The Elamite Dynasty


 


 

 The Elamite Dynasty (God's Land) Altamt

 
 

The development of human organization can be traced through Iranian and Mesopotamian archaeology, starting with the society of Paleolithic hunters in the caves of Western Iran and the Caspian Coast.  Society progressed "here in the nursery of modern man" to gathering and Neolithic agriculture, within a radius of few miles at most from the Belt and Hotu caves. With the introduction of irrigation, most probably in the highlands of Kurdistan province, the social system changed from loose tribal family groups to complex city societies with forceful leadership.

The cooperation within large societies created wealth, fostered knowledge and highly complex religious practices and fathered accounting and writing.

The Iranian Plateau straddles the crossroads of our world, providing a continuously snow free route between Europe, the Mediterranean and Egypt, India and lands East. The summer road over the Iranian plateau leads to Transoxiana and beyond to China. The winter road crosses South Iran to the Indus. The states along this route profited from the trade, often becoming dependent on it, and their isolation was reduced.

The history of the entire area is one of constant conflict for supremacy. The control of the water upstream is vital for irrigation. The control of the city downstream important for trade. Looting increased wealth, the enslaving of citizens of neighboring cities, a work-force. As the access to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean became easier, the profits were increased. A pattern of construction, destruction and reformation of empires followed.

At the same time there was everlasting danger from the nomadic Semitic tribes of the Arabian Desert and, Inter, from the people pushing towards Mesopotamia from Central Asia through the mountains of Iran. Whenever there was any weakness in the defence of the Mesopotamian cities and states, nomads took over. Whenever a new wave of immigration the pressure on Mesopotamia was increased. The conquerors created new dynasties, but in so doing accepted the luxuries of city life, bowing to the immutable necessities of settled agricultural society and irrigation farming and were assimilated.

The geography of the area along the lower reaches of Tigris and Euphrates seems to have differed greatly from today (although some geologists dispute this). The Mesopotamian Euphrates and Tigris and the Iranian Karun and Karkheh each entered separately into the Persian Gulf, the first two close to the city of Ur below modern Baghdad, and the Iranian pair further down the coast. The swamps reached further upstream than today and separated Sumer from Elam. The silting process, especially from the swift flowing Karun draining from the Zagros Mountains, continued over the centuries - as it still continues - turning shallow gulf water into marshes and marshlands into terra firma until today's situation arose.

Animal husbandry started in the Iranian highlands with the domestication of the sheep and moved down onto the great alluvial pastures as the herds multiplied. Primitive agriculture began in the lush Caspian belt, irrigation developed from damming in the pleasant highland vales fed by easily controlled mountain streams and as population increased and engineering technology improved, moved down to the great rivers.

The Sumerians migrated to the region of Ur most likely from the east, from the drying-up highlands of Iran, or possibly from the Indus Valley, to establish the first large city civilization. The origin of the Elamites of Southwest Iran is completely unclear. The Sumerian language is not related to any language spoken today. Elamite probably also bears no relation to living languages, but not enough of it is known to be certain.

The cultural development or Sumer and Elam ran parallel. A script was in use in Elam (Kerman) simultaneous to the first pictorial writing in Ur (3000 B.C.). Temple structures in both areas had the same ziggurat form, the man-made mountain reminiscent of their highland origins. Many cultic and religious habits were the same throughout Mesopotamia; the snake cult of Elam however was distinct and foreign.

Elam controlled the plain between the Zagros Mountains and the swamps of the two rivers as well as the entire Iranian Plateau to the great salt desert. This gave the Elamites great advantages, as suppliers of gold, timber, stone and other basic raw materials which had to be imported by the civilizations in the alluvial plain. At times, when the lowlands of Elam were overrun by invaders from Mesopotamia, indigenous Elamite dynasties recovered the loss after weathering the storm by withdrawing to the mountains. While dynasties and population groups in Mesopotamia changed drastically, Elam retained continuity.

Metallurgy and the introduction of the chariot introduced revolutionary changes. Dependence on horses and metals from the mountains of Iran and Eastern Anatolia grew, and control of the source was vital. Larger armies could be formed and greater distances covered. The spoils accrued by successful war became ever more luring.

The basic policy however remained the same and the cruelty displayed in the magnificent relieves of Khorsabad and Nineveh bears mute witness: heaps of bodies floating down river, burning cities, enslaved populations, beasts loaded with loot underscore the terror. The king is glorified for his prowess with the chariot and his skill in killing lions.

Two important changes occurred after 1000 B.C. The rivers pushed the land further out into the Persian Gulf and fused to form the Arvand Rood. The swamps receded down river. This changed and weakened the strategic position of Elam.

By 850 additional small tribal groups of Aryan stock, including Persians and Medes, infiltrated the mountains of Kurdistan and Fars provinces, ringing Elam. The pattern of their nomadic life centered around herding of animals from the warm winter pastures on the fringes of the plain to the rich green meadows of the mountains in summer, thus avoiding the parched land and heat of the lowlands of Mesopotamia and Elam in summer.

