Thursday, September 23, 2010

Funny Hats or Boats with Gunification

There are three signs in the Indus script that are basically like the one I termed the BOAT (II 16), a CEE or BACK CEE with a smaller curve attached in the middle, plus an additional line.  In early Sumerian cuneiform, the use of an addition mark or two to make a semantic distinction is called "gunification."  It may be that the addition of a short stroke in the Indus script -- whether a slash, backslash, quote, or a small two-stroke element I term an "ear" -- is a similar phenomenon.

Pueblo pottery (not quite a "D" with a triangle or slash inside)
The first of these slightly odd signs is only tentatively separated from the BOAT sign as it has a pointy "cabin," not a curved one.  Thus, the sign falls in the three-stroke set rather than the two-stroke set with the original.  I am hesitantly giving it a distinct name, HAT, numbering it III30.  It has no separate KP number nor a separate listing in Fairservis' account of the signs.  Wells does show it as a separate sign, W587, stating that it is a singleton, appearing only on M-136. 

That is an interesting inscription because the pointy "cabin" was apparently overlooked by Koskenniemi and Parpola.  The HAT appears there in "cee" form beside FOUR CEES, while KP 177 is FIVE BACK CEES.  These authors systematically reverse the signs on the seals, showing them as they would appear in impressions.  This accounts for the discrepancy between the CEES on the seal and the BACK CEES in their list.  But it doesn't account for the discrepancy in the number.  For them to arrive at five, they must have counted the HAT as one of the CEES.

Naxi symbol of negative in upper right resembles Indus BOAT
But although I agree with Wells' reading of the inscription as containing the CEE HAT, I don't think this sign is a singleton.  I think H-98 also has one.  And I think there are two BACK CEE HATS (which we can call variant "b" while the first type is variant "a"), too.  These are H-380 and L-190A (1-3), an impression or tag.  There is also one four-stroke variant which we may term "c."  It looks something like an angular version based on a wide open "less than" sign with a small "greater than" sign inside (Dlp-1).

The reason I called the original sign II 16 a "boat" was due to what I fancy is a resemblance to Egyptian P1 and even more to P4.  The first represents a boat on water.  The boat is depicted as a "C"-like curve, although resting horizontally as boats usually do, not vertically like the Indus sign.  But we saw with the "fish"-like sign that Indus symbols generally are tall and thin rather than being positioned horizontally.  This may be due to space constraints.  Of course, besides the oddity of a boat standing on its prow or stern, we would have to explain the differences between the hieroglyph and the Indus sign: there is no oar in the Indus sign as there is in glyph P1 and there is no water either.  But perhaps the Indus seal carvers were more interested in making their symbols with as few lines as possible rather than as graphically lovely as possible.  Still, the resemblance is pretty slight and I won't press it.

Does this replica show an Indus bowman (DEE-SLASH with arm and legs)?
Proto-cuneiform presents a better case.  There are two parallels, actually.  In this proto-writing system, the difference between the CEE version and the BACK CEE version is meaningful.  The "C"-like version is a variant of AB2, originally a representation of a cow's head.  It basically means "cow."  When the "C" portion is turned the other way, it is a representation of the sun coming up between hills or on the horizon, U4, a sign that came to mean "sun, day."  Note, however, that in the latter case the part representing the sun is always curved, so far as I can tell.

Proto-Elamite also contains close parallels.  One of these has a "C"-like shape which is turned like an upside-down "U" or ROOF element in the Indus script.  A small pointed triangle or "v" shape descends from this (M447).  A variant of this is made by placing a slash against a backslash, each incised with double lines.  The small pointed triangle or "v" shape descends from the inner peak as before (M447~b).  Another variant is a "great than sign" in which the "v"-like sign is turned sideways, on the left side (M447~c).  The meaning is unknown.

