Thursday, July 7, 2011

Eleven Little Men

Elamite pottery designs resembling men holding a shish kebab (on right).

There are 11 more Indus signs based on an anthropomorphic sign, each of which contains nine strokes.  I will try to present these in a more concise fashion than previously, noting fewer analogous symbols from other cultures.  Since the human form is essentially the same everywhere, it should be no surprise that depictions of humans show similarities across most cultures.  Thus, it is unnecessary to be exhaustive in pointing out generally similar representations.
Two depictions from Old Chinese bronzes of offerings of cowrie shells (Wieger 1967: 365).

This post begins with MAN HOLDING SHISH KEBAB (IX 28).  Elsewhere, it is enumerated KP28, W46, and Fs A-24.  Fairservis considers this a representation of a man with a stick marked with slashes as a form of record.  He assigns this symbol the meaning “record keeper (one who records by length, depth, amount).”  Wells notes that the sign occurs only once at Mohenjo daro (M-991).  This symbol is reasonably similar to depictions of Old Chinese offerings to ancestors, in which a man carries strings of cowrie shells (used as money).  In some cases, these strings of “cash” look like the Indus SHISH KEBAB (Wieger 1967: 365).
Detail from seal Sktd-1 with inscription: CARTWHEEL / MAN HOLDING (BACK) DEE-SLASH /

There is also an Indus bowman which I term MAN HOLDING DEE-SLASH (IX 29).  It also appears as KP35, W9, and Fs A-15.  Fairservis considers it a man with bow and arrow, either a hunter or a warrior.  But he proposes that it is a calendrical symbol, indicating either the first or the twelfth month.  Wells finds 14 of these, five from Mohenjo daro, seven from Harappa, 1 from Lohumjo daro, and one from Surkotada.  I see some with the “D” and slash on the right of the “man,” others with a backward “D” and a backslash on his left, 42 in all.
Bowman as depicted in a Texas petroglyph (Newcomb and Kirkland 1996: 88, Pl. 49, no. 9).
In any case, depictions of men with bows and arrows are nearly universal – though such are not found in Australia.  This type of pictograph appears in North America, in both Texas and Nevada, in Africa, among the Old European petroglyphs at Valcamonica, and in later art on cylinder seals from Iraq.

Seal C-17 with inscription: WINGED MAN (one wing/horn broken off) / POT // MAN (below unicorn).

The next sign is a variation on the WINGED MAN (IX 30), although those might just as easily be called horns.  This variation has an inverted triangle for a body, arms and legs, and a chevron-shaped head.  The “wings” (or horns) are curved.  This variant appears elsewhere only in Wells’ list (W1) as one of seven varieties.  There is also just one occurrence of this form out of 62 total, according to Wells.  Only the stick figure variant shows up in Koskenniemi and Parpola’s list (KP9), and the same is true of Fairservis’ list (A-4).
Variants of Old Chinese di4, "emperor" (note apparent horns on the first).

Some depictions of the emperor in Old Chinese writing seem to have horns.  The character di4, “emperor,” is described as “a man, clad in long robes” (Wieger 1967: 281).  Here, the “horns” represent a crown or other headdress.  Another character seems to have horns, namely sui2, “to partake...the pigs, in bands, in flocks” (1967: 174).  Again, what appear to be horns do not represent that at all.  The character is, instead, a combination of the pig and the numeral “eight,” the latter taking the form of two strokes, one on either side of the pig’s head.
Proto-cuneiform heads with "horns": |SAG X LAM~c| (top), and
|SAG X GESZTU| below, variants "a" and "c."

There is a series of heads only in proto-cuneiform in which ears or horns are added: |SAG x GESZTU|.  These are combination of the signs for “head” and “ear, hearing.”  In North America, many of the images interpreted as shaman figures have curved or oblique strokes attached to the heads (examples appeared in the previous post discussing the seven-stroke WINGED MAN).  At least in Navaho art, such elements are feathers rather than horns (or wings).
The "horned god" from Enkomi, Cyprus.

Among the Egyptians, certain deities had horns or wings (or both).  Isis, for example, often has a type of seat on her head, the hieroglyph used to spell her name.  But other times, she has ox horns with the sun between them.  And she is sometimes winged.  In ancient Iraq, some of the kings wore crowns with horns, and typically the anthropomorphic deities appear on cylinder seals wearing multiple sets of horns.  There is a famous figurine of a horned god from Enkomi, Cyprus, and a Sardinian figurine of a centaur-like creature has horns.  Sometimes a horned figure is partly bovine, as is the case with the Bull Man who appears with a hero battling wild animals on cylinder seals.  The Central Asian shaman sometimes wore reindeer horns as well.
Detail from seal H-45 with inscription: CARTWHEEL / BI-QUOTES // WINGED MAN BETWEEN CEES / POT / MAN.

The simpler variant appears in the Indus ligature WINGED MAN BETWEEN CEES, also known as KP10(b) and W18.  Wells notes a total of six of these, from Mohenjo daro, Harappa, and Chanhujo daro.  Despite the common appearance of horned or winged figures, it is not easy to find such a being between two parts of another symbol (though we might recall here the Old Chinese sui2, the pig between the two strokes that indicate a division).  In South America, the Moche sometimes flank a human figure with plants such as cacti or an element resembling an ear of grain (Donnan and McClelland 1999: 216).  There are also some horned and some winged figures.  The horns on one figure end in snake heads, on a another bird heads.  So they probably do not actually represent horns.
Depiction of a Moche man between plants, probably cacti, from South America (Donnan and McClelland 1999: 216).

