The Indus Valley civilization was perhaps one of the most advanced in the field for more than 500 years, with over a thousand settlements sprawling across 250,000 square miles of what exactly is now Pakistan and India that is northwest from BCE to 1900 BCE. It had several large, well-planned cities like Mohenjo-daro, common iconography—and a script no body has been able to understand.
Over at Nature, Andrew Robinson talks about reasons why the Indus Valley script has been so hard to crack, and details some recent tries to decipher it. Since we do not know anything about the underlying language and there is no multilingual Rosetta stone, scholars have analyzed its structure for clues and compared it with other scripts. Most Indologists think it’s “logo-syllabic” script like Sumerian cuneiform or Mayan glyphs. Nevertheless they disagree about whether or not it was a spoken language or the full writing system; some believe it represented only section of an Indus language, Robinson writes.
One team has developed the first publicly available, electronic corpus of Indus texts.
Another, led by computer scientist Rajesh Rao, analyzed the randomness when you look at the script’s sequences. Their results indicated it’s most comparable to Sumerian cuneiform, which suggests it might represent a language. Browse the full article for more information.