Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Indus Valley Civilization: Was it a Bilingual Culture?

The Indus Seals

Nearly a hundred years after the Indus Valley civilization was first discovered in the 1920s, the language of the Indus seals remains shrouded in a veil of mystery. 

The Indus seals date from the earliest period of the Harappan civilization from c.3500 BCE. Most of them are an inch square – roughly as big as a postage stamp – and generally made of steatite (soapstone). Typically, a brief script was incised along the top of the seal. The rest of the seal was occupied by an image in relief, which generally depicted one or more animals or a yogi seated in a meditating posture.

Till date, nearly 4000 inscribed texts have been found, containing around 420 unique signs, of which 31 signs are used frequently. Since the unique symbols are in excess of 400, the Indus script is believed to be logo-syllabic i.e. some of the signs express an idea or a word, while the others represent a sound. The inscribed texts are very brief with an average of five signs.