View Full Version : Inscribed Copper Plates from Indus Valley

Jean M
10-16-2014, 10:24 PM
Vasant Shinde and Rick J. Willis, A New Type of Inscribed Copper Plate from Indus Valley (Harappan) Civilisation, Ancient Asia 5:1 (October 2014).


A group of nine Indus Valley copper plates (c. 2600–2000 BC), discovered from private collections in Pakistan, appear to be of an important type not previously described. The plates are significantly larger and more robust than those comprising the corpus of known copper plates or tablets, and most significantly differ in being inscribed with mirrored characters. One of the plates bears 34 characters, which is the longest known single Indus script inscription. Examination of the plates with x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrophotometry indicates metal compositions, including arsenical copper, consistent with Indus Valley technology. Microscopy of the metal surface and internal structure reveals detail such as pitting, microcrystalline structure, and corrosion, consistent with ancient cast copper artifacts. Given the relative fineness of the engraving, it is hypothesised that the copper plates were not used as seals, but have characteristics consistent with use in copper plate printing. As such, it is possible that these copper plates are by far the earliest known printing devices, being at least 4000 years old....

The copper plates described in this article are believed to date from the Mature Harappan period, 2600–1900 BC. They were given to the second author in 2011, who realized that the plates were unusual, as they were large and robust, and bore mirrored Indus script as found in seals, but the inscriptions were relatively finely incised and unlikely capable of leaving satisfactory impressions, as with a seal. ...

The implications of this are truly remarkable. It is possible that true printing was first discovered in the Indus Valley in the third millennium BC, at least 1500 years before any other printing process was recorded elsewhere, and the prints taken from these ancient copper plates provide the earliest known artwork in printed form. While this conclusion is astounding, all evidence points to the copper plates being genuine artifacts from antiquity, and their function as special.