RESEARCHERS in Scotland and India have made the remarkable discovery that mediaeval property records written in Latin and Sanskrit have striking similarities.

Teams from Glasgow University and the University of Calcutta have proved that their two countries, some 6000 miles apart, developed very similar ways of recording property transactions, even though there was no known cultural link between Indian and European societies at that time.

With their knowledge of Latin and Sanskrit, the two teams combined to show that records in mediaeval Bengal and Scotland were devised in ways that used directly related vocabulary and philosophical concepts, and that even featured similar words, though no one knows how this happened.

The project was started in 2013 by John Reuben Davies and his team of Dauvit Broun, Katherine Forsyth, Sim Innes and Joanna Tucker from Glasgow’s Centre for Scottish and Celtic Studies and Calcutta University historians Suchandra Ghosh, Swapna Bhattacharya, Sayantini Paul and Rajat Sanyal.

The British Academy has now agreed to back the continuation of the project which it approved in late 2013.

At the time, the Academy said: “The concept of gift is central to property-transfer in medieval Europe and India. Indeed, striking parallels exist between Sanskrit records of property-transfer from early medieval Bengal and contemporaneous Latin charters from Europe.

“For Scotland between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, charters are the largest category of historical source, and Bengal’s early medieval history relies heavily on its copper ‘charters’ too. Moreover, both regions have epigraphic, genealogical, and panegyric evidence.

“The Asiatic Society in Calcutta holds many of the inscribed copper ‘charters’ of early medieval Bengal; and it was this Asiatic Society that fostered the notion of Indo-European language, a theory which illustrates the theme of this proposal, since in Sanskrit, the word for ‘gift’ is ‘danam’, and in Latin, ‘donum’.

“We will bring together specialists from Glasgow and Calcutta to work on these comparable sources, approaching land-holding, the recording of property-transfer, and the nature of royal power in new ways.”

According to the Times of India, Davies is in Kolkata to attend a workshop on the research project which has achieved its aim of showing the similarities.

Davies, a specialist in European Latin charters, said: “Striking parallels exist between Sanskrit records of property transfer from early medieval Bengal and contemporaneous Latin charters from Europe even as neither regions had any known contemporary connection or influence.

“Charters are the largest category of historical source in Europe. Bengal’s early medieval history also relies heavily on tamralipta (copperplate inscriptions).

“There’s compelling similarities not only of form and content, but of more profound legal and philosophical approaches to kingship, land, and the ownership of property.

“In Sanskrit, the word for the method of giving is ‘da na’. In Latin, the same Indo-European root provides the noun ‘do num’ (gift), and verb ‘do no’ (I give).

“The concept of transferring ownership uses a word which has the same origin in Sanskrit and Latin, at the heart of the property records both from Bengal and Scotland or some of the other European countries.”