genz and others in Meller (2004), 186-93.

kind is not exclusively Indo-European.55 But where the horse or team of horses is found in connection with the sun in non-Indo-European settings, as in Egypt in the Amarna period and in China, it may be assumed to be a borrowing from an Indo-European source.56

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