Saturday, March 26, 2011

Modified Harappan Anthropomorphs

Among the signs of the Indus script, there are quite a few resembling a stick-figure person or anthropomorph.  Eight of these contain seven strokes, as I count them (six covered in this post).  Not surprisingly, parallels to these appear more often elsewhere than most other seven-stroke signs.  The first to discuss in this post is MAN BETWEEN POSTS, the nineteenth of the seven-stroke symbols (VII 19).  In form it is simply the basic stick figure with a straight vertical line on either side, also known as KP15, W14, and Fs Q-13.  Fairservis suggests that it represents a man between two posts, meaning “bazaar man, merchant.”  Wells counts a total of seven occurrences, six from Mohenjo daro, one from Harappa.

Seal H-103 with inscription: CIRCLED QUAD-FORK / RAKE / FISH / 3-TOED FOOT/
POT // CUPPED POST / 3 POSTS / SPEAR // MAN BETWEEN POSTS / CHEVRON-HATTED BEARER.
There is no exact equivalent in Egyptian hieroglyphs, but there is an ideograph representing a man holding the necks of two unidentifiable animals (A38).  The base of each elongated neck curves down below the man’s feet so that he seems to be gripping the sides of a tall vessel.  This is the glyph for the city of Cusae in Upper Egypt.
Old Chinese also lacks a precise parallel.  But a stick figure inside a circle is yin1, which originally meant “to confine a man” but is now obsolete with that meaning (Wieger 1967: 156).  The character now means “cause, reason, argument.”  Another character contains the halberd (mentioned in the post concerning the basic Harappan MAN) between two “posts.”  This is bi, “A thing certain, decided” (1967: 176).
In the rock art of Texas, many of the Pecos River style representations of humans depict shamans (e.g., Newcomb and Kirkland 1996: 53, Pl. 17, no. 6).  Some are more detailed than others, but typically they hold a long, straight object in one hand, a somewhat shorter and/or bent object in the other.  These objects are presumably related to ritual.  In many of the depictions, the objects are shown with a small gap between them and the hands (or the ends of the schematic arms) of the shaman.  If the Indus MAN BETWEEN POSTS is based on the same principle, it might represent a man holding two objects such as poles, spears, staffs, etc.

Detail from Navaho blanket showing 3 yei.
In Nevada, many simple anthropomorphs appear to hold something in one hand, but I see none with an object in both hands.  There is, however, an enclosed “shaman” figure inside a roughly circular area along with other elements (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 147, fig. 84a and 84b).  Both these and the Texan “shamans” generally have thicker bodies than the Indus MAN symbol.  So do the yei or supernatural beings shown in Navaho sand paintings, who again these often hold items in both hands (Lamb 1992: 32-33).  Here, the objects are identified as ceremonial rattles, pine boughs, yucca strips, and so on.

Spearman from Pedra do Feitico, Zaire.
African rock art also contains images of anthropomorphs, some bearing objects in both hands.  On the bank of the Zaire River, there is a large stone with multiple carvings called Pedra do Feiti├žo (Fetish Rock).  On this many depictions are anthropomorphic, including at least two that appear to hold objects in each hand (Le Quellec 2004: 86).  In South Africa, too, a good many depictions of anthropomorphic beings show them bearing two sticks (e.g., Le Quellec 2004: 168, 169).  In most of these, however, the figures are shown in sideview so that the sticks are on the same side of the “person.”  Some interpretations identify the figures as humans engaged in the shamanic or healing dance characteristic of San culture while others identify them as supernatural beings of the watery Otherworld.

