The Origin, Context and Function of the Indus Script: Recent Insights from Harappa

Based on recent excavations at Harappa, it is possible to determine that square seals with animal motifs (such as the elephant) and possibly the short horned bull are among the earliest form of seal with writing.

The origin and development of writing in the Indus Valley is a highly debated topic but one that is extremely important because of the impact writing had on early cultures. Writing allowed literate elites to store knowledge and communicate this knowledge to other elites within the context of their cities and towns as well as over great distances. It also allowed literate elites to demonstrate their power to illiterate individuals who would have visually interpreted the writing as symbols of power, but not necessarily understanding the specific semantic meaning. This dichotomous use of the same graphic symbols poses a major problem for scholars today who are trying to understand the nature of the Indus writing system.