Linear Elamite
List of known Linear Elamite characters.jpg
List of known Linear Elamite characters.[1][needs update]
Script type [2]
Time period
3rd millennium BCE
StatusExtinct
Directionleft-to-right, right-to-left script Edit this on Wikidata
LanguagesElamite
Related scripts
Parent systems

Linear Elamite is a largely deciphered semisyllabary script used in Elam during the Bronze Age between c. 2300–1850 BCE, known mainly from a few monumental inscriptions.[3] It is the oldest known purely phonographic writing system.[4] It was used contemporaneously with Elamite cuneiform and records the Elamite language.

There have been multiple attempts to decipher the script. Early efforts by Carl Frank [de] (1912) and Ferdinand Bork (1924) made limited progress.[5] Later work by Walther Hinz and Piero Meriggi furthered the work.[6][7][8][9] Starting in 2018, French archaeologist François Desset [fr] outlined some of his proposed decipherments of the script accomplished with a team of other scholars.[10][11][12]

History

The earliest evidence for the use of Linear Elamite script in Susa has been traditionally associated with the rule of king Puzur-Inshushinak. He came to power sometime around 2150 BC.[13]

There's also evidence that the script was used even earlier, such as in 2300 BC, but this has not been fully confirmed.[citation needed]

The use of Linear Elamite continued after 2100 BC, and the death of King Kutik-Inshushinak, last ruler of the Awan Dynasty in Susa. After his death, Susa was overrun by the Third dynasty of Ur, while Elam fell under control of the Shimashki dynasty, also Elamite of origin.[14]

In 2018, substantial new Linear Elamite texts became available to scholars,[10] which created improved conditions for decipherment. These are the texts associated with the Sukkalmah Dynasty (1900-1500 BC).[citation needed]

Known texts

Silver cup (item Q) from Marvdasht, Fars, with Linear-Elamite inscription on it, from the 3rd millennium BCE and kept in the National Museum of Iran. According to Desset, the inscription reads "For the Lady of Marapsha (toponym), (named) Shumar-asu, I made this silver vase. In the Temple that will be known by my name, Humshat, I dedicated it with goodwill for you."[12][15]
Silver cup (item Q) from Marvdasht, Fars, with Linear-Elamite inscription on it, from the 3rd millennium BCE and kept in the National Museum of Iran. According to Desset, the inscription reads "For the Lady of Marapsha (toponym), (named) Shumar-asu, I made this silver vase. In the Temple that will be known by my name, Humshat, I dedicated it with goodwill for you."[12][15]

As of 2021, there are now 51 known texts and fragments written in Linear Elamite.[16] They can be divided into three sub-corpora: the Western Elamite (Lowlands), the Central Elamite (Highlands), and the Eastern Elamite (Elamo-Bactrian).[16]

19 texts are on stone and clay objects excavated in the acropolis at Susa (now kept in the Louvre in Paris). These are now classified as belonging to the Western Elamite (Lowlands) group.[16] Other objects are held at the National Museum of Iran.

The Central Elamite (Highlands) group consists of twenty-four inscriptions or fragments (with 1133 signs in total).[16] In 2016, 10 additional Linear Elamite inscriptions were discovered (and published in 2018), some containing nearly 200 signs.[17] These are now classified as belonging to this group.

And the Eastern Elamite group now consists of only eight short inscriptions, whose length ranges between two and eleven signs.[16]

According to an older classification, Elamite texts were identified by letters A-V (Hinz, 1969, pp. 11–44; André‚ and Salvini, 1989, pp. 58–61).