Detail from seal Lh-1 with inscription: MAN HOLDING TRI--FORK / MALLET / BI-FORK /
BI-QUOTES // FISH UNDER CHEVRON / 4-TOED FOOT / MAN BY CHEVRON / GRID /
BI-FORK TOPPED POT / POT.
The second symbol for discussion is MAN BY CHEVRON (VII 20), also known as KP20 and W17.  Fairservis considers this a ligature of the basic MAN (his A-1 defined as “ruler”) and CHEVRON (his P-4 defined as an affix meaning “head”).  Presumably, putting the two together indicates the “head ruler” or supreme sovereign.  One little problem with this hypothesis is that the CHEVRON does not occur above the other element here, as it does elsewhere.  This positional difference may be meaningful.  A second problem is the fact that archeology provides little or no evidence of an elite group or individual ruling the Indus Valley: “Archaeologists are not sure what the political form of the Indus Civilization was, but a corporate form, without kings or emperors, seems reasonable” (Possehl 2002: 247).
I can discover only one symbol resembling the Indus sign in this case, and it is fairly different.  In Old Chinese, the character for a person is not the stick figure (which occurs but means “big, great”) but the legs only.  This element in combination with another the top of which resembles a chevron is wei4, “the place upon which a man stands straight; position, dignity, person” (Wieger 1965: 157).  The important thing to note here is that the final meaning of the composite character is not simply a concatenation of the meanings of the two parts.  It is tempting to interpret the ligatures of the Indus script in such a simple manner – as Fairservis appears to do – but this is an assumption, not a proven fact.  As demonstrated by composite Chinese characters, there are other possible ways to interpret ligatures.
The next Indus sign is MAN WITH HEAD BETWEEN QUOTES (VII 21).  It appears elsewhere only as W35.  Wells gives the frequency as two occurrences, both from Mohenjo daro, citing their appearances as MacKay XCII 4 and CIII 4.  I have not seen these as they do not appear in either of the first two volumes of the Corpus.  Wells shows the sign as the stick figure with two short marks at head height, one on each side.  These marks do not touch the vertical stroke that forms head and body.
As noted with depictions of objects “held” by figures in art or signs from other parts of the world, marks that do not touch but are near may still have been considered touching by the artist.  That is, the “quotes” might have been a variant form of the “horns” seen in another figure (VII 24) to be mentioned shortly.  An example of an item which occurs close to the head but not touching is also seen in a Cretan hieroglyph (003).  The glyph is termed VIR3, “man,” and appears to be the head and torso of a man with either a feather headdress or a horsehair crest.  In either case, the “feathers/crest” does not touch the head.
Likewise, one of the schematic shamans of Texan rock art has an extremely reduced, dot-like head, above with there are two short lines, slightly angled (Newcomb and Kirkland 1996: 52, Pl. 16, no. 4).  The double lines almost certainly are the equivalent of the horns depicted actually touching the heads in other representations.
In Old Chinese, on the other hand, there is a character much like the Indus sign but with an additional short horizontal stroke that joins the “quotes” on either side of the head.  This is yang1, “a man in the middle of the space...; middle, centre” (Wieger 1965: 158).  In this case, the human element is essentially superfluous to the meaning of the character, serving only to indicate the center of the small space represented by two “quotes” joined by a horizontal stroke.  The Indus sign could conceivably mean the same thing: “middle, center.”
It is also possible that sign VII 21 is a representation of a woman with the kind of tall hair on either side seen in some clay figurines (e.g., Possehl 2002: 178, fig. 10.3, 10.4)  These well-endowed female figurines come from Mehrgarh, an early farming village on the Kachi plain, dating to periods V and VI.  They are more or less contemporary with the seals found elsewhere.

Edge of seal 1202C with inscription (and showing boss/handle below):
MAN HOLDING POST / BARBELL ON POST / 5 POSTS.
The following Indus sign is VII 22, MAN HOLDING POST, also known as KP31, W6, and Fs A-13.  Fairservis calls it a man with a staff, assigning it the meaning “eminent person (elder?).”  Wells notes 21 occurrences, 18 of them from Mohenjo daro, two from Harappa, one from Lothal.  In form, the sign again contains the basic anthropomorphic stick figure, this time with a single tall vertical to one side.  The seventh stroke is a short diagonal from the end of the arm/hand to the stick so that it looks like the figure’s elbow is bent.
Egyptian hieroglyphs include three different symbols depicting a man holding a stick.  In the first glyph (A19), the man is bent over, as this is an ideograph or determinative in i3w, “old.”  The glyph also serves the same function in wr, “great one, chief,” oddly enough.  Glyph A20 also depicts a man leaning on his stick, this one forked at the base.  Here we have the determinative or ideograph for smsw, “eldest,” a word that appears in the title “elder of the portal.”  From this evidence one may conclude that elders were highly respected in ancient Egypt.  The last of the three glyphs is a man standing straight and simply holding his stick, plus a small cloth in his other hand (A21).  This is the ideograph or determinative in sr, “official, noble.”  Hence, a stick or staff may represent a walking stick or a staff of office in Egypt.  These same two possibilities exist for the Indus sign – as Fairservis assumes.
In Old Chinese, again, the halberd resembles the human stick figure.  Adding an essentially straight vertical line to the left creates wu4, “halberd with a crescent” (Wieger 1965: 178).  Adding an additional short horizontal beneath the blade of the halberd in this same character transforms it to xu1, “to attack, to wound, to kill” (ibid.).  Apparently the extra stroke represents the wound.
Anthropomorphic figures with a long or short “stick” in one hand appear in the art of the American Southwest as well.  They are fairly frequent in Nevada (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 361, fig. F – 21f; p. 368, fig. F – 29b).  They are not rare in Texas, either (Newcomb and Kirkland 1996: 206, Pl. 150, no. 2; p. 212, Pl. 157, no. 1). 
Detail from South African rock painting showing hunters with spears.

The following sign may be a variant of this: MAN HOLDING CEE (VII 23).  It is a singleton from Harappa (H-36), also appearing as KP34, W42, and Fs A-16.  Fairservis subdivides it into two categories for unknown reasons.  His A16a is supposed to represent a man with a bow (but apparently no string or arrow), meaning “merchant (?); variant of Q-15 (?).”  (His Q-15 is the CUPPED TWO, which he identifies as a quantity).  The second variant, A-16b, represents a man with a shield, meaning “warrior.”  It does seem odd that a singleton should be assigned two different meanings!

MAN HOLDING CEE as it might appear on a seal.
In Old Chinese, let us recall, the character for a person indicates the legs only.  When this appears with a curved line on its right, it is wan2, “a man who tumbles down on a stiff slope, rolling down; by extension, round, pellet, pill” (Wieger 1965: 154).  When the curved line is to the left of the person, however, this is zhai3, “a man who, while climbing up a stiff slope, bends forward; by extension, inclined, slanting, sloping” (1965: 154).  In some of the old depictions on bronze votive items, there is yet another possibility for comparison.  Here, a highly schematic human holding a small curve in one three-fingered hand (1965: 370).  The author identifies this as a representation of the dutiful son offering meat to the ancestors.  What he holds is not the meat itself but the small, curved knife still used in Chinese cooking.
In both Egyptian hieroglyphs and American rock art, there are images of humans holding an object which is not simply a staff or stick.  Egyptian contains glyphs representing a kneeling man holding an oar (A10), a sceptre (A11), and a bow and quiver (A12).  In Nevada, the anthropomorphs bearing “sticks,” cited for the previous sign, actually bear curved objects in their hands, as does one from Texas (op. cit.). 
Inscription from L-4B: POST / BATTERY / BI-QUOTES // BELTED FISH /
HORNED MAN / POT / DOWN WY.

The next sign is the HORNED MAN (VII 24), also known as KP9, W1, Fs A-4.  Fairservis identifies this is a man with horns, “possibly a shaman, a priest, or a deity.”  Wells notes 62 occurrences in seven variants (a-g).  In the case of his “a,” “b,” and “g,” the “horns” arise from the shoulders of the stick figure rather than the head.  Thus, an alternate term for these “variants” of the sign could equally justifiably become WINGED MAN.  As seen below, there are many parallels for both possibilities in the art and scripts of other places.

Detail from seal H-45 with inscription: CARTWHEEL / BI-QUOTES //
WINGED MAN (BETWEEN CEES) / POT / MAN.
Variants “c,” “d,” and “f” have curved horns, whereas the others have straight (i.e., diagonal) ones.  In variants “b,” “d,” and “g” the arms are a single horizontal stroke rather than a chevron shape.  Variants “f” and “g” have triangular bodies with the apex at the bottom.  Wells counts the occurrences of each variant thusly: Mohenjo daro 41 (19a, 6b, 10c, 3d), Harappa 15 (3a, 8b, 3c, 1e), Lothal 4 (2a, 1c, 1e), Chanhujo daro 2 (1e, 1f).  As is often the case, my own counts differ somewhat, but we need not get into such fine details.

Egyptian goddess Maat with feather on head and wings spread (from a stamp).
In Egyptian hieroglyphs, some of the gods have horns, though being seated as glyphs they do not much resemble the Indus sign.  There is Khnum the ram god, whose horns stick out to the sides (C4); Anubis the dog-headed god whose ears stand up something like horns (C6); and Seth who has an unidentifiable zoomorphic head with ears standing up like horns (C7).  The goddess Hathor is a better parallel, with cow’s horns on her head, as well as the disk of the sun between them (C9).  Amun and Mont each have two tall feathers on their heads, another possible interpretation of the “horns/wings” of the Indus sign.  In Egyptian art, gods and goddesses may have horns or wings and some have both.  Isis is frequently depicted with either the throne that is her proper sign or Hathor’s horns and the sun disk on her head, as well as bird’s wings.

