Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Problematic 13-Stroke Signs in the Indus Script

Seal H96 with inscription: CAGED TRI-FORK & VEE IN DIAMOND

The 10 symbols I discuss here include problematic signs, including the first one: CAGED TRI-FORK AND (DOUBLE) VEE IN DIAMOND (XIII 15).  I include this on the basis of KP391, the only list in which it appears.  However, I place it among the 13-stroke symbols because the only ones I find show a single “V” shape in the usual spot inside the DIAMOND.  This single-VEE version is listed by Wells (W397).  He notes that it occurs only twice, at Harappa.  Although diamond shapes enclose various elements elsewhere in the world, I see no others with this particular combination of motifs.

Detail from seal M894 with inscription: VEE IN DIAMOND / STRIPED FAT LEG LAMBDA /

The second symbol is STRIPED HORN (XIII 16).  In Koskenniemi and Parpola’s list, the HORN has a single stripe (KP210), while it has four stripes in Fairservis’ list (D-5).  Wells notes four variants which occur a total of 15 times, four from Mohenjo daro (including M-196, the only variant comprising 13 strokes), four from Harappa, three from Kalibangan, two from Nausharo, and one each from Lothal and Chanhujo daro.  Fairservis identifies this symbol as a tusk, probably of a rhinoceros, an animal that occurs as the iconic element on some seals.  Nevertheless, he suggests the definition “horn” and “bull”!
Analogs to Indus sign XIII 16 in proto-cuneiform, including IR (variants "a" and "b," top);
|NI~b x 4(N57)|, a measure of capacity (below left); and SZITA @ g~b, "sacred vessel" (below right).

In proto-cuneiform there are signs of roughly triangular form, with stripes.  These parallels to the Indus sign include IR, which came to mean “fragrance” (variant “a” containing diagonal stripes, “d” containing verticals); as well as |NI~b x 4(N57)|, evidently a measure of capacity; and SZITA @ g~b, perhaps originally a sacred vessel of some kind.  None of these, however, has the asymmetrical form of the Indus sign.
Egyptian hieroglyphs F16 (top left) and F13 (top right), bull horns;
and Luwian hieroglyphs la (below left) and su (below right).

Luwian hieroglyphs include two analogs.  One of these is an asymmetrically triangular syllabic symbol, la, which may contain two stripes.  The other is , apparently a depiction of a horn.  Similarly, Egyptian makes use of a single bull’s horn as F16, ideographic or a determinative in words for “horn” (db, hnt, and ‘b being three synonyms).  Both horns together form another glyph, F13, an ideograph in wpt, “brow; beginning,” as well as a phonetic triliteral representing those three consonants.
Ghanaian goldweight bearing the motif sometimes termed the "ram's horn" (Phillips 2010: 28, Pl. 25).

In West Africa, one of the more popular symbols found on goldweights is a coil termed the “ram’s horn” (Phillips 2010: 28, Pl. 25).  It may represent a stylized horn, or the similarity may be nothing more than coincidence.
Broken seal M-1271 with partial inscription: CEE (?) / STRIPED FAT CHEVRON / FAT CHEVRON / CUP (?)
(note the presence of two forms of "chevron," an indication that these are two distinct symbols rather than variants).

The following Indus sign is SQUARE FAT CHEVRON (XIII 17).  It is distinguished from XII 32 of the same name by the square ends.  Elsewhere, it has been enumerated KP195, W421, and Fs K-2.  Fairservis identifies it as a depiction of a measuring device, yielding the definition “measure” (of cloth).  Wells notes four occurrences of this variation on the motif, with two each from Mohenjo daro and Harappa.
Proto-cuneiform signs ERIN, "cedar tree/wood" (top) and LA, "abundance" (bottom).

Parallels appear in proto-cuneiform with ERIN, “cedar tree or wood,” TUN~b, “pocket, pouch,” and LA~e, “abundance.”  The first two resemble the letter “L” with a longer base than vertical portion, differing in the relative height of the vertical.  The last of the three is more like the left half of “T,” with the longer portion at the top.  The arrangement of stripes also differ among these.
Seal M-107 with inscription: STRIPED BIRD WITH UPRIGHT TAIL / STRIPED BIRD & FISH BETWEEN PARENTHESES / BI-QUOTES // BELTED FISH / FOOTED STOOL WITH HAIRY LEGS & ATTACHED TRI-FORK / POT (note that the "legs" of the "stool are on the left, the "tri-fork" on the right).

Heavily abraded seal H-99 with (partial?) inscription (from right to left):
COMB (note the "legs" on the right and the "tri-fork" on the left, reversing the above).

