Three subsets of signs in the system
Although many common signs occur both as single signs and as components of sign groups, some distinctive signs - e.g., complex or modified signs, pictographs and ideograms - are not used in conjunction with other.
Figure 6. Signs on Parţa pottery
In addition, certain ancient and enduring symbols, such as the swastika and the Maltese cross are found in isolation.
In contrast, simple-shaped signs that are found in developed scripts are correlated with sign clusters.
There are three subsets of signs in the system:
- signs generally found in a group context, with a significant association with tablets, spindle whorls and figurines;
- common single signs located principally on pottery, with some types (e.g. pictographs) limited to certain areas on pottery;
- basic signs - appearing both as single signs and in sign groups - on pottery, figurines and spindle whorls.
Many of those found in sign groups are evidenced in later scripts. The Tartaria tablets and the Lepenski Vir spherical stone not only are appropriate objects for inscriptions, but they bear signs frequently found in scripts. Differences in complexity of sign usage are revealed by the ordering of signs, as seen on tablets and similar objects.
Clay spindle whorls were the medium for recording strings of signs; objects having signs with an unclear or disordered arrangement, such as the jumbled signs on miniature vessels, probably have ritualistic uses.
Some ritual objects, however, have orderly abstract signs, such as the Tartaria tablets, which were placed in a grave (Winn 1990:274-76).