Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Persepolis Fortification Archive (PFA) Project Annual Report 2009-2010

[The following is a very slightly altered (addition of hyperlinks and color photographs) version of the text of an 

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project
2009-2010 Annual Report 
Matthew W. Stolper
The Persepolis Fortification Archive is a treasury of information about the languages, society, institutions, religion, and art of the Achaemenid Persian Empire at its zenith, around 500 bc.  Its value depends on a combination of complexity (the archive contains detailed information of many different kinds) and integrity (the archive is an excavated artifact, a single, coherent cache of tens of thousands of documents from a single time and place).

The legal crisis that puts the future of the many Persepolis Fortification tablets in doubt also endangers the integrity of the single Persepolis Fortification Archive. The suit is still before federal courts, and the threat remains grave and persistent, but while the law takes its stately course, the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project pursues its emergency priorities: to enable future research by making thorough records of the archive, and to enable current research by distributing the records freely and continuously. 

 Figure 1. Four BetterLight scans of a fragmentary Persepolis Fortification Aramaic tablet (PFAT 684).  Clockwise from upper left: polarized light, infrared filter, negative tone scale, red filter 

During 2009–2010, Clinton Moyer (PhD 2009, Cornell), Joseph Lam (PhD candidate, NELC), Miller Prosser (PhD candidate, NELC), and John Walton (PhD candidate, NELC) continued to operate the two Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) domes and the BetterLight scanning camera, making very high-quality images of selected Fortification tablets and fragments (fig. 1). As of mid-2010, this phase of the project — a collaboration with the West Semitic Research Project (WSRP) at the University of Southern California — has captured images of about 2,600 items: more than 670 monolingual Aramaic tablets, more than 200 Aramaic epigraphs on tablets with Elamite cuneiform texts, about 1,500 sealed, uninscribed tablets, and about 200 Elamite tablets and fragments.
Figure 2. Wear and repair on one of the PTM domes

The range of imaging techniques, the range of detail that they reveal, and the rate of output from this phase of the project grow with experience. Making the images outruns processing them for display, so two PTM-image processing stations have been added at the Oriental Institute to supplement post-processing done at the University of Southern California. Despite the duct-tape and baling-wire look of the PTM domes (fig. 2), their reliability is outstanding: the shutters of the cameras on the two  PTM domes have tripped more than 1,000,000 times during the life of the project.

Manning the post-processing stations are some of the crew who are also making and editing conventional digital images of the largest component of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, the Elamite Fortification tablets and fragments. During the past year, this group included Lori Calabria, Jon Clindaniel, Gregory Hebda, Will Kent, Megaera Lorenz, Tytus Mikolajczak, and Lise Truex (all NELC), Joshua Skornik (Divinity School); Anastasia Chaplygina (MAPH); Nicholas Geller, Amy Genova, Erika Jeck, and Daniel Whittington (Classics); and returning Persepolis Fortification Archive Project alumnus Trevor Crowell (Catholic University). Three photography and editing stations are in use now, and so far this phase of the project has made about 50,000 images of about 4,000 tablets and fragments with Elamite cuneiform texts. Editing these pictures for display now runs ahead of taking them, so the backlog is shrinking. Older picture sets are being checked and reshot as necessary for completeness and to match the higher standards of the later sets that reflect the photographers’ accumulated experience. Haphazard file names from earlier picture sets are being made consistent with later sets, to facilitate linked online display and to prepare metadata for long-term storage.

After two more extended visits to the Oriental Institute, Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editor Wouter Henkelman (Free University of Amsterdam and Collège de France) has finished revised, collated, and annotated editions of about 2,400 of the 2,600 Elamite texts known from preliminary editions by the late Richard Hallock (called NN texts). He expects to collate the remainder in the summer and autumn of 2010 and to furnish complete translations in preparation for online distribution and hard-copy publication. I have continued to make preliminary editions of new Elamite Fortification texts, concentrating on document types that are underrepresented in the published sample of the Persepolis Fortification Archive; as of mid-2010, I have recorded about 585 of these.

The second largest component of the Persepolis Fortification Archive consists of uninscribed (anepigraphic) tablets (PFUT or PFAnep), that is, tablets with seal impressions but without accompanying texts. Our first estimates of the number of useful pieces of this kind were too low.  During nine trips to the Oriental Institute during the past year, Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editor Mark Garrison (Trinity University) systematically examined another 25 percent of the 2,600 boxes of Fortification tablets and fragments to select uninscribed tablets for cataloging and PTM imaging. Now that about half of the boxes of tablets have been sifted, more than 2,100 uninscribed tablets have been selected for study. Post-doctoral researcher Sabrina Maras (University of California–Berkeley) is cataloging this material under Garrison’s direction, a process that involves identifying impressions of previously known seals, assigning numbers to new seals, and sketching impressions of them; during the summer of 2010, she is joined in this work by graduate student Jenn Finn (University of Michigan). The results continue to bear out the general observation that some seals used on uninscribed tablets were also used on Elamite or Aramaic Fortification tablets, but most — around ten times as many — were not: on 275 cataloged tablets, there are impressions of more than thirty seals previously known from tablets with Elamite texts, but there are also impressions of 300 new seals. Garrison also continues to read the seals on the NN tablets. As of mid-2010, he has identified seal impressions on almost half of the NN tablets, and about 1,250 tablets that have yielded impressions of another 465 previously unknown seals. Post-doctoral student Wu Xin (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York) is documenting some of this material under Garrison’s direction.

