Friday, September 10, 2010

Chevron, Ex, and Flail

This post concerns three signs in the Indus script, none of which is particularly common, each is which is comprised of two strokes.  The CHEVRON is my sign II11, also KP184, W419, and Fairservis P-4.  By Wells' count it occurs six times, twice at Mohenjo daro, twice at Harappa, once at Chanhujo daro, and once at Khirsara.  In a number of these inscriptions it is smaller than many of the other signs, which is what you might expect of our chevron ^ as it normally acts as a diacritical mark.  In the Indus script, too, the CHEVRON more often appears over another sign.  Using KP numbers to identify such ligatures, it occurs in KP48 (STRIPED FINLESS FISH UNDER CHEVRON), KP 61 (CAGED FISH UNDER CHEVRON), KP 149 (THREE POSTS UNDER CHEVRON), KP 253 (SKEWERED EX UNDER CHEVRON), KP 60 (FISH UNDER CHEVRON), KP89 (TRIDENT UNDER CHEVRON), KP138 (SINGLE QUOTE UNDER CHEVRON), KP244 (EX UNDER CHEVRON), KP314 (CUP ON TRIPLE PRONGS UNDER CHEVRON) and, unusually, it appears beside another sign in KP20 MAN BY CHEVRON.

By my count, CHEVRON appears a bit more often than six times.  It may be on a pot rim from Amri, although this shape may be the VEE variant of the CUP (Amri-2).  I see it on a pot shard from Chandigarh along with two other signs, where its identity is not in question (Ch-4).  And it is possible that it is painted on a third pot shard from Daimabad if that is not either the VEE variant of the CUP or the FLAIL (Dmd-9).

Fairservis considers the CHEVRON to mean "head, superior, top, chief" and, when used as an affix, "head."  It is such a simple shape we should not be surprised to see it among the writing systems or symbol systems of other peoples.  In Egyptian hieroglyphs, there is the outlined "L" shape O38 which indicates the corner of a wall.  This resembles a capital T with the left half of the horizontal bar removed.  There is the less angled T14, a throw-stick, as well as its Old Kingdom form, T15.  These are closer to our numeral "7" although less steeply angled.  There is also the outlined form Aa5, part of the steering gear of ships (Gardiner's guess).  It is shaped and angled just as the chevron is, but it is doubled, a large chevron with another smaller one laid on top.  While vaguely similar, none of these is identical to the Indus sign.

In Old Chinese there is a character that is a much closer match, chui2, "an object suspended, a pendant" (Wieger 1965: 42).  Unfortunately for our search, this seems not to be an independent character.  It only appears as a small element in complex characters such as lai2, "come."  Another possible parallel is ru1, "to enter, put in, penetrate," which is said to represent roots penetrating earth (Wieger 1965: 50).  In the early form, it was a chevron with an additional vertical rising from the point.

Proto-cuneiform yields the correct shape in a different orientation.  LISH looks like our "greater than" sign and came to mean "morsel, crumb."  SHU2 looks like our "less than" sign and came to mean "cover" or "to set."  Proto-Elamite has the "greater than" version (M064).

This same type of shape appears in North American rock art on occasion (Newcomb 1996: 172 Pl. 123 no. 2; Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 137 fig. 74c).  The latter authors recorded four instances of it.  Groups of such convergent lines can also be seen on the wall of Mooraa Cave in Mount Gambier region in South Australia (Flood 1997: 89).

The FLAIL is almost identical in shape except that one side is longer.  I assign it the number II1 (KP185, W235, Fs I-1).  Although shown as a leaning, backward "7" shape in most books, it appears on all four seals more similar to our numeral seven.  On M-877 the stem is vertical, not leaning.  The same is true of Nd-1 where it is quite small.  On M-789 and M-881 it leans very slightly to the left.  The short leg is straight in the case of M-789.  It is slightly curved on M-877 and M-881.  I am not entirely certain in the case of the small FLAIL on Nd-1 but I think that one is slightly curved also.

It is conceivable that the small two-stroke "affix" that I term the EAR is a reduced version of this sign.  Using KP numbers for identification, we can enumerate signs with the EAR: KP53 (FISH BETWEEN PARENS WITH EAR); KP97 (DOUBLED RAKE IN SQUARE WITH EAR); KP158 BACK CEE WITH OUTER EAR); KP159 (BACK CEE WITH QUADRUPLE LASHES & EAR); KP164 (BACK CEE WITH INNER EAR); KP173a (DOUBLE BACK CEES WITH EAR); KP173b (DOUBLE BACK ESSES WITH EAR); KP367 (CIRCLED DOT WITH EAR); KP370 (BACKSLASH IN DONUT WITH EAR); KP373 (CIRCLE WITH DOUBLE EARS).

Egyptian hieroglyphs present the flagellum S45 which gave me the idea originally of calling this sign a flail.  The Egyptian sign is not identical, however, as it tends to lean quite a bit and has two shorter lines, not just one.  These shorter lines are also joined by another very short line.  There is an even less convincing parallel in one variant of the hoe, U8, which is drawn with two strokes.  One line of this variant is straight and the other curved.  However in this glyph the curved line is longer than the straight line.  There is also U20, the adze, in its Old Kingdom variant.  It resembles a "7" faintly, but one which has fallen on its face and suffered curvature of the spine as a consequence.

