The Indus script as proto-writing

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Thu Jul 14 16:35:11 UTC 2011

The URL I give to our 2004 paper in the section below was incomplete.  
The correct address to download it:

On Jul 14, 2011, at 9:16 AM, Steve Farmer wrote:
> However, the "proto-writing" idea Asko has in recent years adopted  
> as a fall-back position doesn't work either, for quite obvious  
> reasons we already discussed in our 2004 paper. (Over 200,000  
> reprints of that paper have been downloaded from my server alone  
> since it was first published, but sometimes I wonder if anyone has  
> actually read it through, given some of the odd comments made about  
> it.)
> On page 33 of that study, after discussing evidence of a lack of  
> significant phoneticism in Indus symbol strings known from  
> stratigraphic evidence to be exclusively very late (on bar  
> inscriptions without iconography) we comment that this evidence
>> suggests that the Indus system was not even
>> evolving in linguistic directions after at least 600 years of use.  
>> Since we  know that Indus elites
>> were in trade contact throughout those centuries with Mesopotamia,  
>> if the Harappans really had a
>> script, by this time we would expect it to have possessed  
>> significant phoneticism, as always
>> assumed. (The usual claim is that the system was a ‘mixed’ script  
>> made up of sound signs, whole-
>> word signs, and function signs, like the Luwian system, cuneiform,  
>> or Egyptian hieroglyphs.)
>> The implication is that the Indus system cannot even be comfortably  
>> labeled as a ‘proto-script’,
>> but apparently belonged to a different class of symbols: it is  
>> hardly plausible to argue that a proto-
>> script remained in a suspended state of development for six  
>> centuries or more while its users were
>> in regular contact with a high-literate civilization.

Steve Farmer

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