Luwian hieroglyphs present a more distant parallel that may provide a possible hint of meaning.  A backward "C" shape is closed by a vertical line with another vertical beside it.  To the left of the first vertical a smaller "c" shape is appended in the center.  The whole sign resembles a child's toy top which has fallen on its side.  This can be taken as VIR, which means "man," or as the syllable zi.  As the latter, it sometimes has yet another additional vertical stripe.

This shape is not common in rock art.  But there is a somewhat similar symbol among those listed for the Adinkra of West Africa (reference below).  This symbol is a "C" shape lying flat on its back, boat fashion.  Just above it and not touching is a small circle, out of which come several short rays, eight by my count.  At the end of each ray is a round knob.  This symbol is said to represent the moon and a star, meaning "love, faithfulness, and harmony."

Bowman (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 190, fig. 127b)
In designs found on the pottery of the Pueblo Indians, too, there is an equally distant parallel.  In some semi-circular designs, a white triangle is painted on a black background (Chapman 1995: 21).  However, the triangle normally is positioned with the apex toward the curved side of the half-circle, not the flat side.  This is essentially the opposite of the configuration found in the Indus sign.

Moving on, I term the next sign the BOAT WITH OAR, for lack of a better name, III31.  It was formerly KP161, W563, not shown in Fairservis.  Wells sees three of these, but I only recognize this symbol in two of the cases he cites (H-145 and Ns-6).  Both are "cee" shapes, the first with a curved "cabin," the second with a much smaller, possibly pointy "cabin" (and thus it really should be in the four-stroke list).  Both have a backslash across the upper portion of the "cee."  The last of the occurrences that Wells cites, M-677, has no "cabin" at all.  It is an instance of CEE & SLASH, II 17.

Bowman (Newcomb 1996: 86, Pl. 47, no. 4)
This sign reminds me of the Egyptian glyph P1, the boat with an oar I mentioned earlier, hence my name for it.  But there is also an Old Chinese character with roughly the same shape, yu3, "the full spoon, with an index [i.e., a horizontal line added] meaning that it is being emptied" (Wieger 1965: 146).  This suggests a possible reason for adding a stroke to an existing sign.  In Old Chinese the basic spoon without that added horizontal line is shao3.

In proto-cuneiform, the same "cow" symbol occurs with a horizontal stroke added: |1(N57).AB2|.  This is a way of indicating "one cow."  Or as it might be said more elegantly, "one head of cattle."  The symbol for a day can also receive a stroke, either horizontal or diagonal (a backslash): |U4 x 1(N57)| or |U4 x 1(N58)@t|.  Either way, it means "one day."

The third sign is one I call BOAT WITH BENT OAR, III32.  It has two variants, "a" and "b."  In these, the additional stroke is vertical and short, so the sign looks something like the FINLESS FISH standing on its nose, only the one side stroke is longer so that it's a "cee" stroke.  Then there is a short vertical stroke hanging down off one of this peculiar fish's back fins.  This sign was formerly KP170 (stroke on left), W147 (left stroke) and W132 (right stroke), but has no listing in Fairservis.  There is apparently only one of each of the variants; M-725 has the stroke on the left; K-24 has the stroke on the right.

Mycenaean Greek bowman
While this would be a rather odd sort of boat, I note that in Egyptian there is P3, the sacred bark.  Gardiner gave only one version in his list but noted that details of this boat varied greatly from rendition to rendition in reality.  That was because there were actually many different sacred barks, one for Re during the day and then his night boat, the sacred bark of dawn, the sacred neshmet boat of Abydos, and so on.  Each was different.

In proto-cuneiform, such signs as AB2 (the cow) and U4 (the sun, day) could take two or more additional strokes, not just one.  This was one way scribes indicated "two cows," and "two days" and so on.

