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Visible Meluhha. Invention of Writing in Ancient Middle East. Maybe, Chanhu-daro rattles will produce evidence for visible Meluhha

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  • S. Kalyanaraman
    http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.in/2013/08/visible-meluhha-invention-of-writing-in.html AUG 8
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 7, 2013
      Visible Language
      Mlecchita vikalpa is the term used in Vātsyāyana’s Kāmasūtra to denote cypher writing.

      Visible Language: Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond [Paperback]
      Christopher Woods (Editor)
      Available for download at
      ISBN: 9781885923769 | Published by: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago | Series: ORIENTAL INSTITUTE MUSEUM PUBLICATIONS | Volume: 32 | Year of Publication: 2010 | Language: English 240p, 146 color photos


      Writing, the ability to make language visible and permanent, is one of humanity's greatest inventions. This book presents current perspectives on the origins and development of writing in Mesopotamia and Egypt, providing an overview of each writing system and its uses. Essays on writing in China and Mesoamerica complete coverage of the four "pristine" writing systems - inventions of writing in which there was no previous exposure to texts. The authors explore what writing is, and is not, and sections of the text are devoted to Anatolian hieroglyphs of Anatolia, and to the development of the alphabet in the Sinai Peninsula in the second millennium BC and its spread to Phoenicia where it spawned the Greek and Latin alphabets. This richly illustrated volume, issued in conjunction with an exhibit at the Oriental Institute, provides a current perspective on, and appreciation of, an invention that changed the course of history.

      Table of Contents

      Visible Language: The Earliest Writing Systems, Christopher Woods
      Iconography of Protoliterate Seals, Oya Topçuoglu 
      The Earliest Mesopotamian Writing, Christopher Woods
      Adaptation of Cuneiform to Write Akkadian, Andrea R. Seri
      The Rise and Fall of Cuneiform Script in Hittite Anatolia, Theo van den Hout
      The Conception and Development of the Egyptian Writing System, Elise V. MacArthur
      The Earliest Egyptian Writing, Andréas Stauder
      Egyptian Hieroglyphic Writing, Janet H. Johnson
      Hieratic, Kathryn E. Bandy
      Demotic, Janet H. Johnson
      Ptolemaic Hieroglyphs, François Gaudard 
      Coptic, T. G. Wilfong
      Invention and Development of the Alphabet, Joseph Lam
      The Beginnings of Writing in China, Edward L. Shaughnessy
      The Development of Maya Writing, Joel Palka
      Anatolian Hieroglyphic Writing, Ilya Yakubovich

      See teasers from the Exhibition installation and Exhibition website at 
      http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/special/writing/ (including some video clips, Image Gallery)
      Download the Exhibit catalog http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/oimp32.pdf

      See also: http://ancientneareast.org/tag/oriental-institute/ where kmtsesh reports on the Exhibit and attempts reading the hieroglyphs on a plaque:

      Christopher Woods who edited the exquisite volume notes in his introduction:

      "The invention of writing and of a convenient system of records on paper has had a greater influence in uplifting the human race than any other intellectual achievement in the career of man. It was more important than all the battles ever fought and all the consitutions ever devised. -- JH Breasted, The Conquest of Civilization, pp. 53-54." The ability to represent language graphically, to make language visible, stands as one of humanity's greatest intellectual and cultural achievements. It is an often-quoted sentiment that speech is to being human, what writing is to civilization, or, in the words of the anthropologist Jack Goody, 'Cognitively as well as sociologically, writing underpins 'civilization,' the culture of cities' (1987, p.300) (Woods, Christopher, ed., 2010, Visible Language, p. 15).

      Visible language, a picturesque phrase. Another picturesque phrase appears in what could be the world's very old human document: gveda. The phrase is takṣat vāk, 'incised speech' since early writing occurred on tablets and potsherds.

      Christopher Woods presents a Three-dimensional CT scan of the contents of a clay envelope from the site Chogha Mish in southwest Iran. (Fig. 2.16, ibid., p. 48).

      I hope a similar CT-scan will be done of the 10 clay envelopes (rattles?) discovered at Chanhu-daro, the Sheffied of the Ancient Near East, by Dr. EJH Mackay of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I have written to the Museum authorities and hope there will be a positive response.


      Malcolm Rogers
      Ann and Graham Gund Director Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,
      Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
      Avenue of the Arts
      465 Huntington Avenue
      Boston, Massachusetts 02115

      I have a membership account with MFA.

      This post details the need to unravel the contents of rattles. This includes some pictures of rattles of Chanhu-daro in MFA collections gallery: http://www.mfa.org/

      Museum of Fine Arts, Boston holds perhaps the largest collection of rattles excavated from Chanhu-daro of Indus valley civilization thanks to the extraordinary archaeological work done by EJH Mackay on behalf of MFA.

      The URL cited above provides a glimpse of about 10 rattles held in the collections of the Museum.

      As you know, in the nearby sites of Mesopotamian/Elam civilization, tokens and bullae were used for account-keeping. Since Chanhu-daro was recognized as the Sheffield of Ancient Near East (cf. article in Illustrated  London News of Nov. 26, 1936. cf.http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.in/2013/08/ancient-near-east-bronze-age-heralded.html 

      The insights provided by many scholars and researchers do indicate that the rattles could have held tokens used for account keeping. A rattle found at Sibri was also discussed in Indo-Eurasian_Research Group. cf. http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.in/2013/07/ancient-near-east-transition-fro-bullae.html

      I request for help from MFA Boston Museum authorities to investigate further the contents of the rattles (bullae?) of Chanhu-daro. Given the context of metalware and stoneware (carnelian, agate etc.) work done at this archaeological site, it is possible that the rattles of Chanhu-daro hold some tiny, miniature incised tablets with Indus writing to indicate the types of metal artefacts accounted for. This could be of significance for unraveling the secrets of purposes served by Indus Writing.

      I am grateful to Prof. Richard Sproat who (in personal communication) provided a lead referring to http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/oimp32.pdf around page 48.  I have cc-ed this mail to Prof. Sproat and Prof. Mehdi Mortazavi. University of Sistan and Baluchestan.

      Richard mentions that Chris Woods, Sumerologist at the Oriental Institute in Chicago has been involved in a project to do CT scans of the bullae in the OIC collection. He basically teamed up with some people who do CT scanning at the UC medical school.  

      It will be helpful if MFA in Boston could arrange for something similar with one of the many fine medical institutions in the Boston area to do non-destructive investigation of the Chanhu-daro rattles held in the Museum to delineate the contents which could have been inscribed tablets or just pebble-stones. Who knows?

      This certainly will be an effort as a tribute to the late Dr. EJH Mackay, M.A., D.Litt., FSA, who has made enormous contributions to the study of Indus valley civilization with archaeological work at Chanhu-daro, Mohenjo-daro etc.

      I look forward to receiving your positive response, thanking you for your consideration and with the best regards,

      S. Kalyanaraman
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