Assyrian goat-fish on a seal; compared with crocodile-fish hieroglyphs on Indus Script

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“Many of my favourite things are broken.”
Mario Buatta, interior designer. Quoted in Agha Shahid Ali, Rooms are never finished 55.

The context is related to the repertoire of smiths and artisans depicted as hieroglyphs of Indus Script. The hieroglyphs of the script include goat and fish glyphs and many other ligatured glyphs comparable to the ligatured goat-fish of Susa ritual basin and other artifacts discussed in the embedded article of Anthony Green (1986).

Continued from: Goat and fish as hieroglyphs of Indus script: Susa-Meluhha interactions. Meluhhan interpreter ‘may have been literate and could read the undeciphered Indus script.’ mr̤ēka, mē̃ka, mÄ“ka ‘goat’ (Te.); mlekh (Brahui) rebus: meluhha (cognate mleccha) has been decoded as a phonetic determinant of the Meluhhhan merchant carrying a goat on his hands accompanied by a woman carrying a kamaṇḍalu on Shu-Ilishu cylinder seal. (It is notable that the word milakkhu denotes copper in the Pali lexeme: milakkhurajanam ‘copper colour’.) (The Thera and Therigāthā, PTS, verse 965: milakkhurajanam rattam garahantāsakam dhajam; tithiyānam dhajam keci dhāressanty avadātakam; K.R.Norman, tr., Theragāthā: Finding fault with their own banner which is dyed the colour of copper, some will wear the white banner of sectarians).

The right-most glyph on line 2 of the seal impression is a ‘plough’ circumscribed by four ‘splinter’ glyphs. The plough is decoded rebus: Glyph: மேழி mēḻi , n. cf. mÄ“dhi. [T. K. M. mēḍi.] 1. Plough; கலப்பை. வினைப்பக டேற்ற மேழி (புறநா. 388). 2. Plough-tail, handle of a plough; கலப்பையின் கைப்பிடி. மேழி பிடிக்குங் கை (திருக்கைவழக்கம், 22).Ta. mÄ“r̤i plough, plough-tail, handle of a plough; mÄ“r̤iyar agriculturalists. Ma. mÄ“r̤i, mēññal ploughtail. Ko. me·y handle of plough. Ka. mÄ“á¹­i, mēṇi plough-tail. Te. mē̃ḍi, (K.) mēḍi hind part or handle of a plough. Konḍa mÄ“á¹›i plough handle, plough-tail. Kuwi (F.) mÄ“ri plough handle; (Isr.) mÄ“á¹›i id., plough. (DEDR 5097). Allograph: Ka. mēḍi glomerous fig tree, Ficus racemosa; opposite-leaved fig tree, F. oppositifolia. Te. mēḍi F. glomerata. Kol. (Kin.) mÄ“á¹›i id. [F. glomerata Roxb. = F. racemosa Wall.](DEDR 5090). Rebus: Ta. mÄ“á¹­á¹­i haughtiness, excellence, chief, head, land granted free of tax to the headman of a village; mÄ“á¹­á¹­imai haughtiness;leadership, excellence. Ka. mÄ“á¹­i loftiness, greatness, excellence, a big man, a chief, a head, head servant. Te. mÄ“á¹­ari, mÄ“á¹­i chief, head, leader, lord; (prob. mÄ“á¹­i < *mÄ“l-ti [cf. 5086]; Ka. Ta. < Te.; Burrow 1969, p. 277). (DEDR 5091). Allograph: மேழகம்² mēḻakam , n. prob. mÄ“á¹£aka. Ram; ஆடு. வெம்பரி மேழக மேற்றி (சீவக. 521).மேழம் mēḻam , n. < mÄ“á¹£a. Rebus: milakkhu ‘copper'(Pali)

sal stake, spike, splinter, thorn, difficulty (H.); Rebus: sal ‘workshop’ (Santali) gaṇḍa ‘four’ (Santali); Rebus: kaṇḍa ‘fire-altar, furnace’ (Santali) Thus, the glyphic of plough+ circumscribed splinter strokes — on line 2 of the long Indus script inscription — may be decoded as: milakkhu (Vikalpa: mēḍ) sal kaṇḍa ‘copper (Vikalpa: mēḍ ‘metal’) workshop furnace’. Further details at

Compare with plough used by Sumerians.

Compare with Greek plough.

William Smith in 1875 decribes the ARATRUM a plow developed in Greece that “was by taking a young tree with two branches proceeding from its trunk in opposite directions, so that whilst in ploughing the trunk was made to serve for the pole, one of the two branches stood upwards and became the tail, and the other penetrated the ground, and, being covered sometimes with bronze or iron, fulfilled the purpose of a share.””

Compare with plough shown on Balarama image on a coin.

Sankarsana, the wielder of the plough, with the fan-palm as his emblem. Silver drachm of the Greco-Bactrian king Agathocles (190-180 BCE)found in the excavations at Al-Khanuram in Afghanistan.

Modern photo showing an Indian plough.

Ploughing and sowing. Warli painting (detail) Maharashtra.Source:

Harappa. h0146 seal.

See the use of the glyph on another Indus inscription (m0357); orthography discussed.

Fish ligatured to a crocodile. Mohenjodaro tablet. Decoding of the two Indus Script glyphs of fish and crocodile read rebus:

Ayo ‘fish’ (Mu.) aya = iron (G.);
ayah, ayas = metal (Skt.)
kāru a wild crocodile or alligator (Te.) ghariyal id. (H.)
khār a blacksmith, an iron worker (Kashmiri)
ayakāra ‘iron-smith’ (Pali)

While the goat-fish enters into myths of Sumer and later Assyrian traditions, the hieroglyphs of goat and fish on Indus script have been decoded in the context of metallurgy [metal (milakkhu, ‘copper'(Pali)and cast metal — ayas, perhaps bronze].

The emphatic depiction of fish ligatured with a crocodile on Indus Script (on a Mohenjodaro tablet) is decoded as ayakara ‘metalsmith’ (aya ‘fish’; kara ‘crocodile’ of the underlying Meluhha (Mleccha) lexemes of Indian linguistic area).

[Anthony Green, A Note on the Assyrian “Goat-Fish”, “Fish-Man” and “Fish-Woman”, Iraq, Vol. 48 (1986), pp. 25-30; After Plate X, b, on seal. BM 119918. 2.5X2.5X2.5cm. Late Babylonian stamp seal depicting kulullu and kuliltu(?); streams flow from a vase at top left;top centre, a crescent. Previously published: Van Buren 1933: Pl. XX:70, p. 116, with earlier references cited in n.3, to which may be added Munter 1827: Tab. II:18, p. 139. Cf. also Unger 1957: 71, Nr. 2; Unger 1966.)

In Fig. 1 in the following embedded document, a pair of goat-fish images appear, flanking a door entrance, on a Middle Assyrian seal. Sumerian SUHUR.MASH, Akk. suhurmashu/i is sometimes interpreted as ‘sea-goat’.