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Indus Inscriptions - Research Seminar at Cheenta

Seminar Title: Breaking the Silence of the Indus valley Inscriptions: Necessity of Multi-disciplinary Approaches


28th August, 2021

7 PM IST

Internal students, researchers, faculty members may join google meet

Speaker

Bahata Anshumali Mukhapadhyay

Seminar Abstract

This presentation seeks to demonstrate how multi-disciplinary approaches are indispensable for understanding the semantic role of the Indus valley inscriptions, one of the most enigmatic aspects of the most expansive Bronze Age civilization of the world (c. 2600 BC to 1900 BC).

Relevant Papers

Interrogating Indus inscriptions to unravel their mechanisms of
meaning conveyance

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-019-0274-1

Ancestral Dravidian languages in Indus Civilization: ultraconserved Dravidian tooth-word reveals deep
linguistic ancestry and supports genetics

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-021-00868-w

Speaker Bio

Bahata Ansumali Mukhopadhyay is a software technologist and an independent researcher originally from Bengal, presently settled in Bangalore. She researches the structural and semantic aspects of Indus script inscriptions and explores the linguistic identities of the people of the Indus Valley civilization. Her first paper, titled “Interrogating Indus inscriptions to unravel their mechanisms of meaning conveyance” (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-019-0274-1), problematizes more than 90% of existing decipherment effort, as it claims that Indus script inscriptions were mostly written using logographic and/or semasiographic signs, and thus any attempt to read them by treating those signs as phonological units must be flawed. Her second article, titled “Ancestral Dravidian languages in Indus Civilization: ultraconserved Dravidian tooth-word reveals deep linguistic ancestry and supports genetics” (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-021-00868-w), published in the Nature group journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, seeks to partly resolve one of the most debated questions of South Asian prehistory, the linguistic identities of the Indus valley population. Ms. Mukhopadhyay continues to research the semantic aspects of Indus script inscriptions and her latest research paper, that claims to have decoded certain signs of Indus script, is under peer review. Bahata A. Mukhopadhyay is also a prolific and widely published Bengali poet, whose first book of poetry, ‘Ṭhung Śobdo Holei Kobitā’, came out at the 44th International Kolkata Book Fair 2020.

More on the Talk

This presentation seeks to demonstrate how multi-disciplinary approaches are indispensable for understanding the semantic role of the Indus valley inscriptions, one of the most enigmatic aspects of the most expansive Bronze Age civilization of the world (c. 2600 BC to 1900 BC). Traditionally, study of inscriptions, i.e. epigraphy, was known to mostly demand a thorough knowledge of linguistics, ancient languages, numismatics, palaeography, and history. However, much like how the Linear B script of ancient Greece was finally deciphered based on the grid-based statistical analyses done by Michael Ventris, the yet undeciphered Indus valley inscriptions too have immensely benefited from the researches of various mathematicians, physicists, computer professionals, etc. who have employed their skills, building on various incisive analyses done by linguists, archaeologists, and historians. The methods used by them encompass a broad spectrum of scientific tools and techniques ranging from the use of n-gram Markov model for exploring the correlation between co-occurring signs; calculating conditional entropy of the sign-sequences to predict their linguistic nature; and clustering Indus signs based on their frequency distributions; to applying different linguistic rules to tease out the underlying language used in the inscriptions. The author of this paper has applied the role of aerodynamic factors on the phonetic basis of phonological structures used in natural languages, the distinction between phonological and semantic co-occurrence restriction patterns, as well as comparison between various formalized data carriers and coexistence of document specific and linguistic syntaxes in their mechanisms of meaning conveyance, to understand certain aspects of the Indus script and its nature. This presentation would also very briefly discuss a few points from another upcoming paper, currently going through peer review, where the author explores the semantics of certain Indus inscriptions using various archaeological, linguistic, and historical evidences. A theoretical payoff from this presentation would be demonstration of the extent to which fluid movements between different branches of science can aid in the understanding of inscriptions that have obstinately defied and resisted traditional decipherment methods for 150 years since their discovery.

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