Image: Iravatham Mahadevan
Image: Iravatham Mahadevan

The straight walls of this pictograph indicate that it is a built structure. It probably depicts a courtyard house, but the correct translation will depend upon the context, and includes the nouns house, hall and inn.

Illustrative Text References:

Lothal: Seal: L-39 a: Jagat Pati Joshi and Asko Parpola, 1987: Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions: Volume 1: Page 246: Collections in India: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia.


Mohenjo-daro: Ivory Rod: M-2090 A: Asko Parpola, B. M. Pande, and Petteri Koskikallio, 2010: Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions: Volume 3,1: Page 121: New material, untraced objects, and collections outside India and Pakistan: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia.


One feature of some Indus signs is that they appear to have different layers of meaning. In this example, the sign can be broken down into the component parts voice and enclosure. The voice is inside the enclosure.

The significance of this interpretation might be better understood by reference to the work of Iégor Reznikoff, whose research demonstrates that our ancestors found their way around caves by means of echoes¹.

Another possible derivation is the idea of people together, in some form of shelter, talking to one another.

Hence, this Indus sign can be interpreted in the more general sense of human habitation.

It is worth noting that Indus sign number 267 shares a common root with the Egyptian hieroglyph for house or habitation. The orientation of the characters in Champollion's examples differs, but the meaning is the same².

Image Credit:

Indus Script Sign Number 267: Sign List of the Indus Script: Iravatham Mahadevan, 1977: The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables: The Director General Archaeological Survey of India.


1. Iégor Reznikoff, 2006: The Evidence of the Use of Sound Resonance from Palaeolithic to Medieval Times: Archaeoacoustics, C.Scarre & G. Lawson ed., Chapter 8, Page 79: University of Cambridge, Cambridge: Accessed: 24 June 2017.


2.  Jean-François Champollion le Jeune, 1841: Dictionnaire égyptien en écriture hiéroglyphique: Chapter 5: Edifices en Construction: Paragraph 257: Manuscript Page 241: Firmin Didot, Paris.