LONDON. Two fossilised horse bones with cuneiform inscriptions have been found in China, carved with extracts from the Cyrus Cylinder. They were initially dismissed as fakes because of the improbability of ancient Persian texts turning up in Beijing. But following new research, British Museum (BM) specialist Irving Finkel is now convinced of their authenticity.
This discovery looks set to transform our knowledge about what is arguably the most important surviving cuneiform text, written in the world’s earliest script. Dating from 539BC, the Cyrus Cylinder was ceremonially buried in the walls of Babylon. Its text celebrates the achievements of Cyrus the Great, ruler of the Persian empire. The clay cylinder was excavated by BM archaeologists in 1879 and sent to London, where it is one of the museum’s most important antiquities.
The texts found in China inexplicably have fewer than one in every 20 of the Cyrus text’s cuneiform signs transcribed, although they are in the correct order. The two inscribed bones were donated to the Palace Museum in Beijing in 1985 by Xue Shenwei, an elderly Chinese traditional doctor who died later that year. He said that he had learned about the pair of inscriptions in 1928. He bought the first bone in 1935 and the second in 1940, and named the sellers. Xue acquired them because he thought they were written in an unknown ancient script, presumably from China. In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, he buried the bones for p… >>>