A Rosetta Stone for the Indus script?
2011-07-01 0:00

From: ted.com



Do you love a good mystery and ancient texts? Rajesh Rao sure does. He is a computational neuroscientist at my alma mater, the University of Washington in Seattle. He has devoted much of his professional life to cracking "the mother of all crossword puzzles": How to decipher the 4000 year old Indus script,

To do this, Dr Rao uses computational modeling to understand the human mind in two ways: first, he develops computer models to describe how human minds think, and then second, he applies these models to the task of deciphering the 4,000-year-old script of the Indus valley civilization. This interesting video provides a glimpse into his methods and logic.

Scientists claim to have found language of ancient Indus civilisation
By Ian Sample | guardian.co.uk


If true, deciphering the words may unlock the secrets of one of the most mysterious civilisations known

Elaborate symbols drawn on to amulets and tablets by an ancient civilisation belong to an unknown language, according to a new analysis by researchers.

The controversial claim raises the prospect of deciphering the written words of one of the most mysterious civilisations known, and so opening a window onto the ancient culture.

The Indus civilisation flourished in isolation 4,500 years ago along the border of what is now eastern Pakistan, but almost no historical information exists about the people and their long-lost community.

Archaeologists working in the region have unearthed a rich hoard of artifacts, including amulets, seals and ceramic tablets, many of which are embellished with the unusual symbols.

The discovery of ancient objects belonging to the Indus has split the scholarly community, with some claiming the symbols form a primitive language and others arguing they are simply pictograms.

More than 500 distinct Indus symbols have so far been identified, which include what appear to be representations of fish, rings, men and cowheads. In 2004 one researcher offered $10,000 to anyone who could find a single Indus artifact adorned with more than 50 of the symbols.

Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai decided to undertake an analysis of the symbols in the hope of settling the dispute over the Indus scripts once and for all.

Using a computer programme, the team compared patterns of Indus symbols with those found in known languages and other information systems, such as DNA and computer languages.

In some information systems a sequence of symbols can seem to be random, while in others, such as pictograms that represent deities and other concepts, there is usually a strict hierarchy that influences the order in which symbols appear. Spoken languages tend to fall somewhere between these two extremes, incorporating order as well as flexibility.

When the researchers ran the analysis on a compilation of Indus texts, they found that the patterns of symbols were strikingly similar to those in spoken languages. The study, which appears in the journal Science, likens the Indus script to the ancient languages of Sumerian from Mesopotamia and Old Tamil from the Indian subcontinent.

"At this point, we can say that the Indus script seems to have statistical regularities that are in line with natural languages," said Rajesh Rao, a scientist at the University of Washington who led the study.

The team is now examining more Indus scripts in the hope of understanding its syntax and grammatical rules.

Asko Parpola, emeritus professor of indology at Helsinki University said he was optimistic the language could be deciphered.

"Language is one of the hallmarks of a literate civilisation. If it's real writing, we have a chance to know their language and to get to know more about their religion and other aspects of their culture. We don't have any literature from the region that can be understood," Parpola said.

Scholars of the 19th century were only able to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics after discovering the Rosetta Stone, which was inscribed with Egyptian scripts translated into ancient Greek. To decipher the Indus language, scholars may need a similar discovery.

Source: guardian.co.uk



Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to be released in November
2015-07-29 23:25
Parole board decides to release convicted spy after 30 years; Israeli officials deny claims that development is linked to the deal with Iran over its nuclear program. A federal parole board has ruled that Jonathan Pollard, a former US Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, will be released in November after serving a 30-year prison sentence, his attorneys said ...
Swedish University removes all portraits and busts of White Male Professors
2015-07-29 23:51
Portraits and busts of all the “white male professors” have been removed from the part of Stockholm University, Sweden, which is dedicated to the study of Law. Not only have they be removed, but they have also been replaced by artwork which apparently promotes “diversity”. One of these is a drawing of a moose head colored with a rainbow. Dean of Stockholm University, ...
40% of Palestinian Children Detained by Israel Are Sexually Abused: Virtually All Are Tortured
2015-07-29 22:52
According to a new report by the independent, non-governmental, human rights organization the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC), at least 600 Palestinian children have been arrested in Jerusalem alone in the past five months. Of these, roughly 40% were sexually abused. PPC attorney Mufeed al-Haj notes that this horrific, grotesque abuse is not the only crime of which the Israeli military is ...
Barbara Lerner Spectre On Twitter!
2015-07-28 23:04
Kevin MacDonald writes in 2010: In the video below, Barbara Lerner Spectre, who runs a government-funded Jewish study group in Sweden, makes the following remarkable statement—remarkable because she does not attribute anti-Jewish attitudes to irrational prejudices or even Muslims who hate Israel. Instead she says that it’s because of the “leading role” played by Jews in the movement toward multiculturalism: “I think ...
Sweden investigating underwater wreckage as possible Russian submarine
2015-07-28 20:38
What may be the wreckage of a Russian submarine is seen off the coast of Sweden The Swedish military is studying a video taken by shipwreck hunters who say it shows a wrecked submarine, just off the country’s eastern coast, which appears to be Russian. Ocean X Team, the company behind the discovery, said on its website: “It is unclear how old ...
More News »