[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Auto-discard notification

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Sun Sep 17 22:01:30 UTC 2017

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Agathe Keller <kelleragathe600 at gmail.com>
To: Camillo Formigatti <camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk>
Cc: Takao Hayashi <ganaka at kyoto.zaq.ne.jp>, Indology List <
indology at list.indology.info>
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2017 18:11:48 +0200
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Once again on the origin of zero: the date of the
Bakhshali manuscript (or manuscripts?)
Dear Camillo,
Thank you for your detailed and pondered reply. Concerning the ink, I
thought simply that if there is a difference of ink composition from one
folio to another, this could help determine if for instance folio 16 and
folio 17 were written at different times.



On 16 Sep 2017, at 17:53, Camillo Formigatti <camillo.formigatti at bodleian.
ox.ac.uk> wrote:

Dear Agathe,

Thank you for specifying the content aspect of folio 16v and 17r. I have to
say however that in cases like this the fact that there is a relationship
in content of the text does not always mean that the two folios were
produced at the same time. In my modest experience as a cataloguer, it can
be quite tricky to establish the correct stratigraphy of composite
manuscripts. In fact, if I understand correctly the edition and translation
by Hayashi (many thanks, your work is masterpiece of textual scholarship
and it saved me during the last months!), the first example for sutra 27
finishes on folio 16v, and on folio 17r a new verification begins, followed
by another example. In my modest opinion, this is not so conclusive as it
might look at a first glance, as we could always argue that the
verification and the second example (which is not marked as such in the
manuscript, if I understand correctly the editorial practice, the use of
the brackets, and if I read correctly the manuscript) were added in a
second moment to verify and explain the sutra further. I'm afraid that we
don't have a smoking gun, so to say, to be totally sure that the two folios
are contiguous, although it is obviously that it is most probable that they
are indeed contiguous. This doesn't necessarily mean however that they were
written at the same time, since the upper part of folio 17 is missing and
therefore we cannot be sure that the text was continuous between the two
folios. All we can know is that on folio 17r there is a verification for
the sutra on folio 16v and a second example, but we cannot know for sure
whether they were added later or not. Still, I'm not doubting the order of
the folios here, only that we cannot be sure that they were written at the
same time.

As to the analysis of the ink, I know of the laboratory at the CSMC in
Hamburg, as I used to work in the predecessor of the CSMC. I am not sure
though how far it could help us to know about the composition of the ink in
solving the conundrum of the date. When I was in Cambridge we analysed the
inks used in miniatures of a Pancaraksa manuscript, but all we could get to
know was the composition of the ink, surely not the date. I'm not totally
sure, but if I remember correctly, if the ink was produced also with
mineral substances, then the radiocarbon dating wouldn't be totally
reliable. All we would know from the analysis of the ink would be whether
they used the same type of ink or not on the two folios. Surely this would
help us a bit more, but again it wouldn't be totally conclusive.

Finally, I have given a lot of thought before introducing in my report the
statement about the function of the Bakhshali manuscript(s). I understand
fully and totally agree with you that "many of the general procedures and
problems found in the BM have echoes in problems and procedures found in
the highbrow scholarly mathematical chapters of later sanskrit siddhāntas.
As any historian of mathematics could tell you, apparently “practical”
problems are sometimes pretexts for theoretical considerations…" Indeed
this is natural (didn't it happen in late medieval Europe as well? I'm
thinking of the rising trade and merchant corporations). I'm not saying
that merchants wrote the texts in the Bakhshali, what I am saying is that
it makes a hell of a lot of sense that precisely this type of practical
problems–and not, for instance, an overwhelming number of astrological
calculations–are found in this manuscript (or manuscripts?). Also, the
style of the texts obviously points to a scholarly context, but we have to
bear in mind that the language per se is not Paninian Sanskrit, it is
rather a sort of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. I kindly have to ask you however
to wait until I finish to write the article, if you don't mind.

Best wishes,


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