Saturday, 11 February 2017
The other object of fascination is the dancing girl of Mohejo-Daro; a tiny [10cm high] statuette of a naked young woman who doesn't look like she is oppressed or exploited [R]. This delightful bronze artifact was discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Ernest Mackay and is now behind bullet proof glass in a museum in Delhi.
The other source of information, or enigma, about the Indus Valley people is an extensive collection of seals: small knuckles of stone carved with images of animals and some people superimposed by a handful of characters that look like letters or hieroglyphs.
As with many things that don't matter much in the line of feeding the starving or cooling the planet - think Manchester United, Dawn Run or Pokemon - the Indus Valley script is quite highly charged in some quarters of politics and academia. Other ancient scripts - Mayan, Linear B - have been deciphered because somebody had a punt at matching the letter combos to a known language. Attempts have been made to shoe-horn the script into Dravidian or Sanskrit languages from the South and North of the sub-continent respectively. It is hugely important to some politicians whether the darker Indians or the paler ones can claim to be direct descendants of this ancient civilisation.
The conundrum of the meaning of the many fragments of script surfaced in The Verge at the end of January. Much the same material was gone over in Nature in 2015. It turns out that the script follows a Zipf distribution [bloboprev] with a few symbols used a helluva lot and most of them hardly at all. All known languages follow this rule but so does a lot of other non-linguistic data, so Zipf is necessary but not sufficient for calling the IV script a language. Go to, younger, smarter, people, my puzzling days are over.