Friday, October 2, 2009

Indus-like symbols in south India


Discovery Channel, Discovery News 10/01/2009


Indus-like symbols in south India


A rock engraving depicting a symbol commonly associated with the Indus Valley civilisation which flourished in the north-western region of the Indian sub-continent has been found in southern India.


The engraving, which depicts a man with a jar, was discovered recently in the Edakkal caves in the Wayanad district of Kerala.


Historian M R Raghava Varrier, who identified the symbol during excavation by the state's Archaeological Department, told The Hindu newspaper: "What is striking in the Edakkal sign is the presence of an Indus motif, which is rare."


"The jar is the same as the Indus Valley's. But the human figure is slightly different. This is where the influence of the Edakkal style really dominates."


Mr Varrier said: "It is wrong to presume that the Indus culture disappeared into thin air." He added that the findings indicated "the fact that cultural diffusion could take place".

The two-dimensional human figure with a jar is thought to be etched with a stone axe and is a part of the newly-discovered "compound letters similar to scripts".


The Indus script - dating between 2300 BC and 1700 BC - which comprises several hundred symbols which have been found on seals, small tablets, or ceramic pots but have not been deciphered yet.



"Edakkal engraving a unique find"

T. S. Subramanian

The discovery of a jar sign engraving in the Edakkal caves in Wayanad district of Kerala "is a unique find, linking the Indus Valley civilisation with south India," according to Iravatham Mahadevan, a scholar on the Indus and the Tamil Brahmi scripts. The occurrence of the sign, which is the most characteristic symbol of the Indus script, at Edakkal, is "very significant," he said.


In the light of this discovery, the occurrence of the sign on the polished Neolithic celt at Sembian-Kandiyur in Nagapattinam, district, Tamil Nadu, "is confirmed," Mr. Mahadevan argued.


The Hindu had published on Saturday (September 26, 2009) a news item headlined "Sign akin to Indus Valley's found in Kerala." Historian M.R. Raghava Varier had identified the sign during an exploration of the Edakkal caves. The news item quoted Mr. Varier as saying, "What is striking in the Edakkal sign is the presence of an Indus motif, which has been rare and interesting."


The Hindu had also published on May 1, 2006 a news item on the discovery of a Neolithic stone celt, a hand-held axe, with four signs of the Indus script on it. The celt was found at Sembian-Kandiyur. One of the signs on the celt was a jar with handles on either side. At that time, Mr. Mahadevan had called it "a major discovery because for the first time a text in the Indus script has been found in the State [Tamil Nadu] on a datable artefact, which is a polished Neolithic celt."


The large-sized jar sign, partly seen at the right end of the photograph published in The Hindu on Saturday, seems to be No. 345 in the sign list of his work, The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables, published in 1977, said Mr. Mahadevan. This would be confirmed when the missing half of the picture was published, he added. The most frequent sign in the Indus script was the jar, numbered 342 in the Concordance. The picture published in the newspaper showed a related jar sign with three strokes, which is No. 345 in the Concordance, he explained.


He congratulated Mr. Varier and his colleagues for this "major discovery." Tamil Brahmi inscriptions assigned to the Cheras of the Sangam age had earlier been found at Edakkal. But this Edakkal engraving was much anterior to the Tamil Sangam age, Mr. Mahadevan noted.


A RARE FIND: The engraving at the Edakkal Caves.

Sign akin to Indus Valley found in Kerala

Staff Reporter — Photo: special arrangement 
A RARE FIND: The engraving at the
Edakkal Caves.

MALAPPURAM: A rock engraving, similar to a sign of the Indus Valley Civilisation, has been found at Edakkal in Wayanad district of Kerala. A recent exploration at the Edakkal Caves revealed a picture of a man with a jar, a unique sign of the Indus civilisation.


Tangible evidence

Engraved supposedly with a stone-axe in linear style, the sign has proven itself to be a tangible evidence to link it to the Indus culture. It was the first time that an Indus sign is discovered in Kerala.


"But we do not claim that the Indus people reached Wayanad; nor do we argue that Edakkal was a continuity of the Indus civilisation," said historian M.R. Raghava Varier, who identified the sign during the exploration in August.


He said, "What is striking in the Edakkal sign is the presence of an Indus motif, which has been rare and interesting."


Man-with-the-jar has been a recurring motif of the Indus Valley signs. Though it uses the Indus motif, the Edakkal engraving has retained its unique style. With linear strokes, the engraver has tried to attain a two-dimensional human figure.


"The 'jar' is the same as in Indus 'ligature.' But the human figure is slightly different. This is where the influence of the Edakkal style predominates," said Dr. Varier.



Though rock art sites are plenty in different continents, the rock engravings at the Edakkal Caves are unique in the world. The Indus Civilisation has been dated between 2,300 BC and 1,700 BC. The Edakkal culture, however, is yet to be identified with any particular time.


Historians say Edakkal represents quite a long period. The figures of ritualistic nature found at Edakkal represent different stages of human development, both historic and pre-historic. "But this one is definitely pre-historic," Dr. Varier said. 



Some Indus scrip glyphs, ligatured glyphs depicting a standing person and a jar (of two types: one is rimless; the other is with a rim)


Read the full text with pictures mirrored at 


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