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Pictorials of the script and pictorial ligatures
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The frequencies of occurrence of the pictorials in
inscriptions (field symbols and signs) are as follows:
Bearer + jar
Two short strokes
Fish (with four gills)
Fish (with oblique
Zebu (humped bull)
Leaf (ligatured )
Double-shield or axe
Tiger + person on
Bird in flight
Components of pictorials
The orthography of the 'unicorn' and also the 'standard' which often appears before the 'unicorn' has been analysed to further the decipherment process.
Trough motif appears before many animals, even wild animals such as: rhinoceros, tiger, bison etc.
This motif should, therefore,be recognized as an important pictorial component of the inscriptions and should be interpreted for its 'meaning' conveyed through the entire message of the seal or tablet.
A dominant orthographic principle governs the pictorials in inscriptions of the Harappan script. The principle is: ligaturing. Ligatures are basic signs and/or pictorials in inscriptions super-imposed on one another to compose a composite representation of components.
Ligaturing is a procedure for attaching two signs or field symbols or parts of field symbols (e.g. combining heads of unicorn, short-horned bull, antelope, or leaf images) into one composite motif.
Blurred distinctions between 'pictorials' and 'signs'
The distinction between pictorial motifs and signs gets blurred in many compositions presented in the script inscriptions.
Thus, a svastika appears together with an
elephant or a tiger
The 'svastika' is a pictorial and also a sign--Sign 148
A fish appears together with a combined field symbol of the head of a unicorn attached to a short-horned bull motif.
Inscriptions are recorded on many tablets with upto six sides. Harappan miniature tablets are incised flat plates of steatite. Mohenjodaro has yielded engraved copper tablets. Moulded terracotta or faience tablets occur with many repeated texts produced in bas-relief. "On one particular moulded tablet (existing in several identical copies), we see an anthropomorphic deity sitting on a low dais, flanked on either side by a kneeling man and a snake; one of these supplicant men has both his hands raised in worship, while the other is giving what looks like a sacrificial vessel to the deity. Another moulded tablet (again available in several copies) has a similar offering scene, except that here the kneeling worshipper holds out the pot towards a tree. On both tablets the sacrificial vessel looks exactly like the U-formed Indus sign." (Parpola, 1996).
Mohejodaro, tablet in bas relief (M-478)
The pictorial of a kneeling 'worshipper' is echoed in the script signs, ligatured with the 'pot' sign:
Human figures are also depicted with bovine
features such as hoofed legs.
Triangular terracotta amulet, one side (Md 013),
surface find Mohenjodaro; seated horned person on a throne with hoofed legs, surrounded by
fishes, gavials and snakes; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Parpola, 1994,. p. 186.
Cylinder seal impression; unknown near eastern origin; Musee du Louvre/AO Collection Du Clercq 1.26; one person wears a crown of water buffalo horns with the leafed branch of a fig and sits on a throne with hoofed legs; surrounded by a pair of horned snakes, a pair of fishes and a pair of water buffaloes. The other person stands, fighting two tigers, and surrounded by trees, a markhor goat and a vulture above a rhinoceros. Parpola, 1994, p. 186.
There are many pictorial ligatures exemplied by
such compositions of animals, further exemplified by the composition referred to as the
m300 (Body of a ram, horns of a bull, trunk of an elephant, hindlegs of a tiger and an upraised serpent-like tail).
This can be viewed as a 'short-hand' crypt of the
representation of some of these animals which appear in groups.
Sumerian seal from Tell Asmar depicting a rhinoceros, elephant
and an alligator. (After Frankfort, 'The Indian Civilization and the near East, Annual
Bibliography of Indian Archaeology, 1932, p.3, Pl. I and Heras, 1953, p. 219)
Cylinder seal impression; rhinoceros, elephant, gavial (fish-eating alligator); glazed steatite, height 3.4 cm., Frankfort, 1955: no. 642; Collon 1987: no. 610 (IM 14674)
The following occur in groups:
The following ligatured motifs contain parts of
field symbol motifs:
Composite, ligatured motifs contain the following
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