Among Indus signs, there is also a WINGED MAN BETWEEN ESSES (IX 32), elsewhere enumerated KP10(a) and W72.  Wells cites three instances, all from Mohenjo daro.  I see only one (M-1418).
One of many figures painted near the overhang of Songo at Sanga, Mali, one which
seemingly depicts a horned man, but it is an elephant (LeQuellec 2004: 69).

Another anthropomorph is MAN WITH SINGLE EAR HOLDING SLASH (IX 33), which Wells enumerates W62.  It is a singleton from Mohenjo daro (M-35).  The Egyptian goddess Maat wears a single feather on her head, the glyph for her name, which also means “truth, justice, righteousness.”  The Hittite thunder god, Tarhuns, wears a tall, peaked cap rather than the Akkadian series of horns.  And Navaho figures in sand paintings often have a feather on their heads, typically bent to the side as the Indus “ear” is.  Some of the anthropomorphic figures on early Elamite pottery also have asymmetrical protruberances on their heads, probably representations of hair drawn back in a bun.
Detail from seal M-35 with inscription: MAN WITH SINGLE EAR HOLDING SLASH / BI-QUOTES //

Another rarity among Indus signs is MAN HOLDING COMB (IX 34), Wells’ W30.  This “comb” extends from one hand, with three “teeth” rising from it.  Wells cites two occurrences (H-76 from Harappa and K-25 from Kalibangan).  There might be a third, from Mohenjo daro (M-704).  The sign might be a variant of another, MAN HOLDING RAKE (3 PRONGS).  This one appears in other lists as KP26 (with 11 strokes), W15, and Fs A-22.  Fairservis calls it a man with a comb, defining it “scribe.”  Wells classifies this one as the “c” variant of a man with a wider rake (“a” has five tines while “b” has four).  He sees seven instances.  Whatever the object in the figure’s hand, I tend to think the variations are depicting the same thing.
Detail from seal M-699 with inscription: BARBELL ON POST / FIVE POSTS /

The next item is MAN WITH ANKLET (IX 36).  It occurs in a number of variants.  In the literature it is KP19 (with a rectangular “anklet” on the right), W24 (two variants, one rectangular “anklet” and one a simple line, both on the left) plus W29 (with the rectangular “anklet” on the right).  I group all three of these versions together under this sign, noting that the “anklet” also has a less than rectangular variation in one case (H-976). 
Seal H-584 with inscription: MAN WITH ANKLET (RIGHT) / COMB.

One might expect seals to show the “man” with the “anklet” on one side, the tablets with the “anklet” on the other side.  But it is not that simple.  Two seals from Mohenjo daro have the “anklet” on the left (M-380 and broken M-930), while a third seal moves it to the right (M-386).  Four instances from Harappa have the “anklet” on the right (one seal and three tablets), but a fifth has it on the left (a tablet, H-829).  The source of the variation remains a mystery.
Detail from seal H-57 with inscription: STACKED TWELVE BETWEEN CEES /
CHEVRON HATTED BEARER (of the armless and bodiless variety!).

There is next an armless anthropomorph, CHEVRON HATTER BEARER (IX 37).  The more realistic KP3 and Fs A-9 also show this character with the triangular head or hat, but they include arms.  Wells gives three variants, including this one designated W28c.  Fairservis suggests that it serves as an honorific title like the POT HATTED BEARER (his A-8) related to a guardian role, but designating an administrator.  Korvink, for his part, classifies this sign as a terminal.
Luwian MAGNUS, "great" (above) and NEG, negative (below), vaguely similar to the armless BEARER.

Luwian includes two hieroglyphs that vaguely resemble just this peculiar variant.  One of these has two coils at either end of a horizontal line.  There are then two descending strokes, one short, the other longer and angling off to one side.  This is MAGNUS, “great,” something like our “bearer” with his hat missing.  A more peaked version of this sign with two backslashes beneath it becomes NEG, sign of the negative.
(over a composite animal, part bovine, part tiger, and a cult stand).

The last of these anthropomorphs is MAN ON BASE (IX 38), also known as KP17 and W37b.  This “man” stands on a horizontal line, unlike the majority of such signs.  He also has a circular head and a short horizontal stroke delineating shoulders.  Wells cites two instances, one from Mohenjo daro and one from Banawali.
Signs analogous to IX 38: Old Chinese li4, "to stand" (top) and
proto-cuneiform GU, "yarn, flax" (below).

Although it looks more like a little house with a peaked roof to me, the Old Chinese character li4 is a reasonable parallel.  It represents “a man standing on the stand” (Wieger 1967: 157).  And in proto-cuneiform, essentially the stick figure “man” on a base – rotated 90 degrees – is GU, which came to mean “yarn, flax, thread, needle.”  I imagine it was originally a depiction of a plant.

Depiction of a king with the goddess Ishtar from ancient Iraq
(king on left wears a horned crown while Ishtar has multiple horns,
plus weapons rising from her shoulders).

No comments:

Post a Comment