  Figure 3. Impression of a newly identified inscribed seal in Assyrian style accompanying
a newly edited Elamite text of an underrepresented type

All told, impressions of about 2,500 distinct seals have been cataloged on Persepolis Fortification tablets so far, the markers of as many distinct individuals and offices. Even if new seals are identified at a slower rate as work continues, the Persepolis Fortification Archive is certain to yield one of the largest coherent sets of images from anywhere in the ancient world.

The third main component of the Persepolis Fortification Archive consists of tablets with texts in Aramaic, some 670 identified to date. Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editor Annalisa Azzoni (Vanderbilt University) made two extended trips to the Oriental Institute during the past year to work on them. She has examined, numbered, cataloged, and made preliminary editions of about 100 monolingual Aramaic tablets and about 110 of the 200 Aramaic epigraphs on Elamite tablets identified so far. She is developing a formal typology of the documents to allow consistency with work on the Elamite texts and to clarify functional connections among streams of data recorded in Aramaic and in Elamite. Graduate student Emily Wilson (Classics), working under the direction of Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editors Elspeth Dusinberre (University of Colorado) and Mark Garrison, has been completing Dusinberre’s collated drawings of seals on the Aramaic tablets and entering new descriptive and cataloging data on the PFAT seals in the On-Line Cultural Heritage Research Environment (OCHRE).

Figure 4. What the seals show that the texts do not: PTM views of altar scenes from seal impressions on four uninscribed fortification tablets

Figure 5. What the seals tell about the seal users: among 2,500 seals identified so far in the PFA, only four show scenes of human warfare; here, a Persian archer shoots a Scythian warrior in the seal impression on an Elamite Fortification tablet

Persepolis Fortification Archive project manager Dennis Campbell (post-doctoral student, Oriental Institute) coordinates, connects, and smoothes data and images for presentation via OCHRE. Oriental Institute Internet data specialist Sandra Schloen has prepared a revised version of OCHRE’s display of
Persepolis Fortification Archive material that includes a range of options for viewing and combining texts, translations, glossaries, grammatical information, and seals, displayed with a new look and feel. Lying behind this display are improved tools for importing texts and glossing and parsing them, hotspotting images, and linking images to texts — all processes that are increasingly automated as the corpus of information in OCHRE grows. Graduate student Seunghee Yie (NELC) imports Elamite texts into OCHRE and prepares editions for export to other sites (notably the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative [CDLI]); graduate student Wayne Munsch (Divinity School) tags and links photographs, transliterations, and grammatical parse of Elamite Fortification documents.

Figure 6. Two views of an Aramaic Fortification tablet: left, PTM image highlighting seal impression;
right, BetterLight scan with red filter, highlighting inked text

More than 20,000 conventional and high-quality digital images, more than 7,000 low-resolution PTM sets, more than 3,200 editions of Elamite texts, and 100 editions of Aramaic texts, drawings, and analytical information on more than 650 new seals and a catalog of about 1,100 previously known seals have been entered in OCHRE in preparation for public display. As of mid-2010, about 1,400 Fortification tablets are publicly available on OCHRE, including 1,250 Elamite tablets presented with transliterations, many with translations, and all with click-through glossary and morphological parsing, conventional photographs (many of them tagged and linked to transliterations), seal analysis, and other options; 40 Aramaic tablets, presented with transliterations, translations, seal information, click-through glossary and parse, and high-quality images, including screen-resolution PTM images that allow the viewer to control the lighting on screen; and 110 uninscribed, sealed tablets with cataloging information, some collated drawings, and high-quality images, including live screen-resolution PTM imagery. 

 Figure 7. OCHRE display of an Elamite Fortification tablet, text, translation, and seal impression 

The West Semitic Research Project (WSRP) team at the University of Southern California presents images of Persepolis Fortification tablets via their online application InscriptiFact. Publicly available there as of mid-2010 are about 15,000 images of about 525 Persepolis Fortification tablets, including 400 Aramaic and 100 uninscribed tablets. In the spring of 2010, InscriptiFact released a new version that incorporates a robust online viewer for high-resolution PTM imagery. This allows users to manipulate apparent lighting (direction, intensity, and focus of one light or two) and apparent surface reflectivity and to compare PTM views with one another and with high-resolution static images. The viewer and the PTM files can also be downloaded for local use. 

