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Is Djoser’s pyramid the first pyramid in Egypt?

Is Djoser's pyramid the first pyramid in Egypt? 98

The pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser is located in Sahara and today is the oldest pyramid on the entire planet. Its value is difficult to exaggerate; it is a vivid example of how people studied architectural craft. The pyramid, as his tomb, was ordered to be built by the pharaoh Djoser, and the high priest of the temple of worship of the sun god Ra – Imhotep took up this difficult task. It was he who developed the drawings, which represented a tomb in a new form, like none of the pharaohs had before.

Is Djoser's pyramid the first pyramid in Egypt? 99

It is also interesting that Imhotep himself later became more popular among the Egyptians than his ruler, and the people of Egypt elevated the saints to him: Imhotep was called the god of construction and medicine. Be that as it may, the fact that this pyramid has survived to this day is already a great miracle. Initially, there was a small town around it, in which there was also a temple for the worship of the Pharaoh, two large apartment buildings, a special hall that led to the tomb with columns and ordinary farmhouses for cattle and camels. Only the pyramid has survived to this day. Its size is 62 meters in height and an area of ​​125 by 115 meters. It was the Djoser pyramid that was taken as the basis for the construction of all the other Egyptian pyramids and even the construction of the great Sphinx.

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This design was completely innovative for its time. Inside the pyramid itself there were 11 full premises, which, apparently, were intended for all members of the pharaoh’s family. On the walls of the rooms were drawings that reflected the external arrangement of the city, from which it became known about the rest of the premises. The pharaoh himself was buried at a depth of 27 meters under the pyramid, in a special capsule. After everyone recognized Djoser’s pyramid, where it is located and by whom it was created, bad rumors circulated around Egypt.

Is Djoser's pyramid the first pyramid in Egypt? 101

The thing is that during his life, Pharaoh Djoser, in addition to his main tomb, gave the task to Imhotep to build a second burial ground, only more modest and inconspicuous. Perhaps the first was to avert eyes, since the ruler knew how often such places were robbed and the rest of the dead was disturbed. Whatever it was, when it was precisely Djoser who our contemporaries tried to find in his grave after the discovery of this treasury, they did not find anything there. Among the numerous internal corridors, only one mummified arm was found. Who it belongs to is still unknown. Until now, no one has found the body of the pharaoh, nor the remains or the burial place of his priest and the first architect in the history of mankind.

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The main builder, or as he was called in Egypt “the one who looks at the Supreme God”, was later elevated to the rank of the same deities. And all due to the fact that during his life, Imhotep was a bit of a shadow and the right hand of his pharaoh. It is worth being frank, Djoser during his rule did not distinguish himself by anything special and went down in history only thanks to his tomb, as well as to the man to whom he once gave the order to build it. An interesting fact is that when excavating this miracle, it was revealed that various mystical rituals were often performed in the temple, which, in general, was logical enough for that time. The ibis birds, which were the symbol of Sahara, were found here in the form of mummies. Imhotep thought for a long time how to please his master and decided that his soul after burial should have a way to heaven, in the form of convenient steps. That is why the second name of this tomb is “stepped”.

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Today, archaeologists can only guess about the approximate age of this building. Quite common figures tell us that all the above action took place around 2600 BC. Why was such a huge and expensive complex of buildings chosen, given that all the rulers before Djoser were not compared to this? And all simply because in this way the ordinary people were frightened, who continually loved to rebel and argue about a way of life. Therefore, Vladyka wanted to show all his strength, power, and most importantly, his belonging to the world of Gods and higher beings. Also important is the fact that the pyramid was conceived as a place for diverting eyes before the true burials of both the pharaohs and all their wealth. Yes, the wives, children and close relatives of the head of state were buried here, but without pomp and so many honors as the main ruler. That is why many of the robbers who encroached on Joser’s retirement found nothing but mummified corpses. Many were simply afraid to go in there, not to mention stealing something because of the legend that Imhotep was a priest and a witcher, and built such a non-standard structure with the calculation of magic and witchcraft: everyone who violates the peace of his pharaoh will lose his peace life and get stuck in these stone walls forever. Be that as it may, but all these tricks worked wonderfully, as evidenced by the well-preserved stone step beauty, which is still well preserved. to steal something because of the legend that Imhotep was a priest and a witcher, and built such a non-standard structure with the calculation of magic and witchcraft: everyone who violates the peace of his pharaoh will lose peace during his life and will be stuck in these stone walls forever. Be that as it may, but all these tricks worked wonderfully, as evidenced by the well-preserved stone step beauty, which is still well preserved. in order to steal something because of the legend that Imhotep was a priest and a witcher, and built such a non-standard structure with the calculation of magic and witchcraft: everyone who violates the peace of his pharaoh will lose peace during his life and will be stuck in these stone walls forever. Whatever it was, but all these tricks worked wonderfully, as evidenced by the well-preserved stone step beauty, which is still well preserved.

