Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson. Photograph by Lock & Whitfield. Wellcome Library, London (Photo PD – Art)
It was Claudius James Rich (1787–1821) who introduced his successor, Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1810–95), to the complexities of cuneiform script. Thus amid the plundering of ancient sites, during Rawlinson days off (1837), he would travel to the remote site, and with the help of a Kurdish boy, he was able to reach an inaccessible inscription and take a paper mache cast, from which he deciphered (1842) the mysterious trilingual cuneiform Persian inscriptions of the Behistun Relief of Darius I. This has been compared to the achievement of breaking the code of the Rosetta Stone. Now the world of cuneiform texts in the Old Persian language was made available to scholars. It would not be long before the ancient Elamite and Akkadian languages would be deciphered, making available some 500,000 stone and clay tablets of the Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms.