Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Did Harappans write?

Causing quite a stir in the relevant circles is this article on the Harappans. As you'd expect there are strong views against this, but read for yourself ....

Vol. 11 (2004) Issue 2 (December 13) : 19-57 ( C) ISSN 1084-7561
The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis:
The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization
By Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat, and Michael Witzel


Archaeologists have long claimed the Indus Valley as one of the four literate centers of the early ancient world, complete with long texts written on perishable materials. We demonstrate the impossibility of the lost-manuscript thesis and show that Indus symbols were not even evolving in linguistic directions after at least 600 years of use.

Suggestions of how Indus inscriptions were used are examined in nonlinguistic symbol systems in the Near East that served important religious, political, and social functions without encoding speech or serving as formal memory aids.

Evidence is reviewed that the Harappans'slack of a true script may have been tied to the role played by their symbols in controlling large multilinguistic populations; parallels are drawn to the later resistance of priestly elites to the literate encoding of Vedic sources and to similar phenomena in esoteric traditions outside South Asia.

Discussion is provided on some of the academic and political forces that helped sustain the Indus-script myth for over 130 years and on ways in which our findings transform current views of the Indus Valley and of the place of writing in ancient civilizations in general.


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