Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dee is for Dish

There is a sign in the Indus script that looks like the capital letter "D" or that letter reversed.  In the terms I use here, these are DEE and BACK DEE, sign II15, variants "a" and "b."  Formerly designated KP178 (one form only), W561 (one form only), and H-2 (one form only), this sign is relatively rare.  Wells notes that it occurs eight times, once at Mohenjo daro (M-87 BACK DEE) and seven times at Kalibangan (K-69 through K-75, duplicate bas-relief tablets; all DEE).  Fairservis considers the symbol a representation of the bow, a weapon, but gives its meaning as "sell, price, trade" (1992).

Nefertari's cartouche with basket, bread loaf, and land glyphs

The semi-circle is quite common as a symbol, around the world.  Its breadth and height, its orientation, and of course its specific meaning all vary considerably.  In Egypt alone there are seven or eight distinct hieroglyphs with this shape, the number depending upon how strictly one interprets the half circle and whether one allows for additional elements.  A small half circle with the flat side down is X1, a bread loaf, the very common phonetic sign for t.  A low and wide half circle with the flat side up is V30, a basket, the less phonetic sign nb.  When the flat side is down and the curved side is elongated upward, this is M35, a heap of grain.  When the flat side is up again but the curved side is deeper than for the basket and a bit of a knob is added, this is D27, the breast.  Turning the elongated version on its side and making it thinner, we have N22, a sandy tongue of land that serves as a determinative for lands.  Flip the heap of grain upside down and press the flat side down inside a bit so that it's a "U" shape with the horizontal line below the rim.  Now it is N42, a well full of water and a determinative for a well, pool, or marsh.  Turn the well upside down now and extend the horizontal line beyond the verticals and it becomes V19, a hobble for cattle.  There is also a basic half circle with various additions hiding in S12, a collar of beads, an ideograph in the word for "gold."

In Old Chinese, the original word for "mouth, entrance," kou3, greatly resembles the Egyptian well full of water, in one version.  Proto-cuneiform GAR is a half circle turned up like the letter "D" with an extra vertical (cdli).  This came to mean "storeroom; to store."  There was once another simpler half circle that more closely resembled the Egyptian basket nb (Schmandt-Besserat 1996: 78).  Its meaning is unknown.  Proto-Elamite contains a "D"-like sign as well (M129).  However, as in many cases, it is more angular than either the Indus sign or the proto-cuneiform symbols.  Thus, it is actually a triangle with the apex to the right.

The DEE appears in North American rock art, at least in the Far West (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 174, fig. 111 f; 178, fig. 115 a).  I have only observed it in the rock art of Texas in connection with anthropoid figures, where it apparently represents a bow (Newcomb 1996: 118, Pl. 78).  I have not seen it in Australian rock art. 

Tarhunnas the Thunder God
(Note FLAIL held behind his head
and DEE & BACK DEE deity symbol)
It may be of some interest that I have not observed the half-circle in entoptic forms either.  It does not appear among "floaters," among the bright shapes that appear during migraines, or when I press my fingertips to my closed eyelids (something I do often due to eyestrain).  It does not normally appear as an after-image either.  Nested curves do appear, both as images during migraines and when I press on my eyelids.  So do dotted circles, circles within circles, rayed circles, and hybrids of these.  That is to say, a dot grows and becomes a circle.  A dot appears within this circle so that there is a circle with a dot.  The dot grows, so that there is now a circle within a circle.  Inside the smaller circle, a new dot emerges which grows in turn.  As the new dot grows, the largest circle appears to grow beyond my field of "vision," so that it is only a partially "visible" curve, inside of which there is a circle within a circle.  And when migraine pain is severe, sometimes the internal dot does not become a tidy circle but grows spikes and these outgrow the limits of the outer circle, becoming rays.  If they all grow quickly enough, there are curves within curves instead of circles within circles.  But there are no straight lines closing the end of the curves -- no half circles.

Likewise, there are no triangles or other pointed forms in my entoptic visions.  The closest thing to a diamond or square is the grid, which I do see.  But I mainly see the lines of the grid, not the spaces between the lines, if that makes any sense.  Thus, where the half circle or DEE appears in art, I think it is not a self-generated form.  It represents something in the environment.

As far as illustrations this time, I present one from Egypt in which the bread loaf is visible (the small half circle with flat side down).  Another is from Luwian hieroglyphs, the symbol DEUS or "god."  It is comprised of two half circles, DEE and BACK DEE back to back, in effect.  This symbol floats in front of the thunder god of the Hittites who is riding his chariot.  He should have been included in the previous post, Tarhunnas (usually called Teshup, his Hurrian name) with his three-pronged lightning bolt in one hand and, in the other, a weapon which very much resembles the Indus symbol, the FLAIL.  The latter object is held high over his head, ready to clobber that DEUS symbol if it gets too close.

As a little preview, you might want to take a peek at the wheel on the chariot of the thunder god.  Note that it seems a bit flimsy with its measly four spokes.  Isn't that interesting?  That will turn up as a sign in the Indus script later on, when we get to four-stroke symbols.  It's the CIRCLED CROSS and a very interesting sign it is, too!

No comments:

Post a Comment