|Decorative triangles on a pot produced by Brazilian natives|
There is one simple triangle in Egyptian hieroglyphs, a tall and thin example (M44). It represents a thorn. A more common triangular glyph contains another smaller triangle inside, at its base (X8). This is a conical bread loaf used in the verb "to give." In hieratic writing the inner marking disappears so that it merges with the previous symbol. Another triangular glyph is a little broader and has a thin rectangular base (O24). This represents a pyramid. Finally, a roughly triangular reed boat or float, used in fishing and in hippo hunting, with several additional details, provides one more distant parallel for the Indus sign (T25).
In Old Chinese, the simple triangle is ji2, "notion of union, of assemblage, of a junction of different elements, represented by three lines" (Wieger 1965: 45). This character is not seen alone now but appears in compounds such as da2, "vetch, pea, vegetables whose boughs are joined, get entangled" (op cit.). This explanation is one of those where I suspect Wieger's imagination may have gotten the better of his scholarship, but the latter character does seem to have the element ji2 in it, surmounted by two trident-like elements representing vegetation. At the bottom is the mouth-like element which would ordinarily lead one to expect one portion to be a phonetic clue. This does not seem to be the case, though, since ji2 and da2 are pretty different. The latter is reconstructed as something like *tap in Early Chinese (Pulleyblank 1991: 69). It's a bit difficult to discover the other since it has disappeared from the lexicon, but most words with that pronunciation are reconstructed as *ki or *tsi at a slightly earlier stage and from there to such Early Chinese forms as *gij, key, tsej, giajk, kejk, giajk, dziajk, tsik (1991: 138-139). In other words, these two words weren't any more like each other in the past than they are at present.
Luwian hieroglyphs make use of a triangle for the syllable su. Very early proto-cuneiform had a triangle also, the apex upward as all these previous ones did, which meant "to make, build" (Schmandt-Besserat 1996: 77). Another triangular sign was positioned with the apex downward and had an additional horizontal line near the "base" (which was not the base but the top). This represented a particular type of bowl with a beveled rim, many of which are found in archeological deposits. This sign came to mean "bread," which is NINDA in Sumerian (1996: 73). However, early on, the sign probably did not have precisely this significance, instead having some more administrative connotation having to do with the distribution of rations to workers. At a later stage of proto-cuneiform, where signs are positioned horizontally by convention, a triangle with the apex to the right is KAK~a. This sign came to mean "peg; nail; bone, joint, knee." Yet another triangle is known as ZATU659 as its apex is placed to the left. Presumably it meant something different from any of the others, but just what is unknown. Proto-Elamite also has two different triangles, a long and thin one with the apex to the left (M106) and a broader one with the apex to the right (M129).
The triangle appears in rock art in North America also, not surprisingly. Two appear in the Texas collection below a zigzag and between anthropoid figures (Newcomb 1996: 82, Pl. 43, no. 5). The one on the right has the apex to the right; that on the left seems not to be equilateral and has the longest side on the left. Another appears amid areas of cross-hatching (1996: 91, Pl. 51, no. 2). Its outline is open on the right side, but whether this is intentional or due to weathering, I cannot say. A third appears with the apex downward alongside a number of tally-like strokes (1996: 125, Pl. 82, no. 6). The collection from Nevada and eastern California cites 19 occurrences of the triangle, including the following three (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 111, fig. 48b; 121, fig. 58c; 133, fig. 70b). In the first of these, the apex is upward while in the last two, the apex is downward.
The next sign appears only once and is not listed by most researchers. Its clumsy appellation is QUOTE BY QUOTE, its number III23. It occurs on one pot shard, K-93 from Kalibangan, between FISH UNDER CHEVRON and FOOTED STOOL. It looks like a short vertical line or SINGLE QUOTE above a low SLASH above another SINGLE QUOTE. Thus, it might better be analyzed as a grouping of two independent signs, the PINCH plus a SINGLE QUOTE placed unusually low. There are instances where other smaller signs are grouped in such a manner. The BI-QUOTES occasionally are placed above the beginning of a row of apparent numerals, for example. The less said about this peculiar "sign," the better.
