Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
& CULTURAL NEWS OF IRANIAN WORLD©
Demands Return of the Ancient Clay Tablets from US
14 July 2006
(CAIS) -- The 2,500-year-old Achaemenid tablets, which
have been studied for decades at the University of Chicago, give a unique
insight into the workings of the Achaemenid Empire.
Many tablets in the collection loaned to the university have already been sent
back to Iran but those still under study are at the center of an Israeli
compensation suit connected to a shooting in the West Bank blamed on an
A U.S. court has unjustifiably ruled that Iran's assets can be seized, and last
month a U.S. judge upheld the ruling, prompting a new campaign by Iran to secure
the tablets' return, including an appeal to the U.N. cultural body, UNESCO.
"We should first exhaust diplomatic ways, cultural correspondence,
administrative and friendly ways to take all of the property back," said
Omid Ghanami, director of legal affairs at Iran' Cultural Heritage and Tourism
He also said Iran could file a suit if the university did not return them and
was taking legal advice, Iran's Fars news agency reported.
The compensation suit was brought by relatives of Yaron Ungar, killed in 1996
terrorist attack in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Four members of
Palestinian group Hamas, responsible for the slaughter were convicted by an
The University of Chicago, which has been working on the tablets since the
1930s, says it opposes the U.S. court ruling.
Oriental Institute will do everything in its power to protect cultural patrimony
and the character of the tablets as an irreplaceable scholarly data set,"
Gil Stein, director of the university's Oriental Institute, wrote to Iran's
The collection of tablets, roughly the size of a postcard, numbered about 30,000
found in 1933-34 and 1936-38 Chicago University expedition in the ancient
Iranian capital of Persepolis. They belonged to administrative records kept by
agencies of the Achaemenid government during the reigns of Darius the Great,
Xerxes and Artaxerxes I.
Many broke further when moved from site or shipped to Chicago where they were
sent on loan for study, said Iranian archaeologist Shahrokh Razmjou.
“The tablets record payments inside the Achaemenid Empire from 509 to 494 BCE,
around the height of Persian power at the time of Darius the Great,” he said.
Such information is not found on royal texts carved in stone.
The Treasury Tablets are divided by their formularies into
"letters" and "memoranda." The letters from various
officials, addressed to the head of the treasury in Persepolis, order that
a certain sum be paid to individuals who carry out specified work, while
the memoranda record the nature and duration of the work performed, the
official responsible, and the amount of silver or foodstuffs paid to
workmen in various categories according to their qualifications.
Razmjou, who exhibited some previously returned tablets in Iran's National
Museum, said it was not important if research continued in Chicago or elsewhere,
even though the tablets belonged to Iran. But he said the artifacts should not
be politicized or turned into a financial resource.
"They are a kind of memory of mankind. They are not a financial source to
be used in courts," he said.
tablets include a range of documents, including receipts for food and goods;
receipts for money given to religious men ffor holding religious ceremonies;
mothers’ salaries; workers’ salaries; receipts for money given for special
trips or keeping animals; and accounting documents.
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.
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
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
The U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning said Iran could have asserted immunity
for its property during the case but did not.
Although priceless historical pieces, scholars say the tablets would have
limited value in the art market.
the above-news is NOT a "copy & paste" version from
the mentioned-source. The news/article above has been modified with
the following interventions by CAIS: Spelling corrections;
-Rectification and correction of the historical facts and data; -
Providing additional historical information within the text; -Removing any
unnecessary, irrelevant & repetitive information.
All these measures have been
taken in order to ensure that the published news provided by CAIS is
coherent, accurate and suitable for academics and cultural enthusiasts who
visit the CAIS website.
For a sample of key amendments please
is the Light on the Path to Future"
British Institute of Persian Studies