This chapter discusses the prehistory of the Indo-Aryan peoples ancestral to those who composed the Ṛgveda. On the basis of shared linguistic and cultural evidence it defends the view that these peoples migrated into northwest South Asia, splitting off from the larger group of Indo-Iranians, a branch of Indo-European, who migrated south and east from the steppes. In particular it takes up the shared heritage of Old Indo-Aryan (Vedic) and Old Iranian (Avestan) language, literature, and religion, specifically comparing the poetry and ritual practices of the Ṛgveda with those found in Avestan, particularly the hymns, called Gāthās (songs), attributed to Zarathustra. It also examines the soma/haoma cult that dominated the ritual practice of both Vedic and Avestan elite populations.
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