Next, we find FOOTED STOOL WITH HAIRY LEGS AND ATTACHED E TRI-FORK (XIII 18), also known as KP238, W461, and Fs F-14.  Fairservis sees this as a ligature of I-11, the STOOL, defined as “tongs,” plus the affixed F-13, the TRI-FORK, defined as “fire.”  Somehow these join together to suggest “storm” to this author.  Wells finds this symbol to be a singleton from Mohenjo daro (M-107).  I see a total of 10 of which three come from Harappa.  Some have two “hairs” on each “leg” of the “stool,” yielding a different stroke count from the others, which have three “hairs” on each “leg.”  It may be significant that this symbol appears as the whole inscription on one seal (M-842).
Heavily abraded seal M-1133 with (partial?) inscription: MAN HOLDING POST / COMB /

The nineteenth of the 13-stroke symbols is STRIPED TOP WITH BENT LEGS (XIII 19), a symbol listed elsewhere as KP275 (in rather different form) and W488.  Wells indicates that it is another singleton from Mohenjo daro (M-1133).  It is possible that it was intended simply as a striped and skewered “top.”  The additional stroke beneath the rectangle could be an error/correction.
Proto-cuneiform signs NIMGIR, "night watchman" and SIG4, "mud brick."

In any case, there is a vague resemblance to the proto-cuneiform sign SIG4.  This symbol came to mean “mud brick” despite the fact that it does not resemble a brick in the least.
Proposed Indus sign QUOTE UNDER BEARER (XIII 20) as it might appear over the unicorn.

Our next sign is a problem: QUOTE UNDER BEARER (XIII 20).  It is listed by Koskenniemi and Parpola (KP2).  It is missing from Fairservis’ list, though this is not surprising since he lists only a few ligatures.  But it does not occur in the otherwise more detailed list prepared by Wells, either.  I have not found it in the first two volumes of the Corpus.  Perhaps it occurs in the third volume, which I have yet to see.
Seal M-222 with inscription: PRAWN / COW LEG / HEADLESS FLYING BIRD.

The twenty-first sign drawn with 13 strokes is peculiar in form: HEADLESS FLYING BIRD (XIII 21), also designated KP65, W150, and Fs C-4a &b.  Fairservis seems uncertain of the identification of this rare sign, indicating “a” to represent a bee with the meaning “honey,” while “b” is a flying fish, meaning “beauty; dance”!  The “wings” do not resemble insect wings, whether those of a bee or not.  To me, they most closely resemble the wings of a plucked chicken.  The lack of a clearly defined head might go along with such an identification, but the “tail” seems to remain, taking the form of an inverted trident.  Whatever this odd sign represents, it appears just four times, as Wells observes, three times at Mohenjo daro and once at Harappa.

If the Indus sign does depict a dead bird, with plucked wings outstretched, we can compare the Egyptian glyph G54.  This depicts a “trussed” goose or duck (Gardiner 1976: 473).  As such, it is the determinative in wšn, “wring the neck of (birds); offer.”
Detail of seal L-112 with inscription: MALLET / BOWTIE / BI-QUOTES // STRIPED DOOR WITH KNOB
 / BI-FORK TOPPED POT / POT (original is heavily scratched and hard to discern).

The following sign could be a variation on the LAMBDA, but I term it STRIPED DOOR WITH KNOB because of the verticality of the longer segment (XIII 22).  In published lists, it is designated KP200, W519, and Fs G-22.  Fairservis sees it as a stairway for reasons I do not understand, defining it as “heap, accumulation of a commodity.”  Wells finds only two occurrences, both from Mohenjo daro.  I think there may be more, including one from Lothal (L-112) and three or so from Harappa (H287, H879-882, H973).
Proto-cuneiform sign ZATU 781, of unknown meaning.

Proto-cuneiform provides a very close parallel with the unfortunately undefinable ZATU 781.  This, too, includes a thin, tall rectangle with stripes, as well as a shorter segment attached.  The shorter portion attaches at right angles in proto-cuneiform, though, whereas the analogous element of the Indus sign attaches at an oblique angle.
SINGLE POST (note that the long "legs" of the "table" are formed of two continuous lines, not dots).

Our next to last sign is problematic, again: CAGED STRIPED TRIANGLE UNDER TABLE (XIII 23), found only as KP212 elsewhere.  While there are four occurrences of a striped triangle under the bracket-like “table,” I see none that including the four separate marks termed “caging” here.  Perhaps Koskenniemi and Parpola interpret one of the long-legged “tables” as being made up of dots rather than being continuous lines.
Proposed Indus sign XIII 24 as it might appear over the horns of a zebu.

The final sign for this post is also problematic: CAGED FOOTED STOOL WITH MID EARS (XIII 24).  It, too, appears only in the list of Koskenniemi and Parpola (KP233).  There may be as many as eight of the non-caged element, one from Lothal and the rest from Mohenjo daro.  But I find none with the four short verticals of caging.  Again, this symbol may appear in the third volume of the Corpus.

1 comment:

  1. Fasscinating analysis, Diwiyana.

    Why do you call it '13-stroke-sign'? How to count the 13 strokes?

    Regards. Kalyan97@gmail.com