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Discovery of the First Old-Persian-Inscription among the Persepolis’ Fortification-Tablets


31 May 2007




Persepolis Fortification Tablet in CU3.jpg (93662 bytes)

  One of the Persepolis' Fortification Tablets inscribed in Elamite Language

Picture courtesy of

(Click to enlarge)

LONDON, (CAIS) -- Researchers at Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago for the first time have identified an Old-Persian (Aryan) inscription among the loaned Achaemenid-clay tablets, announced Abdolmajid Arfaee, an Iranian Archaeologist with ICHT .


This invaluable collection of clay tablets is currently housed in the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in trust for further studies.


Dr Arfaee stated that University of Chicago has not disclosed their discovery in detail, but they will publish their findings soon. This discovery is expected to shed further light on the administrative, economic and political situation of Iran during the reign of the Achaemenid dynasty (550-330 BCE).


The Persepolis’ Fortification Tablets are administrative records inscribed on clay tablets in Elamite-cuneiform. Parts of two archives of such tablets were discovered in Persepolis in 1933-34 and 1936-38 by the archaeological expedition of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. They belonged to administrative records kept by agencies of the Achaemenid imperial government during the reigns of Darius the Great, Xerxes the Great and Artaxerxes I.


The Fortification Tablets include many records of transactions which chiefly concerned with distribution of foodstuffs, management of flocks, and provisioning of workers and travellers, at locations throughout most of Persis and eastern Elam, and probably at some locations to the northwest and southeast of those areas of the empire. The records drawn up at those sites were sent to a central office at Persepolis.


The Fortification texts also include many records compiling and tabulating information from similar registrations into accounts covering many months, or relatively large areas, or both. The tablets also show that working Iranian women during 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.


These compilations were made in the offices of Persepolis itself. The tables vary in size, shape and format. Many of them are small in format, and record single transactions or single groups of transactions in outlying areas.


The ancient tablets originally loaned to the Oriental Institute include thousands of earthen tablets containing information on the daily lives and languages of people living during the Achaemenid period over 2,500 years ago.


Following a 1997 Hamas bombing in Jerusalem, five American survivors and four Israeli family members filed a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic in 2001, claiming that it had trained the bombers.

They were awarded more than $400 million in damages by the US court. In 2006, a judge ruled in favour of an American attorney who asked for the tablets to be auctioned off and the proceeds to benefit the plaintiffs.

Taking advantage of the fact that Iran doesn't accept US court jurisdiction, the plaintiffs' lawyer looked elsewhere for assets: American museums holding Iranian artifacts.

The University of Chicago appealed the verdict saying Iran had loaned its cultural artifacts to the Oriental Institute and that the university was obliged to return them. 



For further news about the Persepolis Fortification Tablets visit Persepolis Fortification Archive Projet (the site is maintained by Dr Wouter Henkelman, Dr Charles Ellwood Jones and Dr Matthew W. Stolper).



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