10 interesting facts about Indus Script

Indus Script was discovered during the excavation of Harappan City. So, it is also known as the Harappan Script. It consists of very few signs and symbols which lack bilingual inscriptions and underlying language.

The signs and symbols included in the script were mostly in use during the Mature Harappan period, which is from the 26th Century B.C.E. to the 30th Century B.C.E.

Various pottery, seals, and other materials were discovered during the excavation which had the script carved in them. 

Despite its existence for an extended period, the script is still under the process of being deciphered.

The Script is taken as an exciting discovery made by the Indus valley civilization for various reasons and facts.

10 most interesting facts about it are listed below with some detail.

10. Developed by the Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Script being written on a stone
Unicorn seal of Indus Valley, Indian Museum
Source: Wikimedia Common

The Indus Valley Civilization discovered the Indus Script between the years 3500 – 2700 B.C.E. It was first found on the pottery excavated at Harappa, one of the greatest cities of Indus Valley Civilization.

The Indus Script which was developed at the Indus Valley Civilization is one of the oldest forms of writings known in the Indian Subcontinent. Though it lacks the proper information about its originality, it is known as the first and oldest one of this civilization.

9. An undeciphered script

The oldest script of the Indus Valley Civilization, the Indus Script was written with various signs and symbols. It has a poor understanding and remains undeciphered to date.

Due to the lack of the bilingual texts and representation, the Indus Script has become a mysterious script. Though some links have been found with the Indian writings, the script is under the process of decipherment.

Despite the researchers stating about the decipherment of the script during the 1980s, it still lacks evidence to prove so. With saying so, if the signs included in this script are divided and read with close cognates with Sumerian, Egyptian, and Ancient Chinese, we can somehow have a clue

It is being studied by one of the world’s experts, Asko Parpola for over 40 years in Finland at the University of Helsinki.

8. Discovered during the excavation of Harappan City

The Civilization of the Indus Valley discovered the Indus Script while the most magnificent city of the Civilization was being excavated.

The initial discovery was made during the early phase of the Harappan city, and it was found attested on the pottery excavated there. The invention showed the first stage of the script, with only a few signs and symbols.

The pottery with signs and symbols was found with ruins of the city after the damage of Harappa. The script was also found written in the coupons, tokens, and many ruins discovered during the excavation.

7. A piece of evidence for the existence of Indus Valley Civilization

The underlying evidence for the existence of Indus Valley Civilization is the Indus Script that had been discovered in this civilization.

The pottery, coupons, stamps, and many other ruins discovered during the excavation of Harappan city give information about the valley’s existence and also makes this mysterious valley known to all.

Though the script comes out as one of the significant pieces of evidence, the fact of it being unable to be deciphered makes the Indus Valley Civilization as one of the least known civilizations of its time.

Related Content: Indus Valley Civilization Timeline

6. Use of exciting material for its inscription

The Indus Script has been written in various exotic materials instead of a paper, as the article was not in use those days. The script was found mostly on seals and seal impressions. 

Other materials such as the pottery and bones were also used to encrypt the script. Besides these, stoneware bangles, ivory, bronze tools, shells, and spoons were also famous as the writing material of the Indus Script.

Some of the most famous ones were square stamp seals which were about 2.54 cm with the motif of an animal at the centre and the display of the script on top. They also had the layer of smooth glassy-looking material and inclusion of silver, calcite, and faience.

5. A script with concise signs

During the excavation of the destroyed cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, thousands of inscriptions were found in the excavated sites.

The script was all short and had an average length of about 5 signs. The longest one had 26 signs and others were shorter than 26. The text was written in the right to left direction with the longest of 14 signs in a single line.

After the discovery of the script with short signs, the famous publisher Iravatham Mahadevan published a corpus and a concordance of Harappan writing which had about 3700 seals with 417 distinct signs and patterns.  

4. An interesting direction of the Script

The Indus Script was written mostly in various materials like pottery, seals, and bronze tools. The letters used in the script were found to be written from the right side towards the left.

Though the letters were mostly from right to left, some exceptional cases had the letters written in bidirectional format. Some lines had letters turning right to the left, but some had the letter from left to right.

The case of bidirectional was only found in very few conditions, where one line had the letter moving one direction, whereas the others were facing the opposite direction.

3. Lack of bilingual inscriptions

Despite being the oldest script discovered, the Indus Script lacks the bilingual inscriptions to date. The unavailability of the bilingual texts and letters has been creating a problem of decipherment.

Though some of the numerical values have been identified and some signs and symbols been named as logosyllabic, the script as a whole has not been deciphered to date due to the lack of the bilingual inscriptions.

Some letters were written on perishable material like palm leaves and birch and destroyed during the decline of the city. Also, complete bilingual texts like a Rosetta Stone were not found. It also lacks an underlying language which was spoken by the creators.

2. The script belongs to the Munda family of languages

The Indus Script, like every other script, is listed under a particular family of language. The family which it belongs to is known as the Munda family of speech.

The Munda family language is most popular around the Eastern part of India and is related to Southeast Asian languages. Being the script discovered in the Indian continent, the Indus Script also belonged rightfully to the family language spoken on the Indian part of the world.

Though the language does not help in reflecting the culture of Harappan city, the candidacy is dim for being the language spoken by the civilization of Indus Valley.

1. The decline of Indus Script

With the decline of the Indus Civilization, the Script discovered by the civilization also started to fade away. 

The civilization died taking along the existence of the script they had discovered once. The power went to the Northern Part of India, who did not adopt the text that was invented before.

So, with the downfall of civilization, the oldest script discovered also went down and has not been written again since then. The signs and symbols which are available from history are the only ones that are under the process of being deciphered.

 Conclusion:

The most mysterious civilization discovered the most mysterious script which is still in the hope of being deciphered by some famous researchers.

With only a few signs and symbols written on seals and pottery, history is being told about the civilization and the existence of the script.

Despite being unable to be deciphered, the script holds great importance as it is the only piece of evidence that shows the being of the Indus Valley Civilization.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "10 interesting facts about Indus Script," in HistoryTen, March 29, 2020, https://historyten.com/indus-valley/interesting-indus-script-facts/.
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