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Mohenjo-Daro Ideographs

    Naturevolume 130page429 (1932) | Download Citation



    A BOLD and entirely speculative attempt to arrive at the meaning of the pictographic designs on the seals found at Mohenjo-Daro, in the valley of the Indus, is made by Sir Flinders Petrie in the course of a notice of the recently published account of the excavations on this site by Sir John Marshall, which appears in Ancient Egypt, 1932, pt. 2. Sir Flinders Petrie justifies his method of attacking the problem by taking the ideographic signs in their primary sense of ‘pictures’ expressive of ideas, on the grounds, first, that being engraved on stone they escaped transformation and retained their original detail, thus being comparable with the ideographic method of Egypt; and secondly, that the study of official titles and the method of writing them in Egypt has supplied parallels to what may be discerned in India. Thus the recurrence of a number of strokes suggests that parallel to an Egyptian ‘Home of Four’, ‘Five Men’, and the like, we have a ‘Hall of Four’, ‘Hall of Six’, etc., pointing to a system of naming officials by the number holding office, like the Duumviri, Decemviri, etc., of ancient Italy. There is evidence for this method in Cappadocia. Another set of signs consists of wheels with six or four spokes, that is, chariots and wagons, signifying transport. ‘Timber’, ‘water supply’, ‘an army’, ‘game’, or ‘hunting’ are meanings suggested for other symbols, which, in combination with other signs suggesting authority, are interpreted as the designation of officials connected with departments of State; thus, ‘Officials of the Registry of Chariots’. Nearly one-half of a hundred symbols are interpreted tentatively on the presumption that they are certainly ideographic signs such as lie at the base of Egyptian, Sumerian, and Chinese writing, but at so early a stage that the forms can mostly be recognised.

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