The Indus Dictionary Project
One possible key to interpretation of the composite Indus sign on the left is a similar sign that can be found in Champollion's dictionary (pictured on the right).
The Egyptian symbol is a combination of Champollion's sign numbers 18 and 107. It is defined as the proper name for Egypt: Land of the Sycomore¹.
Champollion gives two variants for pictograph number 18, one of which resembles that in the Indus symbol.
It may be that sign number 18 simply depicts a landscape of mountains and valleys. However, the Indus variant bears a remarkable resemblance to the skyline of the Giza pyramid complex.
My hypothesis is therefore, that the Indus sign combines a pictograph of a tree with a pictograph of the skyline of the Giza pyramid complex.
The skyline on the sealing is the view that would have been seen when approaching from the capital Memphis, or perhaps, for a foreigner, from one of the ports on the Gulf of Suez (possibly Ain Sokhna). The land slopes gently upwards to the southwest (left side of the sealing above). Menkaure with a height of 65.5 metres² was the smallest pyramid, and Khufu with a height of 146.6 metres³ was the largest. However, according to Clark and Tyson, Khafre at 136.4 metres would have appeared taller because it was built on higher bedrock and with steeper sides than Khufu's pyramid⁴.
Ficus sycomorus is also known as the Pharaoh's fig. It is associated with a tree deity, the goddess Hathor. Memphis is reputed to have had a sacred sycomore tree. A sanctuary dedicated to Hathor of the Southern Sycomore was excavated at Memphis in the 1970s. However, that sanctuary was dated to the time of Ramesees II. It is believed that there may have been a larger and older temple dedicated to Hathor at Memphis, but it has not yet been found. The nearby cemeteries of Giza and Saqqara had temples associated with Hathor. Gillam states that the Giza necropolis was obviously the main sanctuary of the royal cult of Hathor⁵. Eighty-one priestesses of Hathor are attested at the Giza necropolis⁶.
It seems likely that the key identifiers for Egypt were seen to be the pyramids in which the country's pharaohs were entombed and the rituals of remembrance for them carried out in temples dedicated to the tree goddess Hathor.
Kalibangan: Seal: K-53 a: Jagat Pati Joshi and Asko Parpola, 1987: Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions: Volume 1: Page 308: Collections in India: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia.
This is Mahadevan's sign number 232 which I have redrawn to better reflect the original. There is only one extant example of the sign. It is not associated with any other Indus character or motif.
If my interpretation of this Indus sign is correct, it raises the fascinating question of whether the inhabitants of Kalibangan were exporting goods to Egypt, and perhaps more specifically to the temples of Giza.
Egypt: Lynn Fawcett, 2020.
Land of the Sycomore: Jean-François Champollion le Jeune, 1841: Dictionnaire égyptien en écriture hiéroglyphique: Chapter 4: Manuscript Page 180: Firmin Didot, Paris.
The two variants of pictograph number 18: Jean-François Champollion le Jeune, 1841: Dictionnaire égyptien en écriture hiéroglyphique: Chapter 1: Manuscript Page 20: Firmin Didot, Paris.
The Sycomore and the Giza Pyramid Complex: Annotated sign: Lynn Fawcett, 2020.
1. Jean-François Champollion le Jeune, 1841: Dictionnaire égyptien en écriture hiéroglyphique: Chapter 4: Manuscript Page 180: Firmin Didot, Paris.
2. Liesl Clark and Peter Tyson, 2011: Transcript: Menkaure Pyramid: Nova Online: Explore Ancient Egypt: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/explore-ancient-egypt.html: Accessed: 22 January 2017.
3. Height of the pyramid based on Petrie's data from 1883: J. H. Cole, 1925: Determination of the Exact Size and Orientation of the Great Pyramid of Giza: Survey of Egypt Paper No. 29: Government Press, Cairo.
4. Liesl Clark and Peter Tyson, 2011: Transcript: Khafre 3 and Giza Plateau 3: Nova Online: Explore Ancient Egypt: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/explore-ancient-egypt.html: Accessed: 22 January 2017.
5. Robyn A. Gillam, 1995: Priestesses of Hathor: Their Function, Decline and Disappearance: Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 32, p.220: American Research Center in Egypt.
6. Ibid., p.219.