The Proto-Elamite period is the time of ca. 3200 BC to 2700 BC when Susa, the later capital of the Elamites began to receive influence from the cultures of the Iranian plateau. In archaeological terms this corresponds to the late Banesh period. This civilization is recognized as the oldest in Iran and was largely contemporary with its neighbour, Sumerian civilization, the oldest in the world, which began around 5200 BC.
Some anthropologists, such as John Alden, maintain that Proto-Elamite influence grew rapidly at the end of the 4th millennium BC and declined equally rapidly with the establishment of maritime trade in the Persian Gulf several centuries later.
Proto-Elamite pottery dating back to the last half of the 5th millennium BC has been found in Sialk, where Proto-Elamite writing, the first form of writing in Iran, has been found on tablets of this date. The first cylinder seals come from the Proto-Elamite period, as well.
A few Proto-Elamite signs seem either to be loans from the slightly older proto-cuneiform (Late Uruk) tablets of Mesopotamia, or perhaps more likely, to share a common origin. Whereas proto-cuneiform is written in visual hierarchies, proto-Elamite is written in an in-line style: numerical signs follow the objects they count; some non-numerical signs are images of the objects they represent, although the majority are entirely abstract.
Proto-Elamite was used for a brief period around 3000 BC (presumably contemporary with Uruk III or Jemdet Nasr in Mesopotamia), whereas Linear Elamite is attested for a similarly brief period sometime during the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC.
Proto-Elamite tablets have been found at the following sites (in order of number of tablets recovered):
None of the inscribed objects from Ghazir, Chogha Mish or Hissar can be verified as Proto-Elamite; the tablets from Ghazir and Choga Mish are Uruk IV style or numerical tablets, whereas the Hissar object cannot be classified at present. The majority of the Sialk tablets are also not proto-Elamite, strictly speaking, but belong to the period of close contact between Mesopotamia and Iran, presumably corresponding to Uruk V - IV.
Although Proto-Elamite remains undeciphered, the content of many texts is known. This is possible because certain signs, and in particular a majority of the numerical signs, are direct loans from the neighboring Mesopotamian writing system, proto-cuneiform. In addition, a number of the proto-Elamite signs are actual images of the objects they represent. However, the majority of the proto-Elamite signs are entirely abstract, and their meanings can only be deciphered through careful graphotactical analysis.
While the Elamite language has been suggested as a likely candidate underlying the Proto-Elamite inscriptions, there is no positive evidence of this. The earliest Proto-Elamite inscriptions, being purely ideographical, do not in fact contain any linguistic information, and following Friberg's 1978/79 study of Ancient Near Eastern metrology, decipherment attempts have moved away from linguistic methods.
Elamite and Achaemenid settlement on the Deh Luran Plain; towns and villages of the early empires in southwestern Iran.(Brief article)(Book review)
Nov 01, 2010; 9780915703722 Elamite and Achaemenid settlement on the Deh Luran Plain; towns and villages of the early empires in...