World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Proto-Elamite script

Article Id: WHEBN0002099381
Reproduction Date:

Title: Proto-Elamite script  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: History of Iran, List of languages by first written accounts
Collection:
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Proto-Elamite script

History of Iran
ANCIENT
Proto-Elamite 3200–2700 BCE
Elam 2700–539 BCE
Mannaeans 850–616 BCE
IMPERIAL
Median Empire 678–550 BCE
  (Scythian Kingdom 652–625 BCE)
Achaemenid Empire 550–330 BCE
Atropatene 320s BC – 3rd century AD
Seleucid Empire 312–63 BCE
Parthian Empire 247 BCE – 224 CE
Sasanian Empire 224–651
  (Dabuyid dynasty 642–759/760)
  (Paduspanids 665–1598)
  (Bavand dynasty 665–1349)
MIDDLE AGES
Umayyad Caliphate 661–750
Abbasid Caliphate 750–1258
Justanids
791–974
Samanid Dynasty
819–999
Saffarid Dynasty
867–1002
Ziyarid Dynasty
928–1043
Sallarid dynasty
941–1062
Sajid dynasty
889/890–929
Buyid Dynasty
934–1055
Ilyasids
932–968
Ghaznavid Empire 963–1186
Kakuyids 1008–1141
Great Seljuq Empire 1037–1194
Atabegs of Yazd 1141–1319
Ghurid Dynasty 1148–1215
Khwarazmian Empire 1077–1231
Mihrabanids 1236–1537
Kurt Dynasty 1244–1396
Ilkhanate Empire 1256–1335
Chobanid Dynasty
1335–1357
Muzaffarid Dynasty
1335–1393
Jalayirid Dynasty
1336–1432
Sarbadars
1337–1376
Afrasiab dynasty 1349–1504
Timurid Empire 1370–1405
Qara Qoyunlu
1406–1468
Timurid Dynasty
1405–1507
Agh Qoyunlu
1468–1508
EARLY MODERN
Safavid Empire 1501–1736
  (Hotaki Dynasty 1722–1729)
Afsharid Empire 1736–1747
Zand Dynasty
1760–1794
Afsharid Dynasty
1747–1796
Qajar Empire 1796–1925
MODERN
Pahlavi Dynasty 1925–1979
Interim Government 1979–1980
Islamic Republic 1980–present

The Proto-Elamite period is the time of ca. 3200 BC to 2700 BC when Susa, the later capital of the Elamites, began to receive influence from the cultures of the Iranian plateau. In archaeological terms this corresponds to the late Banesh period. This civilization is recognized as the oldest in Iran and was largely contemporary with its neighbour, Sumerian civilization, the oldest in the world, which began around 3400 BC.

The Proto-Elamite script is an Early Bronze Age writing system briefly in use before the introduction of Elamite cuneiform.

Overview

During the period 8000–3700 BC, the Fertile Crescent witnessed the spread of small settlements supported by agricultural surplus. Geometric tokens emerged to be used to manage stewardship of this surplus.[1] The earliest tokens now known are those from two sites in the Zagros region of Iran: Tepe Asiab and Ganj-i-Dareh Tepe.[2]

The Mesopotamian civilization emerged during the period 3700–2900 BC amid the development of technological innovations such as the plough, sailing boats and copper metal working. Clay tablets with pictographic characters appeared in this period to record commercial transactions performed by the temples.[1]


Besides Susa, one important Proto-Elamite site is Tepe Sialk, where the only remaining Proto-Elamite ziggurat is still seen. Texts in the undeciphered Proto-Elamite script found in Susa are dated to this period. It is thought that the Proto-Elamites were in fact Elamites (Elamite speakers), because of the many cultural similarities (for example, the building of ziggurats), and because no large-scale migration to this area seems to have occurred between the Proto-Elamite period and the later Elamites. But because their script is yet to be deciphered, this theory remains uncertain.

Some anthropologists, such as John Alden, maintain that Proto-Elamite influence grew rapidly at the end of the 4th millennium BC and declined equally rapidly with the establishment of maritime trade in the Persian Gulf several centuries later.

Proto-Elamite pottery dating back to the last half of the 5th millennium BC has been found in Tepe Sialk, where Proto-Elamite writing, the first form of writing in Iran, has been found on tablets of this date. The first cylinder seals come from the Proto-Elamite period, as well.[3]

Proto-Elamite script

It is uncertain whether the Proto-Elamite script was the direct predecessor of Linear Elamite. Both scripts remain largely undeciphered, and it is mere speculation to postulate a relationship between the two.

