By StephanieV. May 27th, 2014
None of the many proposed decipherments of the ancient Indus script by many different scholars since the late 1920's is widely accepted. But there are good ideas, and many of them are from Iravatham Mahadevan in Chennai, India's most important scholar of the Indus script. Here he proposes readings of some the most common Indus signs, including the three "functionaries," part of a set of signs, one of which combines the terminal "jar" sign, the most frequent Indus sign, for which Mahadevan also proposes a reading. Mahadevan has been studying the Indus script since he put together the first concordance of Indian seals in 1970. Known too for his breakthrough decipherments of the earliest Tamil Brahmi writing, Asko Parpola calls Mahadevan his most valuable critic. Despite sharing a belief in Dravidian language elements in Indus signs, the two friends often disagree on specific interpretations.
Mahadevan continues to work on the Indus script, and we plan to highlight more of his work in the coming months, including a radical interpretation of the function about the Great Bath (June). More on Mahadevan's views at The Indus Script. A complete interview at his Chennai residence is at An Interview with Iravatham Mahadevan.
See also Parpola's Indus Script Dictionary.