Following a bombing in a shopping center in Jerusalem, some Israelis filed a suit in which they demanded to be given the Achaemenid archeological objects, which are currently in museums of Chicago, US, for archeological studies, as recompense.
In those days, tweets were called telegrams. So, Herzfeld sent a telegram from Shiraz (the closest city to Persepolis) to James Henry breasted, the legendary American director of the Oriental Institute, who was in Cairo, Egypt, at the time: "Hundreds Probably thousands business Tablets Elamite Discovered on Terrace. Herzfeld” 84 characters (with spaces). Perfect.
2013, the year of the historic Cyrus Cylinder tour in U.S. was also the 80th anniversary of the discovery and recovery of the Achaemenid administrative archives at Persepolis-the Persepolis Fortification Archive and the Persepolis Treasury Archive.
The tablets were lent out to the Oriental Institute by the Persian royal authorities, and 2,353 small boxes were shipped to Chicago for further research.
And so the ancient archive travelled from the Highlands of Persia to Chicago-the windy city.
The tablets at the Oriental Institute, collectively known as the Persepolis Fortification Archive, have kept the company of a handful of Elamitologists in the long winter nights and in the summers since 1936-except for a break during the Second World War (1939-1945).
A small group of pioneering American scholars, including George Cameron (1905-1979) and Richard Hallock (1906-1980), worked patiently over decades editing these obscure Elamite texts, establishing their underlying scribal practices, methodically interpreting them and in the process partially reconstructing difficult (and still obscure) Elamite language, while others worked on the few hundred tablets with Aramaic texts found with them.
There were also thousands of seal impressions-sort of ancient signatures-on these tablets, which according to some scholars, were "the making of a new museum of Achaemenid Art.” Start of a beautiful thing.
Contrary to the popular myth that these clay tablets were fire-baked when Persepolis was torched in 331 BCE by the Macedonian King Alexander III (336-323 BCE) as the symbol of the Persian power, they survived mostly un-baked like many other clay tablets. The fire, however, caused parts of the fortification wall to collapse on top of the tablets, letting them live to tell about a small part of the vast Persian way of life in and around the Persian heartland.
They turned out to be humdrum administrative accounting records-the details of the storage and distribution of foodstuffs and livestock from the lands around Persepolis.
Ancient bureaucratic paperwork in duplicates and triplicates!
When Richard Hallock, another master of understatement, finally published his Persepolis Fortification Tablets (Chicago, 1969) leading to a renaissance in Achaemenid studies down the road, he modestly described the foundation of his pioneering work as "The Achaemenid Elamite texts found at Persepolis add a little flesh to the picked-over bones of early Achaemenid history.” 121 tweetable characters (with spaces).