[Fwd: Re: INDUS]

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Mon Jun 30 23:22:48 UTC 2008

Dear All,

below please find the reaction by Frits Staal (fritsstaal at berkeley.edu) 
to the recent article on the Indus Civilization by A. Lawler in Science 
Magazine. He has asked me to post his letter to the editor of Science 
Mag.  as he cannot send it on to the list from his buon' retiro in Thailand.

Cheers, M.W.



The article "Indus Collapse: The End or the Beginning of an
Asian Culture" (6 June 2008) raises important issues that need careful
analysis before conclusions are drawn. The first sentence mentions
correctly that the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia collapsed in the
22nd century BCE. But it fails to point out that the Mesopotamian
civilizations left records on thousands of clay tablets with cuneiform
writing, many of them edited, translated and studied in depth.

That contrasts with the Indus civilization which is mute. The letter
refers to scenes that are "imprinted upon seals." It does not say that
these seals, which exhibit pictures and sequences of signs, remain
undeciphered. The average length of the 2,905 sequences listed in
Mahadevan's concordance is 4.6, too short for any language. Similar
sequences from the Near East link families, clans, etc. to celestial or
mythological figures. It is consistent with what is found on the seals but
no proof.

The letter mentions Pirak but it is not a part of the Indus Civilization
and left no inscriptions. The letter points out rightly that there is no
evidence for an "Aryan invasion," but does not say that around 1500 BCE a
few speakers of Indo-European trickled across the high passes that
separate Central Asia from the South Asian subcontinent. Their oral
traditions have been preserved. These are the Vedas, their language and
culture are known and it is they that moved (not "drove people") to the

It is admirable that SCIENCE covers topics like the Indus Valley
civilization but they should be presented by scientists who are familiar
with the facts and know how to interpret them.
								  	Frits Staal


Frits Staal

> ===========================================================================
> > Michael Witzel		             witzel at fas.harvard.edu
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