New words identified in Bisotun inscriptions

July 31, 2012 - 15:14
TEHRAN -- New words and expressions have been discovered in the Bisotun inscriptions of Darius the Great engraved on a rock near the city of Kermanshah, the Bisotun Cultural Heritage Center (BCHC) announced on Tuesday.
The words and expressions have been identified during a study project to reread the inscriptions that has been in progress since June 2012 and is being carried out by a team of Iranian and foreign experts, BCHC Director Hossein Raei told the Persian service of ISNA on Tuesday.
“The alluviums formed on the surface of the rock had made parts of the inscriptions unreadable. Now, the team has a high-precision scanner, which enables them to read those parts,” he added.
The foreign experts of the team, which is led by Professor Wouter F. M. Henkelman of the German Archaeological Institute, include Professor Bruno Jacobs of the University of Basel, Professor Johannes Hackl of the University of Vienna and Joan De Winne of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.
Henkelman has made some revisions to previous translations of the inscriptions during this season of studies. He has also identified some new words and expressions, which will be published in a report in three months, Raei stated.
He said that the scans show all the tiny cracks and the growth of algae and other wild plants on the inscriptions. As a result, the scans will help the BCHC make a plan for restoration of the inscriptions. 
The first efforts to decipher the inscriptions were made by the British adventurer and scholar Henry Creswicke Rawlinson in 1835. He completed his studies in 1844.
Professor of Indo-Iranian languages at Columbia University William Jackson revised Rawlinson’s studies in 1903.
The inscriptions were thoroughly studied by George Glenn Cameron of the University of Michigan in 1948 and 1949.
Bisotun, an ancient Iranian site bearing bas-reliefs and inscriptions of Darius the Great, was registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2006.
The site is located in western Iran, 30 kilometers east of the provincial capital Kermanshah, at the foot of the Zagros Mountains.
The area was on the ancient trade route linking the Iranian high plateau with Mesopotamia and contains remains dating from prehistoric times to the Median and Achaemenid eras.
The principal monument of this archaeological site is the bas-relief and cuneiform inscription ordered by Darius the Great shortly after he ascended to the throne of the Persian Empire in 521 BC.
The bas-relief portrays Darius holding a bow, as a sign of sovereignty and treading on the chest of a figure who is lying on his back before him. According to legend, the figure represents Gaumata, the Median Magus and pretender to the throne whose assassination led to Darius’s rise to power.
Below and around the bas-reliefs, there are about 1,200 lines of inscriptions telling the story of the battles Darius waged in 521-520 BC against the governors who attempted to take apart the empire founded by Cyrus.
The inscription is written in three languages. The oldest is an Elamite text referring to legends describing the king and the rebellions. This is followed by a Babylonian version of similar legends. The last phase of the inscription is particularly important, as it is here that Darius introduced for the first time the Old Persian version of his res gestae (things done).
This is the only known monumental text of the Achaemenids to document the re-establishment of the empire by Darius I. It also bears witness to the interchange of influences in the development of monumental art and writing in the region of the Persian Empire. There are also remains from the Median period (8th to 7th centuries BC) as well as from the Achaemenid (6th to 4th centuries BC) and post-Achaemenid periods.