Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 31st Jan 2017 03:51 UTC
In the News

Though we now have thousands of examples of these symbols, we have very little idea what they mean. Over a century after Cunningham's discovery, the seals remain undeciphered, their messages lost to us. Are they the letters of an ancient language? Or are they just religious, familial, or political symbols? Those hotly contested questions have sparked infighting among scholars and exacerbated cultural rivalries over who can claim the script as their heritage. But new work from researchers using sophisticated algorithms, machine learning, and even cognitive science are finally helping push us to the edge of cracking the Indus script.

The Indus Valley Civilization and the mysteries that surround it are deeply fascinating. It was contemporary to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, yet we know relatively little about it. It honestly blows my mind that computers can now be used to decipher its ancient script, which may give us a lot of insight into this civilisation.

Like in programming, language is key.

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Actual war
by kwan_e on Tue 31st Jan 2017 05:28 UTC
kwan_e
Member since:
2007-02-18

It sounds like people are willing to go to actual war based on some racist idea that the "true descendants" of the Indus Valley Culture should own modern day India.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Actual war
by jal_ on Tue 31st Jan 2017 15:43 UTC in reply to "Actual war"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

Yeah. While most likely, all current day peoples are "invaders" one way or another.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Actual war
by dylansmrjones on Tue 31st Jan 2017 17:43 UTC in reply to "RE: Actual war"
dylansmrjones Member since:
2005-10-02

Well, unless I am wildly mistaken we are all ultimately african immigrants, though the first waves arrived quite some time ago.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Actual war
by jal_ on Wed 1st Feb 2017 07:20 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Actual war"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

Well, unless I am wildly mistaken we are all ultimately african immigrants, though the first waves arrived quite some time ago.

Well, Native Americans / First Nations are immigrants from Asia, those from European desent immigrants from Europe. Ultimately we are all immigrants from Africa, but there's never been immigration directly from Africa, until the Europeans started transporting African slaves.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Actual war
by judgen on Wed 1st Feb 2017 08:57 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Actual war"
judgen Member since:
2006-07-12

The slave trade on the arab peninsula existed long before any sub saharan slaves ever was taken by europeans.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Actual war
by jal_ on Wed 1st Feb 2017 09:10 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Actual war"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

Sorry, I was talking specifically about immigrants to the Americas, should've clarified that.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Actual war
by dylansmrjones on Tue 31st Jan 2017 17:45 UTC in reply to "Actual war"
dylansmrjones Member since:
2005-10-02

What are they going to do if it turns out the information system is largely independent of language?

Reply Score: 2

Happy merge
by cpuobsessed on Tue 31st Jan 2017 16:59 UTC
cpuobsessed
Member since:
2009-06-09

An article about languages and computers!
Tom, you must be in heaven

Reply Score: 1

RE: Happy merge
by Pro-Competition on Tue 31st Jan 2017 20:32 UTC in reply to "Happy merge"
Pro-Competition Member since:
2007-08-20

I'm in heaven about that, also! ;^)

Reply Score: 2

Comment by JoshuaS
by JoshuaS on Tue 31st Jan 2017 18:40 UTC
JoshuaS
Member since:
2011-09-15

I'm quite curious why Mr. Farmers viewpoints are so heavily attacked by the professor Wells in the article.

I'm neither a linguist nor a statistician but the point that just because there is a statistical link between symbols it doesn't mean it is representing a language seems to me quite reasonable ( especially given the fact that all epigrahps excavated up until now have been rather short )

I'd love to hear someone knowledgeable elaborate on this

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by JoshuaS
by Pro-Competition on Tue 31st Jan 2017 21:00 UTC in reply to "Comment by JoshuaS"
Pro-Competition Member since:
2007-08-20

I had the same thoughts as you. Obviously, it was a high-level article, and didn't give us enough information to form an intelligent opinion one way or the other, but it was certainly thought-provoking.

I've always been interested in undeciphered scripts, and the Indus Valley civilization is intriguing for the reasons listed in the article - it was highly advanced, but apparently relatively peaceful.

My initial thoughts on the script favor the "name" idea - that the inscriptions are names, probably ownership seals. This would fit with the brevity, as well as the "conditional entropy". And the different sequence patterns for different regions would be expected (assuming it's phonetic), to account for local names.

Since anyone can play with analysis software, I wonder if any of the raw data are available to the (hobbyist) public.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by JoshuaS
by JoshuaS on Tue 31st Jan 2017 22:12 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by JoshuaS"
JoshuaS Member since:
2011-09-15

I think your hypothesis is very interesting and it will likely be something in that direction.

But, I don't know, it still feels lacking because it's odd to me to write names in a script that is at least partly iconographic.

All in all, I think that the key to really get what we're looking at is to have more information about the Indus civilisation itself but this can unfold into a catch 22 situation ...

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by JoshuaS
by jal_ on Wed 1st Feb 2017 07:25 UTC in reply to "Comment by JoshuaS"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

I'm quite curious why Mr. Farmers viewpoints are so heavily attacked by the professor Wells in the article. (...) I'd love to hear someone knowledgeable elaborate on this

I'm not knowledgeable in this particular case, but in general there's a lot of quackery around in linguistics, typically by people without any formal linguistic training. It's on par with global warming denialists / creationists that have engineering degrees or are dentists instead of having studied the relevant fields.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by JoshuaS
by JoshuaS on Wed 1st Feb 2017 10:38 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by JoshuaS"
JoshuaS Member since:
2011-09-15

In what direction do you beliee the quackery to be going?

Is the idea of the script representing a language quackery?

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by JoshuaS
by jal_ on Wed 1st Feb 2017 11:00 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by JoshuaS"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

In general, if someone outside a certain scientific field claims that everyone in that scientific field got it all wrong, they're a quack. Or at least misinformed. In this specific case, I (as a total layperson with regards to ancient scripts) have little doubt that someone who is established in the field is more knowledgeable than someone who isn't. Unless others from inside the field back-up Mr. Farmer, I consider whatever he says as unauthorative.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by JoshuaS
by unclefester on Thu 2nd Feb 2017 08:44 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by JoshuaS"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

In general, if someone outside a certain scientific field claims that everyone in that scientific field got it all wrong, they're a quack.


Many of the most significant discoveries came from complete outsiders. Louis Pasteur was an industrial chemist. Alfred Russell Wallace was a surveyor. The structure of DNA was discovered by physicists. The modern concept of heat was discovered by a brewer (JP Joule) and Linear B script was deciphered by an architect.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Comment by JoshuaS
by jal_ on Thu 2nd Feb 2017 12:26 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by JoshuaS"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

Many of the most significant discoveries came from complete outsiders.

They are the exception to the rule, and all from a long time ago.

Reply Score: 2

This is fascinating
by Dasher42 on Tue 31st Jan 2017 22:56 UTC
Dasher42
Member since:
2007-04-05

The other aspects of this civilization are very compelling: they show minimal signs of class differentiation, their city layouts were highly advanced, their angular precision in construction and street layout was very impressive. So yes, this is a civilization I'd be very excited to be able to see the translated works of.

Reply Score: 2

Extremelly Wealthy Farmers?
by dionicio on Tue 31st Jan 2017 22:57 UTC
dionicio
Member since:
2006-07-12

When farming was the High Tech of the World?
Speculating this because of the lack of Rosseta's ...

Reply Score: 2

Runes ?
by bugjacobs on Wed 1st Feb 2017 11:59 UTC
bugjacobs
Member since:
2009-01-03

Looked similar to Futhark ! Viking runes !

Reply Score: 1