Seals and tablets with inscriptions from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.

Deity Seal

Mohenjo-daro seal
Deity seal from Mohenjo-daro. E.J.H. Mackay writes of what he calls a "deity, seated in what may be a yogi attitude" where, in this case, "the stool is omitted, however, and the figure is apparently seated upon the ground. The headdress consists of two horn-like objects between which there appears to be a spike of flowers. A pigtail hangs down one side of the head which has one face only, in profile, facing to the right. Unfortunately this seal is badly broken, but enough remains to show that the figure was surrounded by pictographs arranged in a somewhat haphazard fashion." (Further

Indus Cylinder Seals

Impression of a Harappan cylinder seal from Kalibangan
"The cylinder seals of Mesopotamia constitute her most original art," wrote the scholar Henri Frankfort, and much the same has been said about the very different square stamp seals used by the ancient Indus civilization. Cylinder seals are "small, barrel-shaped stone object[s] with a hole down the center, rolled on clay when soft to indicate ownership or to authenticate a document . . . used chiefly in Mesopotamia from the late 4th to the 1st millennium BCE." Many of the handful of cylinder seals found at ancient Indus sites or Mesopotamian ones with Indus themes are collected below. 1.

Four Seals Up Close

A visit to the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi gave me the opportunity to take close shots of four seals from Mohenjo-daro. They show both the exquisite workmanship of Indus craftsmen and the merciless wear, in different degrees, of four thousand years of history.

Unicorn Amulet Seal

Only a few specimens of this unicorn amulet-type seal have been found. One was during Marshall's excavations at Mohenjo-daro in the 1920s (top), another at Dholavira a few years ago (bottom). It appears to have been worn around the neck, and have had room for something to be put inside. Although Marshall himself did not favor the amulet theory, he wrote of one of these seals: "The amulet theory finds some support, however, in the shape of ... [a] seal [which] measures 0.77 in. square and 0.3 in. thick, excluding its boss.

Rare White Marble Cylinder Seal from Jiroft

A rare white marble cylinder seal from Jiroft. A brand new paper by Massimo Vidale and Dennys Frenez, Indus Components in the Iconography of a White Marble Cylinder Seal from Konar Sandal South (Kerman, Iran) provides a detailed analysis of this seal found at the recently discovered site of Jiroft . Well used, and apparently worn at the wrist, it testifies to the multiple cultural and trade connections between the Indus civilization and its western neighbors. It also suggests many more discoveries and insights into Indus civilization will come from material found at and connected to Jiroft.

Bos Indicus

"The humped bull (Bos indicus) has a long and special association with India. Its association with Siva, its all pervading holiness and its basic usefulness in agriculture and commerce for than four millennia are too well known to need description. Its peculiar importance extends back to prehistoric times."

A Passport from Mohenjo-daro?

"Sealing or token with impression made from a unicorn seal with script. The back is smooth and rounded, suggesting that this object was a certificate or pass representing the seal owner and not something attached to a bundle of goods. Three script signs appear above a unicorn which stands facing right, with a ritual object or offering placed under a head" writes archaeologist Mark Kenoyer about this object found at Mohenjo-daro. He also writes that "impressions of seals on clay tags and on circular tokens show how the rulers and traders actually used their seals and provide insight into

Mystery at Mound F #3

A perfect unicorn seal found in Trench 49E, Harappa. The craftsmanship and balance of the three fish signs, the arrow and two strokes with the so-called unicorn's head and sacred relic is remarkable. Excavations in 1997 at the southeast corner of the Mound F "granary" area were undertaken to recover a full sequence of pottery, architectural features, and inscribed objects. Here workers have found a seal near the base of the excavations in Trench 41NE that dates only somewhat later than the original "granary" structure.

Kot Diji Phase Button Seal

This seal plays an illustrative role in Asko Parpola's essay Beginnings of Indian Astronomy with Reference to a Parallel Development in China. He writes "The Yangshao culture burials discovered at Puyang in 1987 suggest that the beginnings of Chinese astronomy go back to the late fourth millennium. The instructive similarities between the Chinese and Indian luni-solar calendrical astronomy and cosmology therefore with great likelihood result from convergent parallel development and not from diffusion." For more information, read Asko Parpola's Beginnings of Indian Astronomy with Reference to a