The most important longer texts, partly bilingual, appear in monumental contexts. They are engraved on large stone sculptures, including a statue of the goddess Narunte (I), the "Table au Lion" (A), and large votive boulders (B, D), as well as on a series of steps (F, G, H, U) from a monumental stone stairway, where they alternated with steps bearing texts with Akkadian titles of Puzur-Inšušinak. One of the best sources of knowledge regarding the Elamite language the a bilingual monument called the "Table of the Lion" currently in the Louvre museum. The monument is written in both Akkadian, which is a known language, and in Linear Elamite. A unique find is item Q, a silver vase found 1.5 kilometers northwest of Persepolis, with a single line of perfectly executed text, kept in the Tehran Museum.[18] There are also a few texts on baked-clay cones (J, K, L), a clay disk (M), and clay tablets (N, O, R). Some objects (A, I, C) include both Linear Elamite and Akkadian cuneiform inscriptions. The bilingual and bigraphic inscriptions of the monumental stairway as a whole, and the votive boulder B have inspired the first attempts at decipherment of Linear Elamite (Bork, 1905, 1924; Frank, 1912). Nine texts have also been found on silver beakers (X, Y, Z, F', H', I', J', K' and L').[10]

Note that a few of the short Linear Elamite inscriptions (on some unprovenanced objects) are suspected of being forgeries.[16][a] In particular, three brick tablets found at Jiroft are thought to be suspect.[19]

Examples

Decipherment

A very large Elamite language vocabulary is known from the trilingual Behistun inscription and numerous other bilingual or trilingual inscriptions of the Achaemenid Empire, in which Elamite was written using Elamite cuneiform (c. 400 BCE), which is fully deciphered. An important dictionary of the Elamite language, the Elamisches Wörterbuch was published in 1987 by W. Hinz and H. Koch.[22][23] The Linear Elamite script however, one of the scripts used to transcribe the Elamite language (c. 2000 BCE), had remained elusive.[24] The archaeologist Jacob L. Dahl, who researches the decipherment of Proto-Elamite, has argued that Linear Elamite is not actually a writing system and cannot be deciphered as such, instead suggesting that it is an imitation of writing.[25]

Early efforts (1905–1912)

Bilingual Linear Elamite-Akkadian inscription of king Kutik-Inshushinak, "Table au Lion", Louvre Museum Sb 17; the first successful readings of Linear Elamite in 1905 and 1912 were based on the presence of two words with similar endings in the known Akkadian Cuneiform ("Inshushinak" and "Puzur-Inshushinak" in red), and correspondingly similar sets of signs in the Elamite translation (blue).
Bilingual Linear Elamite-Akkadian inscription of king Kutik-Inshushinak, "Table au Lion", Louvre Museum Sb 17; the first successful readings of Linear Elamite in 1905 and 1912 were based on the presence of two words with similar endings in the known Akkadian Cuneiform ("Inshushinak" and "Puzur-Inshushinak" in red), and correspondingly similar sets of signs in the Elamite translation (blue).

The first readings were determined by the analysis of the bilingual Cuneiform Akkadian-Linear Elamite Table au Lion (Louvre Museum), by Bork (1905) and Frank (1912). Two words with similar endings were identified in the beginning of the inscription in the known Akkadian Cuneiform (the words "Inshushinak" 𒀭𒈹𒂞 dinšušinak and "Puzur-Inshushinak" 𒅤𒊭𒀭𒈹𒂞 puzur4-dinšušinak), and correspondingly similar sets of signs with identical endings were found in the beginning of the Elamite part (

Inshushinak (Linear Elamite).jpg
and
Puzur-Shushinak.jpg
), suggesting a match.[24] This permitted a fairly certain determination of about ten signs of Linear Elamite:[24]

Further efforts were made, but without significant success.[24]

Gunagi vessels

Additional readings were proposed by CNRS researcher François Desset in 2018, based on his analysis of several Gunagi silver vessels that were held in a private collection, and only came to light in 2004. Desset identified repetitive sign sequences in the beginning of the Gunagi inscriptions, and guessed they were names of kings, in a manner somewhat similar to Grotefend's decipherment of Old Persian cuneiform in 1802–1815.[26] Using the small set of letters identified in 1905–1912, the number of symbols in each sequence taken as syllables, and in one instance the repetition of a symbol, Desset was able to identify the only two contemporary historical rulers that matched these conditions: Shilhaha and Ebarat, the two earliest kings of the Sukkalmah Dynasty.[10] Another set of signs matched the well-known God of the period: Napirisha. This permitted the determination of several additional signs:[10][2]

