Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


- (c. 3200 BC - c. 2100 BC)

edited by: Salvatore Gaspa (revised by Melanie Rockenhaus)

  • Introduction
  • Further information

Clay tablet in Proto-Elamite script, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

The writing conventionally called Proto-Elamite was developed in Elam for administrative records at the end of the 4th millennium BC, in all likelihood under the influence of early proto-cuneiform script in use in southern Mesopotamia. Proto-Elamite (Proto-Elamite A: c. 3200 BC - c. 3000/2900 BC) and Linear Elamite (Proto-Elamite B: c. 2100 BC) were probably used to record earlier forms of the Elamite language, but this is still debated by scholars. Moreover, it is not clear whether Proto-Elamite is the predecessor of Linear Elamite. Proto-Elamite is documented at Susa, Tepe Sialk, Tepe Yahya, Tall-i Malyan, and Shahr-i Sokhta. Linear Elamite is known from Susa, Shahdad, and Marv Dasht. Neither Proto-Elamite nor Linear Elamite has been deciphered. The Proto-Elamite inventory consists of around 400-800 pictographic signs, while Linear Elamite consists of around 100 signs. Linear Elamite inscriptions also occur at Susa along with texts written in Old Akkadian cuneiform. At present, about 1600 texts in Proto-Elamite (Proto-Elamite A) have been found, while eighteen Linear Elamite inscriptions on stone and clay objects and one inscription on a silver vase are known. Proto-Elamite script was impressed or incised on clay tablets, most of which are of administrative content. The majority of these documents, which date back to c. 3100-2900 BC, are from Susa.

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