Rawlinson at Behistun, Iran


The Behistun Inscription is to cuneiform script what the Rosetta Stone was to Egyptian Hieroglyphics , the vital key to the decipherment of a previously lost script.  The Behistun inscription is a trilingual inscription and large  rock relief carved on a sheer cliff face at Mount Behistun in the Kermansha Province of Iran near the city of Kermanshah. It is a proclamation by Darius the Great( ruled between 522-486 BCE)

It was crucial to the  decipherment of the cuneiform script as the inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different cuneiform languages:  Old Persian , Elamite and Babylonian ( a  variety of Akkadian). The Besitun inscription carved high on the cliff was meant to last  safe from destruction by future enemies, thus preserving Darius’s legacy. It was however almost inaccessible given the high position on the cliff face.

Rawlinson, at great  risk to himself suspended himself by ropes and with the help of a couple of local boys  managed to get  papier mache casts.  Later along with other eminent scholars ,the translation of the Old Persian sections of the Behistun Inscription paved the way to the subsequent ability to decipher the Elamite and Babylonian parts of the text, which led to cuneiform script decipherment  and the development of Assyriology.

Henry Rawlinson is commemorated by this statue set in the foothills of Mount Behistun in Kermanshah.



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