Phaistos Disc, and encoding Indus signs in Unicode

From: N. Ganesan (
Date: Thu Jun 01 2006 - 11:17:42 CDT

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    Phaistos Disc, and encoding Indus signs

    In the pre-prelim minutes of UTC-107 meeting,
    it's stated:
    "C.8 Proposal to encoding the Phaistos Disc
    characters [Everson, Jenkins, L2/06-095]

    [107-C51] Consensus: Accept 46 Phaistos Disc
    symbols at U+101D0 through U+101FD in block
    name "Phaistos Disc" U+101D0 - U+101FF for
    encoding in a future version of the standard. "

    Congratulations! It is very good that this
    one-sample text is getting into Unicode.

    Indus signs occur in different combinations
    in short seals. The old Bronze age civilization
    of India produced this writing on
    5000+ seals, the number of signs is rather
    fixed and average about 5 signs per IVC seal.
    The Indus valley civilization (IVC) that
    lasted (which peaked around 2400-1800 BCE time
    period) is the foundation for later Indian civilization,
    which saw after IVC decline the Aryans ingressing.
    These IVC signs are remarkably consistent over centuries,
    and found in archaeological digs in a vast area
    in some 10,000 square miles area covering
    Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northwest India.

    Scholars and enthusiasts try to decipher
    the meaning, the underlying language or language
    family, of the Indus seal signs. Asko Parpola, a
    renowned Indologist and linguist, has written
    books and papers on the methodology to decipher
    the Indus signs: Deciphering the Indus script, 1994, Cambridge
    University Press. His 2005 Kyoto University address
    why he considers the Dravidian language speakers
    were the authors of IVC can be downloaded from:

    Very recently, in Tamil Nadu, Indus signs
    on very old certs have been found:
    See Iravatham Mahadevan's expert views on Indus script:

    See the note by Sri. I. Mahadevan about Indus script,
    and a discovery in Tamil Nadu:
    Iravatham is the author of Early Tamil inscriptions,
    Harvard Oriental Series, 2003.

    So, to study whether the Indus high culture
    was pre-Aryan, Dravidian or some other
    language group (e.g. Munda group who moved from
    South East Asia. Being non-literary languages
    until now, it's difficult to decide when Mundas
    moved in. Some of the groups could be as late
    as 2nd millennium CE). Different enthusiasts
    from India and abroad (many not knowing any Indian
    language or literature or script) also try their hand at
    Indus signs.

    So, when is Unicode encoding the Indus signs
    (as it did for Phaistos disc)?. It will be useful
    to study and create web pages with the
    Unicode Indus fonts, and for those who try
    to decipher them in academic e-lists,
    say, in googlegroups (as other Indic scripts
    are sent via gmail and searchable in ggroups)

    I've the Indus signs fonts to create texts
    and compare with ancient Dravidian language
    texts (called Tamil Sangam texts). Does anyone
    else - Michael Everson, James Kass, ... - have
    some Indus fonts for sale? As user community
    for Indus sign fonts, we can offer any help
    for Michael Everson's proposal to encode
    Indus civilization signs in Unicode:
    N1959 is well written. And, as users of Indus
    script for scholarly endeavours, we need Unicode fonts
    for them. Sooner the better.

    Thanks, and best regards,
    N. Ganesan

    PS: Recently, I am working on a proposal
    to encode Malayalam cillaksarams. Cillu
    letters are pure consonants with a soft virama diacritic.
    Normally in Indic scripts, pure (or dead)
    consonants are not encoded separately
    (e.g., Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Gujarati, Sindhi, ...)
    but using a coded sequence <cons., virama>.
    Likewise, Cillus can be encoded using
    a MALAYALAM SIGN CILLU which is a combining
    character with a subset of Malayalam consonants.
    Compare Cillu sign, yet to be encoded
    which will decompose Cillu characters as
    <cons., cillu sign> with Saurashtra haaru sign
    which acts on a subset of 4 or so Saurashtran consonnants.

    Looking at Cillu R, I was searching for Sanskrit
    words like karma, dharma in Rev. Gundert's
    Malayalam dictionary. The 'rm' clusters are written
    as assimilated m'm, (and Gundert gives 'rm' in Malayalam
    orthography within brackets, with cillu R)
    On consonant assimilation in Sanskrit -> Prakrit
    and comparison with ancient Tamil, i wrote 7 years ago: 
    for which Asko Parpola, Indology and IVC expert,
    wrote from Finland: 
    Prof. Parpola's homepage and publications:

    Indologists, Iravatham and Asokan (Asko) have written about the unique
    phenomenon of systematic retroflexion in India,
    and calls this a Dravidian substratum effect. ~ NG

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