|Bar seal Krs-1 with inscription: CUPPED SPOON / QUADRUPED (X31) / |
SHISH KEBAB / PINCH // THREE POSTS / CIRCLED TRIPLE BRICK /
PANTS / CHEVRON / SINGLE QUOTE // STACKED TRIPLE CIRCLES.
In the sign list of Koskenniemi and Parpola, there is a schematic quadruped of ten strokes (KP44) that also appears in Wells’ list (W174). I term this particular symbol QUADRUPED WITH ROUND FACE AND STRAIGHT TAIL (X31) as I cannot identify the animal. Wells notes five occurrences, three of them from Mohenjo daro and one apiece from Lothal and Khirsara. There is actually some variation among these instances listed by Wells. Sometimes there seem to be ears, sometimes not, and the “face” is more angular in certain variations. It is difficult to determine which features are significant, since the animal is unidentified.
|Two quadrupeds, one a camel, from Tassili n'Ajjer in North Africa, |
alongside Tifinagh script (LeQuellec 2004: 43, fig. 42)
As noted with previous zoomorphic signs, other scripts include quadrupeds quite frequently. There are quite a few in Old Chinese, many among the Egyptian hieroglyphs, and even one unidentified example in proto-cuneiform (although heads alone appear to have been preferred). The rock art of most continents also contains schematic representations of quadrupeds of one kind or another. In his review of African rock art, Le Quellec distinguishes the zoomorph in side view from that shown from above, the latter described as the “bedside rug” type. The Indus script seems to include only side views, no flattened “bedside rugs.”
|Detail from seal M-66 with inscription: CORN HOLDER / LONG-LEGGED CRAB / BUD|
BI-QUOTES // FISH UNDER CHEVRON / MALLET / TRI-FORK / POT (note the crowding
of the signs that causes a nonlinear arrangement on the right).
In the discussion of six-stroke Indus signs, I mentioned the CRAB, a pointed oval with attached “pincers.” An apparent variation on this simple form is the LONG-LEGGED CRAB (X 32). It appears elsewhere as KP206 and W171. Wells notes it as a singleton from Mohenjo daro (M-66). It actually more resembles a modified STOOL, since the back end of the zoomorph is pretty flat. This may indicate that the STOOL is also a simplified zoomorph.
|Possible crustaceans and insects in proto-cuneiform:|
ZATU 703 (upper left), KUSZU2~e (upper right),
and ZATU 699~a and ~b (bottom row).
There are relatively few insects and crustaceans in Egyptian hieroglyphs aside from the bee and scarab or dung beetle. Three or four appear in proto-cuneiform, including what may be a lobster (ZATU 703), something like a ladybug (ZATU699~a and ~b), and some sort of aquatic animal. The latter is KUSZU2~e, later symbolizing a crab, most likely, although a turtle or shark is possible. However, the Indus sign does not particularly resemble any of these.
|Broken seal L-47 with partial inscription: STACKED NINE (?) / CRAB / BI-QUOTES //|
DUCK HEAD / PINWHEEL (over incomplete "unicorn" at the bottom).
There follows DUCK HEAD (EYELESS) (X 33), also known as KP76 and W86. Fairservis only includes a variation with a dot in the center of the circle, hence his identification of it as the head of a bird with its beak wide open to make noise (B-6). It is more likely another form of insect or crustacean, I think. Wells notes four variants. These differ in the number of “legs” and the shape of the “pincers” – if it is a crab (varying in the number of “feathers” and the shape of the “beak” if it really is a bird’s head). Wells finds nine occurrences, with all four types appearing at Mohenjo daro. There is also an instance of the “a” variant from Lothal (L-47).
|Two variants of proto-cuneiform NE, "this, that."|
A similar symbol appears in proto-cuneiform in the form of a circle to which several prongs are attached on the left and a “less than” sign on the right. The sign occurs in two variants, NE~a showing a vertical line across the circle; NE~b including a “greater than” element instead. The sign came to mean “this; that,” giving us no clue to what it may depict (if anything).
|Broken and abraded seal M-39 (detail) with inscription:|
QUADRUPED / EYES WITH QUADRUPLE LASHES (?) / STACKED THREE (?) /
FISH UNDER CHEVRON / WHISKERED FISH / CUPPED POST (?) / TRI-FORK (??).