Figure 8. Antiquity at Persepolis: three views of the seal impression and Aramaic epigraph on reverse
of an Elamite Fortification tablet (PF 2026), displayed in Inscriptifact. Left: static views with polarized light and infrared filter; right, high-resolution PTM image. The Old Babylonian seal was more than 1,000 years old when it made this impression

Efforts to promote awareness of the plight of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, the unique qualities and value of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, and the aims, methods, and results of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project included a panel at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in January 2010, with presentations by me and by Persepolis Fortification Archive Project members Annalisa Azzoni, Dennis Campbell, Elspeth Dusinberre, and Mark Garrison, along with WSRP collaborators Marilyn Lundberg and Bruce Zuckerman (USC). A panel at the annual meeting of the American Oriental Society honoring the Achaemenid historian (and member of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project’s international advisory board) Amélie Kuhrt included papers by me and by project editors Garrison and Henkelman, and one by graduate student Persepolis Fortification Archive Project worker Tytus Mikolajczak. As professeur invité at the Collège de France in Paris in November 2009, Garrison gave four lectures on the glyptic art of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, drawing on recent project results. Azzoni lectured on the Persepolis Fortification Archive and the project at the Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, and at Baylor University. Dusinberre presented a talk on the Persepolis Fortification Archive at the Boulder, Colorado, Society of the Archaeological Institute of America. I talked about the Persepolis Fortification Archive and the project in and around Chicago at the Harvard Club, at the University of Chicago Humanities Day, at Wheaton College, at the Illinois Institute of Technology, at the Franke Institute for the Humanities, and  at the Midwest Faculty Seminar; farther afield I talked at an event organized by Friends of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project in Palo Alto (a video of the talk is available
), at Berkeley, at the New York University Humanities Institute, at the University of Pennsylvania, at a symposium of the American Institute of Iranian Studies in New York, and at the British Museum. At Johns Hopkins University, I had the honor of devoting the annual W. F. Albright Memorial Lecture to the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project. At Oxford University, I described our methods and experience to the staff of an Oxford-Southampton pilot project using PTM imaging to record ancient artifacts.
Figure 9. Athenian owl in Persepolis and California; title slide of PFA Project panel at 2010 meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America: an Athenian tetradrachm impressed on an uninscribed Fortification tablet, and the same image incorporated in the emblem of the AIA

For the worldwide online audience, the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project Weblog provides access to articles from scholarly and news media  about the archive, the lawsuit, and topics in Achaemenid archaeology and epigraphy: thirty-six  entries were posted in the last year. Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editor Charles Jones (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York) reports that the blog has been viewed more than 18,000 times in the last year, by more than 12,000 unique visitors, more than 1,800 of  them repeat visitors. It has been viewed almost 70,000 times since it debuted in October 2006.

The University News Office released a new press release on the project’s collaboration with WSRP in recording the Aramaic Fortification texts, with an accompanying video. Online journalistic accounts focus on the archive’s legal situation and its broader implications for other cultural artifacts; examples are an article in the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Key Reporter by a lawyer working at Corcoran and Rowe, the firm representing Iran in the litigation, and an article in the online journal of the U.S. State Department,

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editorial staff (Azzoni, Dusinberre, Garrison, Henkelman, Jones, and Stolper) prepared an entry for the Encyclopaedia Iranica on “Persepolis Administrative Archives,” providing an authoritative description of the Persepolis Fortification and Treasury Archives
and an extensive bibliography of current scholarship on them. Images, texts, analysis, and other current results also appear in a stream of publications by project staff and their collaborators, for example, “Seals Bearing Hieroglyphic Inscriptions from the Persepolis Fortification Archive” by Mark Garrison and Oriental Institute Egyptologist Robert Ritner, and “The First Achaemenid Administrative Document Discovered at Persepolis” by Charles E. Jones and Seunghee Yie, both in ARTA: Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology; “Archers at Persepolis,” by Mark Garrison, in The World of Achaemenid Persia, edited by J. Curtis and St. John Simpson (London, 2010); and “New Observations on ‘Greeks’ in the Achaemenid Empire,” by Wouter Henkelman and Robert Rollinger, and “Ethnic Identity and Ethnic Labelling at Persepolis,” by Wouter Henkelman and me, both in Organisation des pouvoirs et contacts culturels dans les pays de l’empire achéménide, edited
by P. Briant and M. Chauveau (Paris, 2009).

In last year’s Annual Report, I mentioned that I was particularly pleased to have found a  document of a new type, an example of the surprises that the Persepolis Fortification Archive still  has to offer. Now I can report with even more delight that we have found four other examples of the same type. What began as an extraordinary sidelight has become a repeating feature of the Persepolis Fortification Archive’s structure and function. This is a well-known phenomenon in work on ancient Near Eastern texts and objects: finding one clear example of something newly understood brings other examples out of the shadows. It is a reminder that the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project is not only producing emergency records of basic information; it is also making strides in our ability to interpret the information. 

Figure 10. Old Persian tablet from the Persepolis Fortification Archive illustrated on the dust jacket of
Numerical Notation: A Comparative History (Cambridge, 2009)

Gratifying in another sense is the citation of the unique Old Persian Fortification text in Stephen Chrisomalis’s Numerical Notation: A Comparative History. The expected audience for the Persepolis Fortification Archive, students of the Achaemenid Persian empire as a whole or in its parts, is scattered among academic subdisciplines, but this citation testifies to the value of the Persepolis Fortification Archive for an unanticipated audience and unexpected research, and it vindicates the use of electronic techniques and media.

