The seal that the publicity emblem (above) for the film Mohenjo Daro is actually based on (below) offers the opportunity to look at one of the most unresolved issues in ancient Indus studies: what was the so-called one-horned unicorn, and where did it come from? Drs. Parpola and Kenoyer have two different perspectives. Asko Parpola writes "One broken round Indus seal from Mohenjodaro, M-417 (below), shows animal foreparts (protomes) arranged in a whorl.
Seals and tablets with inscriptions from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.
"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
1. A clay sealing from the Harappa Phase levels (2600-1900 BCE) that may have come from a large bundle 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 has the impression of two different seals.
2. A clay sealing from the Harappa Phase levels (2600-1900 BCE) that may have come from a large bundle 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 has the impression of two different seals.
"Astronomy, including the use of a star calendar, played an important role in ancient Mesopotamia, and deeply influenced its religion: all the main gods were symbolized by particular stars or planets. In West Asia, one or two "star" symbols placed near the head distinguished divinities in pictorial representations. The practice seems to have been borrowed by the Indus civilization, for a seal from Mohenjo-daro depicts an Indus deity with a star on either side of his head enclosed by a pair of curved horns. (Asko Parpola, The Roots of Hinduism, p. 272).
Elsewhere he writes: "Indus signs
"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.
"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."
"Thus the main motifs of the seal tablets emphasize two cultural phenomena. The first is that there was a rich mythopetic basis for the use of these motifs. The second is that the main motifs emphasize pan-settlement relationships, i.e. something held in common by the society at large, namely, the sodality to which the individual belonged. In contrast, we can assume that the Harappan writing identifies the indivudual who bears the seal tablet since the sign order is rarely duplicated. Here then is a clue to the meaning of the writing as it appears on seal tablets.
"Mackay found an extraordinary seal in his excavations at Chanhu-daro. It shows a short-horned bull, Bos gaurus, above a prostrate human figure. He thought that the scene depicted an attack by the bull, and the human on the ground was attempting a defense against the trampling animal."
Fired steatite button seal with four concentric circle designs from the Trench 54 area found at Harappa in 2000 (H2000-4432/2174-3).
Asko Parpola writes: "Akinori Uesugi has shown that the spread of the Kot Diji culture all over the Indus Valley is connected with the spread of a new type of stamp seal, which continues to exist in the following Harappan period. The basic figure in these Kot Diji seals consists of “concentric circles,” usually four of them placed into the four corners of a square or cross-shaped seal."