Leiden plates, other inscriptions, and potters

Paul K. Manansala kabalen at MAIL.JPS.NET
Sat Apr 25 18:04:33 UTC 1998

   "N. Ganesan" <GANESANS at CL.UH.EDU>

> Could the accountant caste (karNiigar) in Tamil have come into
> being from potters? This seems a possiblity because potters should
> have been the one of the first to write. All over south India, inscriptions
> on pot sherds are found in megalithic burials.
> CEnaavaraiyar, the medieval commentator on Tolkaappiyam has a nice
> story to tell on potters and accountants. Does this point to
> common origins? It is true that vELaan2 are the major signatories
> in Chola inscriptions.
> Are the Indus seals done by potters? In post-Vedic times,
> did these people with writing skills join priesthood?!

Interesting work by Bruce Williams of the Oriental Institute suggests
that most of the earliest evidence of writing in ancient Egypt was
also found on pots and jars.  Maybe pottery should be considered the
first sign of "civilization."  With the exception of the tool-maker,
the potter seems to be one of the first craftspersons. Pottery seems
also the oldest manufactured trade item, with the possible exception of beads.
Most likely the trade of grain, one of the real signs of the
development of urban life, involved pottery as shipping containers.

And, of course, in many cultures, the first signs of writing are
found on potsherds.

Paul Kekai Manansala

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