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Special Lecture

Study of the Indus Script1)

Asko PARPOLA

INTRODUCTION

The International Conference of Eastern Studies has this year its 50th jubilee session. To deliver a special lecture on this occasion is a great honour, and I accepted the T$oh$o Gakkai’s kind invitation with hesita- tion, fully aware that there are many scholars who would be much more worthy of this honour. But I did not want to dismiss this opportunity to speak to a wide gathering of orientalists, as the study of the Indus script would certainly profit if experts in East Asian writing systems could be inspired to contribute with their insights.

The Indus Civilization First a few words about the historical context of the Indus script. The Indus or Mature Harappan Civilization was the most extensive urban culture of its time, about 2600–1900 BCE. Its area comprized one million square kilometres, and more than one thousand of its settle- ments have been identified so far. Yet the very existence of this Bronze Age Civilization was unknown until 1924, when Sir John Marshall announced its discovery on the basis of excavations that were started at the two largest sites, Harappa in the Punjab and Mohenjo-daro in Sind. Ever since, archaeological and other research has been constantly en-

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1) Paper read at the 50th ICES Tokyo Session on 19 May 2005 in Tokyo. I have shortened the text distributed at the conference and made a few additions (in particular, note 14 and consideration of two papers by Massimo Vidale that I received in a preliminary form in July 2005).

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