The Indus Valley civilization was the most advanced in the field for over 500 years, with more than one thousand settlements sprawling across 250,000 square miles of what exactly is now Pakistan and northwest India from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. It had several large, well-planned cities like Mohenjo-daro, common iconography—and a script no one happens to be able to understand.
Over at Nature, Andrew Robinson looks at reasons why the Indus Valley script has been so hard to crack, and details some recent tries to decipher it. Since we don’t know any thing in regards to the underlying language and there isn’t any multilingual Rosetta stone, scholars have analyzed its structure for clues and compared it to many other scripts. Most Indologists think it’s “logo-syllabic” script like Sumerian cuneiform or Mayan glyphs. Nevertheless they disagree about whether or not it was a spoken language or the full writing system; some believe it represented only part of an Indus language, Robinson writes.
One team has developed the first publicly available, electronic corpus of Indus texts.
Another, led by computer scientist Rajesh Rao, analyzed the randomness within the script’s sequences. Their results indicated it’s most just like Sumerian cuneiform, which implies it may represent a language. Read the article that is full more information.
The Indus Valley script is not even close to the only one to keep mysterious. Listed below are eight others you may try your hand at deciphering.
1. Linear A
In 1893, British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans purchased some ancient stones with mysterious inscriptions on them at a flea market in Athens. On a later trip to the excavations at Knossos regarding the island of Crete, he recognized one of many symbols from his stones and began a study for the engraved tablets being uncovered at various sites on the island. He discovered two different systems, that he called Linear A and Linear B. While Linear B was deciphered in the early 1950s (it ended up to represent an form that is early of), Linear A, above, has still not been deciphered.
2. Cretan Hieroglyphics
The excavations on Crete also revealed a third style of writing system, with symbols that looked more picture-like compared to those associated with linear scripts. Many of these symbols act like elements in Linear A. It is assumed that the hieroglyphic script resulted in Linear A, although the two systems were in both use throughout the time period that is same.
3. Wadi script that is el-Hol
Within the 1990s, a couple of Yale archaeologists discovered a graffiti-covered cliff wall at the Wadi el-Hol (Gulch of Terror) in Egypt. All of the inscriptions were in systems they are able to recognize, but one of those was unfamiliar. It looks like an transition that is early a hieroglyphic to an alphabetic system, however it has not yet been deciphered.
4. Sitovo inscription
In 1928 a small grouping of woodcutters found some markings carved into a Bulgarian cliffside. The marks were thought by them indicated hidden treasure, but none was found. Word got around and soon a look was had by some archaeologists. Later, the pinnacle for the expedition was executed to be a secret agent for the Soviets in Bulgaria. One little bit of evidence used against him was a strange coded message he had provided for Kiev—actually a copy of the cliffside inscription he had sent to colleagues for scholarly input. It is really not clear what language the inscription represents. Thracian, Celtic, Sarmato-Alanian, and Slavic are among the possibilities scholars have argued for. Another suggestion is that it’s simply a rock formation that is natural.
5. Olmec writing
The Olmecs were an ancient civilization that is mexican known for the statues they put aside: the so-called “colossal heads.” In 1999, their writing system was revealed when road builders unearthed an inscribed stone tablet. The tablet shows 62 symbols; some seem like corn or bugs, and some are far more abstract. It is often dated to 900 B.C., which would ensure it is the oldest example of writing within the Western Hemisphere.
6. Singapore stone
There used to be a giant slab that is engraved of sandstone at the mouth for the Singapore River. It turned out there for 700 years or so when, in 1819, workers uncovered it while clearing away jungle trees. A couple of scholars got a look it was blown to bits in order to make space for a fort to protect the British settlements at it before. The parts that didn’t end up in the river were eventually utilized for customwritings road gravel, while some fragments were saved. The script hasn’t been deciphered, but there has been suggestions that are various what language it may represent: ancient Ceylonese, Tamil, Kawi, Old Javanese, and Sanskrit.
When missionaries surely got to Easter Island into the 1860s, they found wooden tablets carved with symbols. They asked the Rapanui natives what the inscriptions meant, and were told that nobody knew anymore, since the Peruvians had killed off most of the wise men. The Rapanui used the tablets as firewood or fishing reels, and by the final end of the century these people were nearly all gone. Rongorongo is printed in alternating directions; you read a line from left to right, then turn the tablet 180 degrees and see the next line.
This writing that is ancient was used significantly more than 5000 years ago with what has become Iran. Written from right to left, the script is unlike some other ancient scripts; although the proto-Elamites may actually have borrowed the theory for a written language from their Mesopotamian contemporaries, they apparently invented their very own symbols—and did not bother to help keep monitoring of them in an way that is organized proto-Elamite expert and Oxford University scholar Jacob Dahl told the BBC in 2012. Around that right time, he along with his Oxford colleagues asked for help from the public in deciphering proto-Elamite. They released high-quality images of clay tablets covered in Proto-Elamite, hoping that crowdsourcing could decode them. Now a collaboration involving institutions that are several the project is ongoing.