Linear Elamite

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Linear Elamite
List of known Linear Elamite characters.jpg
List of known Linear Elamite characters.[1]
Time period
3rd millennium BC
Parent systems

Linear Elamite is an undeciphered Bronze Age writing system used in Elam, known from a few monumental inscriptions only. It was used contemporaneously with Elamite Cuneiform and possibly records the Elamite language.


It was in use for a brief period of time during the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC. It is often claimed that Linear Elamite is a syllabic writing system derived from the older Proto-Elamite writing system, although this has not been proven. Linear Elamite has not been deciphered.[2] Early attempts by Carl Frank (1912) and Ferdinand Bork (1924) made limited progress.[3] Later work by Walther Hinz and Piero Meriggi furthered the work.[4][5][6][7]


It is thought that the use of Linear Elamite ended circa 2100 BCE with the death of King Kutik-Inshushinak, last ruler of the Awan Dynasty in Susa. After his death the linear script fell into disuse, and Susa was overrun by the Third dynasty of Ur, while Elam fell under control of the Shimashki dynasty (also Elamite of origin).[8]


Scholars have been comparing the Indus valley script with Linear Elamite. The two languages were contemporary to each other. Scholars gained knowledge of the Elamite language from a bilingual monument called the "Table of the Lion" in the Louvre museum. The monument contained the same text in Akkadian, a known writing system, and in Linear Elamite. On comparing this ancient language to the Indus script, a number of similar symbols have been found.[9]

Discovered texts[edit]

There are only 22 known documents in Linear Elamite; they are identified by letters A-V (Hinz, 1969, pp. 11–44; Andre‚ and Salvini, 1989, pp. 58–61); of these, 19 are on stone and clay objects excavated in the acropolis at Susa (now kept in the Louvre in Paris). Other objects are held at the National Museum of Iran.

Bilingual Linear Elamite-Akkadian inscription of king Kutik-Inshushinak, "Table au Lion", Louvre Museum Sb 17

The most important longer texts, partly bilingual, appear in monumental contexts. They are engraved on large stone sculptures, including a statue of the goddess Narunte (I), the "table au lion" (A), and large votive boulders (B, D), as well as on a series of steps (F, G, H, U) from a monumental stone stairway, where they alternated with steps bearing texts with Akkadian titles of Puzur-Inšušinak. A unique find is item Q, a silver vase with a single line of perfectly executed text, kept in the Tehran Museum. There are also a few texts on baked-clay cones (J, K, L), a clay disk (M), and clay tablets (N, O, R). Some objects (A, I, C) include both Linear Elamite and Akkadian cuneiform inscriptions. The bilingual and biographic inscriptions of the monumental stairway as a whole, and the votive boulder B have inspired the first attempts at decipherment of Linear Elamite (Bork, 1905, 1924; Frank, 1912). Nine texts have also been found on silver beakers (X, Y, Z, F’, H’, I’, J’, K’ and L’).[10] Note that some of the extant Linear Elamite inscriptions are suspected of being forgeries.

In 2016, 10 additional Linear Elamite inscriptions were discovered, some very long at nearly 200 signs. [11]



  1. ^ Zur Entzifferung der altelamischen Inschriften - PDF Free Download. pp. 52–56.
  2. ^ Francois Desset. Linear Elamite writing, in The Elamite world, eds. J. Alvarez-Mon, G.-P. Basello et Y. Wicks, Routledge World Series, Taylor and Francis, Abington, 2018
  3. ^ Walther Hinz, Problems of Linear Elamite, The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland No. 2 (1975), pp. 106-115
  4. ^ Piero Meriggi, La scritura proto-elamica. Parte Ia: La scritura e il contenuto dei testi (Rome, 1971)
  5. ^ Piero Meriggi, La scritura proto-elamica. Parte IIa: Catalogo dei segni (Rome, 1974)
  6. ^ Piero Meriggi, La scritura proto-elamica. Parte IIIa: Testi (Rome, 1974)
  7. ^ Walter Hinz, Altiranische Funde und Forschungen (Berlin 1969)
  8. ^ Encyclopedia Iranica: Elam - Simashki dynasty, F. Vallat
  9. ^ Possehl, Gregory L. (2002). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Rowman Altamira. p. 131. ISBN 9780759101722.
  10. ^ Francois Desset, Nine Linear Elamite Texts Inscribed on Silver “Gunagi” Vessels (X, Y, Z, F’, H’, I’, J’, K’ and L’): New Data on Linear Elamite Writing and the History of the Sukkalmaḫ Dynasty, Iran, Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, Volume 56, 2018 - Issue 2
  11. ^ Mäder, M. (2017). Some new Linear Elamite inscriptions. BAF-Online: Proceedings of the Berner Altorientalisches Forum, 1.


  • B. Andre‚ and M. Salvini, "Réflexions sur Puzur-Inšušinak," Iranica Antiqua 24, 1989, pp. 53–72.
  • F. Bork, "Zur protoelamischen Schrift," OLZ 8, 1905, pp. 323–30.
  • F. Bork, Die Strichinschriften von Susa, Königsberg, 1924.
  • C. Frank, Zur Entzifferung der altelamischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1912.
  • RK Englund, The proto-Elamite script, in Daniels, Peter T., Ed.; Bright, William, Ed The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press, 1996 ISBN 978-0195079937
  • W. Hinz, "Zur Entzifferung der elamischen Strichinschrift," Iranica Antiqua 2, 1962, pp. 1–21.

External links[edit]