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

Jacob Baltuch jacob.baltuch at EURONET.BE
Thu Nov 6 23:34:50 UTC 1997

lmfosse at ONLINE.NO wrote:

>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.

One intriguing question: what is a supposedly consonantal
script, which should have enough with about 40 signs, doing
with hundreds of signs? Doesn't this look like overkill?

And what's this business of having related Brahmi to that
script? Can those guys really derive the shapes of Brahmi
letters from the script, in a way that anyone else but
them, and especially competent epigraphists, could also
feel happy about?

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