Seals and tablets with inscriptions from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.
A particularly beautiful tree on a terra-cotta tablet discovered at Harappa in 1995. "Growing from a low platform, this sinuous tree with short leaves may have been held sacred like the pipal tree" writes J.M. Kenoyer. See also Pipal Leaves: Revisited.
Three clay sealings from the Harappa Phase levels (2600-1900 BCE) that may have come from large bundles of goods shipped to the site from a distant region. The clay does not appear to be the same type of clay as found near Harappa and each sealing has the impression of two different seals.
"On another seal, No. 510 [in Mackay], a buffalo appears to have attacked a number of people who are lying on the ground around him in every conceivable attitude," writes the excavator Ernest Mackay. "It is undoubtedly the wild rather than the domesticated species that is represented in on this seal, an altogether finer animal which stands 16 to 16.5 hands high at the shoulder. Unlike the domesticated variety, it is very truculent and when wounded is very savage; it was, therefore, a fitting vahana or vehicle for Yama, the god of death. "The little drama depicted on this seal may represent an
The Indus script remains to be deciphered and we will probably never be sure until a bilingual text of some sort is found (not improbable). Until then, Asko Parpola's work on the fish sign is probably the closest to guarded approval by other major scholars. The initial insight into the fish/star connection in Dravidian languages was made by a Jesuit priest, Father Heras, in 1932. Dr. Parpola has been studying this undeciphered writing for over 40 years at the University of Helsinki in Finland and is co-editor of collections of all seals and inscriptions in India and Pakistan. More detail on
Ernest Mackay writes (1931): "The boss was then carefully rounded off after the groove that always runs across its center had been roughly made by a V-shaped cut. The rounding of the boss was apparently done with a knife and finished off with an abrasive, after which a hole was bored through it from opposite sides to take a cord." See also Seal with Two-Horned Zebu Bull.
One unicorn horn or two? Two leading Indus researchers, after years of thought and research, came to different conclusions.
One of the most evocative seals from Mohenjo-daro, depicting a deity with horned headdress and bangles on both arms, standing in a pipal (sacred fig) tree and looking down on a kneeling worshiper. A human head rests on a small stool and giant ram and seven figures in procession complete the narrative. Asko Parpola writes "An anthropomorphic figure has knelt in front of a fig tree, with hands raised in respectful salutation, prayer or worship. This reverence suggests the divinity of its object, another anthropomorphic figure standing inside the fig tree.
A seal from Mohenjo-daro found by Wheeler in the 1920's. From his 1931 text: "The plant on the [seal] has been identified as a pipal tree, which in India is the Tree of Creation. The arrangement is very conventional and from the lower part of the stem spring two heads similar to those of the so-called unicorn." See also Pipal Tree Tablet and Pipal Leaves: Revisited.
"The Harappans had a goddess of war connected with the tiger, another large feline that was once native to the Indus Valley. On a cylinder seal from Kalibangan, a goddess in long skirt and plaited hair holds the hands of two warriors in the process of spearing each other."
This drama is depicted on at least two other seals from the ancient Indus metropolis. In other scenes from Harappa, this is a female deity standing on an elephant with a spoked wheel sign above her head (see Deity Strangling Tigers Tablet). Asko Parpola writes: "The 'contest' motif is one of the most convincing and widely accepted parallels between Harappan and Near Eastern glyptic art. A considerable number of Harappan seals depict a manly hero, each hand grasping a tiger by the throat. In Mesopotamian art, the fight with lions and / or bulls is the most popular motif.