The CUPPED POST is the next sign, III24, not separately listed by Koskenniemi and Parpola, W301, and Fs I-6. I assume that it has no KP number because it was taken as a variant of the CUPPED SPOON or CUPPED Q-TIP as I originally called that sign (KP316). Wells groups together the variants of this CUPPED POST (a "U" shape with a line inside that is not attached) and what I term the DUBYA where the "U" shape has a bisecting line inside that is attached. He does not seem to treat the corresponding "V" shape with a bisecting line. He states that his 301 has a frequency of 77, as follows: Mohenjo daro 54, Harappa 13, Lothal 4, Kalibangan 1, Chanhujo daro 3, Chandigarh 1, Rakhigarhi 1. I seem to see a couple more, an additional one by his definition as Chandigarh, a "c" variant, and one his "c" variants as well at Amri.
|Note triangle at top, indicating presence of Old Chinese ancestor;|
note U shaped "mouth" element at bottom left (Wieger 1965: 371)
Egyptian hieroglyphs present only distant parallels in this case. There is a bowl for incense with a sort of bent triangle at the top representing smoke coming out. It is not similar in form but might possibly provide a hint of what the Harappan symbol could be depicting. In the same vein, there is glyph W11. This has three diffferent functions: (1) it is a ring-stand for jars, occasionally used as an ideograph or determinative for the word "ring-stand"; (2) it is a red earthenware pot used as a phonetic glyph for the g sound, its most common use; (3) very rarely, it is substituted for O45 during the 18th Dynasty, which should be domed building, in the expression for the king's harem. From all this, if we wish to use Egyptian as an analogy, the vertical line in the Indus sign may be viewed as in the CUP, rising from the CUP, part of the CUP, or a decorative or symbolic element upon the surface of the CUP. Since there is considerable variety in the way the POST and the CUP are shown on tablets, seals, and pots, we should have plenty of ammunition for whichever of these views we choose to hold (and plenty of dirty data to deal with as well).
Old Chinese has a "U"-shaped symbol that also has a line incorporated into the same character. However, the line is horizontal, crossing the posts of the "U" rather than passing down the center as in the Indus sign. This is nien4, which means the same thing as er4-shi2, "twenty" (Wieger 1965: 70). "The tens added one to another. In composition, it often means a multitude." Nowadays it is written as two verticals with a crossing horizontal. In other words, the "U" is no longer there.
Luwian has three different possibilities for an analogous symbol. The syllable su (with an accent mark to indicate that it is a second way of writing su) is a type of "U" with a central post. This is more complex, though, as the posts of the "U" itself have a bit of a wiggle to them at the tops. The central post is also capped with a short, curved mark. There is second "U" shaped sign, OCCIDENS, meaning "west," in which the central post is curved at the top like a shepherd's crook. A third sign is squared off at the bottom, DOMINUS, meaning "lord." It, too, is bisected by a vertical line. It resembles an elongated "E" that is lying on its back with its prongs in the air.
Proto-Elamite has a horizontally oriented sign that somewhat resembles the CUPPED POST. As is typical for this proto-writing system, the sign is more angular than the Indus sign. It begins with something like a "greater than" mark: >. On the left, horizontal lines are added to each end of this to form the outsides of the "cup," with a third line in the center for the "post." In this case, the "post" does attach to the "cup." There are two versions in proto-Elamite (M290~c and M-290~d; see http://cdli.uncla.edu/wiki/doku.php/linear-elamite ). Thus, strictly speaking, it is more similar to the DUBYA sign in the Indus script.
There are instances of a CUPPED POST in the rock art of North America. In Texas, this is rounded only and the central stroke is attached (Newcomb 1996: 131, Pl. 87). Further west, both rounded and vee-shaped types occur and I have seen versions in which the central stroke is attached and others where it is not attached (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 143, fig. 80b and d). In each instance cited, the form is upside-down compared to the Indus sign. These, like the "tridents," may be bird tracks. They are found in Australian rock art as well, oriented horizontally, at the Rockholes and Panaramitee Hill, Panaramitee Station (Flood 1997: 111, L section; also 101, Panaramitee North, Olary region, South Australia).