A sadder note in closing: July brought the startling news of the sudden death of John Melzian.  John was an industrial designer by training and profession and key member of the InscriptiFact team by inclination and choice. He built and installed the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project’s PTM domes, and he supported the work of the project with curiosity, perspicacity, realism, and grace. 


This Annual Report is republished here with the kind permission of the Oriental Institute Membership Office. The Oriental Institute Annual Reports are available for members as one of the privileges of membership. They are not for sale to the general public. They contain yearly summaries of the activities of the Institute’s faculty, staff, and research projects, as well as descriptions of special events and other Institute functions.

See linked data for Persepolis via awld.js 

News: Persepolis II back in print

After several decades out of print, Oriental Institute Publication 69, Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries, has been digitally reprinted. An Adobe Portable Document Format (pdf) version is also available for download.

Go to the chronicle of news on Persepolis.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

News: NIAC Grant for an education campaign about the Persepolis artifacts

Major New Grant Awards Will Help Build the Capacity of Iranian-Americans

NIAC has received three major grant awards totaling $446,000 from the Parsa Community Foundation, the leading philanthropic organization serving the Iranian-American community.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Nobar Elmi
Phone: 202-386-6325
... A third grant will underwrite a comprehensive media and education campaign about the Persepolis artifacts, priceless Persian antiquities currently caught in a legal battle.  The case is ongoing and its outcome could set potentially shattering precedents for the art world, museums and cultural institutions worldwide, as well as have a deep, negative impact on the cultural identity of Americans of Iranian descent.

Go to the chronicle of news on Persepolis.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

News: Talk at Illinois Wesleyan University

Professor Studying Embattled Tablets Being Returned to Iran to Speak for Ides of November
Oct. 26, 2010
Illinois Wesleyan News
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University will welcome Professor of Assyriology Matthew Stolper on Monday, November 15 at 4 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium of The Ames Library (1 Ames Plaza, Bloomington). His talk, titled “Shattered Window on the Persian Empire: Rescuing the Persepolis Fortification Archive,” is sponsored by the Greek & Roman Studies Department, Eta Sigma Phi and the Classics Club, and is part of the Ides Lecture & Performance Series.

The director of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, Stolper studies clay tablets discovered in the ancient ruins of Persepolis in the 1930s by a University of Chicago expedition. Stolper is hoping to make the tens of thousands of the Persepolis clay tablets, which recorded the daily rule of Achemenid Persian kings from 550-330 B.C., available online. American survivors of terrorist bombings are asking Federal courts to award them possession of the Persepolis Fortification tablets to satisfy punitive judgments against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“There is only one Persepolis Fortification Archive,” Stolper said. “It’s the richest, densest, most complex source of information on the languages, society, institutions, and art of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.  Breaking it up or losing it entirely without harvesting all of this information would leave a tragic wound in the history of civilization.”

For additional information about the speaker or the Ides series, contact the Greek and Roman Studies Department at (309) 556-3173.
Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Persepolis sequence from The Human Adventure (again)

In June I posted a link to an online version of the Persepolis sequence from The Human Adventure.  Shortly thereafter the OI asserted its copyright and the clip was removed.  Yesterday the Oriental Institute launched its own Youtube Channel.  It's first public offering is the complete film.

This 1935 film, produced by the Oriental Institute of the University of  Chicago under the supervision of Dr. James Henry Breasted was written  and told by his son, Charles Breasted.  Though we no longer think about  archaeology in the same way, this film gives us insight into the early  days of the field.      

Data (minimal) on the Human adventure is at IMDb, and at Turner Classic Movies.

And see a Review of a Review of The Human Adventure.

The Iranian sequence begins at 48:10

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Online review of L’archive des Fortifications de Persépolis

 AJA Online Publications: Book Reviews

L’archive des Fortifications de Persépolis: État des questions et perspectives de recherches. Actes du colloque organisé au Collège de France, 3–4 novembre 2006
Edited by Pierre Briant, Wouter F.M. Henkelman, and Matthew W. Stolper (Persika 12). Pp. 574, figs. 126, pls. 11, charts 8, tables 28, plans 2, map 1. De Boccard, Paris 2008. €117. ISBN 978-7018-0249-7 (paper).