Is Djoser's pyramid the first pyramid in Egypt? 104

The stepped pyramid of Djoser is the burial place of one of the Egyptian pharaohs and his entire family. This is the very first construction of the tomb in the form of a pyramid and the ancestor of this method is Djoser himself and his priest Imhotep. By the way, the latter, with time, also became (or even more) popular than its ruler. At the entrance to the pyramid itself there is a stone at the foot, which testifies to all the dignities and ranks of the world’s first architect. During the reign of Djoser, Imhotep became the keeper of the upper seal, the divider of land and harvest, the main priest of the god Ra, the adviser and the right hand of the ruler. After his death in Egypt, they created a temple to worship his spirit and a school for teaching all his wisdom. On the walls of the pyramid inside, amazing frescoes are preserved that tell the story of the reign of the pharaoh, all the members of his dynasty and his deeds. For example, it was from such wall inscriptions that it became known that Joser connected Upper and Lower Egypt and came up with a way for his soul to move to heaven after death. That is how the architect and builder Imhotep embodied his request. Subsequently, the followers built all the other tombs in the manner and likeness of the first.

Pharaoh Djoser’s pyramid – a brilliant idea or an accident?

The first idea, according to scientists, was to build a rectangular cube, which would have inside the halls and labyrinths, through which the soul would rise to heaven. But it was the first architect who had the idea to incline all the walls to a single center, in order to simplify the task of the pharaoh’s spirit. The first dimensions of the building were grandiose – more than 60 meters in height and an area of ​​125 × 115 meters. Over time and the impact of a huge number of natural factors – the area of ​​the pyramid has significantly decreased, but the base still survived to this day. The height is less than 1 meter, the area is 121×109. Yes, and it is not so important. We could not find what was left if the high priest was not so adventurous: he was the first in the history of mankind who came up with the use of not typical raw materials and bricks from it, but heavy stone blocks. One can only guess? how did the Egyptians pile these boulders one upon another? Whatever it was, but this building can safely be reckoned one of the very first, architectural, man-made wonders of the world. It is also worth noting that the place for construction was chosen excellent: the view from the pyramid complex opens to Memphis and the entire site is heated under the sun of the colorful plateau.

Djoser’s step pyramid in Sahara, its myths and riddles

The Djoser Pyramid, the photo of which can easily be found on the net, like other attractions in Egypt, has a lot of mysteries. The most important incomprehensible fact is the mystery of the disappearance of the body of the pharaoh himself. According to the structure of the pyramid, the capsule with the mummy was supposed to be under the center of the structure at a depth of about 30 meters. But the place for the capsule was empty during the opening of the treasury. In addition, numerous strange objects for sacrificial rites were found on the territory of the complex and on the ruins of other structures near a tomb. And everything was mystical: the location of the temple for worship of Pharaoh, as God, and the intricate corridors that the conservative Imhotep simply could not plan. The history of Sahara as a region also tells that at the location of the tomb once stood the temple of worship of the god Pta – the main god of Memphis. Given the reverent attitude of the Egyptians to their religion, and even more so to their shrines, it is strange where and why the temple disappeared, and whether Djoser himself was involved in this.

Another important fact is the beginning of a seven-year drought in Egypt, which was accompanied by the start of the tomb structure. Many also consider this a very strange and illogical coincidence.