Reading texts

As of 2020, Desset announced that he had completed a proposed decipherment of all known inscriptions in Linear Elamite, through deductive work based on the confrontation of known Elamite vocabulary and the recently determined additional letters, and through the analysis of the standard contents of known Elamite texts in Cuneiform.[2][12] His near-complete decipherment of the script was published in 2022.[27]

New readings include:

Relationship to other scripts

Proto-Elamite and Sumerian cuneiform

See also: History of writing

Some scholars have suggested that Linear Elamite is a syllabic writing system derived from the older Proto-Elamite writing system. Desset found new evidence for this; he argues that Linear Elamite is an evolution of Proto-Elamite, and that Proto-Elamite evolved, in parallel with Sumerian cuneiform, from a common substrate of simple signs and numerals used with accounting tokens and numerical tablets.[2] He outlined some of his discoveries in public lectures,[2][28] and formally published them in July 2022.[29] As members of his research team, Desset lists the following scholars, Kambiz Tabibzadeh, Matthieu Kervran, and Gian-Pietro Basello.[30]

Indus script

Scholars have been comparing the Indus script with Linear Elamite, as they were contemporary to each other. On comparing this ancient language to the Indus script, a number of similar symbols have been found.[31]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ See "Authenticity of the Artifacts" section in Mäder (2021).

References

  1. ^ Frank (1912), pp. 52–56.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Desset (2020a).
  3. ^ Desset, François; Tabibzadeh, Kambiz; Kervran, Matthieu; Basello, Gian Pietro; Marchesi, and Gianni (1 July 2022). "The Decipherment of Linear Elamite Writing". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie. 112 (1): 13. doi:10.1515/za-2022-0003. ISSN 1613-1150.
  4. ^ Desset, François; Tabibzadeh, Kambiz; Kervran, Matthieu; Basello, Gian Pietro; Marchesi, and Gianni (1 July 2022). "The Decipherment of Linear Elamite Writing". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie. 112 (1): 52. doi:10.1515/za-2022-0003. ISSN 1613-1150.
  5. ^ Hinz (1975).
  6. ^ Meriggi (1971).
  7. ^ Meriggi (1974a).
  8. ^ Meriggi (1974b).
  9. ^ Hinz (1969).
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Desset (2018b).
  11. ^ Desset (2021).
  12. ^ a b c Arnaud (2020).
  13. ^ Salvini (2011).
  14. ^ Vallat (2011).
  15. ^ Desset (2018a), Item Q.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Mäder (2021), pp. 1–9.
  17. ^ Mäder (2017).
  18. ^ Potts (2008).
  19. ^ Lawler (2007).
  20. ^ a b c Frank (1912).
  21. ^ Harper, Aruz & Tallon (1992).
  22. ^ Hinz & Koch (1987a).
  23. ^ Hinz & Koch (1987b).
  24. ^ a b c d Desset (2018a), pp. 405–406.
  25. ^ Dahl (2009), pp. 23–31.
  26. ^ Desset (2018b), p. 140.
  27. ^ Desset, François; Tabibzadeh, Kambiz; Kervran, Matthieu; Basello, Gian Pietro; Marchesi, and Gianni (1 July 2022). "The Decipherment of Linear Elamite Writing". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie. 112 (1): 11–60. doi:10.1515/za-2022-0003. ISSN 1613-1150.
  28. ^ a b Desset (2020b).
  29. ^ Desset, François; Tabibzadeh, Kambiz; Kervran, Matthieu; Basello, Gian Pietro; Marchesi, and Gianni (1 July 2022). "The Decipherment of Linear Elamite Writing". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie. 112 (1): 11–60. doi:10.1515/za-2022-0003. ISSN 1613-1150.
  30. ^ University of Tehran (2021).
  31. ^ Possehl (2002), p. 131.

Sources

Further reading