Jim G. Shaffer

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Jim G. Shaffer (born 1944) is an American archaeologist and professor of anthropology at Case Western Reserve University.


  • The Indo-Aryan invasion(s) as an academic concept in 18th- and 19th-century Europe reflected the cultural milieu of that period. Linguistic data were used to validate the concept that in turn was used to interpret archaeological and anthropological data.What was theory became unquestioned fact that was used to interpret and organise subsequent data. It is time to end the "linguistic tyranny" that has prescribed interpretative frameworks of pre- and proto-historic cultural development in South Asia.
    • Jim Shaffer, 1984, ‘The Indo-Aryan Invasions: Cultural Myth and Archaeological Reality’ in Lukacs JR (ed) The People of South Asia: the Biological Anthropology of India, Pakistan and Nepal, Phenum, NY. p.88.
  • ‘A diffusion or migration of a culturally complex ‘Indo-Aryan‘ people into South Asia is not described by the archaeological record.‘
    • Shaffer (1999:245), quoted in The Languages of Harappa. Witzel, Michael. Feb. 17, 2000.
  • [the demographic eastward shift of the Harappan population during the decline of their cities, i.e. an intra-Indian movement from Indus to Ganga,] “is the only archaeologically documented west-to-east movement of human populations in South Asia before the first half of the first millennium BC”, while the archaeological record shows “no significant discontinuities” for the period when the Aryan invasion should have made its mark.
    • Jim G. Shaffer and Diane A. Lichtenstein: “The concepts of ‘cultural tradition’ and ‘palaeoethnicity’ in South-Asian archaeology”, in G. Erdosy, ed.: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p. 139-140., quoted in Elst, Koenraad (1999). Update on the Aryan invasion debate New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “No material culture is found to move from west to east across the Indus”. [in the relevant time period]
  • But even this tempered view is no longer acceptable to the "new school," whose foundation can be said to have been laid in 1984 by Jim Shaffer. He wrote : Current archaeological data do not support the existence of an Indo-Aryan or European invasion into South Asia any time in the pre- or protohistoric periods. Instead, it is possible to document archaeologically a series of cultural changes reflecting indigenous cultural developments from prehistoric to historic periods.
    • Attributed, at [1]

Quotes about Jim Shaffer[edit]

  • In a joint paper, “Migration, philology and South Asian archaeology”, two of the participating archaeologists, Jim Shaffer and Diane Lichtenstein, confirm and elaborate their by now well-known finding that there is absolutely no archaeological indication of an Aryan immigration into northwestern India during or after the decline of the Harappan city culture. It is odd that the other contributors pay so little attention to this categorical finding, so at odds with the expectations of the AIT orthodoxy.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2007). Asterisk in bharopiyasthan: Minor writings on the Aryan invasion debate.
  • The paper by J. Shaffer and D. Lichtenstein will illustrate the gulf still separating archaeology and linguistics. It reflects recent disillusionment with the traditional paradigmsdominating archaeological explanation be the cyclical models of cultural growth-florescence-decay, the continuing prominence — in South Asian archaeology at least — of diffusionism, or the obsession with the “Harappan Civilisation” at the expense of other social groups constituting the cultural mosaic of the Greater Indus Valley. Apart from the influence of 19th century ideas on the civilising mission of European powers, such views have also been fostered by an inadequate definition of “cultures” as recurring assemblages of artefacts (after Childe 1929). The authors, therefore, attempt to construct new analytical units based on a study of material culture, with special focus on the concept of “cultural tradition”. The paper builds on an earlier study Shaffer (1991), by placing emphasis on hitherto neglected structural features of cultural traditions; more importantly, it demonstrates by way of an example the potential of this method to lay bare the dynamics of long-term cultural change. The new concepts mark a significant advance in ways of handling the material culture of South Asia. Although they could certainly accommodate models of lan‘guage change, however, the authors stress the indigenous development of South Asian civilisation from the Neolithic onward, and downplay the role of language in the formation of (pre-modern) ethnic identities.
    • G. Erdosy (1995), p. xiii. George Erdosy (ed.) (1995): The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter.
  • But first a glimpse of the archaeological debate. In a recent paper, two prominent archaeologists, Jim Shaffer and Diane Lichtenstein (1999), argue that there is absolutely no archeaological indication of an Aryan immigration into northwest- ern India during or after the decline of the Harappan city culture. It is odd that the other participants in this debate pay so little attention to this categorical finding, so at odds with the expectations of the AIT orthodoxy, but so in line with majority opinion among Indian archaeologists.
    • Elst K in Bryant, E. F. (2008). The Indo-Aryan controversy: Evidence and inference in Indian history. London: Routledge. 236
  • Or it mainly was American professor James Shaffer, not exactly a “Hindu nationalist”, whose 1984 paper on the archaeological assessment of the hypothesised Aryan invasion threw the gauntlet against AIT complacency. He noted that already for more than half a century, well-financed excavations in the Harappan area had been looking for traces of the Aryan immigration (whether violent, as the archaeologists had expected, or under the radar, as they were later forced to postulate), but no trace had appeared. Indian archaeologists were becoming skeptical but the signal for them to gradually go public with this, at least in India to start with, was Shaffer’s statement.

External links[edit]

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