Internecine strife between small tribal bands over migration routes, water-holes and better pastures prevented any large-scale concerted action. However, groups banded together to raid the trade caravans bringing goods to the plains. Occasionally small settlements were robbed. The association with established cultures of Urartu, Elam, Babylonia and Assyria affected tribal life but little. Tribal manpower however was used as levies in the armies and the naturally truculent tribesmen learned the finer arts of warfare.

The supply of horses and metals from the mountains was so crucial that the superpower of the day (800-600 B.C.), Assyria, was forced to take steps to protect its trade routes. Attempts were made to control the entire axis of the Mediterranean harbors and the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Great successes were achieved by Assyria under great leadership. It is known from the clay-tablet records, with details often filled in by archaeological excavations, that the Babylonians and Elamites formed a defensive union and prolonged war started. Assyria, after successfully attacking Egypt, launched a large-scale amphibian invasion with a substantial fleet through the head waters of the Persian Gulf on the shores of Elam. This invasion was repelled (698), but a new attack was mounted two generations later, when there was serious internal strife and conflict over the royal succession in Elam. The Elamites army with its Persian tribal levies was decisively defeated in the battle of the Ulai River (652). Shortly thereafter Babylon was invested, Elam completely destroyed (639) and the Chaldeans of Ur were pushed into the swamps.

This did not overcome Assyria's problem with the Iranian mountain tribes, the roving Sumerians and Scythes and Medes, nor with the urbanized Urartians. The trade routes through Asia Minor remained insecure. Assyrian armies assaulted the mountains, roaming far and wide, through North-Western Iran, Armenia, to Mount Ararat. They destroyed the cities of the established highland civilizations, weakening especially Urartu.

The tribes eluded them completely, fading into the mountains on the news of the arrival of any large army. Tribal life however was markedly changed. A tribal leader was elected, the migration routes controlled, internecine strife quelled. The destruction of the controlling forces of urban-agricultural Urartu and Elam liberated the tribal Persians and the Medes from many restrictions and the nomadic population and power grew by leaps and bounds. Great areas which were until that time under intense cultivation are still today nomadic grazing grounds, and the political problem created by the decline of Elamites power is still being felt. The tribal leaders now accepted the title of Kings. (It is important to note that the king always had to be of royal family. The fate of the tribe, however, is so important that it cannot be handed to just any member of the family. The best possible man is selected by consensus from several royal candidates. This explains the rather startling shifts in family relationship amongst the early Achaemenian kings).

Achaemnes had become king of the Persians just prior to the showdown between the Assyrians and Elamites (700). The Assyrian commander who destroyed Elam (639) met with Cyrus I in the area of today's city of Behbahan and accepted his son as hostage. The Persians were biding their time. Their enlarged kingdom was temporarily divided between two grandsons of Achaemenes - Cyrus I and Ariaramnes - as kings, respectively, of Parsumash and Parsa.

Assyria had extended its power to the limits. The Chaldean kings of Sumer revitalized Babylon. A Babylonian and Medic coalition attacked Nineveh and Khorsabad and destroyed the royal Assyrian cities and Assyrian power (612).  Neobabylonia expanded, opened the sea route through the Mediterranean, fruitlessly attacked Egypt but did not attempt to force the mountains where Cambyses, son of Cyrus I, had inherited the crowns of Parsumash and Parsa and reigned as King of Anzan (600-559).

 Goblet from Susa I, Susa: archaic necropolis, Around 4000 BCE,Terracotta
   
  

The painted vases left in the tombs of the first Susians illustrate, on the eve of its extinction, the highest point in the neolithic tradition of the mountain people who came down to the plain. The forms are simple and harmonious and the decoration boldly stylized. At the top is a frieze showing wader birds elongated vertically; below, racing dogs elongated horizontally while below them is a large ibex, geometrical in design, whose vast horns describe an almost perfect oval. This stylization is misleadingly reminiscent of pictographic sign language; it has, in fact, a purely decorative function, as its diversity from one vase to another indicates. Along with these vases, the dead were given access to other objects, such as copper axes, imported from central Iran.

  

Elam ( ایلام ) is one of the oldest recorded civilizations. Elam was centered in the far west and southwest of modern-day Iran (Ilam Province and the lowlands of Khuzestan). It lasted from around 2700 BC to 539 BC. It was preceded by what is known as the Proto-Elamite period, which began around 3200 BC when Susa (later capital of Elam) began to be influenced by the cultures of the Iranian plateau to the east.

