Brave, intelligent and lucky, Henry Rawlinson went to India as a
cadet in the East India Company in 1827, and it was not until 1849
that he returned to England. During those 22 years he narrowly
escaped death in Afghanistan (where he was one of the few officers
to emerge with any credit from the disastrous campaigns of the
First Anglo-Afghan War), and, in Persia, made the discovery which
was to become a lifelong passion. Chosen for his proficiency in
Persian, he worked there as a diplomat but also found time to
explore. At Bisitun, at great risk to life and limb, he was able to
copy an inscription using cuneiform signs, the earliest form of
writing in the world, carved into the side of a mountain. The
inscription proclaims Darius as the true King of Persia and is
written three times, in three different languages and three types
of cuneiform script. A major breakthrough in the decipherment of
various types of cuneiform writing, it was more significant for the
understanding of ancient languages than the Rosetta Stone. This was
a time of extensive excavations in Mesopotamia - much of what was
found is now in the British Museum - and many more cuneiform texts
were unearthed for study. Rivalries and disputes over the
historical significance and interpretation of the discoveries do
not detract from the accuracy and depth of Rawlinson's work and the
extent of his contribution to linguistic and historical research.
Lesley Adkins's detailed and scholarly book focuses particularly on
these achievements and what led to them; it is an account of the
life of one outstanding man and a fascinating insight into a period
during which people's view of the world and what shaped them
changed radically. There are extensive extracts from archives,
journals and letters, maps, illustrations, a bibliography and
recommended reading. (Kirkus UK)
How 19th-century soldier, adventurer and scholar Henry Rawlinson
deciphered cuneiform, the world's earliest writing, and
rediscovered Iraq's ancient civilisations. This is the exciting,
true adventure story of Henry Rawlinson, a fearless soldier,
sportsman and explorer. From 1827 he spent twenty-five years in
India, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. A brilliant linguist, fascinated
by history, he became obsessed with cuneiform, the world's earliest
writing. An immense inscription on a sheer rock face at Bisitun in
Iran was the key to understanding the many cuneiform scripts and
languages, and only Rawlinson had the skills to achieve the
perilous ascent and copy the monument. In her gripping account,
Lesley Adkins relates how Rawlinson triumphed in deciphering the
lost languages of Persia and Babylonia, overcoming his bitter
rival, Edward Hincks. While Rawlinson was based at Baghdad,
incredible palaces with whole libraries of cuneiform clay tablets
were unearthed in the ancient mounds of Mesopotamia, from Nineveh
to Babylon - the great flood plain of the Tigris and the Euphrates
rivers that had been fought over by so many powerful empires. His
decipherment of the inscriptions resurrected these lost
civilisations, revealing fascinating details of everyday life and
forgotten historical events. By proving to the astonished Victorian
public that people and places in the Old Testament really existed,
Rawlinson assured his own place in history.
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