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Rajesh Rao: Computing a Rosetta Stone for the Indus script

Rajesh Rao is fascinated by “the mother of all crossword puzzles”: How to decipher the 4000 year old Indus script. At TED 2011 he tells how he is enlisting modern computational techniques to read the Indus language, the key piece to understanding this ancient civilization.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at

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40 Responses

  1. Random Person

    Guys please like this so that everyone knows.This script is related to paleo-Hebrew/phonecian. These scripts wre used in Mesopotamia. These scripts have common symbols.

  2. Kaomei Riamei

    Can one tell by observing only with the naked eye that Saturn has rings or even that it has a special feature(assuming it is seen as protrusions)? A google search shows that Saturn ring system is visible only through a telescope. Coming to my point, if it is not observable with the naked eye, how could the indus valley people have been able to describe Saturn as a fish with the roof?

  3. Anil Kumar

    We know the dravidians are African Indians.they are African origen and they don't want to admit they are from African. They migrated 50 thousand years to India as stated in ramayana.

  4. Justine Linley

    15:24 Maybe they are directions on how to get somewhere. Like follow the big dipper until you find the cow lamp. See easy 😀 Well, something like that. Hmm, maybe cow lamp signifies a holy temple or just Light Milk Chocolate or Light Cow Milk or the famous Cow Light Cafe. Just kidding. Hey maybe it's a moving service using cows to move lamps etc. Aha, 6 fish gets you a cow lamp or a well lit cow. Hehe. Idk 😀

  5. pk m

    Please see below link of indus seal decipher work.


  6. Dexter

    Since it is a stamp and pressed against wax,lac or clay, it prints the words in the right order which results in the scrip reading from left to right. Also, His examples of the symbols are going at an individual letter level or a syllable. If we consider old Mandarin and Egyptian scripts are contemporary to the script on Indus valley script, then each symbol should be considered as a word or group of words. Researcher should dig more to arrive at a conclusion.

  7. durgamani dhakal

    I think the script is left to right because the script you are deciphering is in a seal… Which when stamped goes from left to right

  8. Hello God bless

    Tamil Nadu Keezhadi excavation symbols has similarities with Indus valley civilization symbols .
    That's why the central government transferred the ASI officer of the keezhadi excavation site to Assam state . And Tamil Nadu High court orders the central government transferred back the officer to keezhadi with in 15 day's


  9. Ad Roest

    To learn much more about the cycle of civilizations, recurring floods, ancient high tech and the knowledge of indigenous peoples, read the ebook "what I know about Nibiru" Just search for: know nibiru

  10. Nadi Nadi

    It’s sad, every time I was in school and would be learning about the Indus Valley civilization and I would get excited to be learning more about my history. I would just be told by the American school system that the Indus Valley had nothing to do with my history, that they were someone else and my people came later.

  11. Maddy

    Boring than a school project. "Who big that deal would be? That big? This big?" What the f! A seal will be as big as any seal would be!!!

  12. Branislav B.

    As our garabage dumps will keep some plastic for 10.000 years, let the future survivalists dig and look for clues. Everything is there.

  13. christianpnorris

    Lost me on the "right to left" assumption. Crowding on both sides of the one, could be going to the next line on the left example. Mostly, why the animal obviosly pointing left to right? It could just as easily been portrayed pointing to the left. Wouldn't we lean toward assuming that it was moving (or pointing) in the same direction as the script?

  14. I'm Thinking

    Of course its right to left,call me a religious freak but the BIBLE says all languages read to isreal. So its east of isreal then right to left and west left to right

  15. Spirituality and Positive thinking

    When I see the famous sign board of indus civilization the sign of wheel keeps telling me that it is written chakarverty samrat

  16. thorthelionking odinson

    The fish sign is the runic symbol for family and heritage and inheritance. It means the home or the stead in ancient germanic belief. It is also the equivalent of the letter o. It's name is othalla and it is the symbol of germanic priest or holy men or gothi.

  17. thorthelionking odinson

    I think they were Dravidian and indo-European. Just like the puranas, the Mahabharata and Vedic Hinduism itself. There are undeniable cultural with ancient Germanic Celtic Slavic and other western races beyond being written in Sanskrit in the Vedas, yet there's also undeniable Dravidian philosophy in fact the gods Brahma Vishnu and Shiva are pre indo-European deities while indra and his cohorts are Aryan. Krishna is obviously a hybrid of both. Enjoy all your pass times cowboys.

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