Around this tomb goes an incredible number of legends and mysterious stories. And all of them arise because it is difficult for a person today to explain how, without special equipment and professional knowledge, did ancient people manage to create such a perfect architectural structure? Some myths say that as a priest of the sun god Ra – Imhotep entered into a conspiracy with dark forces and sold the soul of his ruler for the sake of unique knowledge in construction. Other legends testify that Djoser, realizing that he would die anyway, gave all his treasures to the gods to help build such a unique resting place. It is interesting that some scholars do not reject this version at all, because in no museum in the world, or in any private collection, wealth from this pharaoh was discovered, which simply had to be in the tomb. And inside 11 halls only one mummified hand was found, and whose it is, is still not clear. So think after that what is true and what is fiction. And the pyramid will still rise above the burnt Egyptian Sahara for many centuries, still also exciting the minds and curiosity of our descendants.

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Ancient

Ancient recipe books are like a panacea for modern diseases!

Ancient recipe books are like a panacea for modern diseases! 107

Six months ago, the world media reported that the mixture, created according to the Old English medical book of the 9th century, destroyed up to 90 percent of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, one of the antibiotic-resistant strains of this bacterium that causes barley in the eyes. Only the antibiotic vancomycin, the main drug used in the treatment of MRSA, had the same effect.

And the drug, which was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine, would not have surprised the doctors of Ancient China.

Chinese pharmacologist Tu Yuyu discovered the drug artemisinin in the 70s, which cures malaria.

But the plant from which this substance is obtained, wormwood (Artemisia annua L), has been used to treat fevers, including those caused by malaria, as early as the 3rd or 4th centuries.

Tu Yuyu invented a cure for malaria after reading traditional Chinese medicine texts that described herbal recipes. The path to discovery and recognition was very difficult because hundreds of plant species had to be tested. In addition, the political atmosphere in China in the 70s was difficult. But her tenacity paid off. Artemisinin has now become an important antimalarial drug.

Her story is unusual in modern medicine. However, artemisinin is far from the only substance isolated from plants. Another malaria drug, quinine, is made from the bark of the officinalis L tree found in the rainforests of South America. The pain reliever morphine was isolated from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L), and the poison strychnine from the tree Strychnos nux-vomica L.

These plants were used in medicine for centuries and even millennia before chemists were able to isolate their most active components.

Is it possible that physicians can discover new drugs simply by studying ancient medical treatises, as did Tu Yuyu or English specialists? The answer to this question is ambiguous. Ancient pharmacological texts in Chinese, Arabic, Greek, or any other ancient language are not easy to study for a number of reasons.

Ancient recipe books

Ancient pharmacological texts are usually a list of recipes without explanation, whether they were used, and in what cases. Submit your favorite cookbook. You hardly cook all the recipes from it. If you do not make notes in it, then no one will know what recipes you tried, and so much you liked them. Commentaries are rarely found in ancient pharmacological books.

It is often difficult to determine which plants are listed in an ancient recipe. Nowadays, the Linnaean system is used to classify plants, where the genus and species of the plant are indicated. But before the Linnaean system became generally accepted, the classification of plants was extremely erratic.

Different local names could be used to denote the same plant. This means that it is not always possible to accurately determine which plants are discussed in the book. If we cannot accurately translate the names in old recipes, how can we evaluate their effectiveness?

Disease definitions also have links to local culture. This means that each nation has a different definition of the disease. For example, the ancient Greeks and Romans considered fever to be a disease, but in modern medicine it is seen as a symptom of the disease.

The millennial collection of recipes “Kitab al-tabih”, written by Ibn Sayar al-Warak.

In the Greek and Roman texts, there are many descriptions of wave-like fever, that is, a fever that repeats every few days.

In modern medicine, wave-like fever is a symptom of malaria, but it is also a symptom of other diseases. Should scientists searching for new cures for malaria test all ancient Greek and Roman remedies for “wave-like fever”?

Holistic Medicine

The most important aspect, according to medical historians, is that each medical system must be considered holistically. This means that it is wrong to focus only on those aspects of ancient medicine that are successful by modern standards, and brush aside everything else.

Although there are effective medicines in ancient medicine, many of them are useless or even harmful. For example, in our time, hardly anyone will dare to be treated by taking huge doses of hellebore, as the ancient Greeks did.

But even with these shortcomings, there is great potential in ancient medical books for new drug discovery. This requires collaboration between pharmacologists, historians and ethno-pharmacologists who study traditional medicine from different cultures.

Such cooperation is not an easy process, because each of the specialists feels that they speak different languages. But the great examples mentioned above remind us that the result can be outstanding, especially when looking for cures for common diseases.

