February 26, 2024

Archaeologists have discovered more than 1,600 Proto-Elamite inscriptions and only about 43 Linear Elamite inscriptions scattered across Iran. Linear Elamite, a previously unknown writing system, used a set of symbols to record the Elamite language, and had stumped experts for centuries. A team of European scholars, led by French archaeologist Francois Desset, recently published an analysis in the journal Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie proposing a method for reading the symbols of Linear Elamite. Based on newly examined inscriptions from ancient silver beakers, the team suggests that Linear Elamite could be deciphered, potentially shedding light on an ancient society that flourished between Mesopotamia and the Indus River Valley. The scholars argue that their findings could rewrite the evolution of writing itself. The research, however, has sparked debate among experts. Desset claims that Linear Elamite is based solely on syllables, which would make it the oldest known writing system to do so. His data also suggests that Proto-Elamite is a predecessor of Linear Elamite, although not all scholars support this theory due to the 800-year gap between the two writing systems. Despite the controversy, the newly proposed method for deciphering Linear Elamite could pave the way for understanding long-obscure texts and rewrite the history of ancient writing systems.

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