A Unicorn Seal

A Unicorn Seal


The animal on the seal has long been considered a mythical Indus Valley "Unicorn" of which there are also traces in Greek writings. This motif may have represented a clan, ethnic group or trading class.

More unicorn seals have been found in Mohenjo-daro (some 60% of all seals) than at any other excavated Indus site.

The Rgveda, one of the earliest texts from the Indian subcontinent, refers to the capture of wild cattle for ritual sacrificial purposes.

Research indicates that bulls were important symbols to the people of the Indus Valley Civilization and are still important in modern Hindu South Asia. In Harappan society, the bull seems to have been involved in fertility rituals in which their slaughter was integral.

The collar, garland and necklace on the animal may indicate the fact that it was used as a sacrificial animal. The trough that sits in front of the animal may be a bale of fodder, and underneath it, a wicker basket of water.

The object usually placed in front of the unicorn is similar to a feeding trough but may also be offering strands, a cage for birds or insects, or an incense burner.

Some scholars suggest that it depicts the strainer used to make the intoxicating "Soma" drink used by the invaders described in the Rgveda.

Whatever the iconography and commercial purpose, the seal and sealing may have also been a symbol of power or authority of office. For its owner, the seal and motif could also have served as an amulet.