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The ancient Romans also loved take-away food. For the first time, a hot fast food restaurant unearthed in Pompeii

The ancient Romans also loved take-away food. For the first time, a hot fast food restaurant unearthed in Pompeii 108
A "fast food restaurant" in the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii in Italy has been excavated. In addition to the exquisite murals, archaeologists have also discovered evidence that the restaurant was selling hot food (AP)

The ancient city of Pompeii, Italy, recently unearthed the remains of a complete hot fast food restaurant, showing that the ancient Romans also had take-away eating habits. There are also murals of chicken, duck and other dishes, as well as a variety of tableware. Archaeologists say this is the first time the ancient city of Pompeii has unearthed the remains of a hot fast food restaurant.

Massimo Osanna, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said on December 26 that although approximately 80 similar fast food restaurants have been unearthed in the ancient city of Pompeii , the total unearthed hot food fast food restaurant is still the first Times.

Archaeologists excavated part of the counter of this hot food fast food restaurant in 2019, and now the entire polygonal counter is unearthed. There are multiple deep circular containers on the countertop. Archaeologists guessed that these are containers for holding hot food, similar to the soup vessels in modern salad bars.

The side wall of the counter is yellow as the background, and there are many murals on it, including bush-like plants, two ducks with heads down, a rooster, a dog on a rope, and a sea fairy riding a horse. These murals are still colorful after thousands of years.

Valeria Amoretti, an anthropologist in Pompeii, said: Preliminary analysis confirmed that these murals represent the food and beverages sold in this fast food restaurant. For example, a round container contains fragments of duck bones, as well as the remains of goats, pigs, fish, snails and other animals; a small amount of broad beans are also found at the bottom of the wine container.

Amoretti said that in ancient times, adding broad beans to wine can add flavor.

Ossana said that these remaining foods let us know what people ate on the day Pompeii was overthrown by volcanic ash. It also means that “the fast food on the street was very popular among ordinary people at the time, but the elites of the upper class in Rome did not frequent them.”

The location of this fast food restaurant is quite good. It is located at the bustling crossroads. There is a fountain square outside, and there are hot spring baths nearby. It is a good place to run restaurants.

Archaeologists also unearthed human remains at this fast food restaurant site. They also unearthed a bronze spoon, nine common food containers amphora, several flasks and a ceramic container for oil.

Pompeii was founded around 600 BC on a small hill on the banks of the Sano River in Italy. It was wiped out by volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Many precious historical relics were buried several meters overnight. Deeper than volcanic ash.

Pompeii is currently the most intact ancient Roman city ruins in Italy and has been included in the World Heritage List.

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Who are the Elamites and why the language of this ancient civilization was deciphered only now

Who are the Elamites and why the language of this ancient civilization was deciphered only now 109

The writing of Elam, a neighbor of Sumer, one of the oldest civilizations on Earth, could not be deciphered to this day. However, the end of 2020 was marked by a breakthrough in Elam studies: French archaeologist François Dessay presented a deciphering of the Elamite Linear script used in the XXV-XIX centuries BC. e. Ilya Egorov, a specialist in comparative historical linguistics and an employee of the RANEPA, talks about who the Elamites are, what we know about their language and why the linear Elamite script was deciphered only now.

At the beginning of the story

The Elamite state existed from the third millennium to the 6th century BC. e., when all of its territory came under the rule of the Persian royal dynasty of the Achaemenids. Information about the Elamites has come down to us from Sumerian, Akkadian and Persian sources and from their own cuneiform texts. Now these sources have been supplemented by texts written in Linear Elamite script.

Elam was first mentioned in Sumerian clay tablets in the middle of the third millennium BC. e. The Sumerians designated this country with the sign NIM, which also meant ‘upper’. Elam does indeed lie on a higher ground compared to the main Sumerian cities. Susa, the capital of the Elamite state, was located in the foothills of the Zagros, east of the interfluve of the Tigris and Euphrates.

This is very close to the place where, as Samuel Kramer aptly put it, history began 

By the beginning of history, Kramer understood the beginning of written history, that is, the moment when written monuments appeared. Writing was invented in Sumer at the turn of the third and fourth millennia BC. e. A little later, a proto-Elamite letter appeared, from which, perhaps, the writing system that François Dessay deciphered came from. The corpus of proto-Elamite writing contains about 1,700 clay tablets, found mainly in Susa. They date back to 3100-2900 BC. e. Most of the tablets are kept in the Louvre storerooms. Now almost all of them have been digitized and are available on the Internet to everyone.

