April 30, 2009

Ancient Persian tablets are digitized

University of Chicago scientists they've digitally recorded thousands of ancient Persian tablets that tell an unusually detailed story of the Persian Empire.

Researchers from the university's Oriental Institute, led by institute Director Gil Stein, said the tablets present texts in impressed cuneiform characters, while other have inked texts in Aramaic. Nearly all have seal impressions. The digitalizing will allow scholars and viewers across the world to examine the tablets.

They were written, sealed and filed in a short span of time, between 509 and 493 B.C., in the middle of the reign of the Achaemenid Persian king Darius I, Stein said. The oldest Greek tragedy of Aeschylus and the first Greek history of Herodotus tell us about the reign of Darius but they don't tell us anything like this. The administration that these documents record touched every level of society, from lowly workers through bureaucrats and governors to the royal family itself, he said.

The research, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, began in 2007. A second Mellon grant will allow the team to continue the work through 2010. By that time the researchers say they hope to have about 10,000 tablets and fragments recorded.