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Deciphering the Indus Script

  • Date Published: October 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521795661


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About the Authors
  • Of the writing systems of the ancient world which still await deciphering, the Indus script is the most important. It developed in the Indus or Harappan Civilization, which flourished c. 2500–1900 BC in and around modern Pakistan, collapsing before the earliest historical records of South Asia were composed. Nearly 4,000 samples of the writing survive, mainly on stamp seals and amulets, but no translations. Professor Parpola is the chief editor of the Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions. His ideas about the script, the linguistic affinity of the Harappan language, and the nature of the Indus religion are informed by a remarkable command of Aryan, Dravidian, and Mesopotamian sources, archaeological materials, and linguistic methodology. His fascinating study confirms that the Indus script was logo-syllabic, and that the Indus language belonged to the Dravidian family.

    • Professor Parpola is probably the leading figure in this area of research
    • An integration of more than two decades of research
    • Well illustrated with a unique collection of photographs
    • Enormously wide ranging approach with essential non-linguistic background information
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This book is substantial, in every sense of the word … does make a forceful case for a partial decipherment … it will become the standard reference work and the basis for any further debate.' Stuart Blackburn, South Asia Research

    '… deserves much credit for having pursued this enquiry to the very limits of what is now possible.' John Chadwick, The Times Higher Education Supplement

    '… indispensable research tool … a book of lasting value.' Florian Coulmas, Language

    'The best informed, most cogently argued, and important work to date on the Indus script.' Richard Salomon, Journal of the American Oriental Society

    'By far the most comprehensive and well researched study of the Indus script … It will certainly remain a classic source book for many years to come.' Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, American Anthropologist

    '… doubtless the most important study of the Indus script …' Thomas Oberlies, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

    '… most complete and best-informed treatment of the subject.' Michael D. Coe, Antiquity

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521795661
    • length: 400 pages
    • dimensions: 280 x 210 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.89kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Introduction:
    1. The Indus Civilization and its historical context
    Part II. The Indus Script:
    2. Early writing systems
    3. Deciphering an unknown script
    4. Approaches to the Indus script
    5. Internal evidence for the type of script used in the Indus Valley
    6. Internal evidence on the structure of the Indus language
    7. External clues to the Indus script
    Part III. The Linguistic Context:
    8. In search of the Indus language
    9. Dravidian languages and the Harappan culture
    Part IV. Interpretations of Indus Pictograms:
    10. The 'fish' signs of the Indus script
    11. The astronomical and astrological background
    12. The trefoil motif: further evidence for astral religion
    13. Evidence for Harappan worship of the god Muruku
    14. Evidence for Harappan worship of the Goddess
    15. Epilogue
    Bibliographical notes

  • Author

    Asko Parpola, University of Helsinki

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