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Monday, 7 January 2013

Harappan people used an older form of Brahmi script?

VARANASI: Is Brahmi the oldest script of India. The mysterious script of Indus Valley civilization, which is not deciphered yet may have some ancestral connection with Brahmi script can be deciphered in coming years.
A palm leaf manuscript discovered from Harappan site in Afghanistan has strengthened the belief of existence of a proto Brahmi script, which was used by Indus Valley people. This discussion was raised by Dr DP Sharma, Harappan archaeologist and director, Bharat Kala Bhawan, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in the International Conference on Harappan Archaeology held recently in Chandigarh.
According to Sharma, who has carried out research works on the palm leaf manuscript with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for last five years, the palm leaf has Harappan as well as Kohi script engraved. "Kohi symbols and letters have an affinity with the Harappan script and hence can be very significant in the decipherment of Harappan scripts. At the same time the palm leave manuscript has seven lines, which is the longest script recovered from any Harappan site. So far the scripts or the signs of Indus Valley script engraved on tablets, seals, potteries and other objects had not more than 18 letters or pictures," informed Sharma.
Sharma also said, "The script on the palm leaf runs from right to left while Brahmi script runs from right to left. The objects discovered from excavation sites indicate that they were using two scripts as few objects have right to left run of the script while some objects have left to right written scripts. However, no traces of objects with bilingual scripts has been found so far of Harappan period, which suggests that there was only one script called Brahmi and the script that Harappan people used was an older form of Brahmi called 'proto Brahmi'. During the mature Harappan period (2700 BC to 2000 BC) the direction of Harappan writing system was right to left and later on around 2000 to 1500 BC they started their writing system from left to right. The existence of no long manuscript had posed the difficulty in deciphering the Harappan script, however, the manuscript on palm leaves may solve this problem".
Sharma further strengthens his argument by quoting the DNA analysis carried out by Dr Lalji Singh, vice-chancellor, BHU. According to Sharma, the analysis by Singh suggests that the two ancient races Aryan and Dravidians were native of India and none of them came outside of our country. The Aryan and Dravidian races in India have the same genetic basis. This suggests that proto Dravidian and proto Aryan races were present in Harappan population and Harappan were using proto Dravidian and Sanskrit as their language and their script was proto Brahmi only.
According to Sharma, during the conference, his research works in deciphering the Harappan scripts were also consolidated by BR Mani additional director general, ASI. "These new researches can help a great deal in deciphering the Harappan script and once the script is deciphered a number of mysterious seals, square pieces, pottery, coins and other objects can be read and hence we can know about their trade, literature, art and other aspects of civilization," informed Sharma.
However, according to  Prof. Dr. Roland Bielmeier of University of Bern the artefact is probably a fake! as he suggests-
 Whether this last statistic also indicates that the signs encode similar phonetic and
logographic values in the two systems, remains unclear however. It just seems too
problematic to judge with any certainty, whether the Kabul text could exhibit this
pattern of sign frequency overlap, if the symbols represented entirely different linguistic
units in the Indus corpus. One would need to decide, whether sign frequencies could
coincide in this manner, if a non-Indus people had stumbled upon a collection of Indus
inscriptions and merely adopted the shapes of some of the most common symbols for
their script without adopting their encoding value. If this scenario could be discounted
on the basis of signs frequencies, then it could be assumed that a number of Kabul
graphemes share the same value as their matching Indus symbols. This, in turn, would imply that the Indus symbols belong to a speech-encoding writing system and the
hypothesis of the non-linguistic Indus symbol system would be refuted.
If this problem were solved, then researchers would need to establish whether the
Kabul text employed the exact same writing system as the Indus Civilization or whether
the system was modified in any way. The manuscript might represent a later simplified
stage of the Indus script for instance. This hypothetical stage could contain a reduced
number of logographs and rely predominantly on syllables instead. Evolutionary
patterns of other scripts show that this development is a widespread phenomenon.
 A large portion or maybe even all of the Kabul signs might therefore encode
syllables. The amount of proposed Kabul graphemes would not rule out either of these
possibilities because the total of Kabul graphemes might increase drastically, or merely
a little, if a larger corpus than 172 graphs were available for examination. This
relatively limited corpus simply does not allow predictions on the matter. Therefore, it
would certainly be worthwhile uncovering and analysing the other layers of bark to find
out how many more graphemes would join the 62 already visible graphemes.
 It would also be extremely interesting and potentially revealing to compare the
frequencies of particular signs sequences. If it could be demonstrated that the most
common Indus grapheme sequences also occur relatively frequently in the manuscript,
then it would seem likely that the Kabul penman not only used the Indus script but that
the text encoded the language, or one of the languages, of the Indus Civilization. As it
stands the manuscript might encode a non-Indus language and merely utilise the Indus
writing system.
 Many issues therefore still remain unresolved and numerous aspects beg further
investigation. So far, a graphemic analysis of the Kabul manuscript has only enabled the
positing of a Kabul grapheme list and its subsequent comparison to the symbols of the
Indus corpus has merely lead to the definite conclusion that the majority of the signs on
the analysed birch bark were borrowed from the collection of Indus symbols. It should
also be kept in mind that any of the contentions that were presented in this thesis would
be invalidated if the Kabul manuscript proved to be a forgery. As all arguments hinge
on the assumption that the manuscript is not a fake, establishing the date of the strip of  birch bark would certainly head the list of top priorities, which need to be addressed in
any further examination of this intriguing artefact.
So, a simple radiocarbon dating would have been ideal to solve this debate.
The debate also reminds me of the late  veteran scholar S.R. Rao who found the IVC script to be Indo-Aryan contradicting the popular views of Munda and of course Dravidian.
There is also a debate of whether the script represents a language or not!.
But if you ask me there is a direct player waiting to unleash, the player is  the aDNA of an ancient harappan site in  Farmana which i think holds the key to solve the indo-european riddle and to give the field of indology a true direction, a revolution which already have been started with some academic indologists like here.
Happy 2013 to all.

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