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Deciphered and Undeciphered Scripts

Updated on October 10, 2012
James Princep
James Princep
Charles Wilkins
Charles Wilkins
Brahmi Sricpt
Brahmi Sricpt

The story of the decipherment of ancient scripts is very interesting. Ahokan Brahmi was deciphered as a result of the painstaking and time taking efforts of a number of scholars working as employees of the East India Company. They were:

· Charles Wilkins

· Captain A. Troyer

· W.H. Mill

· J. Stevenson

· James Princep

These scholars first tried to read early medieval Brahmi scripts and then worked on deciphering the old letters.

The final step in the decipherment of the 3rd Century BCE Maurya Brahmi was made by Princep in 1837.

A Pictorial Representation from the Dipavamsa
A Pictorial Representation from the Dipavamsa

Even though he managed to read these scripts, he was unable to identify the mention of King Piyadassi mentioned within the script. George Turner, an officer of the Ceylon Civil Service, identified him as King Asoka on the basis of references in the Pali Chronicle, the Dipavamsa.

Ancient Kharoshthi Inscription On Coins
Ancient Kharoshthi Inscription On Coins

Princep also played a role in the decipherment of Kharoshthi, along with other scholars like Christian Lassen, Alexander Cunningham and E. Norris. This was easier because of the availability of bi-script coins in Greek and Kharoshthi by the Indo-Greek Kings.


Apart from the Harappan script, there are some other scripts that are still currently unread and very difficult to read. These include an elaborate, calligraphic variation of Brahmi known as ornate or ornamental Brahmi which is found on short inscriptions in various parts of the country.

Another stylized, ornate form of the Brahmi script, referred to by scholars as Shankhalipi ( because its characters look like Shankhas or conch shells) is found in the inscriptions of the 4th-8th centuries CE in various parts of India except the extreme south. Both Ornate Brahmi and Shankhalipi seem to have been used mainly for names and signatures.

There is a script similar to Brahmi on terracotta seals at sites such as Chandraketugarh and Tamluk in Eastern India. An Undeciphered script similar to Kharoshthi has been found in Afghanistan.

These ancient scriptures hold keys to unlocking the rich culture that existed in the Asian subcontinent. Deciphering them would reveal various features and characteristics of ancient civilizations which were responsible for the exquisite planning in which they lived. They are of prime importance to us and must be preserved. All efforts must be taken to protect and decipher these scripts as knowing our past helps us sustaining our present and planning our future better.


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    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      You are right Vinay, on both accounts, that it had many variations and that it is now lost.... The whole subcontinent has been at times ignorant in its vast expansion throughout its history...

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      I believe Brahmi has many variations. This script was also extensively in use in ancient Nepal. Thanks for this interesting historical account of now lost language.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Useful and interesting Rahul! Good work. :)

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Fabulous and interesting hub, Rahul! Very well researched and wonderfully written. Nicely done!

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      thanks o much Sue... I am glad you liked it :)

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Thanks much sparrow :)

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      i will implore into it further Xstatic... thanks for your wonderful visit :)

    • profile image

      Sueswan 5 years ago

      Hi Rahul

      A fascinating and interesting read.

      Voted up and awesome

      Have a great day :)

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 5 years ago

      Awesome Rahul !

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Really interesting Rahul and something I was not aware of too. I hope you share more about this.

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      hey brother Mike.... I am glad you liked this piece of historical finding....

      I am glad I gave you something to ponder about.... Thanks so much

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 5 years ago from New York City

      I loved reading this hub Rahul wow! your placement of the content is quite remarkable too.

      I never really thought about ancient manuscripts as you've done here, and the facts you've shared is very useful for those doing much needed research and all. Nicely done bro! Bravo!

      Thumbs up and out indeed.

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Thank you Doc... for such kind words

      You're right Doc... the civilization back then was very systematic.... I believe much more than India's present democratic haphazard ...... I mean each and every sector of a city was perfectly planned..... civic.. municipal... transport..

      Thanks Doc for the kind read

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      You are right Beck... it is equally delightful and frustrating..... and the intellect and hard work behind it is tremendous.... one mistake and one has to start all over again....

      I am glad that my hub did not disappoint you :)

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Thanks so much Audrey

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Hi Deb.... glad you liked it.... Thanks for the read

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      This is a fascinating hub on the deciphering of ancient scripts, Rahul. As you say who know what wonders are lost to the world in many more undeciphered scripts. I have studied many ancient hindu scriptures and am constantly delighted at how advanced the civilisation was and how much it has contributed to the world via ancient Greek scholars who have 'borrowed' many Indian concepts a passed them of as their own. Still it is great that many such learning isn't lost too. awesome!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      It is truly fascinating and somewhat frustrating not knowing what hidden secrets are yet to be discovered. I only hope I live long enough to be around when it is unmasked.

      The amazing intellect and patience this undertaking involved is equally as awesome as the deciphered material.

      It may be a bit off the beaten path but I just recently read about Egypt's eighteenth pharaoh, Akhenaten's deciphered scrolls on his unpopular religion of the Sun God as well.

      I am fascinated with such ancient history and your fantastic hub did not disappoint.

      Voting up and sharing.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Very interesting subject Rahul!

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Rahul how interesting and awesome hub.. so full of history.. I love it.. thank you .. I am sharing



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