Reviewed by Bruno Jacobs

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A personal take on the project

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project from Joshua Elek's Me Things, The Stuff I Think...
...I've been trying to get in on the project for a few months now. Originally I heard that I could get in on it, and then I heard that there might not be enough room on the machines to help. I kept asking and today I got an email saying that I can start tomorrow. Which means that tomorrow morning at 8:00, I'll be walking into the Oriental Institute to start editing the photos of these documents hoping to help preserve the Persepolis Administrative Archives. Man, this is cool. I can't wait to start.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

New in ARTA

Pierre Amiet, Le palais de Darius à Suse: Problèmes et hypothèses. ARTA 2010.001
La publication finale des travaux de la Délégation archéologique française en Iran, le Palais de Darius à Suse, était très attendue. Elle a été conçue par le chef de mission, son maître d’oeuvre, comme une synthèse définitive, fondée sur des recherches pluridisciplinaires conduites avec de grands moyens, selon les procédés les plus modernes, avec une équipe de collaborateurs soumis à ses directives. Des personnalités indépendantes ont été associées à cette publication. Or les observations archéologiques nouvelles ont reçu des interprétations qui en sont comme imposées, en éliminant toute autre. Elles posent cependant des problèmes qu’il importe d’exploiter, et d’ouvrir la voie à des vues différentes...

Mark B. Garrison, Robert K. Ritner, From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, 2: Seals with Egyptian Hieroglyphic Inscriptions at Persepolis. ARTA 2010.002
Abstract — This article publishes six seals that carry Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions, and one seal that potentially employs Egyptian hieroglyphic signs in a decorative manner, from the Persepolis Fortification archive. These seals are the first evidence for the occurrence of Egyptian hieroglyphic script on seals at Persepolis. The seals raise various issues concerning glyptic use and production within southwestern Iran during the reign of Darius I.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

The British Museum Persepolis Type Tablet

The British Museum Collection Database includes data on the single tablet in that collection that looks like a Persepolis Tablet:

tablet / seal-impression

Right half of clay tablet with four and one and two lines of  inscription; late Elamite; seal-impression showing winged figures.


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • ObverseObverse
  • ObverseObverse
  • ReverseReverse

Department: Middle East

Registration number: 1914,0407.129

BM/Big number: 108963

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Object types
tablet (scope note | all objects)
seal-impression (scope note | all objects)

clay (scope note | all objects)

seal-impressed (scope note | all objects)
Production place

Made in Asia (scope note | all objects)

Neo-Elamite (scope note | all objects)

Right half of clay tablet with four and one and two lines of inscription; late Elamite; seal-impression showing winged figures.


Inscription Type: inscription
Inscription Script: cuneiform
Inscription Language:


Length: 1.88 inches
Width: 1.88 inches

Fair; incomplete. Fired 1 Jul 1986. T.W.T. 1 Sep 1986. Completed 24 Sep 1986.

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased from Albert Amor (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Maimon (biographical details | all objects)

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Persepolis, The Chicago Blackhawks, and the Stanley Cup

"So", you ask, "What have Persepolis, The Chicago Blackhawks, and the Stanley Cup got to do with each other"?

For those of you not paying attention: Last evening, the Chicago Blackhawks, an ice hockey team, won the final game of the National Hockey League championship, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime, and claiming the Stanly Cup for the first time in 49 years.

49 years ago, the Blackhawks defeated the Detroit Red Wings for the 1961 championship. In the series leading to that championship two of the greatest athletes in Chicago sports history, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita made their first Stanley Cup appearances. Hull scored two in the first game including the winner, and Mikita scored the winner in game five.

Robert Marvin "Bobby" Hull was the brother of Barbara Hull. Barbara Hull was married to Richard Hallock. The circle is complete!

So now I ask you, what have the Stanly Cup and WWII cryptography to do with each other?

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Persepolis sequence from The Human Adventure

[1/17/10. As you can see the excerpt of the Human Adventure has been removed because the Oriental Institute asserted it's copyright. You win some you lose some as the saying goes. Maybe it'll appear somewhere else, perhaps even in an authorized form? Watch this space! And yes, in October 2010 the full film appeared in YouTube]

This is the Iran section of the Oriental Institute produced film The Human Adventure, filmed in 1933 and released in 1935. Most of the footage posted here is of the excavations at Persepolis.

Also have a look at a Review of a Review of The Human Adventure

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

News: A Battle over Ancient Bits of Clay

A Battle over Ancient Bits of Clay
02 June 2010
By Jeff Baron
Staff Writer

Washington — The fate of clay tablets that recorded details of everyday government transactions in the Persian Empire 2,500 years ago might depend on maneuverings in the government of the modern United States.

The tablets — more than 10,000 of them from a long-buried Persian government archive at Persepolis — are at the center of a lobbying effort in the U.S. Congress. They were discovered in 1933 and have been in the United States since 1936, on loan from Iran for study. Scholars, research institutions and Iranian-American groups are trying to protect them from being seized and auctioned off for the benefit of people who have legal claims against the current Iranian government over acts of terrorism...

Go to the chronicle of news on Persepolis.

Go to the chronicle of news on the Persepolis Fortification Archive.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

News: Suicide Bombings and Archaeology: Unpredictable Connections

Suicide Bombings and Archaeology: Unpredictable Connections
Monday, May 17th, 2010
In 1933 and 1934, archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld excavated an astonishingly large cache of inscribed tablets at Persepolis, once the monumental capital of the Persian Empire, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

On Sept. 4th, 1997, a Hamas-sponsored suicide attack at the Ben Yehuda mall in Jerusalem took the lives of five people, including three young girls.

