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Monday 15 December 2014

A step toward unraveling the mystery of Indus Valley script, and printing

Andi Horvath reports on a discovery in the Indus Valley of ancient copper plates which could potentially date the advent of printing to more than 1500 years before what is commonly believed to be the first known printing, in China around 700 BCE.
Today’s researchers are often organised into centres of excellence, virtual institutes or faculty-preferred disciplines harnessing the value of related expertise.
But what if a significant research problem emerged that didn’t fit with current trends or a single department, and spans multiple disciplines of the arts and sciences, yet has the potential to rewrite textbooks?
This is the extraordinary position in which academic Dr Rick Willis, a former senior lecturer in Botany and honorary associate with University of Melbourne, found himself, as he unearthed the facts behind some curious copper printing plates that suggest they are the oldest known plates for true printing.
Dr Rick Willis acquired and studied a set of small copper printing plates from the Indus valley, in modern day Pakistan. Using his scientific research capabilities he studied these plates and investigated archeological evidence related to this region and era.
His conclusion is that these Indus valley copper printing plates are circa 2300 BCE which means they predate what is commonly thought of as the advent of printing using Chinese woodblocks developed around 600 to 700 BCE.
Dr Willis and his co-author Professor Vasant Shinde, a well-known archaeologist from Deccan College, in Pune India, have written an extensive account that is due to be published very shortly online in the e-journal Ancient Asia.
Dr Willis’ journey to finally publish these results is a remarkable tale of setbacks and persistence to get evidence supporting the importance of this find.
Dr Willis is a botanist but has always had an interest in antiques and antiquities. As well as being involved with botanical studies, one of his early papers announced his discovery of a painting of the rainbow lorikeet, dated 1772, that was quite realistic and lively looking, unlike most early colonial zoological artworks. This artwork proved to be of a live pet bird that had travelled back to England after Cook’s First Voyage.
This is the earliest European painting of an Australian native bird, and was recently acquired by the National Library of Australia.
As a collector of archeological artifacts, Dr Willis purchased a set of nine unusual copper plates, each no larger than a credit card, from the Indus valley. His purchase was from a validated private source that was keen for these artifacts to be studied.
Dr Willis reflects on the hurdles of studying Indus Valley artifacts.
“Developing nations, like India and Pakistan, have difficulty controlling the trade and study of ancient artifacts, so the provenance of items is very important,” he says.
“Many items are also irrevocably damaged through inappropriate handling. This makes the study of ancient history of this region very challenging. It is more difficult than in other regions, as regulations are commonly ignored, especially where there is great political and tribal unrest, and looting is rife, as the sale of a small artifact may feed a poor family.
“Mention the Indus Valley, and many people have not heard of this ancient civilisation. They were a very peaceful society and less flamboyant than other civilisations, and did not become a popular area of academic study such as the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Mayan societies.
“One of the major scientific hurdles was to date the copper plates to pre-2000 BCE to ensure these were not fakes. In fact, as Indus Valley civilisation was not really discovered until the 1920s, any recognisable artifact that could be reliably dated prior to the 20th century would have to be genuine.
“I was hopeful of being innovative and using carbon dating with the plates. Metal artifacts are notoriously difficult to date, as isotopic dating methods are rarely appropriate. However, the copper plates had quite extensive corrosion on the backs, and ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) has agreed to attempt to carbon date any copper carbonates. The sad news was that whoever had unearthed the plates in Pakistan had cleaned them with acid, likely to separate the plates that had become fused together as they reacted to soil and water over 4000 years in the ground. We found that all the carbonates had been destroyed by the acid.
“So with the kind help of the Bio 21 institute we used a scanning electron microscope with a microprobe to look at the ‘micro’ features like pitting that is a feature of ancient metals. They were consistent with existing metallurgical items of that era. We also investigated the metal composition and impurities of the copper plates, using x-ray fluorescence, and they were totally also consistent with the variable levels of that era.”
Dr Willis also set about investigating existing archeological evidence to complement the scientific data.
“I compared these to other artifacts like clay seals of the Indus Valley era, and the images and scripts were very similar. Indus script remains as one of the world’s few well-documented languages that has defied being deciphered. Scholars generally accept that the script and images on seals are not related, but I believe the copper plates are quite different, and were possibly meant to produce instructive images. One of the copper plates has the longest known inscription in Indus script, twice as long as any other known.
“The plates have all the attributes of printing plates: fine engraving and reversed writing. It became clear to me that copper plates are the earliest printed form of art, possible printed on silk, leather or bark at the time, as paper did not exist then. We have actually produced quite acceptable images onto native silk cloth.
“This has been years of work and academic diligence, and I hope this fascinating Indus Valley story will take its rightful place in our knowledge of the history of printing, and help unravel the mystery of Indus script.”

