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Manuscripts written in the Proto-Elamite writing system used in ancient Iran from 3,200 to 3,000 BC is the oldest undeciphered writing system.

Manuscripts written in the Proto-Elamite writing system used in ancient Iran from 3,200 to 3,000 BC is the oldest undeciphered writing system.

The world’s oldest undeciphered writing system, which has so far defied attempts to uncover its 5,000-year-old secrets, is about to be decoded by academics, Science Daily has reported.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Southampton have developed a Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) System for Ancient Documentary Artefacts to capture images of some of the world’s most important historical documents. Recently this system was used on objects held in the vaults of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

These images have now been made available online for free public access on the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative website.

Among the documents are manuscripts written in the so-called proto-Elamite writing system used in ancient Iran from 3,200 to 3,000 BC and which is the oldest undeciphered writing system currently known. By viewing extremely high quality images of these documents, and by sharing them with a community of scholars worldwide, the Oxford University team hope to crack the code once and for all.

Spending 10 years

Dr Jacob Dahl, a co-leader of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative and a member of Oxford University’s Faculty of Oriental Studies, said: “I have spent the last 10 years trying to decipher the proto-Elamite writing system and, with this new technology, I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough. The quality of the images captured is incredible.”

October/29/2012

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