short inscriptions on durable materials have preserved the information that the Indus Civilization did have a script of its own.14)
That the Indus script changed very little in 600 years is taken as evidence that there were no manuscripts, as the scribes everywhere tended to develop a cursive style. However, allographs show that Indus signs were occasionally simplified very much. Moreover, the Egyptian hieroglyphs preserved their monumental pictographic shapes for 3000 years.
Farmer et al. also miss evidence for Harappan writing equipment. They discredit four respected Indus archaeologists — Ernest Mackay, George Dales, Masatoshi Konishi and B. B. Lal — who have inter- preted some finds as writing equipment, because these interpretations “are no longer accepted by any active researchers” (p. 25). Konishi’s paper was published in 1987 and B. B. Lal wrote as recently as 2002.15)
The Parallel of Non-Linguistic Symbolic Systems If the Indus signs do not form a language-based writing system, what was their function? Farmer et al. see in them “a relatively simple system of religious-political signs that could be interpreted in any language” (p. 45). The non-linguistic symbols of Mesopotamian iconography are mentioned as a particularly close and relevant parallel. These are images representing various deities, celestial phenomena, animals and plants, tools and commodities, and more abstract symbols like the swastika and an omega-looking sign. There is no question that these symbols — which are arranged in regular rows with a definite order only in stelae and boundary stones dated between 1500 and 600 BC — do resemble
14) A fragment of a convex partially burnt sealing with two impressions of one and the same stamp seal on the outside preserves faint script signs on the inside (DK 12145 = Mackay 1938: I, 349 and II, pl. XC: 17 = M-426 in Joshi & Parpola 1987: 105; now in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India as ASI 63.10.201). The inside of this sealing should be carefully examined with microscope to determine whether it really was fixed on a wooden rod and whether the script signs were written on that rod.
15) Lal’s book does not count because it is popular and politically biased (Farmer et al. 2004: p. 25).
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