Aryan [key], [Sanskrit,=noble], term formerly used to designate the Indo-European race or language family or its Indo-Iranian subgroup. Originally a group of nomadic tribes, the Aryans were part of a great migratory movement that spread in successive waves from S Russia and Turkistan during the 2d millennium b.c. Throughout Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, literate urban centers fell to their warrior bands. Archaeological evidence corroborates the text of the Veda by placing the invasion of India by the Aryans at c.1500 b.c. They colonized the Punjab region of NW India and absorbed much of the indigenous culture. The resulting Indo-Aryan period saw the flourishing of a pastoral-agricultural economy that utilized bronze objects and horse-drawn chariots. Before the discovery of the Indus valley sites in the 1920s, Hindu culture had been attributed solely to the Aryan invaders. The idealization of conquest pictured in the Vedic hymns was incorporated into Nazi racist literature, in which German descent was supposedly traced back to Aryan forebears.
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