Drew University Archives and Special Collections Rediscovers 3,000 Year-Old Artifact

A brick with Elamite cuneiform writing originally came from Iran

June 2022 – Drew University Archives and Special Collections recently rediscovered a 3,000 year-old artifact from Iran, a brick with Elamite cuneiform text.


The brick was originally built into the facade of a building, which its inscription commemorates.

The brick was found in a storage box in Embury Hall, along with other items dating back to when the New Jersey Museum of Archaeology occupied part of the building’s first floor in the 1970s and 1980s.

The artifact is currently on display for the public at the United Methodist Archives and History Center as part of the exhibition series “Scripts in the Archives,” curated by Alex de Voogt, associate professor in the department of economics and business, and Candace Reilly, manager of Special Collections.

The brick was located among facsimiles of writing systems, suggesting it was used as a teaching tool. It was then transliterated and translated by University of Chicago emeritus professor Matthew W. Stolper.

“This brick is a common find within Elamite building structures, but it also provides an example of one of the lesser known languages that used cuneiform,” explained de Voogt.

“It illustrates the versatility of one of the oldest writing systems in the world. An example like the one on this brick is a rare treat for anyone interested in the development of cuneiform and of writing systems in general. The text itself helps us to date and contextualize the object, which also makes it a tangible entry into the ancient history of western Iran.”

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