Examples of the 4500 year old Indus script on seals and tabletsImage courtesy of J.M. Kenoyer / Harappa.com
The script writing of the Indus civilization has been found on stamp seals, pottery, tablets, tools, and weapons. Of all these types of inscriptions, stamp seals are the most numerous, and they are the focus of this photo essay.
A stamp seal is something used by the—well you absolutely have to call it the international trade network of the Bronze age Mediterranean societies, including Mesopotamia and pretty much anybody who traded with them. In Mesopotamia, carved pieces of stone were pressed into the clay used to seal packages of trade goods. The impressions on the seals often listed the contents, or the origin, or the destination, or the amount of goods in the package, or all of the above.
The Mesopotamian stamp seal network is widely considered the first language in the world, developed because of the need for accountants to track whatever was being traded. CPAS of the world, take a bow!
Rao, Rajesh P. N., et al. 2009 Entropic Evidence for Linguistic Structure in the Indus Script. Science Express 23 April 2009
Study of the Indus Script at Harappa.com includes an article by Asko Parpola, essential reading to understanding this issue.
Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat, and Michael Witzel. 2004. The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization. EJVS 11-2: 19-57. Free pdf to download