There is also a sign that resembles our letter "D" with a slash through it.  Although most authors assume this to be a representation of a bow and arrow, I simply term it DEE-SLASH and its reversed variant BACK DEE-SLASH, III33.  Strictly speaking, there should also be two more angular variants, each of which takes four strokes, triangular variants that have points on the sides instead of curves.  All are apparently subsumed as KP182 and Fs H-1, the bow and arrow, which the latter author states had the pronunciation vil-ambu, ambila-"rice (?)," ambal, "grain."  Personally, I can't see using a bow and arrow as the a depiction for grain when there seems to be a sign that is a representation of an ear of grain.  But we won't talk about that right now.

Bowman from cylinder seal (Nimrud, Iraq; Collon 2005: 77, no. 337)
Wells separates the sign into three categories.  For him, the "D" version is W560 with a frequency of 27, the backward "D" being W564 with a frequency of 2, and the angular "D" W562 with a frequency of 3.  I must admit I saw one angular "D" (Dlp-3, a tag) and three angular backward "D" variants (H-44, H-682, and M-12).  But Wells systematically reverses signs that appear on seals, so this is a matter of definition.  I see 16 rounded "D" types; 13 rounded backward "D" types; 1 angular "D" type; 3 angular backward "D" types.  So, we have a bit of a disagreement about what's what and where.  This is a good example of why the decisions on how to transcribe ancient texts should be done by committees, not individuals.

As a comparison, I looked at Egyptian glyphs of bows and arrows.  Their bow glyph T10 looks like our letter "B" lying on its bumpy side, only it's very thin.  The older glyph T11 is rather like the bumpy side of the same letter, minus the vertical line, only it's made with doubled lines.  It is completely unlike the Indus sign.  The Old Chinese bow looks even less like the Indus sign.  In fact, the Indus DEE-SLASH most closely resembles the Old Chinese zhan1, "to ask about some enterprise by singeing a tortoise shell; divination."  This character is a "D" that is lying on its rounded part with a little "T" lying on its side, on top of the flat part.  It's not much like the Indus sign, but it does contain the "dee."

Proto-cuneiform has a closer parallel in ZATU 852.  This is similar to a backward "D" shape in which the curve does not quite touch the vertical line.  Then instead of a high and rising slash mark, as in the Indus sign, instead there is a low one.  The meaning of this sign is unknown.  There does not seem to be a comparable sign in proto-Elamite.

Bowmen in South African rock art (Maggs 1979: 45, Pl. 43)
In the rock art of North America there are many anthropoid figures depicted in stylized fashion, often with a "D" or backward "D" shape overlapping or near the hand.  A slash or backslash usually overlaps or lies close to this "D" shape.  In these cases it is clearly a person with bow and arrow (Newcomb 1996: 88, Pl. 49, no. 9; Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 190, fig. 127b).  This motif does not occur in Australian rock art since the bow and arrow were not part of the material culture of the native people of this continent prior to the arrival of Europeans.

In the rock art of South Africa, the evidence is more equivocal.  Paintings of people with bows and arrows certainly appear (Maggs 1979: frontispiece, 27, 45).  But the style varies.  Sometimes the wooden portion of the bow is shown, but not the string, as if the bow were being carried unstrung; sometimes both  parts are depicted but the shape is like the pointed oval or diamond among the Indus signs, rather than the "D."  The only occurrence of the "dee"-like form I observed was in some of those shown in the large group at Mount Hope, Tarkastad, eastern Cape border, where small figures are fighting large figures (1979: 45, fig. 43).

REFERENCES (additions to the list provided in a previous post)

Adinkra Index West African Wisdom: Adinkra Symbols & Meanings

Chapman, Kenneth. 1995. Pueblo Pottery Design. New York: Dover. (reprint of The Pottery of Santo Domingo Pueblo: A Detailed Study of Its Decoration, Memoirs of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Vol. I, pub. 1953 at the University of New Mexico, Santa Fe).

Maggs, Tim, ed. 1979. Major Rock Paintings of Southern Africa, facsimile reproductions by R. Townley Johnson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

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