The figure eight – a circle on top of another circle – occurs in the Indus script in various incarnations. A ten-stroke variation is EYES WITH TRIPLE LASHES (X34). In this, there are three diagonal strokes attached to each circle. If rotated 90 degrees, the symbol would resemble Orphan Annie’s eyes with three eyelashes on each side. Fairservis notes a version with four “lashes” (C-2), suggesting it may represent an insect, perhaps an ant (1992: 158). The four-pronged version also shows up in the list of Koskenniemi and Parpola (KP83). Only Wells includes this three-pronged version, as W87”a.” The four-pronged type is his “b” variant. He finds five occurrences altogether, three from Mohenjo daro and two from Harappa. Both variants occur at both sites. Although a "figure eight" appears on cultural artifacts elsewhere, one adorned with "lashes" does not seem to.
|Bas-relief tablet H-206 with inscription (right to left): TRIPLE BRICK / |
CUPPED POST / EYES WITH TRIPLE LASHES / WHISKERED FISH /
BLANKET WITH FOUR TICKS, TWO HYPHENS / POT.
The next sign in my list is CAGED WHISKERED FISH (X 35), also seen as KP63 and W120. According to Wells, it occurs eight times, mostly at Mohenjo daro. There is also a CAGED FISH UNDER CHEVRON (X 36), listed elsewhere as KP61 and W119. This is slightly more common, with 11 occurrences, eight from Mohenjo daro, one from Harappa, one from Lothal, and one from Banawali.
|Seal M-1091 with inscription: CUP ON FOUR PRONGS / RAYED CIRCLE / |
CUPPED SPOON / MALLET / POT-HATTED BEARER / CAGED WHISKERED FISH.
|Seal B-17 with inscription: MAN ON BASE / PANTS / BI-QUOTES //|
CAGED FISH UNDER CHEVRON (over composite animal, part tiger, part bovine).
We then come to POTTED FOUR (X 37), like the previous symbols a variation on a theme seen previously. It has been published as KP328, but does not appear in the other lists. I find one instance, from Harappa (H-1005), on a pot shard.
|Proto-cuneiform |ZATU 831 @ g|, similar to Indus X 37 (POTTED FOUR).|
This is a very rare sign in the Indus Valley, but it has a parallel in proto-cuneiform. A symbol reminiscent of the “pot,” rotated 90 degrees, occurs with six rather than four internal hash marks, as |ZATU 831 @ g|. Unfortunately the meaning is unknown. But the addition of apparent numerals to both signs, proto-cuneiform and Indus, may be significant (though not necessarily numerical).
|Seal H-47 with inscription: FAT CHEVRON / STRIPED FLANGE-TOPPED POT (X38b) / POT|
(note that both "flanges" stand out on the left; in the "a" variant, they stand on in the inside of the "pot").
|Proto-cuneiform ZATU 710, two variants of a striped pot.|
Proto-cuneiform has nothing like a “pot” with “flanges” on top, but there is a depiction of a striped pot: ZATU 710. It has two variants, “a” having two strokes added as something like “handles,” and “b” including both these “handles” and another stroke for a possible “spout.” Meanings are unknown.
Indus signs X 39 and X 40 may be two different interpretations of a single sign. The first of these is FAT CHEVRON IN TRI-FORK TOPPED POT, also known as KP334 and W324. It is a singleton from Kalibangan (K18). The second is CARTWHEEL IN TRI-FORK TOPPED POT, also known as KP337.
|Proto-cuneiform |SZITA~a1 x UDU~a|, a vessel containing a sheep??|
These two bear only the faintest resemblance to a proto-cuneiform sign, |SZITA~a1 x UDU~a|. It takes the form of a triangular “vessel” with a wedge at the apex. Inside the triangle is the circled cross. In this combination, the internal element represents a sheep, while the “container” came to mean “priest; prayer; a sacred vessel.” But it hardly seems likely that the meaning of the ligature is “cup of sheep.”
|Bas-relief tablet H-228A with inscription (right to left): CUPPED SPOON ON 5 PRONGS /|
DOUBLE BACK CEES / POT-HATTED LOOP ARMED MAN (BEARER?) / COMB.
One last simple variation is X 41 which I term CUPPED SPOON ON FIVE PRONGS. It is also enumerated KP317(b) (actually the four-pronged variation) and W310”a.” Wells has two variations grouped together, the “spoon” in a “cup” that sits on five prongs as “a”; the simpler “post” in a “cup” that sits on four prongs as “b.” The simpler variant only occurs once at Mohenjo daro, while the ten-stroke version with the "spoon" appears twice at Harappa.
|Proto-cuneiform U4, "day," with five prongs added, "five" (N57), indicating "five days."|
In proto-cuneiform, I find nothing comparable to the Indus CUPPED SPOON, but the very broadly similar U4, “day,” sometimes takes prongs. The instance with five prongs apparently represents “five days” (|U4 x 5(N57)|. One might assume that if the addition of "prongs" has an enumerative function in proto-cuneiform, those added to the Indus sign would also have that function. But this is not very likely, in reality. In proto-cuneiform, U4 occurs with varying numbers of prongs, while the Indus CUPPED SPOON does not appear sitting on a wide variety of "numerals."