neolithic symbols and scripts

There is no such thing as an accepted Indus Valley script dictionary. Such a dictionary is probably decades away. Nonetheless, below are summarized some of Parpola1 and Mahadevan's2 speculations on some of the most common ancient Indus signs.







space + fish

3 + fish

6 + fish


dot/drop + fish

halving + fish

roof + fish

fig tree + fish

fig tree + intermediate space

4 + fig tree


ring(s)/ bangle(s)

(head of) cow




vel (i) + meen

mum (m) + meen

(*c) aru + meen

elu + meen

pottu + meen

pacu + meen

mey/may + meen

vata + meen

vata + vel(i)

nal + vata



a (+-tu)



1. fish

2. star

white star

three stars

six stars

seven stars

1. carp fish (=rohita'red' in Sanskrit)

2. star or red dot/blood drop (=rohini'red' in Sanskrit)

green star

black star

North Star

North Star

hanging rope

man, servant

boy, youth, Muruku (the youthful god of love and war)

possessive suffix


The word meen designates both fish and star in most Dravidian languages. Suggests the heavenly bodies were conceived of as fish swimming in the ocean of heaven, representing gods.

Vel-meen and Velli both mean Venus in Tamil.

The new year asterism Pleiades has this name in Tamil; in myth the wives of the Seven Sages.

In The New Year asterism Pleiades has this name in Tamil. In myths the wives of the Seven Sages and mothers or wet nurses of the god of war (the vernal sun).

In Tamil, the name of Ursa Major, the 'Seven Sages' in India.

The red dot painted on the forehead at marriage = the 'third' eye of the Heavenly Bull < alpha Tauri = the ancient star of the new year (marriage of Sun + the heavenly bride rohini,'menstruating'), represented by the red fish (scales as tilaka mark).

in Tamil, paccai refers to greeness and the planet Mercury, which represents the green-hued child god Krishna.

Saturn's name in Tamil. Saturn rides a turtle, a 'fish' with a 'roof'.

Vata-min is the star 'Alcor,' orig. probably Thuban. 'Banyan fig' is the tree of 'ropes' (vata): starts do not fall because they are fixed to the North Star (in Dravidian also 'fig/rope star) by means of visible ropes.

In Tamil, velli means both (1) 'the planet Venus) and (2) 'star (=meen)

Banyan as '(the tree) possessed of hanging ropes': nal/nal/al 'to hang down' seems to be th etymology for al (a-maram) ' banyan tree'. Indus tablets with '4 + fig' have a solitary fig leaf on the reverse.

The sign occurs in prestly titles paralleling Mesopotamian titles 'Man/Servant (ofthe god X)'; the most common Dravidian word for man also means servant.

The sign signifies 'royal ear-rings' in [Tibetan] Lamaism. The sign recurs, sometimes alone, on Indus stone bangles; Indus tree-gods wear bangles; in later folk religion, bangles are offered to sacred trees with prayers for off spring (cf. muruku ' boy').

The interpretation of this important sign remains open; this is just a suggestion that needs testing.



CRETAN Minoan Linear A









Jar + Bearer

Lance + Bearer






Servant, attendant or lower functionary

Officer or functionary

Officer or functionary with priestly duties

Officer or functionary with military duties

Farmer, tiller, tenant


The most frequent and almost always terminal sign of the Indus script is read as a jar and connected to the legend of 'jar-born' sages and the symbolism of the jar connected to priestly ritual in Indian tradition.

Also a terminal sign, pr suffix associated with names or titles on seals like the 'jar' sign above.

Simple pictogram, frequently shown with ' jar' (lower order of priestly functionary?) but never with ' lance' sign.

Also appears to be a suffixed element, interpreted as officer because of later Indian traditions referring to senior officers of the king referred to as 'yoke bearers.'

Clearly combination of two signs, could be related to later Indian traditions combining the two motifs.

Also combination, perhaps designating officer with military duties.

Also characteristically a terminal sign, sometimes in conjunction with ' jar,' ' lance,' or ' bearer' signs, suggesting combination of categories or serving under them.