Based on the OP, I'm assuming Wikipedia is sufficiently "Academic" for purposes of this forum.
I am asserting that at least one source, Wikipedia, has referenced academic materials that propose Zoroaster possibly lived as many as 20,000 years ago in an "immaculate conception," like Buddha.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroaster
The relevant quote:
The date of Zoroaster, i.e., the date of composition of the Old Avestan gathas, is unknown. Classical writers such as Plutarch proposed dates prior to 6000 BC. Dates proposed in scholarly literature diverge widely, between the 18th and the 6th centuries BC.
Generally, from the Bonpo literature, the founder of their religion, Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche lived to the west of Tibet in a region known by the 8th Century as "Tajik."http://bon-encyclopedia.wikispaces.com/Tonpa+Shenrab
As a first element to what could amount to a basic theory, I note the coincidence of two things: the place and time of Zoroaster and Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche.
Zoroastrianism is a religion that on its surface proposes a dualistic vision of the universe with the competing forces of Ahura Mazda (The Light) versus Angra Mainu (The Dark). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroastrianism
In Buddhism, the popular stories tell of Buddha battling Mara, again, Light vs. Dark. If Zoroastrianism is as old as 18th Cent BC, then these elements very well might have been integral Indo-Aryan cultural themes by Buddha's time.
While Zoroastrianism is mostly an exoteric practice of doing good. There is the component of doing good with body, speech and mind, part of which is reciting mantras.http://www.hinduwebsite.com/zoroastrianism/beliefs.asp
(see #11) [Also of note here is the notion that the world is emanated out of God's light, the elements are pure, and man's nature is pure. This corresponds in respectively to the realization in Dzogchen that all is light, in Vajrayana that the world is a Pure Land inhabited by Dakas and Dakinis, and in Dzogchen that our true nature is Kuntuzangpo].
(See Heart Drops of Dharmakaya, section on Exhaustion of Phenomena);
(See http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?o ... ew&id=1660
, first question and answer re pure perception);
(see http://www.dharmakirti.org/online_libra ... zangpo.pdf
Again, there is a concurrence in Zoroastrianism of doing good with Body, Speech, and Mind, which is a central Buddhist tenent, going back to the Pali Sources.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Vajrashttp://www.suttas.net/english/suttas/kh ... /index.php
Zoroastrian is not only dualistic, but has a nondualistic mysticism. Which can be related to "tuning" into a deity via mantra. But more importantly to overcome the "darkness" of "confusion," meaning it is not an outer agent which causes salvation, but one's inner condition that counts. Note that tuning into a deity is the purpose of Vajrayana mantras and Dzogchen mantras (i.e., Song of the Vajra viz Samantabhadra). Whereas, mantras have also evolved as magical formulas, it is the deity's power that makes the magic work). http://tenets.zoroastrianism.com/TAAVIL ... MYASHT.pdf
Thus, all Buddhist yanas appear tinted by Zoroastrianism and key ways.
As to the possible influence or confluence of Zoroastrianism and Vedic thinking, of course there is the practice of mantras. The Gayatri Mantra comes from Mandala 3 of the Rg Ved. The Gayatri mantra is not just a prayer but has the power to arouse supernormal bliss, one can test this by mentally reciting it numerous times just as it is written below).http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/RV/RV03.html
3.062.10a tát savitúr váreṇiyam
3.062.10b bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
3.062.10c dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt
The Rishis or reciters of the Vedas predated the Vedas in a "pre-historic or mythical period."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rishi
The Mahabharata states the Maharishis came from a Northern Region, called Rishikas and Parama-Kambojas, which is modern day Tajikistan.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parama_Kamboja_Kingdom
Thus, here again, there is a correspondence between a Dzogchen source and a Vedic one.
The Bonpo Dzogchen guardian Nyipangse/Pehar are thought to derive from the Vedic deity Brahma, the white deity.
(See, The Bon Religion of Tibet, Reynolds)
(See, Bo and Bon, Ermakov)
Of note within the Dzogchen is the "Rishi" posture, a manner of sitting, perhaps does reflect a continuous tradition from the actual Rishis.
For the above-stated reasons, among others, I have theorized that Zoroastrianism's esoteric tradition is a fountainhead for Vedic, Buddhist and Dzogchen practices.