by Olivier Venture, Directeur d’études, EPHE.
In the middle of the 1st millennium BC, there appear in the Sichuan basin, east of the Himalayan plateau, inscriptions on arms and seals that are associated with the names of two countries mentioned in Chinese historical sources: Ba and Shu. Since their discovery at the beginning of the 20th century, these inscriptions, made up of singular signs, have raised questions. What do they mean? Are these testimonies from a forgotten writing? What is the relationship between these signs and Chinese writing, which appeared several centuries earlier in the Yellow River Valley? These are some of the questions to which we will try to provide answers during this lecture. To do this, we will place these inscriptions in their historical and archaeological context and we will rely on the most recent discoveries and research in this field.