The discovery of a jar sign engraving in the Edakkal caves in Wayanad district of Kerala “is a unique find, linking the Indus Valley civilisation with south India,” according to Iravatham Mahadevan, a scholar on the Indus and the Tamil Brahmi scripts. The occurrence of the sign, which is the most characteristic symbol of the Indus script, at Edakkal, is “very significant,” he said.
In the light of this discovery, the occurrence of the sign on the polished Neolithic celt at Sembian-Kandiyur in Nagapattinam, district, Tamil Nadu, “is confirmed,” Mr. Mahadevan argued.
The Hindu had published on Saturday (September 26, 2009) a news item headlined “Sign akin to Indus Valley’s found in Kerala.” Historian M.R. Raghava Varier had identified the sign during an exploration of the Edakkal caves. The news item quoted Mr. Varier as saying, “What is striking in the Edakkal sign is the presence of an Indus motif, which has been rare and interesting.”
The Hindu had also published on May 1, 2006 a news item on the discovery of a Neolithic stone celt, a hand-held axe, with four signs of the Indus script on it. The celt was found at Sembian-Kandiyur. One of the signs on the celt was a jar with handles on either side. At that time, Mr. Mahadevan had called it “a major discovery because for the first time a text in the Indus script has been found in the State [Tamil Nadu] on a datable artefact, which is a polished Neolithic celt.”
The large-sized jar sign, partly seen at the right end of the photograph published in The Hindu on Saturday, seems to be No. 345 in the sign list of his work, The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables, published in 1977, said Mr. Mahadevan. This would be confirmed when the missing half of the picture was published, he added. The most frequent sign in the Indus script was the jar, numbered 342 in the Concordance. The picture published in the newspaper showed a related jar sign with three strokes, which is No. 345 in the Concordance, he explained.
He congratulated Mr. Varier and his colleagues for this “major discovery.” Tamil Brahmi inscriptions assigned to the Cheras of the Sangam age had earlier been found at Edakkal. But this Edakkal engraving was much anterior to the Tamil Sangam age, Mr. Mahadevan noted.