Old Chinese "heaven" at bottom, below eye signifying presence of ancestor in temple (enclosure),
beneath triangle also signifying presence of ancestor (Wieger 1965: 371).
In Old Chinese, the character for “sky, heaven,” tian1, has a form almost identical to that of the Indus MAN, with the addition of a line across the head area.  In some of the Old Seal writings, this line is somewhat curved, while in others it is either replaced by a large eye or the eye appears just above the character (Wieger 1965: 156 and 371).  The character yang1, “middle, center” which I cited earlier is another possible parallel.
Proto-cuneiform shows a predilection for the depicting only the heads of people and animals.  If we consider the human head that indicates a person as a distant parallel to the Indus MAN, then we can cite the ligature |SAG x GESZTU| as the equivalent of the Indus HORNED MAN.  The two symbols in proto-cuneiform combined here are SAG, later “head, person,” and GESZTU, later “ear, hearing, understanding, intelligence.”  There are at least four variants, each a human head: “a” sports donkey-like ears, “b” has two straight strokes which more resemble horns (two variants), and “c” has two “horns/ears” that resemble scythes. 
Near Eastern sun god (Sumerian Utu, Akkadian Shamash) rising between mountains,
as shown on cylinder seal, with sunbeams rising from shoulders and bearing
cap with multiple pairs of horns (and his saw).

Proto-Elamite does not contain a clear-cut symbol for a person, but I have previously referenced a sign that resembles the Indus MAN with a triangular head (Damerow and Englund 1989: 59).  A variant of the basic sign has two “arms” on each side.  This appears on tablets concerned with herds and flocks, so it probably does not represent a winged human.  Even so, many images in Near Eastern art do show human-like beings with horns or wings or both.  Deities commonly wear horned hats, as depicted in relief carvings, statues, and cylinder seals (Black and Green 1992: 102-103).  Particular deities often have wings, including the sun god (Sumerian Utu, Akkadian Shamash) and the goddess of love and war (Sumerian Inanna, Akkadian Ishtar).

Hopi kachina depicting a supernatural being of the American Southwest (owned by author).
Many of the figures presumed to be shamans are horned, in the rock art of North America.  Some have curved horns protruding from round heads, while others have prongs rising from what may be either head or shoulders (e.g., Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 149, fig. 86a and 152, fig. 89a).  In total, there are 33 horned humans in the collection from Nevada and eastern California.  In Texas they are probably equally frequent (e.g., Newcomb and Kirkland 1996: 213, Pl. 158, nos. 5 and 9).  A horned stick figure also occurs in South America at Macusani Corani Cordillera, Peru (for reference, see post on Indus MAN).

South African therianthropic figures: bull man, eland man, and gemsbok man (Le Quellec 2004: 199). 
In Africa, one again such images are hardly rare.  A stick figure with multiple prongs on the head stands on a horse’s back at Kourki, Niger (Le Quellec 2004: 58).  In this case the prongs are not horns but feathers.  On the Great Overhang of Songo at Sanga, Mali, what appears to be a very tall man with horns and extremely short legs is actually a schematic elephant mask (2004: 69).  The figure cited earlier from the Pedra do Feitico on the Zaire River almost appears horned as well (op. cit.); cf. the schematic cattle depicted at Bukoba by Lake Nyanza (2004: 126).  In fact, some horned representations are so schematic that an uninformed viewer cannot determine whether a given image is human or bovine (2004: 129).  In South Africa, the paintings in rock shelters are particular famous.  In several of these, there are beings with the horned heads of grazing animals – and sometimes the hooves as well – but anthropomorphic bodies (e.g., 2004: 168, 169, 199).
From this survey, we can see that both horns and wings on anthropomorphic figures are about as common as any symbol can be.  Even in modern Christianity, such images still appear in popular art.  Angels have wings even though such appendages are not well supported by Biblical evidence.  In addition, the devil is often depicted with horns, if not other animal characteristics as well, such as a tail and cloven hoof-like feet.  It might be a good idea, then, to be cautious about conflating the apparently horned and winged figures in the Indus script.  There is a possibility that these are two different things.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Modified Triangles and Diamonds in Harappan Script

Among the triangular Indus signs, two are most likely variants of a single sign.  The first is listed separately only by Wells (W413).  It is a bisected triangle (i.e., a triangle divided in half by an internal vertical stroke), with three short marks crossing the vertical line.  I tentatively enumerate it VII 15, calling it SHISH KEBAB IN TRIANGLE.  Wells observes 38 of these, all from Harappa.  All occurrences happen to be on tablets bearing multiple duplicates of only three different inscriptions.

