Achaemenid tablet translation remains unpublished due to lack of funding

January 2, 2008 - 0:0

TEHRAN -- The translation of 2586 clay Achaemenid tablets has remained unpublished due to lack of government funding.

The tablets, written in cuneiform, were discovered along with a great number of other inscriptions at Persepolis in 1933 by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.
Many of the tablets and tablet fragments were loaned to the university’s Oriental Institute in 1937 for study purposes.
“Pictures and texts of the 2586 clay Achaemenid tablets, many of which are kept at the University of Chicago, have been collected and the writings deciphered over the past few years, and the results are ready to be published in four volumes,” linguist Abdolmajid Arfaei told the Persian service of CHN on Tuesday.
“However, despite the initial agreement of the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization, funding for the publication of the details of the inscriptions has not yet been provided,” he added.
Several years ago, Arfaei, who is an expert on the Avestan, Pahlavi and Elamite languages, traveled to the United States taking with him photos of 607 of the tablets for use in the project.
In addition, the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, which holds a great number of these tablets, gave photos of 34 of them to Arfaei during his sojourn in the U.S.
To complete his research, Arfaei also acquired some texts written by the U.S. Elamitologist and Assyriologist Richard Treadwell Hallock, who was responsible for the first translation of the cuneiform inscriptions.
“Over 500 million rials (about $53,000) and more than two years have been spent on accomplishing this research project, but there is no one to fund the publication of the study,” Arfaei lamented.
Details of research work covering 32 of the tablets have previously been published in English, and this was by a foreign magazine in 1978.
The artifacts clarify administrative details of the Achaemenid Empire from about 500 BC.
------Achaemenid tablets case politicized
In spring 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Blanche Manning ruled that a group of people injured by a 1997 bombing in Israel could seize the 300 clay tablets loaned to the University of Chicago and the university could not protect Iran’s right of ownership to the artifacts.
Following Iranian officials’ protests against the ruling, the court was required to reexamine the case.
According to Gil Stein, the director of the university’s Oriental Institute, the case may take several years to resolve due to its complexities, and both parties can appeal against the court’s decision.
A set of 179 complete tablets was returned to Iran in 1948, and another collection of more than 37,000 tablet fragments was returned in 1951.
The university also sent back a number of tablets in 2004 based on an agreement concerning the excavation of some ancient Iranian sites. However, a large number of the tablets still remain at the university.
Overall the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute is still holding 8,000 to 10,000 intact clay tablets and about 11,000 fragmented tablets, Stein estimates.