|Tablet H-773A with inscription: POTTED ONE / CRAB / TRI-FORK / BI-QUOTES //|
COIL / CRAB // POT (poorly rendered so that the POT and POTTED ONE have switched places).
Over 250 Indus inscriptions appear to include two units of information. On a large number of tablets, for example, inscriptions appear on both sides, typically a relatively long one on side A and a brief one on side B made up of CUP plus an apparent numeral between “one” and “four.” For example, H-773 bears PMT on side A (POTTED ONE / CRAB / TRI-FORK / BI-QUOTES // COIL / CRAB // POT), plus an unusual M on side B (SHISH KEBAB / BATTERY / VEST / CUP / 4 POSTS). In the previous post, I analyzed this type as PMT.M (the period marking the boundary between the two sides). In such cases, it is evident that the information on side A differs from that on side B; thus, the inscribed object bears more than one unit of information.
|Seal M-326B (shown reversed as an impression would appear).|
The final sign (bottom left), heavily abraded, may be 5 POSTS.
On a few objects, inscriptions appear on more than two sides. For example, seal M-326 shows PMT on side A (BOAT / PINCH // POTTED ONE / FISH UNDER CHEVRON / DOUBLE CEES // POT), two lines of medial content on side B (STRIPED BISECTED TOP / EX / 3 QUOTES / CARTWHEEL // [over] BARBELL ON POST / POSTS & SLASH / BARBELL ON POST / 5 [?] POSTS). In addition, three of the four edges are inscribed: side C (CIRCLE [?] / MAN HOLDING CUP / TRI-FORK); side D (BARBELL); and side E (TEETH / OVERLAPPING CIRCLES). We may characterize the whole set as PMT.M-M.M. M.M (the segments separated by periods could also be sequenced differently, some before the PMT here shown as initial).
|Seal M-326, edges D (top) and E (bottom), with inscriptions:|
BARBELL // TEETH / OVERLAPPING CIRCLES.
Such inscriptions, appearing on multiple sides of an object are interesting, as they pose the questions of whether all the symbols pertain to one topic (i.e., do the inscriptions go together in some sense, even though they are physically separated), and what sequence they take (if any). But even more interesting are the instances where an inscription on a single side of an object appears to contain more than one unit of information. Here, the information units most likely do converge on a single topic, while the sequence is usually clear (tablets and other objects mostly being “read” from right to left and top to bottom, as are the impressions of seals). For the most part, the second unit of information in these cases is not a combination of CUP and an apparent numeral, either.
Some of the longer inscriptions contain a complete sequence of prefix, medial section, and terminal (or PMT) following by an additional sequence of elements. A few examples follow, with each informational unit underlined to highlight its unity:
H-386 PMT-MT: FIGURE 8 WITH ATTACHED LADDER / PINCH // CRAB / RAKE / FISH / STACKED 12 // POT // FOOTED STOOL WITH TICK // PINWHEEL. Other inscriptions with the same analysis (PMT-MT) include H-46, H-122, M-644 (9 signs), M-833 (6 signs), L-46 (8 signs), L-122 (6 signs)
M-682 PMT-PMT: FAT EX / PINCH // PRAWN / ZEE / CROSSROADS EX // POT /// FAT EX / PINCH // CIRCLED FORK // POT.
M-234 PMT-PMT-M: BOAT / PINCH // FISH UNDER CHEVRON / FISH // SPEAR /// FAT EX / PINCH // FAT LAMBDA // POT /// (over) 4 QUOTES / MAN WITH TAIL / FAT STOOL / CAGED OVERLAPPING CIRCLES (the 4 QUOTES + MAN WITH TAIL are grouped together in KP as MAN HOLDING 4 QUOTES). The same analysis applies to M-626 (13 signs).
M-23 PMT-PMT-M: BOAT / PINCH // FISH UNDER CHEVRON / FISH // SPEAR /// FAT EX / PINCH // FAT CHEVRON // POT /// (over) STRIPED FAT LEG LAMBDA / DOTTED FEATHERED BIRD HEAD / DOUBLE VEES IN DIAMOND / CAGED OVERLAPPING CIRCLES (closely resembling M-234).
M-314 PMT-MT-M: CARTWHEEL / BI-QUOTES // FISH UNDER CHEVRON / WHISKERED FISH / DOT IN FISH // SPEAR /// (over) DOUBLY CAGED AY / CUPPED SPOON // TRI-FORK TOPPED POT / POT /// (over) 2 POSTS / CIRCLED RECTANGLE (?) / PANTS / MAN HOLDING DEE-SLASH / TRI-FORK / CIRCLED VEE / QUADRUPED (with 17 signs, this is the longest inscription on a single side of any object thus far discovered). Seal M-665 bears an inscription with the same analysis (10 signs).
