Rajesh Rao, Computing a Rosetta Stone for the Indus Script

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Wed Jul 13 15:51:29 UTC 2011

I unfortunately don't have time to deal with this old issue again here  
right now, but quickly:

George Hart writes:

> After listening to Rao's talk and reading Sproat's article, I find  
> myself wondering what the argument is about.  Here are some things  
> that occur to me:
> 1. The seals were clearly used as stamps to indicate ownership. They  
> then are either names or special combinations of signs to indicate a  
> person or group.

1. Everyone who studies these symbols first hand knows that seals are  
only one of many types of Indus artifacts that carry symbols. You find  
Indus symbols on lots of things that surely had nothing to do with  
"names" or "ownership."

2. If you look at Ancient Near Easter seals from the third millennium  
BCE, you'll find that only a minority of them have names on them. We  
discuss this and other things you raise in our original 2004 paper  
that first questioned the old assumption that that Indus symbols were  

> I'm not entirely sure what Steve Farmer et al. are contending -- do  
> they suggest there is no phonetic content whatsoever to the signs?   
> Everyone seems to agree that the order of the signs is not random.   
> Do they reflect any sort of underlying syntax, or are they arranged  
> by some other system (Gods / Men / Animals)?

What Farmer, Sproat, and Witzel 2004 contend is clearly delineated in  
our paper, which discusses questions like these:

> None of this proves or disproves that the fish symbol might have  
> been pronounced mīṉ.

Probably one of the silliest claims ever made about the symbols, with  
no evidence whatsoever to back it.


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