Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Bracketed Circle, A Lollipop, Orphan Annie Eyes, and Double Roofs

This post includes four rare signs that rarely occur in the Indus corpus, the last of the four-stroke signs.  The first of these I term CIRCLE BETWEEN CEES and enumerate IV43 as it is the forty-third of the four-stroke signs.  Neither Fairservis nor Koskenniemi and Parpola list it, while Wells includes it as his 384th symbol.  It is a singleton, occurring only at Mohenjo daro (M-391).  As the name implies, it looks like a small circle (or, more precisely, an oval pointed at top and bottom) between two capital letters "C."
Inscription M-391 with CIRCLE BETWEEN CEES.

I have discovered no exact parallel in any other symbol system or writing system.  But in proto-cuneiform, there is some similarity to the circled cross between two straight lines, transcribed as
|(UDU~a x TAR)~a|.  In this case, the two vertical lines occur as a sign both independently and bracketing other signs, which is also true of the Indus CEES.  The proto-cuneiform circled cross also occurs independently as well as in this bracketed position, again also true of the Indus CIRCLE.
The independent circled cross represents small cattle, i.e., sheep and goats, or else a single sheep, in proto-cuneiform.  The doubled lines as an independent symbol mean “to determine, inquire; to separate,” and a few other things.  But I am uncertain of the meaning of this sign combination.
The second Indus sign to be discussed here takes the form of a circle within a circle set atop a post.  I term this DONUT LOLLIPOP, IV44.  Again, this rare sign appears only in Wells’ list where it is numbered W251.  He sees it as a singleton from Mohenjo daro (M-34).  I suggest that there is a simpler variant, a circle on a post, the LOLLIPOP of three strokes, which occurs on a pot from Rahman Deri (Rhd-217).  Given the smaller number of strokes for this variant, I would reclassify it as III39, though.

Inscription M-34 with DONUT LOLLIPOP.

While the LOLLIPOP is quite rare, whether as a simple circle or as a circled circle (or “donut”) among Indus signs, it is relatively common elsewhere.  In Egypt, this is essentially the form of the hieroglyph which represents a mace (T3).  Strictly speaking, the top portion is not exactly a circle but pear-shaped, with a small knob on top.
In Old Chinese, the “lollipop” shape per se does not occur as a character.  However, it does appear as an element within more complex characters, such as in jing1, “The capital or metropolis, centre of the Empire” (Wieger 1965: 192).  Here, the “lollipop” has a chevron over it and a “roof”-like element overlapping its base.
Luwian hieroglyphs include another example of the “lollipop” that is elaborated in the complex phonetic glyph hara/hari.  Here, the “donut” portion contains an “X” and the stem is tilted diagonally.  Thus, it is no longer quite the same symbol as the Indus circled circle on a post. 
The same may be said of the proto-cuneiform NA~d, an oval, pointed at top and bottom and containing two horizontal stripes.  It does not stand upon a post, but has a backslash rising from its upper left side.  This sign came to be used in later writing for a modal prefix in introductory formulae.  A closer parallel is a true circle set upon a post, though this again contains two stripes rather than a smaller circle (ZATU696).  The meaning of this sign is unknown.
The simple variant, LOLLIPOP (circle on post), is found among the runes of Old Norse (FUTHARK).  Reversed so that the circle is on the bottom, it also appears among the motifs of Old Europe, farther south (OE 70).  This same motif even occurs in the rock art of Australia, at Eucolo Creek, and at the Rockholes and Panaramitee Hill, Panaramitee Station (Flood 1997: 111-112).
In the rock art of North America, the DONUT ON POST appears amid rows of dots in Texas (Newcomb 1996: 138, Pl. 93, no. 3; 139, Pl. 95, no. 2).  In the second instance, the post is adorned with three chevrons.  It also appears in the collection from Nevada and eastern California (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 143, fig. 80b; 165, fig. 102a and j).  The first instance is a dotted circle upon a post with an additional small backslash descending on the right.  The second occurrence is a dotted circle with a slash rising on the right.  The third is a circled circle with multiple rays inside as well, from which a long backslash is attached on the right side.  There appear to be three basic possibilities in the motifs of this area: (1) circle with stem; (2) dotted circle with stem; (3) circle containing complex pattern with stem.  That is to say, while the simple "lollipop" appears, the “donut” with stem does not occur.
One of the entoptic forms – patterns that are “seen” when the eyes are open or closed, generated from within the visual system itself – is described as “like cherries.”  This may refer to a lollipop-like form.  In my own experience with what seem to be “floaters,” or roughly circular and roughly straight shapes floating on the surface of the eye, elements similar to the simple lollipop occur regularly.  I see these against a pale sky when my eyes are open.  I see them against my eyelids when my eyes are closed, if I concentrate (although I usually ignore them).
The third sign for today is the figure eight or Orphan Annie EYES, IV45.  It is also KP79, but does not appear in Fairservis or Wells.  It occurs at least twice, on a tablet from Harappa (H-876) and on a pot from Rahman-Dheri (Rhd-211).  It looks like our numeral “8.”  There is no reason to think that it represents a numeral, though.