Tablet H-252A with inscription (from right): SHISH KEBAB IN TRIANGLE /
QUAD-FORK / BI-QUOTES // WHISKERED FISH / SPEAR.
The following sign, VII 16 (for now), is BISECTED STRIPED TRIANGLE.  It is also known as KP209, W423, and Fs K-7.  Fairservis proposes that it means “ninth month,” noting that it regularly pairs with his E-2 (QUAD-FORK).  Both Fairservis and the Koskenniemi and Parpola team depict the sign as actually containing eight strokes, which is to say with four rather than three stripes crossing the vertical.  Wells notes a frequency of only three for the sign, all from Mohenjo daro, appearing in two different variants.  His “a” version is the seven-stroke item I include at this point (M-358, M-678).  The “b” version contains nine strokes, some of them bent, and will be mentioned again later (M-181).
Detail from seal M-678 with inscription: BISECTED STRIPED TRIANGLE / SINGLE POST /
BI-QUOTES / CIRCLED QUAD-FORK / CAGED FISH / STRIPED TRIANGLE /
SIX QUOTES / STRIPED FLANGE TOPPED POT / POT (some symbols may be misread).

As for my own observations, I note an “A” version with three internal stripes, a “B” with two, a “C” with only one (M-181), and a "D" with six.  I classify Wells’ “b” version as a different sign since two of its crossing marks are “V” shaped rather than straight horizontals.  Further, as noted at the start of this post, I tend to think that VII 15 and VII 16 are variants of a single symbol, one form appearing on tablets from Harappa, the other on seals from Mohenjo daro.
Detail from seal M-181 with inscription: BISECTED STRIPED TRIANGLE ("C") / PANTS /
BI-QUOTES / HUNCHBACK / SPEAR (the use of fewer internal stripes may not be
due to a difference in meaning, but due to lack of space over unicorn horn). 


The best parallel for either sign in another script comes from Luwian hieroglyphs.  A bisected triangle with a single horizontal crossing line is the ideograph REX, “king.”  Another striped triangle – without the central vertical bisecting it – represents URBS, “city.”
In proto-cuneiform a triangle containing an element much like a shish kebab is SU~b, later meaning “body, flesh, skin.”  A similar triangle appears in proto-Elamite (M107~a), with unknown significance.  The second example is almost identical to the Indus VII 16, while the first example more closely resembles VII 15.  Proto-Elamite almost includes a number of triangles adorned with multiple prongs on the outside (the “hairy triangle”).  One variant contains a “shish kebab” with two crossing lines (M136~i).  Another variant contains three and yet another variant contains four crossing lines (M136~j and ~k respectively).
Old Chinese essentially makes do without triangles, though there is a character topped by a “chevron” under which there are three horizontal lines joined by one central vertical.  This is quan2, “complete, entire, perfect” (Wieger 1965: 50).  The rock art of the American Southwest likewise is not characterized by many triangles.  I note a single occurrence of a motif in Texas that is something like a tall and thin triangle with slightly curving sides (Newcomb and Kirkland 1996: 53, Pl. 18, no. 8).  There are three of these unusual shapes grouped together in this instance, each adorned with various internal marks.  This might be a depiction of some type of pottery.
The next sign is a singleton, TRI-FORK ON DIAMOND (VII 17).  It appears elsewhere in Wells (W402) only.  This occurrence is on a heavily abraded seal from Mohenjo daro (M-1154).  The inscription may begin with the TABLE with one long leg or the first sign may be SINGLE POST followed by SINGLE QUOTE.  After this obscure beginning, the inscription reads: CIRCLED TRI-FORK / DOT IN FISH / SPEAR / TRI-FORK ON DIAMOND. 
Detail of M-1154 with inscription: TABLE (?) / CIRCLED TRI-FORK / DOT IN FISH/
SPEAR / TRI-FORK ON DIAMOND ("TABLE" may be SINGLE POST + SINGLE QUOTE).

I include this information to point out the occurrence of both a circular (more precisely, oval) sign as well as a diamond-shaped sign in the same inscription.  As previously noted, this is one piece of evidence suggesting that the Harappans distinguished diamonds and circles.  However, if one ignores this distinction for a moment, the final sign might be considered a trident upon a shape undifferentiated as to specific form.  That is, this may be the symbol found elsewhere as KP47 (CIRCLE WITH ATTACHED TRI-FORK, V47).  If that is correct, then perhaps V47 should be deleted from the final list and the term for VII 17 amended to DIAMOND WITH ATTACHED TRI-FORK.
In any case, there are few parallels in other scripts for this somewhat enigmatic symbol.  Diamonds generally do not occur in Egyptian hieroglyphs.  While there is a basic diamond in Luwian hieroglyphs, there are none with attachments.  Proto-cuneiform provides various diamonds with internal marks as well as one or two prongs attached, but none with trident shapes.  There is an oval, pointed at both ends, containing a small oval and partly pierced by a “grain ear” (four “V” shapes on a stem).  This is TU~a which may be the symbol that came to mean “interfere.”  But the best parallel comes from proto-Elamite, with M246~b.  This is a diamond to which an element is attached that resembles the letter “F.”  Unfortunately, the significance is unknown.
The final sign considered in this post is even more obscure than the previous one.  In form it is another diamond, this one containing an element resembling a “P” but with a pointed rather than curved bulge on the side.  It appears only as KP362 elsewhere.  I enumerate it VII 18, calling it PENNANT IN DIAMOND.  The obscurity of this sign is due to my inability to locate it.  There is something similar in appearance on the seal M-118.  But this is a “Y” shape (or BI-FORK) in a diamond, not a “pennant.”  That said, though, the sign may simply occur on an artifact not published in the first two volumes of the Corpus.

