Breakthrough in Cuneiform Translation, The Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great (521-486B.C.).



The Behistun Inscription is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the document enabled the decoding of the wedge shaped markings found on multiple thousands of tablets and inscriptions.


  • It is located in Iran and depicts Darius the Great, a king who started life as son of an officer in Cyrus’ army.


  • Carved around 500B.C., the inscription records Darius quelling several rebellions throughout the Persian Empire resulting from the deaths of Cyrus the Great and his son Cambyses II.


  • The inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different cuneiform script languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian.


  • A British army officer, Sir Henry Rawlinson, had the inscription transcribed in two parts, in 1835 and 1843.


  • Rawlinson was able to translate the Old Persian cuneiform text in 1838, and the Elamite and Babylonian texts were translated by Rawlinson and others after 1843.


  • Babylonian was a later form of Akkadian: both are Semitic languages.



Additional information

Rosetta Stone