Inscription H-876 with EYES.

Egyptian hieroglyphs include one that has this element as the top, with another oval below in addition, as well as what amounts to a chevron at the bottom (V28).  This glyph represents a wick of twisted flax, used as a phonetic for one of four types of “h” in this guttural-rich language, this one transliterated with a dot beneath the letter.
In the modern business style of writing the Chinese numeral five, it closely resembles our numeral “8” or did until the adoption of Arabic numerals (Fenn and Tseng 1940: xxxv).  In Old Chinese, two circles stacked up created the character for ying1, “encampment, a primitive settlement.  In the more ancient form, there are two ([symbolizing] several) tents or huts.  In the modern form, there are huts with a fence, and two fires....By extension, to measure, to scheme, to regulate” (Wieger 1965: 227).  A similar Old Chinese character joins the two circles with a very short vertical line, lu3, “spinal vertebrae....By extension, tones in music, on account of their succession” (op. cit.).
In proto-cuneiform there is a sign that resembles a horizontal “8” but it is made by drawing two humps on top, then two humps on the bottom, and the two lines only meet at the beginning, on the left (ZATU845).  The meaning is unknown.  But there are also parallels among the variants of NUNUZ, one of which includes two circles arranged vertically (“c” variant).  This variant also adds short vertical lines above, between, and below the circles, so that they resemble beads on a string.  The meaning of this sign came to be “egg(s); offspring; female; woman.” 
A third possible meaning for two circles stacked in a vertical line is numerical, in proto-cuneiform.  Depending on the size of the respective circles, these signs impressed with the end of the stylus have distinct meanings (N14, N45, and N50 with a smaller circle impressed inside each larger circle).  Two circles essentially means “two,” but the numerals are not abstract in the earliest period.  Different commodities are enumerated differently to begin with, as detailed by Schmandt-Besserat (1996).
In proto-Elamite, the closest analogy is to a sign composed of two linked diamonds rather than two circles (M309).  This is to be expected in this system of symbols, as nearly all signs are angular rather than curved, and nearly all are displayed horizontally rather than vertically.
The rock art of North America includes a motif of two stacked circles, both in Texas and in the Nevada/California area (Newcomb 1996: 105, Pl. 65, no. 1; 138, Pl. 94, no. 1; Heizer and Baumhoff, p. 146, fig. 83a).  In the latter, there are 122 occurrences of two or more circles arranged contiguously.  Instances of engraved circles also appear in Australia, where two or more can be found touching (Flood 1997: 200, 232).  Examples include Mount Yengo Rock-shelter in New South Wales and Greens Creek in northwest Tasmania.  However, at these locations Down Under it is not at all certain that the stone carvers intended to create motifs of joined circles.  The overlaps and the joins may be essentially circumstantial.  Each circle should probably be considered a unit unto itself.
The last of the four-stroke Indus signs is TWO ROOFS, IV46.  It is only listed as KP132 elsewhere.  I have not seen this grouping in the Indus corpus, although three appear on a copper object from Chanhujo daro (C40).

Inscription C-40A with THREE ROOFS.

Two mouths create the Old Chinese character xuan1, “clamours.  Two mouths expressing the intensity of the action of the mouth” (Wieger 1965: 180).  The mouth, of course, is a “U” shape rather than the reverse, so this resembles the Indus symbol upside down.
In Luwian hieroglyphs, there is another arrangement, with two “U” shapes turned back to back, rather like the opposite of our parentheses )(, except far more curved.  These are used as quotation marks, to indicate direct speech.
In proto-cuneiform, another form of the numeral "two" is made with two wedge shapes, impressions of the end of the reed stylus.  One is stacked over the other, just as these ROOF elements are in the Indus script (N08).
In the rock art of Texas, there are deep “U” like shapes turned to resemble backward “C’s.”  I find 13 of these irregularly arranged below a large anthropoid figure in one panel (Newcomb 1996: 50, Pl. 14).  A roof-like element is cupped over another in the collection from Nevada and eastern California (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 151, fig. 88b).  The bases of these are given rounded dots, as if to emphasize them.  Nearby, there are two humps that join in the middle (1984, fig. 88, m).  These might be considered a single “M”-like motif or two “roofs,” side by side. 
In Australia, there is a painting upon a rock face at Pine Gap Reserve near Alice Springs, Northern Territory (Flood 1997: 204).  Here there is a large “roof” with a series of nested, smaller roofs inside.  This recalls the list of entoptic phenomena or phosphenes, mentioned in an earlier post.  This is not among the floaters, but one of the “images” that one “sees” when pressing on the eyelids, during severe migraines, or after ingesting certain drugs.

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