Script on excavated terracotta seals from Harappa deciphered ????

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Thu Nov 6 22:42:22 UTC 1997

At 10:54 06.11.97 -0600, you wrote:
>What do the list members think about the following article
>from the Times Of India.

Some time ago I had the opportunity to read a description by Rajaram on the
writing system described by Jha. I am afraid that any exultation is
premature. Jha has interpreted the Harappan script in such a way that that
it would be very hard NOT to find Sanskrit words in it:

a) There is only ONE initial vowel sign (cf. the Arabic Alif). In other
words, the sign for initial vowel may mean a, i, u, aa, ii, uu, .r, e, o,
ai, au.

b) Otherwise, there are no special vowel signs. There are, however, a number
of ligatures that incorporate vowels (e.g. v.r, if I remember correctly).
The system seems partly too primitive, partly too sophisticated at the same
time to be quite believable.

c) The Harappan script is treated as a boustrophedon writing system, in
other words, it may be read from the right or from the left.

With this kind of leeway, you can read a lot into the script. Considering
that the sentences - or word groups - that we are dealing with here, are
very short, there is an increased probability that you can construct
"meaningful" sentences or statements even if your perceptions about the
writing system are totally wrong.

As for Rajaram, the paper I referred to above shows him to be of very slight
competence in Sanskrit. His judgement is hardly the best in this matter. The
fact that you are a good computer person does not automatically make you a
competent Sanskritist. As everybody knows, this rule works both ways.

Jha's work may need some more scrutiny before final judgement is passed on
it - if for no other reason, it should be done as a matter of principle. But
there is as yet no reason to believe that the enigma of the Harappan script
has been solved.

But, then, I suppose the right person to ask would be Asko Parpola, who has
dealt with the Harappan script in his own research.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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