In Old Chinese, recalling chui2, mentioned earlier, the same chevron shapes are sometimes stacked, two on the right and two on the left, of a backward seven-shaped mark (although the short stroke at the top is raised up compared to our numeral) in "a bough loaded with leaves and drooping flowers" (Wieger 1965: 44).  This obsolete character has since been superseded.  An additional backward "7"-like shape is han4, "A cliff which projects, a stiff slope....1. If the top is considered [in compound characters], it suggests the idea of an elevated place near an abyss, dangerous, exposed to view.  2. If the side is considered, it suggests the idea of a slide, of a fall" (Wieger 1965: 154).  This is the 27th radical.

Protocuneiform BAR resembles the letter "J" lying on its back, while proto-Elamite M469 resembles the same letter of our alphabet lying on its face, with a small wedge added to the top of the stem.  In North American rock art, a backward seven shape appears in Seminole Canyon, with a small circle on the longer line (Newcomb 1996: 51 Pl. 15).  A comparable figure appears elsewhere with an additional long stroke, again decked with the small circle (1996: 25 Pl. 7).  Further west, the FLAIL per se does not occur, but a curved shape similar to it does -- in other words, an upside-down "J" (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 142 fig. 79a).  In addition, there is a motif that I would describe as a check mark, in effect the upside-down version of the FLAIL (1984: 177 fig. 114j).  This last motif, the check mark, also appears in Australia at Olary (petroglyph YS2 from Yunta Springs in Flood 1997: 129).

The simple EX or "X" in my II12, KP240, W546, Fairservis' F-9 (which he defines as "wind").  Wells sees three of these, two at Mohenjo daro, one at Harappa.  I also see six at Lothal, allon pot shards.  In some discussions of symbols the terms "ex" and "cross" are used interchangeably, but I wish to distinguish these.  This symbol is like our letter "X" and does not appear in inscriptions in the form of the small "t" or cross.  The cross does appear on Indus seals as a motif or icon.  Thus, on pot shards where two crossed lines appear as a single sign, we cannot be entirely certain whether EX is intended or a cross.

In Egyptian hieroglyphs, there is a cross-shaped symbol made with loops, M42, which Gardiner suggests is a flower.  More precisely parallel to the Indus symbol, Z9 is an "X" shape, two sticks crossed.  It serves as a determinative indicating breaking in words such as hdi "damage," gmgm "break," and dividing in wpi, "divide, p-s-sh "divide," and so on.  There is an outlined formed of the same symbol, Z10, the Old Kingdom form.  Another cross form, Z11 has a taller vertical.  It represents two planks, apparently serving as an ideograph in imy, "who is in."  The Luwian hieroglyph for the syllable lu resembles the Egyptian Z11, a type of cross.

In Old Chinese, one character had a rounded "X" shape, resembling a "U" shape set upon an upside down "U" shape.  This was yi4 "to cut down with scissors, to mow" (Wieger 1965:93).  This looks like an "X" in modern Chinese writing.  The character for "five" formerly was an "X" (wu3), later the same with a horizontal line across the top and another across the bottom.  It no longer resembles our letter in the least.  The character for "ten" was formerly a cross and remains so -- shi2 (Wieger 1965: 68).

Protocuneiform contains an asymmetrical "X" shape, SILA3~c ("street, path, road, market place, square").  The left side opens up much farther and is longer than the right.  The sign MASH is a cross ("half; twin").  Similarly, proto-Elamite has both an "X" (M006~b) and the cross (M006).  It also has a cross that is made with three strokes -- one stroke for the horizontal line, a second stroke for the vertical above this, a third stroke for the vertical below the horizontal (M005~a).

The "X" or cross appears in rock art also (two in Texas, Newcomb 1996: 172 Pl. 123 no. 2; 51 "crosses" in Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 142 fig. 79b seen to be the "X"; "X" engraving at Panaramitee North, Olary region, South Australia and cross engraving at Sundown Point, northwest Tasmania in Flood 1996: 101, 233).  In at least some of the cases of "X" appearing in rock art, these may be representations of bird tracks.  For example, the track of the greater roadrunner has three forward facing toes and one backward facing toe.  Some tracks do resemble an "X" somewhat, although the center is not complete.  One would have to "connect the dots" mentally to create a full "X" shape.  In addition, the legs of this bird-track-X do not line up perfectly as do the legs of the letter (

As a final note, we may recall the entoptic forms which are said to be universal.  Among these internally generated forms, supposedly there are either crosses or "X" shapes.  The standard drawings shown in the lists which appear in article after article generally show "X" shapes, but authors generally refer to these as crosses.  As a migraine sufferer I see a variety of entoptic forms.  I do not see either the EX or the CROSS during migraines.  I do see the CHEVRON and the FLAIL.  In fact, the two are related.  The CHEVRON appears first.  One leg begins to grow as the migraine progresses.  Eventually it becomes a FLAIL.  In the area below the peak, where the two lines comes together, there is a blind spot.  This blind spot grows as the leg of the shape grows.  The shape itself is a sparkling or glowing object, rather like a mass of stars twinkling.  Oddly enough though, I have never seen the FLAIL listed among those universal entoptic forms.  I should like to lodge a protest about that!  According to websites concerning migraines, I am evidently supposed to see a "fortification" or zigzag.  Terribly sorry, but I don't.  I see that poor, miserable, unpopular FLAIL.

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