"BMAC writing"

Yaroslav Vassilkov yavass at YV1041.SPB.EDU
Mon Aug 6 20:26:39 UTC 2001

        Many thanks to Kengo Harimoto for reference to the NY Times site with
a new article (by the same J.N.Wilford) on the Anau seal. It contains a much better ]
view of the seal with inscription. The third sign has no parallels in the
known Indus records. So the writing is not so much "Indus-like", as it
seemed to me.
        Meanwhile I recieved a letter from Asko Parpola who is not yet on
the new Indology list at the moment (thanks to Petteri Koskikallio and Dominik Wujastyk,
who both forwarded my posting to him). Prof. Parpola says he is not sure it is real
writing, "and in any case it is not Indus script".
        But if it is not the "classical" Indus script as we know it, that does not
mean that it is necessarily "BMAC script". There are many other possibilities. For
        we still face the fact that the form of the seal is typical
of the Indus Valley Civilization (while there is nothing like that among hundreds of
known BMAC seals). So may be this seal is from the Indus region, but from an earlier
period, when the "classical" Indus form of writing has not yet been developed -
in other words, could not the Anau seal represent an earlier form of the Indus
script? The shiny black jet, of which the seal is made, is a hard stone, and the seal,
found in the context of about 2300 B.C., could well be made several centuries earlier.
        Another possibility is that it is not "real writing", but an imitation of
writing. Such imitation is a well-known cultural phenomenon often emerging on barbaric
peripheries of great civilizations.Anau region could well be a transit point from where
Indus trade goods (coming, let us say, from Shortugai) were forwarded further to the
West. Local people could use this "imitation seal" in the same way as some people do now
at the black markets putting phony labels "Made in Italy" or "in the USA" and so on
on their home-made junk clothes...
        And why can not we suggest, after all, that this writing
belongs to another civilization, different both from BMAC and from
the Indus (though closer to the last one, judging from the form of the seal)?
        The second article by J.W.Wilford contains some wild
phantasies, like suggestions of "a possible Chinese connection" (that
is, imaginary links between the Anau script and Chinese writing dated
by at least 2000 years later!). But there are, at the same time, more
sober remarks."In a story going around the Penn campus, when Dr.
Hiebert showed the inscribed object to Dr. Robert Dyson, retired
director of the University Museum of Archaeology, Dr. Dyson said: "
Good job, Fred. Now go out and find a hundred more like it".
        Surely we have to agree with Prof. Parpola: "We must wait for
some more excavation at Anau, perhaps other similar seals
will emerge". And perhaps not.

Wed, 01 Aug 101 00:46 +0300 MSK Kengo Harimoto wrote to INDOLOGY at LISTSERV.LIV.AC.UK:

> How timely!
> I just read today an article at the NY Times site about this seal:
> http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/31/science/social/31SEAL.html
> It at least gives everyone a clear picture of the inscription on the
> object.
Yaroslav Vassilkov (yavass at YV1041.spb.edu)
Institute of Oriental Studies
Mon, 06 Aug 101 21:30 +0300 MSK

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