Iravatham Mahadevan’s Reading of Indus Script: A Critical Review
Keywords:Indus script, Iravatham Mahadevan, Dravidian decipherment, Indus civilization, Harappa, Mohenjodaro
This paper comprehensively summarizes, analyses, and reviews Iravatham Mahadevan’s attempts to decipher the Indus script. Spanning a period of over thirty five years, Iravatham Mahadevan made continuous attempts to interpret and decipher the Indus script. Mahadevan claimed to have adapted the method of parallels between the symbolic representation and the text, between the written object and its designation, between the written symbol itself and its meaning, and the similarity throughout the ancient East of certain portions of the inscriptions, with the assumption that the underlying language of the script is Dravidian. Mahadevan was very flexible in changing his views and finding new interpretations, and gradually he shifted his interpretation of Indus signs from being phonetic/logographic/word to ideographic, leaving unshaken his core personal hypothesis and belief in the Veḷier clan and Tamil cultural settings. While Mahadevan did not succeed in making a self-consistent system of readings applicable to a large number of discovered pieces of writings, he did make a determined, persistent effort to develop a Dravidian framework for deciphering of the Indus script. This study seeks to find weaknesses in the methodology and assumptions of Mahadevan and searches for possible alternatives within that framework.
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