Image: Iravatham Mahadevan
Image: Iravatham Mahadevan

This is a pictograph of seven counting rods. It is the numeral seven.

The numeral seven in the Indus inscriptions is often linked with tea. Seven tea cakes weighing 546.5g each were packed into a cylinder for ease of transportation¹. This standardisation was important for logistics because it simplified the task of loading pack animals.

Mahadevan's sign number 1344 represents a cylinder of seven, but without the outer wrapper. It is a group of seven items, as opposed to a sequence of seven things.

Illustrative Text Reference:

Mohenjo-daro: Seal: M-856 a: Sayid Ghulam Mustafa Shah and Asko Parpola, 1991: Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions: Volume 2: Page 78: Collections in Pakistan: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia.


In inscription M-856, Mahadevan's sign number 1344 is preceded by sign number 1100. Together, these two Indus signs equate to the

composite Chinese character qiē 切. Xu Shen's definition for qiē 切 was: to measure with a knife. Hence, it is the verb to slice or segment.

Tea has always been an expensive commodity. The tea people mentioned in inscription M-856 made tea more accessible by splitting the cylinder and delivering single cakes.

Image Credits:

Indus Script Sign Numbers 1344 and 1100: List of Sign Variants: Iravatham Mahadevan, 1977: The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables: The Director General Archaeological Survey of India.


1. This standard Indus weight is close to that of the modern half kilo pu'er tea cake which is still packed for shipment in stacks of seven: Table: Harappan Units of Weight: Accessed: 13 May 2017.