Proto-Elamite writing

In the strict sense, proto-Elamite writing remains undeciphered, that is, it has not yet been possible to ascribe to signs (most of which are rather abstract) concrete meanings and to understand how these texts should have sounded. However, we have a general idea of ​​what is written on these plates. In structure, they are similar to the Sumerian proto-cuneiform tablets from Uruk, containing household records.

A typical proto-Elamite plaque is designed roughly like a modern cashier’s check

Who are the Elamites and why the language of this ancient civilization was deciphered only now 110
Tablet Sb 15166, oriented as the scribe held it. Front side with body text on the right. On the left is the reverse side with the amount of property and the imprint of a cylindrical seal. Photo: CDLI project

They began to write in the upper right corner. First there was a headline that indicated the owner of the property. A list of this property followed. Each position in it was arranged like this: the name of the object, then some unit of measurement and quantity. When the line ended, they wrote on the next one from left to right, and after it – again from right to left. 

This direction of writing is called bustrofedon. The lines were separated from each other by a line. If the list needed to be continued on the reverse side, then the plate was turned over along the vertical axis. At the end of the list, the amount was calculated. For this, the plate was turned over along the horizontal axis relative to the front side. The back was sometimes stamped… So that life does not seem like honey to an uninitiated reader, it is customary to publish proto-Elamite tablets rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise.

Who are the Elamites and why the language of this ancient civilization was deciphered only now 111
Layout of the text. The plate is oriented in the same way as in modern publications. Source: Englund, Robert K., The State of Decipherment of Proto-Elamite // The First Writing: Script Invention as History and Process. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004. P. 123

What language was behind the proto-Elamite script is still unclear. Moreover, it is unclear whether it is even worthwhile to correlate the proto-Elamite writing with any language. After all, here we are dealing with a record of an account rather than a text in the full sense of the word. The subject of the account and the unit of measure are indicated by pictograms followed by a number. This is most similar to how we indicate the quantity of the required product opposite the icon with its image in the online store.

Monuments of linear Elamite writing, in contrast to proto-Elamite tablets, already represent what can be called texts and read in the more familiar sense of the word. The earliest of these date back to about 2500-2400 BC. e., and the last 1900-1800 years BC. e. These are mainly monumental inscriptions, inscriptions on clay tablets and cones, and inscriptions on metal vessels of the Gunaga. The latter ultimately played a key role in decryption.

How to decipher ancient writing?

Speaking about decryption, first of all, it is necessary to distinguish between two situations: decoding of writing and decoding of the language. It so happens that we already know the written language, but the language is unknown. This is, for example, the case of the Hittite language.

The Hittite texts are written in a variation of Akkadian cuneiform that was read in the middle of the 19th century. Since the texts could be easily “spoken”, it was not too difficult to understand that the language belongs to the Indo-European family. After this was established, the meaning of many words began to be derived from the meanings of related words in other Indo-European languages. 

An important role was played by the fact that Akkadian cuneiform, in addition to syllabic signs, uses ideograms, that is, hieroglyphs denoting not some sound or syllable, but a concept. Fortunately for the researchers, Hittite scribes also inserted many Akkadian words.

The meaning of the remaining words can often be guessed from the context, just like we do in a foreign language lesson

It’s another matter when the writing itself is unknown.

And in that case , it’s a good idea to define the type of letter first.

Quite reliably, this can be established by the number of characters:

  • 20–40 characters – an alphabetical letter, where the character corresponds to a phoneme;
  • 50–100 signs – syllabic writing, where the sign corresponds to the syllable;
  • 100-600 characters – mixed type: syllabic or alphabetical writing using hieroglyphs (logograms and ideograms). In such a system, syllabic or letter signs are much more frequent than hieroglyphic;
  • > 600 – hieroglyphic writing, where the sign corresponds to a word (logogram) or a more general concept (ideogram).

If you are very lucky, then by looking at the alphabetical or syllabic system, you can guess the language in which the text is written.

Here the analysis of frequency combinations and their variants comes to the rescue. So, in deciphering the Mycenaean Linear B, the key was the assumption that the texts were written in Greek. They guessed this, noting that behind the variations of the chains of symbols, you can see the Greek inflectional paradigms.

