Sándor Bökönyi

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Sándor Bökönyi (17 March 1926 - 25 December 1994) was a Hungarian archaeologist who specialized in zooarchaeology, the study of animal remains associated with human settlements. He was especially interested in the domestication and spread of horses in human history. Bökönyi was born in Vállaj on the border of Hungary and Romania and went to a content in Debrecen.


  • Thus, the precise identification of equid remains in Surkotada has been conducted by Hungarian expert Prof. Sandor Bokonyi: “The occurrence of true horse (Equus Caballus L.) was evidenced by the enamel pattern of the upper and lower cheek and teeth and by the size and form of incisors and phalanges (toe bones).” (quoted by Prof. B.B. Lal from Bokonyi's letter to the Director of the Archaeological Survey of India, 13- 12-1993, in New Light on the Indus Civilization, Aryan Books, Delhi 1998, p.111; Lal took the trouble of quoting Bokonyi precisely because the latter's expertise had falsely been cited in favour of the opposite view, viz. that the horses found were really hemiones.)
    • Sandor Bokonyi, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2007). Asterisk in bharopiyasthan: Minor writings on the Aryan invasion debate.
  • The evidence concerning horses remains nonetheless the weakest point in the case for an Indian Urheimat. While the evidence is arguably not such that it proves the Harappan culture’s unfamiliarity with horses, it cannot be claimed to prove the identity of Vedic and Harappan culture either, the way the abundance of horse remains in Ukraine is used to prove the IE character of the settlements there. At this point, the centre-piece of the anti-AIT plea is an explainable paucity of the evidence material, so that everything remains possible.... The non-invasionists should recognize the merits in the invasionist skepticism of the horse evidence found in the Harappan cities. It is one thing for Prof. B.B. Lal (one of those healthy doubters who only came to dismiss the “myth of the Aryan invasion” gradually) to cite recent finds of horse bones as proving that “the horse was duly known to the Harappans” and to quote archaeozoologist Prof. Sandor Bokonyi as confirming that the horses found in Surkotada were indeed horses (which some had refused to believe due to their AIT bias), and that “the domestic nature of the Surkotada horses is undoubtful”. It is another to deduce that the horse was simply part of Harappan life rather than an exotic curiosity; AIT defenders have a point when they maintain that the horse was not part of the Harappan lifestyle the way it was in the Kurgan culture. More work is to be done, both in digging and incorrectly interpreting the data.
  • Through a thorough study of the equid remains of the protohistoric settlement of Surkotada, Kutch, excavated under the direction of Dr. J. P. Joshi, I can state the following: The occurrence of true horse (Equus Caballus L.) was evidenced by the enamel pattern of the upper and lower cheek and teeth and by the size and form of the incisors and phalanges (toe bones). Since no wild horses lived in India in post-Pleistocene times, the domestic nature of the Surkotada horse is undoubtful. This is also supported by an inter-maxilla fragment whose incisor tooth shows clear signs of crib-biting, a bad habit only existing among domestic horses which are not extensively used for war. (Bökönyi, December 13, 1993)
    Bökönyi (1997: 300) confirmed his findings: “All in all, the evidence enumerated above undoubtedly raises the possibility of the occurrence of domesticated horses in the mature phase of the Harappa Culture, at the end of the third millennium BC.”
    • (Bökönyi, December 13, 1993)
    • Bökönyi, S., 1997. “Horse Remains from the Prehistoric Site of Surkotada, Kutch, Late 3rd Millennium BC,” South Asian Studies, 13: 297–307.
    • B.B. Lal, Aryan invasion of India, Perpetuation of a myth. in : Bryant, E. F., & Patton, L. L. (2005). The Indo-Aryan controversy : evidence and inference in Indian history. Routledge 69-70
  • It is well known that wild horses did not exist in India in post-Pleistocene times, in the time of horse domestication. Horse domestication could therefore not be carried out there, and horses reached the Indian subcontinent in an already domesticated form coming from the Inner Asiatic horse domestication centres via the Transcaspian steppes, North- east Iran, South Afghanistan and North Pakistan. The northwestern part of this route is already more or less known; the Afghan and Pakistani part has to be checked in the future. (300)
    • Bokonyi (1997): in Bryant, E. F. (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : the Indo-Aryan migration debate. Oxford University Press.


  • The situation took a new turn, somewhat melodramatically, a few years ago. The material involved had been excavated in Surkotada in 1974 by J. P Joshi, and A. K. Sharma subsequently reported the identification of horse bones from all levels of this site (circa 2100-1700 B.C.E.)... Although some scholars accepted the report, doubts about the exact species of Equus represented by the bones prevented widespread recognition of Sharma's claim...Twenty years later, at the podium during the inauguration of the Indian Archaeological Society's annual meeting, it was announced that Sandor Bokonyi, a Hungarian archaeologist and one of the world's leading horse specialists, who happened to be passing through Delhi after a conference, had verified that the bones were, indeed, of the domesticated Equus caballus... Sharma comments on this validation:
    This was the saddest day for me as the thought flashed in my mind that my findings had to wait two decades for recognition, until a man from another continent came, examined the material and declared that "Sharma was right." When will we imbibe intellectual courage not to look across borders for approval? The historians are still worse, they feel it is an attempt on the part of the "rightists" to prove that the Aryans did not come to India from outside her boundaries. (30)
    • A.K. Sharma voicing his disappointment that his initial report on horse bones was rejected by some scholars, but was much later vindicated by horse expert Sándor Bökönyi, quoted in Bryant, E. F. (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : the Indo-Aryan migration debate. Oxford University Press.
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