French archaeologist François Desset has just deciphered 4,400-year-old Iranian writing

French archaeologist François Desset (screenshot YOUTUBE / UNIVERSITY OF PADOVA)

Like the benchmark of Egyptology Jean-François Champollion, he is French. And like him, he managed to decipher a language that has kept its mystery for millennia. François Desset is an archaeologist. He has just decoded linear elamite. A phonetic writing, cuneiform type, found on multiple clay tablets, precisely in the ruins of the ancient city of Susa, in Iran. The country was formerly called Persia and even earlier, 4,500 years ago, kingdom of Elam, hence the name of the writing in question, linear Elamite.

This is no small discovery: it was more than a century, in other words since the discovery in 1901 of the first tablets, that this writing system was known. But no one, despite all the attempts in 119 years, has ever found the key. No one, until François Desset, 38, associate researcher at CNRS Archaeorient from Lyon and specialist in the Bronze Age and the Neolithic in Iran.

Thanks to these works, I can now affirm that writing did not first appear in Mesopotamia alone but that two writings appeared at the same time in two different regions.

François Desset, archaeologist

Science and the Future

The archaeologist did not just dream ahead Indiana Jones. Ten years of studies, a thesis, a move to Iran, more than fourteen years of work, and finally a click, in 2017, while studying a series of texts found on a silver funeral vase. He identifies repetitions, sequences of perfectly identical signs and understands that it is a proper name. So he finds the names of two rulers, then that of the local goddess, Napirisha, and from there, decodes the rest, syllable after syllable, finding a prayer.

“I did not wake up one morning telling myself that I had deciphered the linear elamite, he said to Science and the Future, it really took me ten years (…) but thanks to this work, I can now affirm that writing did not first appear in Mesopotamia alone but that two writings appeared at the same time in two different regions. “ This is the other revolution, since until now, the world cradle of writing was Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, formerly Babylon. With his 4,400-year-old tablets, François Desset has changed everything.

These Elamite writings are contemporary with the Mesopotamian writings equally. Enough to show that the story is always more subtle and complex than a simple chronology. But whatever, in 2020, Elamite writing finally has a reader. A decryptor who will publish all of his work on the subject next year, in 2021.

6 thoughts on “French archaeologist François Desset has just deciphered 4,400-year-old Iranian writing”

  1. Thank you, Dr. Champollion. I think you will find most fascinating – and helpful in your research – the work of Dr. Robert Schoch regarding very ancient civilization and what destroyed it. The Elamite glyphs have many similarities to Easter Island’s rongorongo script (among others), which has now been connected to plasma configurations and the work of Dr. Anthony Peratt at Los Alamos National Laboratory (his identification of “plasma petroglyphs” discovered in more than 130 countries and confirmed by high-tech plasma physics). I recommend Dr. Schoch’s book (the updated second edition) “Forgotten Civilization: New Discoveries on the Solar-Induced Dark Age”, which you can find links to on his website.

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  2. This is a correction to a previous post I submitted. My apologies for the egregious mistake regarding Dr. Desset’s name. — Thank you, Dr. Desset. I think you will find most fascinating – and helpful in your research – the work of Dr. Robert Schoch regarding very ancient civilization and what destroyed it. The Elamite glyphs have many similarities to Easter Island’s rongorongo script (among others), which has now been connected to plasma configurations and the work of Dr. Anthony Peratt at Los Alamos National Laboratory (his identification of “plasma petroglyphs” discovered in more than 130 countries and confirmed by high-tech plasma physics). I recommend Dr. Schoch’s book (the updated second edition) “Forgotten Civilization: New Discoveries on the Solar-Induced Dark Age”, which you can find links to on his website.

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  3. Unfortunately, Desset’s claim that Linear Elamite is a purely syllabic/consonantic writing system is not tenable. The convincing and broadly confirmed “Exponent G” formula in Fuls (2019, “Classifying undeciphered writing systems”, in his “Deciphering the Phaistos Disc, pp. 9-18) shows that c. 69% of the Linear Elamite signs must be logographic. Linear Elamite would be the first writing in the world to break this law, which is extremely unlikely. Other confirmed findings such as the syntactic behaviour of word-end signs (which must be Elamite suffixes, see Mäder et al. (2018, “Sequenzanalysen zur elamischen Strichschrift”, Elamica 8, pp. 49-104) and many other quantitative patterns are also neglected.

    As I saw in his online presentation, this try-and-error method of assigning sound values results in the invention of highly un-Elamite and unattested words like hu-r-t *people (though *-t syntactically behaves like a verbal suffix) and *hat-bak *sceptre-bearer. These words are invented solely to fit his deciphering proposal, Many other elamite words (known from cuneiform Elamite) are mutilated for this purpose.

    Moreover, the fact that Mesopotamian and Proto-Elamite writing are contemporaneous, is known since
    Le Brun, Alain, & Vallat, François (1978): L’origine de l’écriture à Suse. Cahiers de la Délégation Archéologique Française en Iran DAFI, 8, 11-60.;
    simplified in
    La Brun, Alain & Vallat, François (1989): Des chiffres et des signes sur l’argile. Dossiers histoire et archéologie 138, 36-37.;
    and, in my perception, has been broadly accepted since. Desset, in another online presentation, confirmed some of the dates by adducing radiocarbon dates, but it remains unclear which of the two administration tablets’ copora are more ancient. So far, no new evidence has been brought forward since 1978, and contemporaneity should not be presented as a new fact.

    It will surely be interesting to read his article, and his findings of the divine name Na-pi-(ir)-ri-sha (mentioned in the article) is thrustworthy and has been one of the greatest progresses in decades. But other “names” such as Bala-Ishshan — a name otherwise not attested on Elamite ground — are tentative and should not serve as a basis for a “final decipherment”. In all, more than 96% of all deciphering proposals in research history turn out to be fails (even though they seem to be internally logical on first sight), and this one seems to be no exception.

    M. Mäder, Institut für Sprachwissenschaft, Universität Bern

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  4. Correction:

    please read:
    shows that c. 69% of the Linear Elamite signs are syllabic and 31% must be logographic.

    instead of:
    *shows that c. 69% of the Linear Elamite signs must be logographic.

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