The most important step towards the successful deciphering of ancient writing is the identification in the text of some personal names or geographical names known from other sources. Since proper names tend to sound similar in different languages, they help to easily establish the phonetic meaning of written signs.

Jean-François Champollion made a breakthrough in the study of Egyptian writing by identifying cartouches with the names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra on the Rosetta Stone. Michael Ventris found place names in tablets with Linear B. Friedrich Grotefend was able to decipher the Persian cuneiform due to the fact that the Behistun inscription contained a list of kings known from the works of Herodotus.

The presence of parallel texts in other languages ​​greatly simplifies decryption. Monuments containing both the original text and its translation are called bilinguals.

If the translation is accurate, then deciphering turns into a not very difficult linguistic task, like those that high school students can cope with in a few hours at the Olympiad in linguistics.

The already mentioned Behistun inscription is an extremely important monument. It is a parallel trilingual inscription in Old Persian, Akkadian and Elamite in cuneiform transmission.

So, deciphering writing is likely to be successful if at least two of the three conditions are met:

  • understand what language the texts are written in and find known related languages;
  • identify personal names;
  • find bilingual texts.

In the case of the Elamite Linear script, all three conditions had already been met, so that complete decryption remained a matter of time.

Elamite language

The assumption that the inscriptions made in the linear Elamite script reflect the Elamite language has remained only a hypothesis, although it is quite reliable. Indeed, the Akkadian version of one bilingual text mentions the king of Elam, Puzur-Inshushinak, so it is logical to think that the second language of these texts is Elamite. Now this guess has been confirmed.

The hypothesis that the mysterious inscriptions were made in the Elamite language gave optimism to the decoders. After all, Elamite is already well known.

The fact is that the Elamites used not only their own original script, but also the Akkadian cuneiform. Akkadian cuneiform was used in ancient times in the Middle East as widely as the Latin alphabet in modern Europe. In addition to the Elamite and Akkadian language proper, various modifications of the Akkadian cuneiform were used for writing in Hittite, Luwian, Hurrian, Urartian and some other languages.

Thanks to the cuneiform texts and the Elamite-Akkadian bilinguals, the Elamite language was learned well. There is a two-volume dictionary, a small but generally satisfactory grammar and a few short essays, so that reading Elamite texts is not difficult.

It has not yet been possible to establish the linguistic relatives of the Elamite language. It is considered an isolate .

There are two hypotheses about his family ties. David McAlpin compared Elamite to the Dravidian languages ​​spoken in southern India, eastern Iran and Pakistan. Czech linguist Vaclav Blazek – with the  languages ​​of the Afrasian macrofamily, which includes Semitic languages ​​in the Middle East, Egyptian (Ancient Egyptian and Coptic), Berber, Cushite, Omotic, and Chadian in northern Africa. 

After re-analyzing both hypotheses, Georgy Starostin came to the conclusion that McAlpin and Blazhek failed to show a close connection of the Elamites with the Dravids or Afrasians, but the Elamite can still be connected with these families on a deeper level. Proof of such a distant relationship remains a matter for the future.

What is already known about the Elamite Linear script?

By 2020, only 40 fairly short inscriptions are known. They can identify 258 characters. This number speaks rather of the mixed nature of the writing: syllabary and logograms. For example, in the Mycenaean linear letter B, comparable in the number of characters, there are 87 syllabic characters and 120 logograms. 

However, it is assumed that some of the 258 Elamite signs are actually variants of each other. Although not many monuments are known, they are scattered over an area of ​​about 1000 kilometers from Susa to Konar-Sandal and span several centuries. In such a situation, geographical and chronological variations should have arisen. François Dessay suggests that about a hundred characters were used at a time in one place. And this may already be a purely syllabic letter.

Before François Dessay, two attempts were made to decrypt. Walter Hinz in the 1960s thought he knew the meaning of almost 60 characters. Piero Merigi in the 1970s believed that it is possible to reliably speak about the meaning of 30 characters. François Dessay made more or less reliable conclusions about 13 signs in 2018.

The starting point for all decryptions is the bilingual Akkadian-Elamite inscription with a mention of the king Puzur-Inshushinak. There are ten more inscriptions where a string of symbols is found that can be identified with the name of this king. These ten inscriptions are grouped into three independent texts: the first one exists in four versions (inscriptions A, B, C, E), the second – in three (inscriptions F, G, H) and the third – in one (inscription I).

