Rebus writing (was: Date of Jyotisa Vedanga)

Venkatraman Iyer venkatraman_iyer at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 24 17:42:25 UTC 2000

 >> Foll. Prof. Parpola, what about the Fish symbol as Star in IVC?

Elst wrote:
Nothing in the Harappan record says that the fish-like glyph means
"star", only some modern interpreters do.  Though at some point I
didn't know better than to believe the Dravidian Harappa theory,
this one interpretation made me suspicious.  It is rather absurd for
a pictographic script to use the rebus principle for an
easy-to-depict object such as a star.  Sumerian, at
any rate, writes "star" with a sketchy drawing of a star.

Of course, we can't read the IVC seals completely yet. However,
fish and stars are depicted together in IVC for sure.
Father Heras, the Jesuit missionary, may finally be right in
pointing to tamil mIn(=fish and star). It is apparent that
even though IVC painted "star" symbol on the pottery, they
did not include "star" in their sign list. Only the "fish" sign.
A. Parpola, Deciphering the Indus script, Ch. 10, The 'fish' signs
of the Indus script, p. 179-197.

See especially p. 183
"Fig 10.5, 'Fish' and 'star' motifs combined on Mature
Harappan pottery from Amri: (a) period IIIA,
(b) period IIIC. After Casal 1964: II, fig. 92: no.487(=a)
and fig. 78: no 343 (=b)."
Also, on p.183
"Fig 10.6 A monochrome goblet painted with three 'star'
symbols, discovered among 143 in a storage room (locus 118)
at Mehrgarh, period VII, c.3000-2600 BC. After Santoni
1989: 183, fig. 8: 21; cf. ibid. 181-5."

A. Robinson, The story of writing, 1999, Thames & Hudson,
"The Aryans never penetrated to south India, thus
allowing the region to preserve its own languages, which
(it is postulated) are related that of the Indus dwellers.

   If the Dravidian hypothesis is correct, it might be
possible to match words from the old form of Tamil, a
Dravidian language spoken in today's Madras, with suitable
Indus signs. A very common Indus sign is the fish. The
old Tamil word for fish is 'mIn'. But mIn has another
meaning too - 'star' or 'planet'. Could the fish sign
be a rebus signifying an astral name? The occurence
of fish signs with stars and anthropomorphic images
(see seal on previous page) supports this interpretation,
as does Indus Valley pottery in which fishes and
stars are adjascent:

[pictures of two pottery shards not included in this

The fish also sometimes appears with six strokes before
it in the script, indicating '(constellation) of six
stars', i.e. the Pleiades, known as 'aRu-mIn' in the most
ancient Dravidian texts."

The IVC appears to use the rebus principle to depict
stars, nakshatrams.

Best wishes,
V. Iyer

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