Wells divides the CUPPED POST into three variants: (a) short "cup" with tall unattached "post"; (b) tall "cup" with tall unattached "post"; and (c) tall "cup" with tall attached "post." I see at least three variants also, but do not include Wells' "c" variant here, which I term the DUBYA. My variants include: (a) "cup" half the height of the "post" (M-997, M-985, M-945, M-932, M-785, M-757, M-276, M-248, M-118, M-117, M-100, M-86, M-54, and M-50; H-175; C-9); (b) "cup" 3/4 the height of the "post" (M-928, M-860, M-814, M-797, M-754, M-714, M-426, M-286, M-122, M-44, M-4; H-206; L-10, L-11, L-144(?), L-146, L-191(?)); (c) "cup" and "post" of equal height (M-1364, M-1355, M-365, M-359, M-355, M-1226, M-1191, M-1067, M-1057, M-957, M-863, M-677, M-670; H-24, H-25, H-28, H-136, H-210B(?); L-85, L-115, L-183; C-7, C-35; Rgr-2). There are a few misshapen ones: M-72, M-128, M-135, M-303. Some of those that Wells lists are what I call DUBYA: M-864, Ch-1, along with a couple more, including Ch-2 and Amri-1. There are two that I can't be certain of. They may be the DUBYA but may be the CUPPED POST: M-1299, M-1328.
|Replica of Indus tablet with CUPPED POST (2nd from right)|
The Indus sign is somewhat reminiscent of the Egyptian well full of water (N42), a "U" shape with a horizontal line near the top. The Old Chinese kou3, "mouth" is nearly identical in form, though not in meaning (Wieger 1965: 180). Luwian hieroglyphs include a half circle with the flat side up, CAELUM, meaning "sky." Underneath the flat top there is another horizontal line. Between the two horizontal lines are four very short vertical strokes. Thus, this glyph is considerably more complex than the Indus sign.
There is a similar motif in the rock of western America except that it is upside-down compared to the Indus symbol (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 155, fig. 92j; 161, fig. 98a). It appears twice. The first occurence cited has an extension of one prong of the "U" while the second has a horizontal line closing it at the bottom rather than a curved line inside.
Our last sign for today is the dotted circle or, to be consistent with other terms, the CIRCLED DOT, III26. It appears in a very round form with a round dot in the center, in a pointed oval form with a short vertical in the center (i.e., a quote in the center), and as a very thin, pointed oval with a central quote or dot. It was formerly KP366, W346, and Fs N-9. Fairservis considers it the sun, meaning "to set, to rise, do, obtain." When doubled, it means "boats," he suggests. All these meanings are homophonous or nearly so in Dravidian languages, he tells us. He seems to see the dot or quote inside as a mark of the genitive/possessive case (1992: 180). It does seem odd to me, though, to have a single symbol for both rising and setting. Those appear to be rather different from my point of view. But what do I know?
|Apotropaic jewelry to repel the Evil Eye: a modern CIRCLED DOT|
Old Chinese once had a circle with a dot or line, similar to the Egyptian sun and moon. Both were ri4, "sun", the 72nd radical (Wieger 1965: 311). As an aside, this word also means "day" in Chinese. The old style writing of liang2, "gift" includes this element, at one time written as a circle with a horizontal line across the middle with one dot above the line and a second dot below the line. According to Wieger, this was intended to show the meaning of a gift in the sense of a talent as something coming down from heaven: "gift....original qualities, nature, inborn, good" (1965: 194).
Luwian hieroglyphs include a circle with a smaller circle inside, representing the syllable sa4. Proto-cuneiform also has a circle in a circle, conventionally transcribed as |LAGAB~a x LAGAB~a|, which may represent a lamb. Another circular symbol has what I would describe as a "stacked eight" (two neat columns of four short strokes each) inside. This is GUG2, which came to represent a type of cake made of pressed dates. Proto-Elamite has a circular symbol with another smaller circular element inside, both of which are impressed, not incised. This may be a numerical sign.