Thought these two events would be completely disconnected? So did I, and maybe normally they would be. What they have in common is the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country where the tablets were found, and the country that partially funds Hamas. This connection has linked the tablets and the suicide bombing together in an unpredictable lawsuit that threatens the increasingly fragile nature of international archaeological cooperation...
Go to the chronicle of news on Persepolis.

Go to the chronicle of news on the Persepolis Fortification Archive.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Lecture at Cornell: From Persepolis before Persepolis: the Persepolis Fortification Archive in Chicago

Scholar to speak about Near East archives

Matthew W. Stolper, The John A. Wilson Professor of Oriental Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the College at the University of Chicago, will spend two days on campus and deliver a lecture on Thursday, May 6 at 4:30 p.m. in the Hedges Conference Room in The Commons.

The lecture, titled “From Persepolis before Persepolis: the Persepolis Fortification Archive in Chicago,” will discuss not only the discoveries from the Persepolis Fortification Archive and the knowledge we have gained and will gain of the ancient Persian Empire, but also the cultural heritage issues surrounding the tablets. The lecture will be the first event introducing Persepolis, ancient and modern, to the Cornell community as part of the One Book, One Campus, One Community program. This year’s book is the graphic novel Persepolis II...

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News: Iran Gambles with its Cultural Heritage in U.S. Lawsuits

Iran Gambles with its Cultural Heritage in U.S. Lawsuits
Apr 29, 2010
E. E. Mazier
By ignoring lawsuits against it and failing to take an active role in the post-judgment phase of those cases, Iran is at risk of seeing a major component of its cultural heritage broken up and sold in pieces. That was the underlying message of an April 27, 2010 lecture by Matthew W. Stolper at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia about the Persepolis Fortification Tablets...
Go to the chronicle of news on Persepolis.

Go to the chronicle of news on the Persepolis Fortification Archive.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Johns Hopkins: The William Foxwell Albright Lecture 2010

Wed., April 21, 5:30 p.m. The William Foxwell Albright Lecture 2010—

“Persian Antiquities in Crisis: The Persepolis Fortification Archive Project at the University of Chicago” by Matthew Stolper, University of Chicago. Sponsored by Near Eastern Studies. 111 Mergenthaler. HW

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Film: Terra X: Persien - Die Erbschaft des Feuers

Terra X: Persien - Die Erbschaft des Feuers
1933 findet der Ernst Herzfeld das Gedächtnis des untergegangenen Perser-Reiches: 30.000 Tontafeln. Der Fund des Palastarchives macht den Archäologen weltberühmt. Doch die Nazis diffamieren ihn
A docudrama about the discoveries at Persepolis: a thrilling story of intrigue and betrayal!

Watch the film here in German. I'm told an English version will soon appear.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Persepolis Fortification Archive in the Encyclopaedia Iranica

The newly (April 9, 2010) relaunched Encyclopaedia Iranica has greatly enhanced search and display functions. It now allows open access to eighty-eight articles referring to the Persepolis Fortification Tablets:


    M. Mayrhofer

    name of an Iranian in the Persepolis Fortification Tablets.


    H. Koch

    place name, apparently the same as Pasargadae, which appears on the Elamite fortification tablets found at Persepolis.


    M. A. Dandamayev

    Old Persian personal name.


    R. Schmitt

    (a-ç-i-y-a-di-i-y-), name of the ninth month (November-December) of the Old Persian calendar.


    M. A. Dandamayev

    the Greek form of a Median and Old Persian measure of volume.


    M. A. Dandamayev

    son of Upadarma, a rebel against Darius I.


    R. Schmitt

    name of the tenth month (December-January) of the Old Persian calendar.


    R. Schmitt

    a-du-u-k-n-i-š-), name of the first month (March-April) of the Old Persian calendar.


    Rüdiger Schmitt

    name of the fourth month (June-July) of the Old Persian calendar.


    R. Schmitt

    Persian female personal name.


    R. Schmitt

    name of the seventh month (September-October) of the Old Persian calendar, mentioned in Darius I’s Behistun inscription.


    M. Mayrhoffer

    an Iranian, to whom were entrusted 215 (?) BAR of grain provided for provisions at Tukraš.


    M. A. Dandamayev

    Greek rendering of an Old Iranian name.


    A. Sh. Shahbazi

    Greek form of an Old Persian name attested in the Achaemenid period.


    Charles E. Jones and Matthew W. Stolper

    (1906-1980), Elamitologist and Assyriologist, whose magnum opus, Persepolis Fortification Tablets, transformed the study of the languages and history of Achaemenid Persia.


    A. Sh. Shahbazi

    Greek rendering of an Old Iranian name.


    M. Dandamayev

    (Arabia), a province of the Achaemenid empire.


    Muhammad Dandamayev

    administrative records in Elamite inscribed on clay tablets. Parts of two archives of such tablets were discovered in Persepolis in 1933-34 and 1936-38.