M-165 PT-MT-M: 2 POSTS / TRI-FORK / POTTED ONE // BI-FORK TOPPED POT / POT /// (over) DOTTED DUCK HEAD // POT // CIRCLED VEE (occasionally an inscription is best read boustrophedon, so the signs in the second row here might also be transcribed CIRCLED VEE // POT // DUCK HEAD). Another inscription with this analysis is H-217
M-326 PMT-M.M.M: (side A) BOAT / PINCH // POTTED ONE / FISH UNDER CHEVRON / DOUBLE CEES // POT /// (side B) STRIPED BISECTED TOP // (after space) EX / 3 QUOTES / CARTWHEEL // (2nd row) BARBELL ON POST / POSTS & SLASH / BARBELL ON POST / 5 POSTS (?) /// (side C) COIL (?) / MAN HOLDING CUP / TRI-FORK /// (side D) BARBELL /// (side E) TEETH / OVERLAPPING CIRCLES.
H-350 MT.M.M: (side A, right to left) WHISKERED FISH / BLANKET WITH TICKS & DASHES / CROSSROADS EX // POT /// (side B) 4 POSTS / CUP /// (side C) FISH (the final sign is oriented horizontally, unlike the vertical “fish” on side A; thus, the “fish” on side C may be decorative rather than a sign).
H-245 MT-MT.M: (side A, right to left) WHISKERED (?) FISH / FISH // POT /// CAGED CIRCLED FORK // COMB /// (side B) 3 POSTS / CUP.
H-103 MT-MT-MT: (horizontal top row) CIRCLED FORK / RAKE / FISH / FOOT // POT /// (vertical side row) CUP / 3 POSTS // SPEAR /// (horizontal inverted bottom row) MAN BETWEEN POSTS // CHEVRON HATTED BEARER (no other seal is inscribed in this peculiar fashion, “read” in three different directions).
M-495 MT-M.MT.MT-M: ([side A] CIRCLED FORK / CRAB / HAIRY HUNCHBACK // POT / BEARER /// 3 CUPS / TRI-FORK /// [side B] POTTED ONE / DOUBLE CEES / CUP / CARTWHEEL / 2 POSTS / PRICKLY CORN HOLDER / DOUBLE CEES / RAKE / WINGED MAN // POT /// [sides G-B] SNOWFLAKE / ANKH / POTTED ONE // BEARER WITH SHOULDER YOKE /// BIRD BETWEEN PARENS / OVERLAPPING CIRCLES / 2 POSTS (with 24 signs covering three sides of a prism-shaped tablet, this inscription – or these inscriptions – form the longest Indus “text”).
Thus far, most inscriptions that go beyond PMT contain one or more elements of a second (P)M(T) or occasionally more. Assuming that each (P)M(T) segment contains one unit of information, the inscriptions cited in this post contain 2 (H-386, M682), 3 (H-103, H-245, H-350, M-23, M-165, M-234, M-314), 4 (M-326), or 5 (M-495) such units. The inscription M-165 is somewhat peculiar in that the first unit is PT and thus lacks M, but the following two units are not problematic and do contain this element (MT and M). If these were the only lengthy inscriptions, we might conclude that Indus inscriptions could be compound (formed simply by concatenating two or more (P)M(T) segments) but not complex.
There are, however, a small number of inscriptions that appear to be slightly more complex. In these, an initial PMT is followed by a prefix constant without an apparent variable, after which there is another M. Placing a prefix constant immediately after a terminal may serve to make the whole initial PMT into the variable of a long prefix with internal subdivisions. I propose to write the analysis of this type as (P1MT)P2M, the parentheses indicating the elements inside the P2. Note that in all the examples I have found, SINGLE QUOTE is the prefix constant appearing after the terminal, although either BI-QUOTES or PINCH may occur in the initial (embedded) prefix. It is interesting that a similar recursive feature does not appear possible with the terminal (because it may contain only one sign). Examples follow, with the unusual prefix underlined:
H-8: BOAT / CROSSROADS EX / BI-QUOTES // CUPPED SPOON / 3 POSTS / MALLET / QUAD-FORK //
POT // SINGLE QUOTE // PRICKLY CORN HOLDER.
L-2: MAN HOLDING QUOTE (?) / TRI-FORK / PINCH // BELTED FISH / FOOTED STOOL // PINWHEEL //
SINGLE QUOTE // CORN HOLDER.
M-21: VEE IN DIAMOND / BI-QUOTES // 2 POSTS / FAT EX / RECTANGLE IN RECTANGLE // POT //
SINGLE QUOTE // CORN HOLDER.
M-358: SINGLE POST / STRIPED BISECTED TRIANGLE / BI-QUOTES // CIRCLED FORK / WHISKERED
FISH // SPEAR // SINGLE QUOTE // 3 QUOTES.
M-1267: VEE IN DIAMOND / BI-QUOTES // HUNCHBACK // FLANGE TOPPED POT / POT // SINGLE
QUOTE // BI-RAKE.
I will include tree diagrams of some of the compound and complex forms described above in another post.