Corpus of Indus seals and inscriptions

Corpus of Indus seals and inscriptions vol. 3: New material, untraced objects, and collections outside India and Pakistan. Part 1: Mohenjo-daro and Harappa in collaboration with Richard H. Meadow and J. Mark Kenoyer and with the assistance of Erja Lahdenperä, Jyrki Lyytikkä, and Arto Vuohelainen. Ed. by Asko Parpola, B. M. Pande, and Petteri Koskikallio. (Annales academiae scientiarum Fennicae humaniora 359/ Memoirs of the archaeological survey of India 96.) Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 2010. Pp. lx, 443. ISBN 9789514110405. $418.83 (Hb).

Reviewed by Michael W. Morgan, Indira Gandhi National Open University

The Indus Valley ‘script’ is one of the most interesting of the as-yet-undeciphered scripts, not the least because of the potential political impact of its decipherment. In addition to those who argue for an Indo-Aryan origin (an idea readily exploited by right-wing Hindutva groups) or a Dravidian one, there are also those unconvinced by all proposed decipherments, and those arguing that it is a system of non-linguistic symbols. This volume presents the data without taking a stance on the issue, although, for example, the first editor has elsewhere argued for a Dravidian solution (A Dravidian solution to the Indus script problem, Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Research Endowment Lecture, 25 June 2010, Coimbatore.).

This volume is part of a series publishing all Indus Valley seals and inscriptions. Its material comes from collections in numerous countries outside India and Pakistan (covered in the first two volumes) of seals from the main sites of Mohenjo-daro and Harrappa (the remaining minor sites are covered in Part 2), from seals and inscriptions that have previously been described but that are currently lost or unlocatable, and from excavations since earlier publications, especially the Harappa excavations of 1986–2007, to which an introductory article by J. Mark Kenoyer and Richard H. Meadow is devoted (xliv–lviii). The introductory section also includes Ute Frank’s article on two compartmented seals from Mohenjo-daro by (xvii–xliii) and a short article by Asko Parpola on Major Clark, owner of the first published seal (lix–lx).

The main body and attraction of the current volume consists of photos of 475 seals from Mohenjo-Daro (1–136) and 1571 seals from Harappa (137–363), including 125 in color (365–412). Addenda and corrigenda to previous volumes are also included. Seals without inscription are printed full-size, those with inscriptions are reproduced double-sized, and sketches are included where photos are unavailable. Data on each object (excavation number, museum or owner, source of photograph) are given at the end of the volume (413–43).

The current volume, and indeed the entire series, is and will remain a valuable contribution to Indology whether or not the Indus Valley script is ever deciphered.