  • LEWIS, David Malcolm

    Amılie Kuhrt

    (1928-1994), distinguished historian and epigrapher of Greece in the fifth and fourth century BCE and, by extension, of the Achaemenid empire.

    This Article Has Images.
  • CYRUS, ii. Cyrus I

    A. Shapur Shahbazi


    Rüdiger Schmitt

    ancient region east of Fārs province, approximately equivalent to modern Kermān. The Old Persian form is attested only once in inscriptions.


    A. Sh. Shahbazi

    a senior official under Darius the Great and Xerxes.


    A. Sh. Shahbazi

    or ARTYBIOS, Greek rendering of an Old Persian name.


    M. L. Chaumont

    “master of horses, chief of cavalry,” Parthian title attested in the Nisa documents and the inscription of Šāpūr I on the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt.


    M. A. Dandamayev

    Old Iranian personal name.


    Muhammad A. Dandamayev


    M. A. Dandamayev

    Latinized form of an Old Persian proper name.


    R. Schmitt

    Achaemenid queen.



    the most widely known (Greek) form of the Old Persian name Gaub(a)ruva.

  • FASĀ ii. Tall-e Żaḥḥāk


    This Article Has Images.

    R. Schmitt

    the last Median king.


    Matthew W. Stolper

    (treasurer), title of provincial and sub-provincial financial administrators in the Achaemenid empire, extended to workers attached to Achaemenid treasuries; title of financial administrators in Parthian and Sasanian provinces; title of temple administra


    Muhammad A.Dandamayev

    (*hmāra-kara-, lit. “account-maker”), “bookkeeper,” an Old Iranian title attested in various sources of Achaemenid and later times.

  • DĀTA


    Old Iranian term for “law” attested both in Avestan texts (Old and Younger Av. dāta-) and in Achaemenid royal inscriptions.


    M. Boyce

    (Avestan) “priest” regularly used to designate the priests as a social “class,” one of the three into which ancient Iranian society was theoretically divided.


    R. Schmitt

    province in the eastern part of the Achaemenid empire around modern Kandahār, which was inhabited by the Iranian Arachosians or Arachoti.


    Matthew W. Stolper

    city and region in Elam (q.v.); a residence of Elamite kings in the early 7th century B.C.E., a regional administrative center thereafter.


    W. W. Malandra

    an official at the court of Vīštāspa and an early convert of Zarathushtra, who, in the tradition became widely known for his wisdom.


    Hubertus von Gall

    Herzfeld first visited Persepolis in November 1905 during his return from the Assur excavation. He returned to Persepolis during his expedition to Persia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, which lasted from February 1923 to October 1925.


    D. N. MacKenzie, M. L. Chaumont

    a Middle and New Persian word designating a person holding a particular administrative post.


    Rüdiger Schmitt

    Evidence from the Achaemenid period is considerable, but in authentic sources, the inscriptions of the kings themselves, fewer than fifty names are documented in their Old Persian form.



    (Gk. Dēïókēs), name of a Median king.


    Jack Martin Balcer

    (Byzantion): contact with the Achaemenids (ca. 513-439 BCE). The Greek polis of Byzantium, in the European province of Thrace (OPers. Skudra), played a pivotal role in the Greco-Persian wars.


    Rüdiger Schmitt

    German scholar of Persian and Elamite studies (1906-1992).

    This Article Has Images.

    Rüdiger Schmitt

    (Gk. Hydárnēs), rendering of the Old Persian male name Vidṛna held by several historical persons of the Achaemenid period.

  • COURTS AND COURTIERS i. In the Median and Achaemenid periods

    Muhammad A. Dandamayev


    Josef Wiesehöfer

    Herzfeld’s classical education, giving him familiarity with Greek and Latin literature, and his training in Oriental philology as well as in archeology and architectural techniques proved of great benefit in his study of pre-Islamic Iranian history and culture.


    M. Boyce

    the Avestan name with title of a great divinity of the Old Iranian religion, who was subsequently proclaimed by Zoroaster as God.

  • Greece, vii


    vii. Greek Art and Architecture in Iran.


    Kamyar Abdi

    an important archeological site in the Kor River basin in central Fārs, identified as ancient Anshan, the highland capital of Elam.

    This Article Has Images.
  • COMMERCE ii. In the Achaemenid period

    Muhammad A. Dandamayev


    A. D. H. Bivar

    This Article Has Images.

    Remy Boucharlat

    The history of Persia before Cyrus and at the beginning of his reignindicate that Persian elements were present in the plain not far from Susa in the first decades of the 6th century.

    This Article Has Images.


    Iranian personal name, reflecting Old Iranian *Dātama- or *Dātāma-, either a two-stem shortened form *Dāta-m-a- from a compound name like *Dātamiθra- or an unabridged compound *Dātāma-from *Dāta-ama-“to whom force is given.”


    Kamyar Abdi

    a major research center devoted to the study of the history, languages, and archeology of the ancient Near East, and Egypt.


    John F. Hansman

    semi-independent state frequently subject to Parthian domination, which existed between the second century B.C.E. and the early third century C. E. in the territories of Ḵūzestān, in southwestern Persia.


