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obscure cuneiform characters, and the resemblance that he saw between the Hittite hieroglyphs and the Indus signs. He reads many different signs with the same phonetic value; the resulting texts reproduce a few alleged divine names in endless variations.

In 1932, a Hungarian engineer, Vilmos Hevesy compared the Indus script with the rongorongo tablets of the Easter Island. Because the similarities made an impression on the French Orientalist Paul Pelliot, this comparison has been taken seriously although the two scripts are separated by more than 20,000 kilometres and some 3500 years. The comparison is useless also because the rongorongo tablets have not been deciphered.

Sir John Marshall thought that the language of the Indus script most likely belonged to the Dravidian family, which is still represented in the Indus Valley and Baluchistan by the Brahui language. Piero Meriggi, later an acknowledged authority of the Hittite and Proto-Elamite scripts, agreed with Marshall about the linguistic affinity in his paper on the Indus script from 1934, but refrained from a phonetic decipherment and tried to understand the signs from their pictorial forms. The Dravidian hypothesis was the basis of Father Henry Heras’s ambitious attempt, which culminated in a large book published in 1953. In my opinion, Heras was right in his readings of a couple of signs, but these could not be distinguished from a great number of nonsensical interpre- tations.

By coincidence, in 1964 two teams of computer-assisted scholars started working on the Indus script independently of each other, one in Russia, and one in Finland. Both teams came to the conclusion that the language was Dravidian. The Russian team was led by Yurij Knorozov, who initiated the decipherment of the Mayan script, and included a Dravidian specialist, Nikita Gurov. The Russians initially proposed only few interpretations, but in their final report from 1979, meanings are assigned to all the Indus signs. Their use of the computer seems to be limited to a comparison of samples of the Indus and Egyptian scripts. The Russians never published a text corpus or any computer


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