Who are the Elamites and why the language of this ancient civilization was deciphered only now 112
Texts mentioning Puzur-Inshushinak. Source: Francois Desset, Linear Elamite writing // The Elamite world / eds. J. Alvarez-Mon, G.-P. Basello et Y. Wicks. Routledge World Series, Taylor and Francis, Abington. P. 201

The chain of characters in a gray frame under the number 2 in all three texts denotes the name of the king and reads pu-zu-r-šu-ši-na-k. In the text A / B / C / E under the number 1, apparently, there should be the name of the god, from which the name of the king is derived and which is translated from Akkadian ‘The Secret of Inshushinak’. 

The chain under the number 5 contains two already known characters – ši and in. This suggests that it should be read ši-in-piš-huk. Shinpishkhuk, as follows from cuneiform sources, is the father of Puzur-Inshushinak. The chains numbered 3 and 4 are most likely the titles of Puzur-Inshushinak.

In 2018, François Dessay began to study the body of the metal vessels of the Gunaga. He noticed that the texts on them are of a formulaic nature, that is, they consist of stable blocks with a small variable part. The inscriptions on the eight vessels begin with the same symbol (marked in green in the figure), followed by a variable part, most likely the name.

 Next, the title is indicated (in the figure it is indicated in blue). François Dessay noticed that ten vessels in the title contain the same chain of signs that followed the name Puzur-Inshushinak (in the figure below – under the number 6, in the figure above – under the number 3). He decided that it meant ‘king’ and began to select the names of the Elamite kings.

 It is known that one name must begin with ši (the string under the number 2), and the other must contain r in the middle (the string under the number 3). And these must be kings who lived between 2050 and 1800 BC e. – this is how the vessels are dated. Only one candidate was found: Shilhaha (chain 2) and Ebarat II (chain 3). So the meaning of some more symbols became known, and François Dessay opened the road to complete deciphering.

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Comparison of texts on the vessels of the Gunaga. Source: Desset F., Nine Linear Elamite Texts Inscribed on Silver “Gunagi” Vessels (X, Y, Z, F ‘, H’, I ‘, J’, K ‘and L’): New Data on Linear Elamite Writing and the History of the Sukkalmaḫ Dynasty // Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies Volume 56 (2). 2018

What was François Dessay doing in quarantine?

During the quarantine, Desse, along with three colleagues – Cambyz Tabibzade, Matthew Kervran and Jean-Pietro Basello – continued to explore the silver vessels of the Gunaga. They managed to establish that the cuneiform text on a vessel in honor of King Sive-Palar-Huhpak is very close to the text made in linear Elamite script on a vessel in honor of King Ittatu I.

In fact, they managed to find not even a bilingual, but a biggraphic text, that is, an inscription on the Siwe-Palar-Huhpaka vessel is practically a cuneiform transliteration of the inscription on the Ittatu I vessel. Thanks to this inscription, it was possible to carry out a complete decoding. 

The letter turned out to be completely phonetic, that is, the signs in it denote only syllables or individual sounds, and logograms or ideograms are not used.

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A vessel with a cuneiform inscription mentioning Siwe-Palar-Huhpak (left) and a vessel with an inscription in Linear Elamite script mentioning Ittatu I (right). Source: The Mahboubian Collection

As evidence of the success of the decryption, François Dessay presented in a short talk the reading and translation of two texts written in Linear Elamite script. The inscription on the stone discovered in Susa and now stored in the Louvre turned out to be just the name and title of the king Puzur-Inshushinak. The inscription on the silver vessel is an initiatory formula. 

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Photo and drawing of the letter E. Source: Alice Kober Gesellschaft für die Entzifferung antiker Schriftsysteme

‘Puzur-Shushinak, hatbak Suz, whisper of the people of Elam, (son of) Shinpishkhuk’.

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Photo and drawing of Q lettering. Source: Alice Kober Gesellschaft für die Entzifferung antiker Schriftsysteme

‘Mistress Marapshsha , Shumar-Ash / su ,

(this) silver (vessel) I made. In the temple that will be named after me (for the glory of my name -?),

Khumshat, (because) I have humbly made an offering to you. ‘

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