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analysis of Indus sign sequences.

Our Finnish team consisted of Seppo Koskenniemi, a computer specialist, my Assyriologist brother Simo Parpola and myself. We were inspired by the decipherment of the Mycenaean Linear B script without the help of bilinguals in the 1950s. We started by preparing a machine- readable text corpus, and published an automated method to classify characters of unknown ancient scripts in 1970, and the first computer- concordance of the Indus texts in 1973. A revised computer corpus and concordance was published by Seppo’s brother Kimmo Koskenniemi and myself in 1979–82. In 1971 I went to Pakistan and India in order to verify our readings from the original objects kept in museums. After discovering there hundreds of unpublished inscriptions, I initiated the project of publishing a comprehensive photographic Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions in international collaboration under the auspices of the Unesco. We proposed some Dravidian readings in 1969–70. My own efforts to develop these readings culminated in a book published in 1994.

The Tamil scholar Iravatham Mahadevan, who has done remarkable work in the field of Old Tamil epigraphy, started working on the Indus material in Indian museums in 1971. In 1977, Mahadevan brought out his very useful computer-corpus and concordance. He has published also several papers proposing Dravidian readings for Indus signs.

It is not possible for me to mention all attempts at decipherment here, let alone to criticize them. Gregory L. Possehl has published a fairly comprehensive and in many ways very useful survey in 1996.9) Possehl’s final verdict is that all attempts are invalid.

IS THE INDUS SCRIPT A WRITING SYSTEM?

Quite recently, students of the Indus script have been confronted with

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9) “Possehl’s book is a valuable survey, but the reader should be warned that it contains some serious factual errors and many misprints” (Robinson 2002: 331a). For a competent shorter survey, see Robinson 2002: 264–295.

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