Friday 28 February 2014

Sindhu Civilization Was Indeed Harmed Badly By Climate


Yama Dixit, David A. Hodell and Cameron A. Petrie

Abrupt weakening of the summer monsoon in northwest India ∼4100 yr ago

  The paper Suggests:
The 4.2 ka aridification event is regarded as one of the most severe climatic changes in the Holocene, and affected several Early Bronze Age populations from the Aegean to the ancient Near East (Cullen et al., 2000; Weiss and Brad- ley, 2001). This study demonstrates that the cli- mate changes at that time extended to the plains of northwestern India. The Kotla Dahar record alone cannot fully explain the role of climate change in the cultural evolution of the Indus civilization. The Indus settlements spanned a diverse range of environmental and ecological zones (Wright, 2010; Petrie, 2013); therefore, correlation of evidence for climate change and the decline of Indus urbanism requires a comprehensive assessment of the relationship between settlement and climate across a sub- stantial area (Weiss and Bradley, 2001; Petrie, 2013). The impact of the abrupt climate event in India and West Asia records, and that observed at Kotla Dahar, on settled life in the Indus region warrants further investigation.
The Conclusion:
 Climate change has been suggested as a possible cause for the decline of urban centers of the Indus Civilization ∼4000 yr ago, but extant paleoclimatic evidence has been derived from locations well outside the distribution of Indus settlements. Here we report an oxygen isotope record of gastropod aragonite (δ18Oa) from Holocene sediments of paleolake Kotla Dahar (Haryana, India), which is adjacent to Indus settlements and documents Indian summer monsoon (ISM) variability for the past 6.5 k.y. A 4‰ increase in δ18Oa occurred at ca. 4.1 ka marking a peak in the evaporation/precipitation ratio in the lake catchment related to weakening of the ISM. Although dating uncertainty exists in both climate and archaeological records, the drought event 4.1 ka on the northwestern Indian plains is within the radiocarbon age range for the beginning of Indus de-urbanization, suggesting that climate may have played a role in the Indus cultural transformation. 

Friday 21 February 2014

Indus Script Based on Sanskrit Language

Feb 21, 2014 by Jeyakumar Ramasami
Inscriptions on Indus seals give details about animals sacrificed and nature of ceremony. Some ceremonies were performed for obtaining remission of sins and others were for pleasing the souls of dead ancestors (Pithru Karma ceremony).
Seal no. M-278 A. Picture courtesy of Sue Sullivan, Indus Script Dictionary.
Seal no. M-278 A. Picture courtesy of Sue Sullivan, Indus Script Dictionary.
Indus script had remained un-deciphered for a long time. There are some valid reasons for that. The Indus valley civilization flourished quite a long time back, approximately 4,000 years back.
The time gap is really big and the modern day man is not able to visualize the context in which these seals were prepared and what is written over those seals.
The earliest Indus archaeologists made the fundamental mistake of identifying these excavation sites as a “Megapolises,” whereas in reality they were “Necropolises.” This fundamental mistake had made it difficult to identify and recognize the role of seals and its inscriptions.
There are many decipherments of Indus seal inscriptions, some are based on Dravidian language and others are based on Aryan language. But, none of the decipherer is able to prove anything convincingly because there is no reference point.
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics code was broken using the tri-lingual inscription made on “Rosetta stone.” Whereas no such bilingual record are available in the case of Indus scripts so far. That doesn’t mean this Indus script had to remain un-deciphered. There are some other methods available to overcome this deficiency.
It is likely that Indus seals were “tokens of evidence” prepared to show the god of death that blood sacrifice had been made so that the dead man’s soul can pass through the trial and accepted in heaven, which is similar to the religious ideas of ancient Egypt.
The first symbol identified by me was “fish” symbol Fish symbol (Matsya), which stood for “Ma” sound. Interpretation of this symbol is quite easy and simple.
Whereas identifying the second commonly used symbol was not that much easy task and the second symbol identified was Symbol Ka/Ga, which stood for phonetic sound of “Ka/Ga.”
Various names of gods have also been inscribed in Indus seals, however “God Indra” was quite popular and his name appears in many seals.
Next in importance is “goddess Hera,” which is quite unknown in India, however this name was quite popular among ancient Greeks, which shows the link between IVC and ancient Greek civilization.
Another major problem in reading the Indus inscriptions is that the direction from which the inscription should be read. While reading the Indus inscription, the reading should start from the side, which the animal is facing, which was the principle used by the Egyptian hieroglyphic writers.
The language of the Indus script had remained as a puzzle for long time and the conclusion now arrived at is that Indus scripts are written in “logo-syllabic” way and all the Indus inscriptions are based on Sanskrit language.
The methodology used in this decipherment effort is quite simple. I used an analysis table consisting of four steps.
Firstly, the figures (objects) shown in the inscriptions on the seal were identified.
Secondly, the Sanskrit names of the identified objects were obtained throughonline Sanskrit dictionary “Spokensanskrit,” which was quite useful in searching for the Sanskrit words.
Thirdly, the first letter of the object alone is taken out to form the word and the phonetic sound is obtained by using Logogram – syllabic method of reading.
Fourthly, if the word obtained is not giving correct sound and meaning, then the phonetic sound should be tweaked to get a meaningful word.
Copper tablets found in Mohenjo Daro have been analyzed by Prof Asko Parpola from the University of Helsinki and details are as given in his book Deciphering the Indus script (pp. 111-112). These copper tablets have all the qualities of bi-lingual inscription.
In the absence of Rosetta stone in Indus civilization, these copper tablets should be used as a reference point for Indus script decipherment.
Copper tablet. Picture courtesy of Asko Parpola, Deciphering Indus Script.
Copper tablet. Picture courtesy of Asko Parpola, Deciphering Indus Script.
Now, I would like to present first a simple word deciphered, so that it will be easy to understand. Rat is the “vahana” of God Ganesha, and the below given picture shows the rat in Indus copper tablets.
This inscription on this below given copper tablet should be read from “right to left:”
Indus Script Based on Sanskrit Language. Analysis Table
Analysis table.
The final conclusion is that the name of rat in Indus language was “Musika.”
Nearly 115 symbols with their phonetic sound have been identified and the details are as given in the Indus Dictionary – Syllables.
Nearly 42 words have been identified so far, and many are merely repetition of these commonly found words, read in the Indus Dictionary – Words.

Sunday 12 January 2014

From Dna sequencing down to Parasite Eggs : The downfall of Farmana aDNA

There was the indication that they will Fail to yield the aDNA which i declared as the most important at least for the Indo-European study and for the history of the Aryans but now it appears that they may still come up with something useful, it is not the end...

Scientists to study parasite eggs in Harappan graves