A few Proto-Elamite signs seem either to be loans from the slightly older proto-cuneiform (Late Uruk) tablets of Mesopotamia, or perhaps more likely, to share a common origin. Whereas proto-cuneiform is written in visual hierarchies, Proto-Elamite is written in an in-line style: numerical signs follow the objects they count; some non-numerical signs are 'images' of the objects they represent, although the majority are entirely abstract.

Proto-Elamite was used for a brief period around 3000 BC,[4][5] or Jemdet Nasr in Mesopotamia), whereas Linear Elamite is attested for a similarly brief period in the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC.

Proponents of an Elamo-Dravidian relationship have looked for similarities between the Proto-Elamite and the Indus script.[6]

Inscription corpus

The Proto-Elamite writing system was used over a very large geographical area, stretching from Susa in the west, to Tepe Yahya in the east, and perhaps beyond. The known corpus of inscriptions consists of some 1600 tablets, the vast majority unearthed at Susa.

Proto-Elamite tablets have been found at the following sites (in order of number of tablets recovered):

  • Susa (more than 1500 tablets)
  • Malyan (more than 30 tablets)
  • Tepe Yahya (27 tablets)
  • Tepe Sialk (22 tablets)
  • Jiroft (two tablets)
  • Ozbaki (one tablet)
  • Shahr-e Sukhteh (one tablet)

None of the inscribed objects from Ghazir, Chogha Mish or Hissar can be verified as Proto-Elamite; the tablets from Ghazir and Choga Mish are Uruk IV style or numerical tablets, whereas the Hissar object cannot be classified at present. The majority of the Tepe Sialk tablets are also not proto-Elamite, strictly speaking, but belong to the period of close contact between Mesopotamia and Iran, presumably corresponding to Uruk V - IV.

Decipherment attempts

Although Proto-Elamite remains undeciphered, the content of many texts is known. This is possible because certain signs, and in particular a majority of the numerical signs, are similar to the neighboring Mesopotamian writing system, proto-cuneiform. In addition, a number of the proto-Elamite signs are actual images of the objects they represent. However, the majority of the proto-Elamite signs are entirely abstract, and their meanings can only be deciphered through careful graphotactical analysis.

While the Elamite language has been suggested as a likely candidate underlying the Proto-Elamite inscriptions, there is no positive evidence of this. The earliest Proto-Elamite inscriptions, being purely ideographical, do not in fact contain any linguistic information, and following Friberg's 1978/79 study of Ancient Near Eastern metrology, decipherment attempts have moved away from linguistic methods.

In 2012, Dr Jacob Dahl of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, announced a project to make high-quality images of Proto-Elamite clay tablets and publish them online. His hope is that crowdsourcing by academics and amateurs working together would be able to understand the script within two years, despite the presence of mistakes and the lack of phonetic clues.[7]

See also

Ancient Near East portal

References

Literature

  • Jacob L. Dahl, "Complex Graphemes in Proto-Elamite," in Cuneiform Digital Library Journal (CDLJ) PDF copy
  • Peter Damerow, “The Origins of Writing as a Problem of Historical Epistemology,” in Cuneiform Digital Library Journal (CDLJ) PDF copy
  • Peter Damerow and Robert K. Englund, The Proto-Elamite Texts from Tepe Yahya (= The American School of Prehistoric Research Bulletin 39; Cambridge, MA, 1989).
  • Robert H. Dyson, “Early Work on the Acropolis at Susa. The Beginning of Prehistory in Iraq and Iran,” Expedition 10/4 (1968) 21-34.
  • Robert K. Englund, “The State of Decipherment of Proto-Elamite,” in: Stephen Houston, ed. The First Writing: Script Invention as History and Process (2004). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 100–149. Download a PDF copy
  • Jöran Friberg, The Third Millennium Roots of Babylonian Mathematics I-II (Göteborg, 1978/79).
  • A. Le Brun, “Recherches stratigraphiques a l’acropole de Suse, 1969-1971,” in Cahiers de la Délégation archaéologique Française en Iran 1 (= CahDAFI 1; Paris, 1971) 163 – 216.
  • Piero Meriggi, La scritura proto-elamica. Parte Ia: La scritura e il contenuto dei testi (Rome, 1971).
  • Piero Meriggi, La scritura proto-elamica. Parte IIa: Catalogo dei segni (Rome, 1974).
  • Piero Meriggi, La scritura proto-elamica. Parte IIIa: Testi (Rome, 1974).
  • Daniel T. Potts, The Archaeology of Elam (Cambridge, UK, 1999).

External links

  • Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative
  • University of Oxford hosted by the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative
  • Graphic, with article, of a Proto-Elamite tablet
  • Art of the Bronze Age: Southeastern Iran, Western Central Asia, and the Indus Valley , an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Proto-Elamite culture
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 



Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.