RAWLINSON, Henry Creswick

   English soldier, diplomat, and one of the decipherers of cuneiform writing. In 1827 he joined the East India Company as a cadet and learned Persian. He was sent to Persia to train the shah’s troops and came across monumental rock inscriptions at Behistun. Using ropes and ladders, he made copies and squeezes of the text, which was written in cuneiform. He found that the same text was written in three languages, using cuneiform characters, and that one of them was ancient Persian and contained the names of the Achaemenid kings Darius and Xerxes. This furnished clues as to the phonetic values of certain signs, and he presented his translation to the Royal Asiatic Society in 1837 and 1839. When he was appointed British consul to Baghdad in 1843, he had the opportunity to visit AustenLayard’s excavations at Nineveh and work on his account of the Behistun inscriptions. In 1853 he excavated the ziggurat at Borsippa.
   He returned to England in 1855, where he continued his scholarly activities while pursuing a diplomatic career in the East India Company, and received many honors. Of great importance for the development of Assyriology, and for decades the main source of reference, was the publication The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia(with Edwin Norris, George Smith, and T. G. Pinches) in 1861 and 1866, which comprised historical and religious texts, as well as lexical lists and Sumerian-Akkadian bilingual texts.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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  • AKKADIAN —    As a modern linguistic term it refers to various Semitic dialects spoken in Mesopotamia over a period of 2,000 years (such as Old Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian). In antiquity, scribes differentiated between texts written in the “tongue of… …   Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia

  • CUNEIFORM —    A system of writing in which a cut reed stylus is pressed into soft clay to leave a wedgelike imprint (Latin cuneus). It was invented in Mesopotamia in the late fourth millennium B.C. Different versions of cuneiform writing were used to write… …   Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia

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