Motifs of dotted circles and concentric circles are both common in the rock art of North America. The circled dot appears in Texas (Newcomb 1996: 101, Pl. 57, Pl. 58). Here it is well rounded. In the collection from the Far West, the authors report 139 concentric rings that include 2-8 rings and a total of 60 occurrences of the circle and dot motif (e.g. Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 104, fig. 41b & j; 141, fig. 78c). Some of these are rounded, some more oval. Dotted circles also appear in great number engraved on rocks in Australia (Flood 1997: 185, Wharton Hill, Olary region, South Australia; 197, Frank Creek, Mount Isa, Queensland; 238, Trial Harbour, Northwest Tasmania). In fact, the "cup and ring" motif as the dotted circle is often called, is one of the oldest motifs found in rock art. It appears to predate the appearance of Homo sapiens in some areas.
The dotted circle and concentric rings also occur as entoptic forms. I "see" both during migraines and when my eyes are closed or in a darkened room when I press on my eyelids. It seems to me that a small circle appears, it grows and develops a dot in the center. This dotted circle grows and becomes a circle with a smaller circle in the center. This continues to grow, developing a new dot in the center. At this point, the outer circle grows to the point that its outer margin begins to fall beyond the limits of my inner "vision." But the growing of these circles within circles can continue for some time. I mentioned in a previous post the theory that the origin of art is to be sought in shamans depicting their visions in stages of trance (Lewis-Williams 2002). If the theory is correct, the circled dot and the circled circle originally appeared in prehistoric rock art because a shaman saw them in the early stages of a trance, then.
Lewis-Williams suggests that the shaman goes through three stages of altered consciousness. In the first stage, he (or she) sees entoptic forms and perhaps hears buzzing sounds, feels prickling or the skin, and so on. These sensations have been replicated in the laboratory by subjects taking hallucinogenic drugs. I can attest to many of the same things during severe migraines, including prickly sensations, hearing buzzing, and seeing entoptic forms (although I quibble with the list of 15 specific shapes).
The second stage is more problematic to my thinking. In this stage, subjects are supposed to try to make sense of their peculiar sensations. Unaware that I was supposed to do this, I failed to have such a stage during any migraine. But Lewis-Williams describes this phase for us: ""subjects try to make sense of entoptic phenomena by elaborating them into iconic forms, that is, into objects that are familiar to them from their daily life....The brain attempts to decode these [entoptic] forms as it does impressions supplied by the nervous system in an alert, outwardly-directed state. This process is linked to the disposition of the subject. For example, an ambiguous round shape may be 'illusioned' into an organge if the subject is hungry, a breast if he is in a state of heightened sexual drive, a cup of water if the subject is thirsty, or an anarchist's bomb if the subject is fearful" (2002: 127). Well, perhaps if I'd had a lab assistant or an anthropologist standing by, taking notes on my illusions, I might have had made such an attempt at interpretation of my little "fireflies."
Stage 3 occurs after the subject has gone through what is often described as a vortex or tunnel, something also associated with near-death experiences. At this point, the subject hallucinates iconic images that do not derive from the optic system itself but from the mind. Alongside these dream-like images, entoptic shapes may also appear. Lewis-Williams suggests that odd things may now happen to these basic shapes and to the subject:
"By a process of fragmentation and integration, compound images are formed: for example, a man with zigzag legs. Finally, in this stage, subjects enter into and participate in their own imagery: they are part of a strange realm. They blend with both their geometric and their iconic imagery. It is in this final stage that people sometimes feel themselves to be turning into animals and undergoing other frightening or exalting transformations" (2002: 130).
Peculiar as it may seem, between the severe pain of migraines (which sometimes lasted for days and even weeks at a time) and powerful medications, I occasionally passed through a vortex similar to what is described and felt transformed. However, I did not detect a second stage since there was no one to interpret the experience to. I was alone with the pain and images and did not consider the possibility that there was a meaning until much later, looking back on the experience. Thus, I tend to think that researchers only find THREE stages because of something I mentioned in a previous post. Our culture places considerable emphasis on three as a mystical, magical number and has for untold millennia. We expect things to come in threes. So we tend to find things in threes, even when they aren't really there. I think there are only TWO stages of trance in reality. There is only a third, middle stage if we decide to put it there.