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So long ago as the year 1847, during a temporary absence from my duties in India, I volunteered to undertake the classification of certain imperfectly determined and but partially deciphered series of coins in the East India House collection— in continuation and completion of Professor Wilson's comprehensive description of the more popular departments of Central-Asian Numismatics already embodied in his Ariana Antiqua. Among the subdivisions so treated may be cited the Kufic Mintages of the Ghaznavides, a detailed notice of which was inserted in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1848 (vol. ix.),1 as well as a second article, bearing more immediately upon the subject under review, on "the Pehlvi Coins of the early Muhammadan Arabs," which appeared in the twelfth volume of that Journal. In entering upon the examination of the available specimens of the latter class of national representative currencies, I found myself called upon to encounter a novel and very difficult branch of Oriental Palæography, the study of which, indeed, had but recently been inaugurated by the publication of Professor Olshausen's most instructive work "Die Pehlwie-Legenden:" while it was manifest that the obscure language, of which this imperfect alphabet constituted the graphic exponent, was dependent for its elucidation upon still more fragmentary and defective grammatical or lexicographical means: obstacles which the since accelerated progress of modern ethnography has, up to this time, failed to remove. Under these conditions I
1 A further paper on the same subject will be found in vol. xvii. J.R.A.S. for 1858. 2 Die Pehlwie-Legenden auf den Münzen der letzten Sâsâniden, etc. Kopenhagen, 1843. A translation of this work is to be found in the London Numismatic Chronicle, vol. ix., 1848.
naturally approached this new investigation with sufficient diffidence, and sought to secure the critical soundness of any suggestive deductions that might present themselves, by a decisive appeal to every archæological test within reach. Foremost among these were the monumental writings of the earlier Sassanian kings, who, in traditional imitation of the Achæmenians, from whom, indeed, they boasted a but temporarily obscured descent-indulged ostentatiously in mural sculpture and attendant lapidary epigraphy. The Rock Inscriptions of Ardashír Bábekán and his proximate successor are couched in duplicate versions, varying dialectically, and written in mere modifications of the same normal alphabet; the one ordinarily employed to define the Pehlvi of Eastern Persia, and out of whose literal elements modern Zend was elaborated, is now conventionally termed "Sassanian:" its counterpart transcript, which adheres more closely to Chaldæan literal forms, was once designated "Parthian," from its occasional official employment under that intrusive dynasty, but has latterly been known as ChaldæoPehlvi. The parallel versions of the original inscription of Sapor I. in the Hájíábád Cavern, which had been secured many years ago in the form of direct plaster impressions by Sir E. Stannus, sufficed to furnish a thoroughly trustworthy outline of the manipulative type of each letter of the concurrent alphabets; these forms were separately compared, selected examples copied, and, finally, the duplicate series were incorporated into a classified table, which may be cited with still undiminished confidence, as freely representing the epochal current forms of the joint Pehlvi characters, and as furnishing an efficient illustration of the divarications from a given standard gradually introduced in succeeding ages.
On a later occasion, following up the same subject, I availed myself of another hopeful source of palæographic data, afforded by the signets and seals of the Persian nation at large, fabricated during the period of the Sassanian rule,
1 The original impressions are now in Dublin; secondary casts are to be found in the Assyrian Room in the British Museum, and the Royal Asiatic Society possesses parallel reproductions. It is from the latter that the illustrative Photograph has been derived.
the identificatory legends of which almost uniformly followed the Eastern type of the concurrent systems of writing. I had scarcely, however, arranged my materials for the elucidation of this branch of the enquiry, when I was called upon to return to the scene of more important avocations; but desiring that the various Antiquarian remains I had succeeded in bringing together should be placed at the disposal of those who might, perchance, have both greater leisure and ability to do justice to the study, I published a cursory notice, pretending to be little more than an introductory explanation of the contents of the three plates of gem and other legends already prepared, which figure in the thirteenth volume of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.
The leading object of the present notice, as confessedly preliminary and tentative as its predecessors, is to draw the attention of resident European officials or chance travellers in the East to an elaborate biliteral inscription, originally engraved along the face of the terrace of the Fire Temple at Páï Kúlí1 (lat. 35° 7′ 16′′ N., long. 45° 34′ 35′′ E.), eye transcripts of which were made, under considerable disadvantages, by Sir H, Rawlinson and Mr. Hector in 1844, and from whose pencil facsimiles the modernized version now printed has been derived.
Sir Henry Rawlinson describes the present condition of the engraved slabs as anything but promising for the acquisition of a full and complete copy of the ancient writings. The inscribed stones, which formed the terrace-wall supporting the edifice, are stated to have become displaced, and to have mostly rolled down the slope of the hill at hazard, so that their relative continuity would with difficulty be reestablished, even if in the majority of cases the beginnings and ends of the lines of each block had not seemingly suffered extensive damage and abrasion. But, with all this, there is so
1 "At the northern extremity of the district of Zoháb is the little plain of Semírám, a natural fastness of the most extraordinary strength, which is formed by a range of lofty and precipitous mountains extending in a semicircle from the river Diyálah, here called the 'Abi-Shirwán, and enclosing an area of about eight miles in length and four in breadth." "I searched eagerly for ancient monuments, and though I failed to discover any in the plain itself, yet across the river, at a distance of about three farsakhs, on the road to Suleimáníyah, I heard of sculptures and statues which would well merit the attention of any future traveller in this country. The place is called Pá'ikal'ah, the foot of the castle, or But Khánah, the idol temple.”—Rawlinson, Jour. R. Geog. Soc., ix. pp. 28-30.