A recent post at Laputan Logic describes the results of the excavations near Jiroft in the province of Kerman in south-eastern Iran.

Geographically situated between, and contemporary with, the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, this was a literate society whose material culture was influential over a very wide area. Its pottery dating from the middle of the third millennium BC has been found in sites as widely separated as Syria and India and as far north-east as the Oxus river in modern day Uzbekistan (the so-called Bactrian-Margiana Archaeological Complex or BMAC).

It is, of course, the word literate that grabbed my attention, but I haven’t been able to find any details about the inscriptions. I suppose they’ll turn out to be as indecipherable as those of the Indus Valley civilization—which may not even be linguistic in nature (pdf file)—but hope springs eternal for a brand-new ancient language.


  1. A recent Smithonian article:
    may shed more light.

  2. Here’s a corrected version of the link to that fascinating paper about the Indus Valley symbols (I’ll buy his argument).
    Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get any more info about the writing other than a few tantalising snippets from the IRNA new releases but they all seem to come out of the mouth of Majidzadeh the archaeologist in charge of the Jiroft site who, as I mentioned, seems a bit prone to making outlandish statements.
    Like Harappa, they could well turn out to be abstract symbols rather than writing. A similar question hangs over the “writing” on the Anau Stamp Seal found at a BMAC site in Turkmenistan.
    Note for the Anau link: Victor H. Mair got a mention only recently in this languagehat thread.

  3. If the Jiroft civilization was literate, maybe we’ll get really lucky and the graphemes will make good tattoos! Who says historical linguistics doesn’t have practical applications?
    Don’t schedule your appointment until a convincing decipherment is finalized, though. It’d be awful to think you were getting the symbol for “power”, but then find out you actually got the symbol for “sheep’s bladders”.

  4. I would LOVE to be a Cabbalist tattoo artist these days. Britney Spears apparently got hereself an embarassing Hebrew tattoo just now.

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