    A. Sh. Shahbazi

    Old Persian proper name.

  • ARCHEOLOGY ii. Median and Achaemenid

    D. Stronach

    This Article Has Images.

    Rüdiger Schmitt

    the conventional name for a system of writing ultimately derived from the pictographic script developed by the Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia (Uruk) around 3000 B.C.E.


    M. Boyce

    Greek writings establish with all reasonable clarity that the later Achaemenids were Zoroastrians; but the religion of the early kings has been much debated.


    Muhammad A. Dandamayev

  • ELAM v. Elamite language



    A. Shapur Shahbazi

    The city of Shiraz has been the capital of the province of Fārs since the Islamic conquest, succeeding Eṣṭaḵr (q.v.) of the Sasanian period and Persepolis (q.v.) of the Achaemenid days.


    Michael Weiskopf

    Achaemenid satrapy in northwestern Anatolia, part of the Persian empire until the 330s B.C.E.


    Takeshi Aoki

    Ancient Iranian studies in Japan started at the beginning of the 20th century in Tokyo and Kyoto independently.


    Muhammad A. Dandamayev, Mansour Shaki, EIr

    (usually ʿaqd), legally enforceable undertakings between two or more consenting parties.


    D. T. Potts

    This entry will deal with the role of Indian Ocean in international trade in the following periods:

    i. Pre-Islamic period. ii. Islamic Period. See Supplement.

  • EPIGRAPHY i. Old Persian and Middle Iranian epigraphy

    Helmut Humbach

  • FĀRS i. History in the Pre-Islamic Period

    Josef Wiesehöfer

  • EPIGRAPHY ii. Greek inscriptions from ancient Iran

    Philip Huyse


    Multiple Authors

    i. In ancient Iran. ii. In Pahlavi literature. iii. Principles and ingredients of modern Persian cooking. iv. In Afghanistan.


    David Stronach and Hilary Gopnik

    capital city and last resting place of Cyrus the Great (r. 559-530 BCE), located in northern Fārs.

    This Article Has Images.
  • ELAM i. The history of Elam

    F. Vallat

  • DARIUS, i.-iii.


    (NPers. Darīūš, Dārā), name of several Achaemenid and Parthian rulers and princes.

  • DARIUS, iv.-viii.

    Heleen Sanchisi-Weerdenburg, EIr, R

    iv. Darius II. v. Darius III. vi. Achaemenid princes. vii. Parthian princes. viii. Darius son of Artabanus.

  • WOMEN i. In Pre-Islamic Persia

    Maria Brosius


    Mark Garrison

    a term adopted by modern researchers to designate the stand upon which sacred fire was placed.

  • BABYLONIA i. History of Babylonia in the Median and Achaemenid periods

    M. A. Dandamayev

    The Medes, under their king Cyaxares, first seized the Assyrian province of Arrapha in 614 B.C. Then, in the autumn of the same year, and after a fierce battle, they gained control of Assyria’s ancient capital, Assur. Nabopolassar brought his Babylonian army and joined the Medes after Assur had fallen.


    A. Shapur Shahbazi, C. Edmund Bosworth

    these centers played important diplomatic and administrative roles in Iranian history, closely linked to the fortunes of the ruling families.

  • IRAN ix. RELIGIONS IN IRAN (1) Pre-Islamic (1.1) Overview

    Philip G. Kreyenbroek

    From the 2nd millennium BCE until Islam became dominant in Iran, a remarkable number of religious traditions existed there.


    E. Badian

    the unsuccessful uprising of the Greek cities of Asia Minor against Achaemenid control, 499-493 BCE. The main and almost the only source for the Revolt is Herodotus of Halicarnassus.

    This Article Has Images.

    Hanns-Peter Schmidt

    Indo-Iranian god, with name based on the common noun mitrá “contract” with the connotations of “covenant, agreement, treaty, alliance, promise.”


    Bruno Jacobs

    the administrative units of the Achaemenid empire.


    Antonio Panaino, Reza Abdollahy, Daniel Balland

    Although evidence of calendrical traditions in Iran can be traced back to the 2nd millennium b.c., before the lifetime of Zoroaster (see discussion of the Zoroas trian calendar below), the earliest calendar that is fully preserved dates from the Achaemenid period.

  • IRAN v. PEOPLES OF IRAN (2) Pre-Islamic

    C. J. Brunner

    This survey focuses on the early phase of the Iranian-speaking peoples’ presence on the plateau, during the early state-building phase.


    M. Dandamayev and È. Grantovskiĭ, M. Dandamayev, K. Schippmann

    i. The Kingdom of Assyria and its relations with Iran. ii. Achaemenid Aθurā. iii. Parthian Assur.

  • Greece ii. Greco-Persian Cultural Relations

    Margaret C. Miller

    Here the evidence for receptivity to Persian culture in Greece, the North Aegean, and West Anatolia is addressed, including receptivity on the part of the non-Greek peoples of these regions.

    This Article Has Images.
  • JAMŠID i. Myth of Jamšid


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