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Exhibition of Achaemenid Tablets & Seals in Iran’s National Museum


16 June 2005



A unique collection of clay inscriptions and seals of the Achaemenid era are on display in Iran’s National Museum for the first time ever, providing evidence of the great administrative powers of the Achaemenid rulers.

The inscriptions were discovered in 1933 by the Oriental Institute of the Chicago University in Persepolis. The discovered collection included some 30,000 clay inscriptions in Elamite cuneiform dating to 509-494 BCE. Four years after the discovery, the inscriptions were loaned to the University for further studies.

The Oriental Institute of Chicago University has so far published some results regarding the texts. Last year, Professor Gil Stein, the director of the Oriental Institute, sent back to Iran some 300 pieces of the inscriptions sealed in acid and moisture proof boxes.

The invaluable documents which narrate parts of Iran’s ancient history were so far kept in store in Iran’s National Museum, but they are now showcased for the first time ever in the Museum, categorized by subject.

According to director of the Achaemenid Research Center of Iran’s National Museum, Shahrokh Razmjou, the tablets are filled with useful information of the vast Achaemenid Empire which included more than 30 different nations. “Ruling such vast empire 2500 years ago needed great discipline and administrative organizations,” explains Razmjou, adding that the Achaemenids succeeded to do so for nearly two centuries.

The tablets show that working Iranian women of the Achaemenid dynastic era received wages and salaries three times those of the men holding similar job positions. Those working for the government also received child benefits and other extra benefits. Studies furthermore show that people in general enjoyed high salaries and wages.


According to the clay records, the couriers who were to travel the roads of the Achaemenid Empire to transfer messages were paid by the government and this can be considered as the most ancient postal system of the world, founded by Darius the Great.

Most of the tablets, specially the accounting ones, include writings or marks which show that a copy of the document has been made to be kept in the Imperial Archive.

According to Razmjou, one of the important features of the current exhibition is a seal impression dating to 500 BC or the 22nd year of Darius II kingdom. The seal itself, however, belonged to Darius I, Darius the Great’s grandfather, dating to the seventh century BC.

The Darius seal is similar to the stamp type seals used today. Another type of seals showcased in the exhibition is the cylindrical type, the use of which was common at the time. Seals were used to authorize the documents and inscriptions.

The exhibition also showcases some of the research reports and books published by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago specially those carried out on Achaemenid seals.






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