Illustration of how PENNANT IN DIAMOND (VII 18) might appear on a seal.
I find symbols resembling the “pennant” in many areas, including Egyptian hieroglyphs (R8, cloth on a pole representing divinity; T7, axe) and proto-cuneiform (especially SZESZ, “brother”).  Only proto-Elamite combines such an element with a diamond shape.  Even then, the “pennant” attaches to the outside of the diamond rather than being inside (M246~c).  Note that the identification number for this symbol indicates that it has been classified as a variant of M246~b, cited earlier as a parallel for the Indus TRI-FORK ON DIAMOND.  In both proto-cuneiform and proto-Elamite, early scribes appear to have used a process termed “gunification” to modify the basic meaning of a sign.  That is, say the basic diamond indicated a goat in proto-Elamite.  A scribe might add one or more strokes to the basic form to denote female goats (i.e., nanny goats), a different type or number of strokes to denote immature goats (i.e., kids), and perhaps more distinctions such as male kids versus female kids.  The basic forms might be generally known and used by all scribes, but the specific modifications might have only a restricted usage and they might have been unsystematic. 
It is possible that the Indus “script” – which was most likely another early proto-writing system – functioned in a similar manner.  Thus, the addition of a  branching element, whether BI-FORK, TRI-FORK, or another, may have been a modification of the meaning of the basic sign.  It may also be that the basic forms were generally known and used, but particular modifications were less common, meant different things in different areas or at different times, and so on.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A FEW SIMPLE LIGATURES

Besides basic symbols, the Indus script contains a number that are composed of two (or more) parts, each of which may or may not occur as an independent sign.  I have discussed several apparent numerals, including THREE POSTS (III 2), a group of three tall verticals.  In another post, I discussed the TRI-FORK (III 13).  At times, the latter combines with another basic sign to form a ligature.  In the case of today’s first symbol, these two are combined: THREE POSTS WITH ATTACHED TRI-FORK.  This sign appears elsewhere only in the list of symbols prepared by Wells (W221).  He notes only one occurrence from Mohenjo daro (M-409).  To this we might add another of slightly different form, deriving from the same place (M-898).  This is one I discussed previously, enumerating it VI 33 (see the earlier post for an image).  Only the first, cited by Wells, is a seven-stroke item, one which I enumerate VII 9. 
Seal M-409 with inscription: CIRCLED TRI-FORK / POT //
THREE POSTS WITH ATTACHED TRI-FORK.
In both variants, the TRI-FORK attaches to the left side of the third “post.”  In the first example (VII 9, as found on M-409, depicted here), the prongs all rise from the diagonal stem of the TRI-FORK.  In the second example (VI 33, as found on M-898), the prongs attach at opposite angles to this stem, i.e., as a “V” shape bisected by the stem.  If this distinction is significant enough to be reflected in the name as well as the numerical designation, we can amend VII 9 to THREE POSTS WITH ATTACHED E TRI-FORK.
There may be a third instance of this same ligature in a third variant form.  It appears as a singleton cited only by Wells (W182), which I included in the list of five-stroke signs as DOUBLES QUOTES ON SLASH BELTED AITCH (V 14).  Its single occurrence is on a seal from Mohenjo daro that is crowded toward the right edge.  The inscription transliterates: BUD / CEE BOAT / SINGLE QUOTE // SLASH IN FISH / CUPPED POST / 3 POSTS / DOUBLE QUOTES ON SLASH BELTED AITCH / 2 POSTS.  However, the “posts” on either side of the peculiar “aitch” are indistinguishable from the two vertical strokes of this “aitch.”  So the same inscription might be transliterated with equal validity another way: BUD / CEE BOAT / SINGLE QUOTE // SLASH IN FISH / CUPPED POST / 4 POSTS / 3 POSTS WITH ATTACHED TRI-FORK.  Here, the “TRI-FORK” actually has only two prongs attached to the stem, so it is a BI-FORK in my terms.
In any case, there are few comparable signs elsewhere.  In Luwian hieroglyphs there is one that is fairly similar.  It contains three vertical strokes like the Indus sign.  To the one on the right is attached a diagonal stroke, forming the phonetic element tara.  The diagonal is unadorned, though, and slants in the opposite direction of the stem of the Indus TRI-FORK. 
In proto-cuneiform, we might compare a composite (or ligature) transliterated |3(N57).AMAR|.  In this, there are three horizontal strokes on the left, which represent a true numeral.  On the right is an outlined wedge shape which came to mean “calf.”  Thus, together the two elements mean “three calves.”  Other similar examples could be cited, but in each case the numeral is equal in scale or smaller than the other element.  I am aware of no examples where a numeral has a small attachment, as appears to be the case with Indus sign VII 9.
The next Indus sign in my list is VII 10 (the tenth of the seven-stroke signs), which I term ARROW SKEWERING DIAMOND.  As with the previous symbol, it occurs elsewhere only in Wells (W246).  It resembles our conventional “arrow” sign pointing upward, with a diamond shape overlapping the shaft midway between the base and the point.  It appears once, as Wells notes, on a pot shard from Naru-Waro-dharo (Nwd-1).  On that shard it is to the left of two somewhat shorter strokes which might be classified as either "quotes" or "posts."  Cut off by the break is a hint of another (unfortunately unidentifiable) sign.
Inscription on pot shard Nwd-1 (reading from right):
TWO QUOTES (?) / ARROW SKEWERING DIAMOND.
Luwian hieroglyphs again provide a vague parallel in the syllabic sign za.  This is also basically an upward pointing arrow.  However, this is no diamond.  Beneath the arrow are two slanting lines stacked one over the over.  The shaft of the arrow touches the upper of these.  In contrast, proto-cuneiform and proto-Elamite include diamond shapes “skewered” in a similar manner to the Indus sign, but by simple posts rather than “arrows.”  The proto-cuneiform SZIR~a came to mean “bulb” among other things.  When the diamond contains two short strokes, this is NU11, which came to mean “light; fire, lamp.”  The proto-Elamite sign contains various numbers of internal strokes (M254).  Its significance is unknown.

