In 2007, excavators of a remote site in southeastern Iran reported finding evidence of a writing system that dates back more than 4,000 years. Featuring odd geometric symbols, three baked mud tablets unearthed near the Iranian city of Jiroft could reveal much about a sophisticated and independent urban culture that flourished between the Mesopotamian and Indus Valley civilizations. However, many scholars are skeptical about the authenticity of the finds, which they suspect may have been planted by locals.
Archaeologists first began digging at large mounds near Jiroft in 2001 after flash floods uncovered ancient graves nearby. The team has since found evidence of a large city dating to 2500 B.C.
Then, in 2005, a worker brought Yousef Madjidzadeh, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation, a tablet covered with strange symbols on the front and back, saying he dug it up in his village a few hundred yards away. Last winter, Madjidzadeh ordered his team to dig at the spot, where they uncovered two more tablets. The three appear to show a progression: The first has 8 simple geometric signs; the second includes 15 slightly more complex signs, while the third has a total of 59 signs. The variants might be precursors to Elamite, the writing system used on the Iranian plateau in the late third millennium B.C. They could also be unrelated or, as some have said, fakes. Madjidzadeh vows to return in 2008 to uncover more tablets and silence his critics.
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