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Same Story In Three Languages: U-M Man Unlocks Secret of Darius' Cliff Carvings

Same Story In Three Languages: U-M Man Unlocks Secret of Darius' Cliff Carvings image
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In his own words, Dr. George G. Cameron, professor of Near Eastern languages, Oriental cultures and literature at the University, “brought a king into this country” earlier this week.
Dr. Cameron, who has just returned from a five months’ expedition to Iran, brought with him the most complete copy ever made of the famous cuneiform inscriptions King Darius of Persia ordered carved into the sheer wall of Mt. Behistun more than 2,400 years ago.
“There was no ticker tape, parade, or bands,” Dr. Cameron grinned, “but I had King Darius (on a mold of rubber compound) in the back seat of a taxi with me.”
Ends Century Of Research
Dr. Cameron’s work from a 16-foot scaffold suspended 194 feet from the top of the mountain finishes a century of research on what has been termed “the Rosetta Stone of Western Asia.”
The inscriptions, etched with “magnificent care” by Darius workmen about 518 B.C., have provided the key to interpretations of many ancient languages.
The writings virtually surround a bas-relief of nine kings (each five feet tall) who were overthrown by Darius in gaining sovereignty of Persia, and of Darius himself (six feet tall). Each of the three inscriptions—written in Elamite, Old Persian, and Babylonian, respectively—tells the same story: How Darius subdued the nine kings and ascended the throne.
Dr. Cameron had hoped to discover new meanings in that portion of the inscriptions heretofore inaccessible to man. The story was simply repeated in the three languages.
Made Mold Of Original
Dr. Cameron’s hand-written copy is not only complete, but he also succeeded in making a rubber mold—and, therefore, an exact replica—of the original work.
Assisted by his 15-year-old son, Tom, who is now a student at University High School, Dr. Cameron worked from the scaffolding daily for three weeks late in November.
To combat the extreme cold and a vicious wind (which at one time ripped a page from a book Dr. Cameron held), they wore in addition to normal clothes—wool underwear, two sweaters, two jackets, and wrapped themselves in blankets.
Dr. Cameron minimized the hazards of working from a narrow scaffolding some 225 feet high on a sheer Cliffside. But, he relates that Tom at one time turned to him and said, “You know, Dad, this could be dangerous!”
The expedition answered the puzzling question of how Darius’ workmen were able to get up the mountain to make the carvings.
Dr. Cameron discovered evidence of a small path along the cliff side which was doubtless used for access to the ledge under the inscriptions. When the work was completed, the Persians tore away about 60 feet of the path so that no one would be able to reach the giant carving.
And yet, Dr. Cameron suggests, Darius himself must have wanted his story known at some future date. Part of the inscription reads: “O, thou who shall be king, if you will not conceal this inscription which I have written—but will preserve it and tell it to the people, the god of Hurimazda (the wise Lord) shall by the friend and thou shalt live long and the thou shalt have a large family.”
IMAGE TEXT: Dr. George G. Cameron, right, University professor who has just returned from a five-month expedition to Iran during which he made the world’s most complete copy of King Darius’ inscriptions on Mt. Behistun, holds a photograph of the mountainside with his son, Tom, 15. Tom, who is now enrolled at University High School, was his father’s No. 1 helper in the work, for the native labor, except for one man, refused to mount the scaffolding suspended 194 feet down the sheer side of the cliff.