brahmi? (was Re: Origin of Dravidian languages)

Richard Salomon rsalomon at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Tue Feb 10 19:52:35 UTC 1998

The idea that Asoka's inscriptions are the earliest in Brahmi is accepted
by some, but not all. Still a matter of some controversy.
I would refer you to Harry Falk's Schrift im alten Indien (Tu:bingen
1993); he makes strong
arguments against dating any inscriptions or other Brahmi documents
earlier than Asoka.  The reference to inscribed coins of the 6th century
BC strikes me as highly unlikely; early Indian coins are generally
difficult to date, but could hardly be that early.  Inscribed potsherds
from Sri Lanka, allegedly of pre-Asokan date, remain controversial.

I would summarize the matter by saying that the earliest definitely
documents in Brahmi are Asokan inscriptions; it is possible, but as yet
unproven and somewhat doubtful, that some other inscriptions are

Many older books (e.g. Bu:hlers Origin and Development of the Indian
Brahma Alphabet) talk confidently about early (pre-Mauryan) forms and
examples of Brahmi, but all of these have now been thrown into doubt by
Falk's authoriative work.

R. Salomon

On Tue, 10 Feb 1998, Jacob Baltuch wrote:

> No one has answered my brahmi question, so I'm asking again.
> Is it or is it not accepted that azoka's inscriptions are
> the earliest extant in brahmi?
> If it is, what is that mention in an article posted here of
> _sixth_ (6th) century BC coins carrying a brahmi inscription?
> Just a typo?

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