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

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.

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

A Unicorn Seal from Mesopotamia

A perfectly cut unicorn seal with a sign right above the horn. The seal was found in ancient Kish, Iraq, during excavations between 1922 and 1933 by the Oxford-Field Museum (Chicago) Expedition. The year is given at approximately 2000 BCE, when craftsmanship in seal manufacture could have been at its height.

This artifact is one of many unicorn seals from the Indus Valley people.

Near Eastern Seal

Impression of an Indus-style cylinder seal of unknown Near Eastern origin in the Musee du Louvre, Paris. All indications are that the Bronze age was built on a robust international trade system. Massimo Vidale's article Growing in a Foreign World: For a History of the "Meluha Villages" in Mesopotamia in the 3rd Millenium BCE gathers together all facts about Indus settlements and trading with ancient Mesopotamia around 2500 BCE. Conjectures and implications by an Italian archaeologist who is a pioneer in multidisciplinary analysis.

The First Unicorn Seals

Harappan Seals

The splash of the new. Pictures of mysterious seals from Harappa had appeared in specialized journals, but no composite picture of seals had been offered to the masses until September 24, 1924. This set of seals from the Illustrated London News were the vehicle. From the very beginning, the face of the unicorn was the face of the Indus civilization, and that is probably how its rulers had intended it to be.

Sir John Marshall, who published the findings wrote "The animal most often represented on the seals is the apparently single-horned beast . . .. There is a possibility, I think, that the

Deity Strangling Tigers Tablet

Planoconvex molded tablet from Harappa showing a deity battling two tigers. "The thick jungles of the Indus Valley were full of tigers and leopards, so it is not surprising that the image of a ferocious feline is a recurring motif in ritual narratives on seals as well as molded tablets... The figure strangling the two tigers may represent a female, as a pronounced breast can be seen in profile.

The Pleiades Seal

This seal from Mohenjo-daro contains, perhaps more compactly than any other, what we can tell of ancient Indus beliefs and traditions. Several script signs are interspersed with the figures along the top of the seal and a single sign is placed at the base of the tree. This scene may represent a special ritual sacrifice to a deity with seven figures in procession. The seal has a grooved and perforated boss and the edges are worn and rounded from repeated use.

It shows a deity with horned headdress and bangles on both arms, standing in a pipal (sacred fig) tree and looking down on a kneeling

The First Seal

The first seal, found at Harappa before 1872. Included in The British Museum's A History of the World in 100 Objects, a nice podcast of the chapter on this black stone unicorn seal is available for free at (Episode 16, Indus seal). Sir Alexander Cunningham, who led the first excavations there in 1872-73 and published news of the seal, wrote 50 years before we understood that the Indus civilization had existed: "The most curious object discovered at Harappa is a seal, ... The seal is a smooth black stone without polish.


Subscribe to Seals