Inscription transcribed from M-391: FIVE-TOED FOOT / STACKED STOOLS WITH MID QUOTE /
VEE IN DIAMOND / DOUBLE QUOTES // CIRCLED TRI-FORK / SLASH IN FISH / 3 QUOTES /
CIRCLE BETWEEN CEES / POT // COMB BELTED ASTERISK / SLASHES IN OVERLAPPING
CIRCLES / QUAD-FORK.
The following two Indus signs may be variants of a single symbol.  I term the first STACKED STOOLS WITH MID QUOTE (VII 11) and the second STACKED STOOLS WITH MID POST (VII 12).  With equal justice, they might both be given the same name and enumeration, distinguished by adding “A” to the first and “B” to the second.  Fairservis does not list either, Koskenniemi and Parpola show only one variant (KP228), and Wells distinguishes them.  The first, with the central “quote,” is W457, which he notes twice (M-376 and M-391).  The second, with the central “post,” is W454, which he also sees twice (H-37 and K-17).  And of course the simple STOOL is III 21 in my list.

Detail from seal M-26 showing inscription: CROSSROADS EX / PINCH //
STACKED STOOLS WITH MID POST / POT / MAN (horn of "unicorn"
is abraded and partly broken off).
In proto-cuneiform there are two long, low “X” shapes stacked one over the other in a manner reminiscent of these Indus signs.  In addition, there is a central vertical mark, though it extends beyond the middle of each “X.”  This the “quote” and “post” do not do in the Indus signs.  The proto-cuneiform sign is TE, which came to have a great variety of meanings: “cheek, skin; thorn, sting; tattoo, symbol; to prick, pierce; dye red; to approach, reach, meet; attack; be frightened.”  Since the form of the symbol itself is fairly abstract, it is difficult to see which of these might be the original meaning – if any.
Seal M-936 with inscription: CORN HOLDER / TRIPLE TRIANGLES /
CRAB / POT HATTED BEARER.
I note one more Indus sign here, TRIPLE TRIANGLES (VII 13), about which I have a little more to say.  It is also known as KP215(a), W414, and Fs G-21.  Fairservis states that the symbol represents three conical structures and means “dairy, storage, liquid measure, buttermilk; dairy or other storage; top of conical dairy.”  Wells observes a total of 33 occurrences in four variants.  The “a” form shows three triangles side by side, touching (see M-936 above).  The “b” form adds a vertical stroke to the top of each of these triangles.  In the “c” form the triangles are smaller and their base line is tilted at an angle (see M-809 below in which the triangles are both "stemmed" as in the "b" variant and tilted as in the "c" variant).  The triangles of the “d” form are small again, with the sign rotated 90 degrees (proposed by Wells but not yet observed by me).  Thus, the three triangles form a column rather than a row.  Among the 33 occurrences of these combined variants, according to Wells, 26 are from Mohenjo daro (abcd), five from Harappa (abc), one is from Lothal (bc), and one is from Kalibangan (c).  In addition, I find seven more from Harappa, an additional instance from Lothal, plus one from Allahdino (a), one from Kot Diji (poorly executed “a”), and perhaps one from Sibri-damb, yielding a larger total number of occurrences of 44.

