Linear Elamite is the oldest pure phonetic writing system known to history (i.e.completely without any logogrammatic notation). It was deciphered by French researcher, François Desset, who is currently a visiting professor at the University of Padua. The announcement, which was made in 2020 with the first presentation taking place on 23 November, was preceded by several events leading up to this great accomplishment. In 2018, a scientific article was published that analysed nine silver Gunagi vessels with inscriptions in Linear Elamite (Desset, 2018). In this video, Desset, a 38-year old that proudly calls himself an orientalist due to his multidisciplinary approach, which takes into account history, archaeology and philology, provides us with a ‘how-to guide’ that demonstrates how to decipher Linear Elamite script.
We are aware of how unusual a ‘how-to guide’ of this nature may sound; however, this is the first time we are given a sneak preview of the process of how an inscription in Linear Elamite is deciphered. This inscription will just account for one of the 40 that will make up the key scientific article that will be published in 2021, after all of the necessary proofreading and peer reviewing processes have been concluded. It is important to remember that, while this is only just a preview of what will be discussed in a long interview that will be available in the next few days on ArchaeoReporter, we are dealing with the deciphering of a writing system and not of a language. This Linear Elamite writing system was recording Elamite language, a non-Indo-European language that has been completely isolated over the course of history and requires much more extensive research. It is true that we were already able to partially understand it thanks to cuneiform scripts, which were used in Mesopotamia. Here, however, we are very far away, in southern Iran, in a time period around 2300 – 1900 BCE, therefore we can analyse the story from a point of view that greatly differs from that of their contemporary Mesopotamian plain-dweller neighbours.
INTERVIEW TO FRANÇOIS DESSET – SECOND PART
Desset, F. (2018). 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, 56:2, 105-143