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Attempts at Deciphering the Indus Script Attempts at deciphering the Indus script started even before the exist- ence of the Indus Civilization was recognized. When Sir Alexander Cunningham reported the first known Indus seal from Harappa in 1875, he assumed that this unique find was a foreign import. A few years later he supposed that the seal might bear signs of the Brahmi script from its unknown early phase. After Cunningham, many scholars have connected the Indus script with the Brahmi script, which was used in India about 1500 years later. Among them was G. R. Hunter, who in the late 1920s studied the Indus inscriptions at first hand in Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, and analyzed them structurally in his valuable doctoral dissertation, where he also compared the script with other early writing systems. The archaeologist S. R. Rao in his book The decipherment of the Indus script (1982) maintains that the Indus script is the basis of not only the Brahmi script but also of the Semitic consonantal alphabet, which most scholars derive from the Egyptian hieroglyphs and take as the basis of the Brahmi script. Like so many other Indian scholars, Rao reads the Indus texts in an Aryan language close to Vedic Sanskrit.

Immediately after the discovery of the Indus Civilization became known in 1924, the British Assyriologists A. H. Sayce, C. J. Gadd and Sidney Smith pointed to its resemblance to the Elamite and Mesopotamian civilizations and compared the Indus signs with the pictograms of the Proto-Elamite and archaic Sumerian scripts. In 1974, the British Assyriologist James Kinnier Wilson tried to revive the hypothesis that the Indus language is related to Sumerian in his book Indo-Sumerian.

The Czech Assyriologist Bedrich Hrozn∞ in his youth recognized that the cuneiform tablets found in Anatolia were written in an Indo- European language, Hittite. He immediately became famous and later on tried to decipher many unknown scripts, including the Indus script.

Hrozn∞’s starting point was an Indus-like seal with three somewhat ______________________________

Gilund, a site of the Chalcolithic Ahar-Banas Complex of Mewar, Rajasthan, see Possehl et al. 2004. See also Parpola 2002a; 2002b.


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