Detail of seal M-809 showing inscription: BACKED CEES / STRIPED MALLET /
DOUBLE QUOTES // STRIPED TRIANGLE / TRIPLE TRIANGLES / SPEAR
(final sign partially reconstructed).
In Egyptian, there is a hieroglyph representing three rounded hills, the two outer ones cut off midway (N25).  This sandy hill country becomes an ideograph or determinative in h3st “foreign land,” in names of particular foreign lands, and for the desert.  Proto-cuneiform provides a similar sign with KUR~c, made up of two triangles side by side with the third above them (and the whole thing rotated 90 degrees).  It came to mean “land or country; netherworld; the east.”  In Old Chinese there is a roughly similar character, though simplified into a “U” with an internal chevron, a vertical stroke rising from the latter.  This is shan1, “mountain,” the 46th radical (Wieger 1967:208).  It is tempting to note the graphic parallels between the Indus TRIPLE TRIANGLES, the three triangles in the proto-cuneiform “land,” the three humps of the Egyptian hill country, and the three vertical elements in the Old Chinese “mountain,” and conclude that there must be some universal principle involved.  This might mislead us into thinking we can guess the meaning of the Indus sign, assigning it the definition “mountain” or “land.”
But I say mislead us for good reason.  There is another Egyptian glyph representing three vessels side by side, identified as water-pots in a rack (W17).  This is the ideograph for that very thing: racks for water-pots.  Although the Indus symbol is considerably simpler, it may represent something actually triangular or cone-shaped rather than mountains, hills, or foreign countries.
In Luwian, too, a hieroglyph exists of three triangles, though these are typically striped.  The glyph is transcribed CASTRUM, meaning “fortress.”  Cretan hieroglyphs also include joined triangles, though only two, and these each have a round dot at the apex.  This sign may represent the syllable ta.  Neither of these examples supports the hypothesis that the Indus symbol must represent hills or some such.  A final parallel, less convincing, is proto-Elamite M125.  In this sign the three triangles are not joined side by side but stacked one over the over (and the stack is rotated 90 degrees, as is typical).  The meaning remains unclear.
This leads to the interesting question of whether the arrangement of the three triangles is significant in the Indus symbol.  If we accept tilting and rotating as carrying no change of meaning – and probably due to the need to fit a broad sign into a narrow space – then perhaps we should consider the SPACESHIP as another variant.  This sign is made up of three triangles as well, although two are side by side and a third is beneath them (an 8-stroke sign not yet discussed).  The whole set is then rotated 90 degrees from the orientation of the TRIPLE TRIANGLES described here.  In other words, this is a very different arrangement of the same three elements.  Being visually distinct, it probably designates something different.  Or does it?
As a final note on enigmatic symbols, we should note that a row of joined triangles appears in the rock art of North America also.  It appears in Texas (Newcomb and Kirkland 1996: 51, Pl. 15, no. 1; p. 192, Pl. 142, no. 20-N).  It also occurs in Nevada, though infrequently (Heizer and Baumhoff 1984: 180, fig. 117a).  The cited instances include three triangles, but other numbers of them also occur together in both areas of the Southwest. 
It is interesting to note that neither simple nor repeated triangles appear among the core designs found on Adinkra cloth (Willis 1998: 200-201).  There are triangular elements in some of the designs, but these are always combined with some other element(s).  The most prominent example is sepo, featuring a triangle atop a circle (1998:190).  Variants rotate the design so that the triangle is on one side, the circular element on the other, or interpose a dividing stroke between the two shapes.  In the latter case, the triangle is typically transformed into a diamond.  Regardless of variant, this symbol represents an executioner’s dagger used for piercing.  It symbolizes law and justice, as well as punishment.  However, this is very different from a row of triangles, especially three of them.  Generally speaking, Adinkra symbols show bilateral symmetry -- with two sides matching or top and bottom matching -- or else four-fold symmetry.