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The Inscribed Calculi and the Invention of Writing: the Indus View

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

In the earlier layers of Harappa are found small inscribed objects of steatite faience and terracotta whose use is not yet clearly known. They have been named by the excavator M. S. Vats as 'miniature' or 'tiny' seals or 'amulets'. However, with the recent findings on the use of calculi at Susa, it seems that these small inscribed objects at Harappa have to be treated as a part of a reckoning system, as inscribed calculi and not seals. Their tiny size, the different shapes, the not-so-deeply engraved inscriptions, and lastly the signs on one side which seem to be related to the numerical calculi impressions at Susa, give them the character of calculi i.e. pieces recording details of individual transactions1).


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