UC Berkeley Lecture: Embattled Tablets
You can't love Iran and not care about what has been happening over the past few years with respect to the priceless Persepolis tablets in custoday of University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. A lawsuit threatens to claim the priceless collection which has been kept on loan from the Iranian government since 1933. Those tablets belong to Iran and to humanity. They should never be considered the appropriate medium of severance pay to anyone. If the Iranian government is found guilty of any crime in a court of law, they should be responsible for monetary payment of damages. These tablets or any Iranian heritage artifacts are not suitable choices for settling such liabilities. Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. Professor Matthew Stolper from University of Chicago's Oriental Institute will give a lecture entitled "Embattled Tablets: News from the Persepolis Fortification Archive Front" at UC Berkeley's Department of Near Eastern Studies, 254 Barrows Hall. I am going to attend this lecture. If you live in these parts and you can, please come and join me.
Here's an excerpt from a 2006 article about the collection and the impending case. You can read the full article here. "In a small, dark room on the Oriental Institute’s third floor, Matthew Stolper puts thousands of ancient Iranian tablets under the microscope. Studying the unbaked clay artifacts over the course of 25 years, Stolper, the John A. Wilson professor of Near Eastern languages & civilizations, has translated many of the tablets—their slanted lines are mostly Elamite cuneiform. Taken together, the circa-500 bc documents from the ancient capital Persepolis—excavated by OI archaeologist Ernest Herzfeld in 1933—form the “records of one office palace bureaucracy handing out basic foodstuffs,” Stolper says. “Food, wine, grain.” The records follow “people traveling through the region on business from the Mediterranean coast to India: ‘So-and-so gets so much barley and so much beer.’ When you connect them all, you get a complicated network.”
"If a group of litigants gets its way, the tablets may be split up and sold at auction, the proceeds compensating survivors of a 1997 Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Five American survivors and four family members won a 2001 U.S. court case against Iran, which trained and supported the terrorists, and were awarded more than $400 million in damages. Because Iran doesn’t accept U.S. court jurisdiction, the plaintiffs’ lawyer looked elsewhere for assets: American museums holding Iranian artifacts." (Read the rest here.)