The excavation of the Harrapan Civilization brought out seals buried in Earth, made of soapstone, terracotta, and copper. These small objects have been beautifully carved out of stone and then fired to make them more durable. Over 3,500 seals have been found so far. The seals are rectangular, circular, or even cylindrical.
The seals give us useful information about the civilization of the Indus Valley. Animals found on the seals include rhinoceros, elephants, unicorns, and bulls. On the back is a projection, probably to hold while pressing the seal into other materials such as clay. The projections also have a hole for thread, presumably so the seal can be worn or carried like a necklace.
Writing on the Seal
The symbols at the top of the seal are generally thought to form the script of the Indus Valley language. Similar markings have been found on other objects including pots and what may have been a notice board. These indicate that people wrote the first line from right to left, the second line from left to right, and so on.
Around 400 different symbols have been cataloged, but the script has still not been deciphered. The inscriptions on the seals are thought to be related to trading transactions, possibly indicating the identity of traders, makers, or factories.
What did seals tell us about trade?
The seals of harrapan civilization were pressed into soft clay to seal the mouths of jars and, as suggested by the imprint of fabric on the back of some seal impressions, were used to create clay tags for sacks of traded goods such as grain.
Indus Valley seals have been found as far afield as Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) in the cities of Umma and Ur, in Central Asia, and on the coast of the Arabian Peninsula. A large number of seals have been found at the port of Lothal in western India.
Finds of Mesopotamian discovered in Indus Valley cities confirm that trading took place between these two civilizations. Some experts consider that Mesopotamian written records of trade in gold, copper, and jewelry may be referring to the Indus Valley. The Indus civilization was part of an extensive long-distance trading network.
The Pashupati Seal: This seal depicts a yogi, probably Lord Shiva. A pair of horns crown his head. He is surrounded by a rhino, a buffalo, an elephant, and a tiger. Under his throne are two deer. This seal shows that Shiva was worshipped and he was considered as the Lord of animals (Pashupati).
The Unicorn Seal: The unicorn is a mythological animal. This seal shows that at a very early stage of civilization, humans had produced many creations of imagination in the shape of bird and animal motifs that survived in later art.
The Bull Seal: This seal depicts a humped bull of great vigor. The figure shows artistic skill and a good knowledge of animal anatomy.
The Unicorn and Pipal Tree Seal: A seal from Mohenjo-Daro found by Wheeler in the 1920s. From his 1931 text: “The plant on the [seal] has been identified as a pipal tree, which in India is the Tree of Creation. The arrangement is very conventional and from the lower part of the stem spring two heads similar to those of the so-called unicorn.”
Multi Animal Seal from Mohenjo-Daro: Sealing from Mohenjo-Daro depicting a collection of animals and some script symbols. This terra cotta sealing may have been used in specific rituals as a narrative token that tells the story of an important myth.
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