Achaemenid, about 486-465 BC
From Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, south-west Turkey)
Old Persian inscription
This jar comes from the western part of the Achaemenid Empire. It is
inscribed with the words 'Xerxes Great King' in Old Persian, Elamite,
Babylonian and Egyptian.
The Achaemenid Persians used a cuneiform script quite
different from Akkadian cuneiform, and was probably an
artificial royal creation of Darius I (521-486 BC). All the inscriptions
written in this script ('Old Persian') appear either on buildings and
rockfaces in Iran or on smaller
portable objects probably emanating from his court.
They are almost always accompanied by versions in other languages, and
this vessel has Elamite (a language spoken in south-western Iran), written
in cuneiform, and Egyptian, written in hieroglyphs. This demonstrates the
extent of the Achaemenid Eempire, which stretched from Egypt and the
Aegean to the Indus. The most famous trilingual inscription (Old Persian,
Elamite and Babylonian)
is carved on the cliff face at Bisitun dominating the main road leading to
Ecbatana (modern Hamadan). It was created by Darius I and gave a detailed
account of the circumstances surrounding his accession to the throne.
It began to be deciphered in the early nineteenth century.
The greatest advance in understanding it was made by Henry Rawlinson who
was able to make so-called 'squeezes': paper impressions of the long
obtained by physically pushing a special sort of thick paper, softened by
water, into the letters. This resulted in an exact copy of these
inaccessible inscriptions, which was a vital tool in their decipherment.
Height: 11.31 inches
Diameter: 7 inches