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The Achaemenid Persian Empire
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textual sources > texts by regions > Fārs > The Persepolis Fortification Archive
textual sources

The Persepolis Fortification Archive

Two archives of Achaemenid administrative documents were found in Persepolis (Fārs, Iran): the Persepolis Treasury archive (Cameron 1948) in 1936-38 in the Treasury Building, and the Persepolis Fortification archive (PFA) in the north-eastern section of the terrace Fortification in 1933-34. The latter archive was sent as a study loan to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Richard T. Hallock published 2,087 + 33 Elamite texts from PFA (Hallock 1969 [siglum PF]; Hallock 1978 [siglum PFa]); at his death he left a manuscript with 2551 additional editions, known as the Hallock Nachlaß (siglum NN). Collated and corrected editions of the NN and PFa, with translations and notes, are the first to be entered into the Achemenet database.

PFA includes about 7,000 complete tablets and analytically meaningful fragments written in the Elamite language, mostly with seal impressions, as well as fragments of 8,000-10,000 more tablets. It also includes some 800 tablets and fragments with Aramaic writing incised in the clay or written in ink (siglum PFAT); all of these are sealed. Thirdly, there are up to 5,500 uninscribed tablets and fragments with impressions of one or more seals, some 3,500 of which are well preserved (siglum PFUT). The Elamite, Aramaic, and uninscribed tablets were found together and form a single ancient artefact.

The main language used in the Fortification archive, Elamite, is a morpho-syntactically variety of Elamite that reflects adoption of Elamite as a second language by speakers of Old Iranian (see Henkelman 2011: 586-95, 614-22). The Aramaic texts of the PFA reflect more interference with Iranian and less familiarity with Aramaic grammar than the Imperial Aramaic used elsewhere in the Achaemenid Empire. Aramaic was the empire-wide language of the upper echelons of administration; only parts of this are visible in PFA. The more than 3,100 discrete seal images hitherto identified form the largest coherent corpus of Achaemenid imagery and provide essential evidence for iconography and style, but also for administrative organization and procedure, and for expression of rank and status.

Dated Elamite texts are from years 13-28 of Darius I, April 509 through April/March 493 BCE. They deal with the intake, storage, and distribution of locally-produced edible commodities (mainly cattle, livestock, poultry, cereals, wine, beer, fruit) to animals, workers, travelers, officials, nobles, royalty, and gods. They record transactions in most of the modern province of Fārs, ancient Pārsa, but frequently mention contacts with other parts of Achaemenid Iran and distant provinces of the Empire. The record part of the functioning of a regional household economy that continued and elaborated pre-Achaemenid models (for a recent introduction see Henkelman 2013).

Although limited in time and scope, PFA touches upon many subjects relevant to Achaemenid culture and history. It is the richest single source of information on Achaemenid society, institutions, religion, art and languages, the central point of reference for interpreting the fragmentary mosaic of administrative sources from the empire at large, the lens for a Persian vision on the empire.

The Persepolis Fortification Archive Project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago presents its data and results through several on-line vehicles, each with its own research focus, metadata, query structure and target audience. Catalogues, images, and editions of Elamite, Aramaic, uninscribed and miscellaneous documents are presented by the Oriental Institute via the Online Cultural Heritage Research Environment. Images of Elamite, Aramaic, uninscribed and miscellaneous Fortification tablets available from the West Semitic Research Project of the University of Southern California via InscriptiFact. Elamite PF tablets from Hallock 1969 are available at the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative from the University of California, Los Angeles. The PFA Project will also publish printed editions of final versions of the PFA’s components.

The Director of the Oriental Institute, Gil J. Stein, has formally charged Wouter F.M. Henkelman with collating, correcting, translating, annotating and publishing the Elamite texts in the Hallock Nachlaß. In keeping with that charge, the editions presented here represent Henkelman’s completion of Hallock’s drafts. The seals impressed on these tablets are identified by Mark. B. Garrison; the Aramaic epigraphs were initially read and edited by Raymond A. Bowman (1970), and are now being re-studied and re-edited by and Annalisa Azzoni.


Wouter Henkelman, "Exit der Posaunenbläser: On lance-guards and lance-bearers in the Persepolis Fortification archive", ARTA 2002.007

Shahrokh Razmjou, "Project Report of the Persepolis Fortification Tablets in the National Museum of Iran", ARTA 2004.004

Charles E. Jones, Matthew W. Stolper, "Fortification Texts Sold at the Auction of the Erlenmeyer Collection", ARTA 2006.001

Wouter F.M. Henkelman, Charles E. Jones, Matthew W. Stolper, "Achaemenid Elamite Administrative Tablets, 2: The Qasr-i Abu Nasr Tablet", ARTA 2006.003

Matthew W. Stolper, Jan Tavernier, "From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, 1: An Old Persian Administrative Tablet from the Persepolis Fortification", ARTA 2007.001

Pierre Briant, Wouter F.M. Henkelman, Matthew W. Stolper (ed.), L’archive des Fortifications de Persépolis. État des questions et perspectives de recherches, Actes du colloque organisé au Collège de France par la "Chaire d’histoire et civilisation du monde achéménide et de l’empire d’Alexandre" et le "Réseau international d’études et de recherches achéménides" (GDR 2538 CNRS), 3-4 novembre 2006, (Persika, 12), Paris, 2008

Wouter F.M. Henkelman, The other gods who are: Studies in Elamite-Iranian acculturation based on the Persepolis fortification texts (Achaemenid History, 14), Leiden, 2008

Abdol Majid Arfa'i, "PT 10a, Collated and Completed", ARTA 2008.001

Mark B. Garrison, Robert K. Ritner, "From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, 2: Seals with Egyptian Hieroglyphic Inscriptions at Persepolis", ARTA 2010.002

Wouter F.M. Henkelman, "'Consumed before the King.' The Table of Darius, that of Irdabama and Irtaštuna, and that of his Satrap, Karkiš", in B. Jacobs & R. Rollinger (ed.), Der Achämenidenhof / The Achaemenid Court, Wiesbaden, 2010

Charles E. Jones, Seunghee Yie, "From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, 3: The First Administrative Document Discovered at Persepolis: PT 1971-1", ARTA 2011.003

Wouter F.M. Henkelman, "Une religion redistributive, Les sacrifices perses selon l’archive des Fortifications de Persépolis", Religions & Histoire 44, 2012: 36-41

Wouter F.M. Henkelman, "Administrative Realities: The Persepolis Archives and the Archaeology of the Achaemenid Heartland", in D.T. Potts (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran, Oxford, 2013

Wouter F.M. Henkelman
Matthew W. Stolper
December 2013

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