The Indus Valley Civilization has not been deciphered yet. Consider the following reasons:
- No knowledge about their language
- Small length of inscriptions
- Absence of bilingual texts
Which among the above is/ are correct reasons?
[B] 1 & 2
[C] 1 & 3
[D] 1, 2 & 3
All of them are the correct reasons. The first reason is that we don`t know what language they used. Then the inscriptions are so small that average inscription has only 4.6 signs. Longest single inscription at Indus Valley is 17 signs long. Then there are no bilingual texts available. In 2004, Steve Farmer published a paper, The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis- The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization, arguing that the Indus valley figures are merely a non-structured symbol system and do not represent a full language. This argument also rests to a large extent on the non-existence of long texts. He has argued that despite the fact that the Indus symbols have been known for at least 700 years, with inscriptions found on thousands of objects, the longest Indus text on a single surface is 17 signs long, and the average is under 4.6 signs, which is typical of many other non-linguistic symbol systems. However, other experts don`t buy this argument. Finnish scholar Asko Parpola, who is considered one of the leading experts on the Indus script says thatnon-availability of long texts could be explained by the fact that most of the information about the civilization comes from only 10% excavation of a single city. Hence there is a lot still to be explored. Besides, the Chinese writing system also has a very large number of signs rarely used in newspapers and hence the argument about repetition of characters doesn`t seem that strong. According to Parpola, the longer texts may have been written on birch bark, palm leaves, parchment, wood, or cotton cloth, which would have perished in course of time. He further argues that the civilization was famous for cotton cultivation, but apart from a few microscopic fibers nothing has survived. Hence, non-availability doesn`t imply non-existence, he points out. Most successful decipherments of ancient scripts were possible because of the availability of translations in an already known script. Historical information is also important in identifying the meanings of symbols. The Bible and Greek historians, for instance, were sources of historical information that helped in deciphering the Persian cuneiform script. In the case of the Indus Valley, the script was forgotten long before the earliest preserved literary records of the region were composed, and hence, the later Indian sources tell us nothing about the civilization.