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The Indus Script and Economics. A Role for Indus Seals and Tablets in Rationing and Administration of Labor
Taken from Walking with the Unicorn: Social Organization and Material Culture in Ancient South Asia edited by Dennys Frenez, Gregg M. Jamison, Randall W. Law, Massimo Vidale and Richard H. Meadow. Pages 518-525.

By Rajesh P. N. Rao

The Indus script remains one of the last major undeciphered scripts of the ancient world. We focus here on Indus inscriptions on a group of miniature tablets discovered by Meadow and Kenoyer in Harappa in 1997. By drawing parallels with proto-Elamite and proto-Cuneiform inscriptions, we explore how these miniature tablets may have been used to record rations allocated to porters or laborers. We then show that similar inscriptions are found on stamp seals, leading to the potentially provocative conclusion that rather than simply indicating ownership of property, Indus seals may have been used for generating tokens, tablets and sealings for repetitive economic transactions such as rations and exchange of canonical amounts of goods, grains, animals, and labor in a barter-based economy.


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Walking with the Unicorn: Social Organization and Material Culture in Ancient South Asia
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