Ancient Elam lay to the east of Sumer and Akkad (modern-day Iraq). In the Old Elamite period, it consisted of kingdoms on the Iranian plateau, centered in Anshan, and from the mid-2nd millennium BC, it was centered in Susa in the Khuzestan lowlands. Its culture played a crucial role in the Persian Empire, especially during the Achaemenid dynasty that succeeded it, when the Elamite language remained in official use. The Elamite period is considered a starting point for the history of Iran (although there were older civilizations in Iranian plateau, like the Mannaeans kingdom in Iranian Azarbaijan and Shahr-i Sokhta (Burned City) in Zabol, and the recently discovered Jiroft civilization to the east. The Elamite language was not related to any Iranian languages, but may be part of a larger group known as Elamo-Dravidian.

Elam gives its name to one of the provinces of modern Iran (usually spelt Ilam).

The Elamites called their country Haltamti (in later Elamite, Atamti), which the neighboring Akkadians rendered as Elam. Elam means "highland". Additionally, the Haltamti are known as Elam in the Hebrew Old Testament, where they are called the offspring of Elam, eldest son of Shem (see Elam in the Bible).

The high country of Elam was increasingly identified by its low-lying later capital, Susa. Geographers after Ptolemy called it Susiana. The Elamite civilization was primarily centered in the province of what is modern-day Khuzestan; however it did extend into the later province of Fars in prehistoric times. In fact, the modern provincial name Khuzestān is derived from the Old Persian root Hujiyā, meaning "Elam".

Knowledge of Elamite history remains largely fragmentary, reconstruction being based on mainly Mesopotamian sources. The city of Susa was founded around 4000 BC, and during its early history, fluctuated between submission to Mesopotamian and Elamite power. The earliest levels (22-17 in the excavations conducted by Le Brun, 1978) exhibit pottery that has no equivalent in Mesopotamia, but for the succeeding period, the excavated material allows identification with the culture of Sumer of the Uruk period. Proto-Elamite influence from the Persian plateau in Susa becomes visible from about 3200 BC, and texts in the still undeciphered Proto-Elamite writing system continue to be present until about 2700 BC. The Proto-Elamite period ends with the establishment of the Awan dynasty. The earliest known historical figure connected with Elam is the king Enmebaragesi of Kish (c. 2650 BC?), who subdued it, according to the Sumerian king list. However, real Elamite history can only be traced from records dating to beginning of the Akkadian Empire in around 2300 BC onwards.

Elamite civilization grew up east of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in the watershed of the river Karun. In modern terms, Elam included more than Khuzestan; it was a combination of the lowlands and the immediate highland areas to the north and east. Some Elamite sites, however, are found well outside this area, spread out on the Iranian plateau; examples of Elamite remains farther north and east in Iran are Sialk in Isfahan Province and Jiroft in Kerman Province. Elamite strength was based on an ability to hold these various areas together under a coordinated government that permitted the maximum interchange of the natural resources unique to each region. Traditionally, this was done through a federated governmental structure.

 

Map showing the area of the Elamite Empire (in red) and the neighboring areas. The approximate Bronze Age extension of the Persian Gulf is shown.

 

The history of Elam is conventionally divided into three periods, spanning more than two millennia. The period before the first Elamite period is known as the proto-Elamite period:

  • Proto Elamite: c. 3200 BC – 2700 BC (Proto Elamite script in Susa)
  • Old Elamite period: c. 2700 BC – 1600 BC (earliest documents until the Eparti dynasty)
  • Middle Elamite period: c. 1500 BC – 1100 BC (Anzanite dynasty until the Babylonian invasion of Susa)
  • Neo-Elamite period: c. 1100 BC – 539 BC (characterized by Iranian and Syrian influence. 539 BC marks the beginning of the Achaemenid period)

The Old Elamite period began around 2700 BC. Historical records mention the conquest of Elam by Enmebaragesi of Kish. Three dynasties ruled during this period. We know of twelve kings of each of the first two dynasties, those of Awan (or Avan; c. 2400–2100 BC) and Simash (c. 2100–1970 BC), from a list from Susa dating to the Old Babylonian period. Two Elamite dynasties said to have exercised brief control over Sumer in very early times include Awan and Hamazi, and likewise, several of the stronger Sumerian rulers, such as Eannatum of Lagash and Lugal-anne-mundu of Adab, are recorded as temporarily dominating Elam.

The Avan dynasty was partly contemporary with that of Sargon of Akkad, who not only defeated the Awan king Luhi-ishan and subjected Susa, but attempted to make Akkadian the official language there. From this time, Mesopotamian sources concerning Elam become more frequent, since the Mesopotamians had developed an interest in resources (such as wood, stone and metal) from the Iranian plateau, and military expeditions to the area became more common.

However, with the collapse of Akkad under Sargon's great-grandson, Shar-kali-sharri, Elam declared independence under the last Avan king, Kutik-Inshushinak (c. 2240-2220 BC), and threw off the Akkadian language, promoting in its place the brief Linear Elamite script.

Kutik-Inshushinnak conquered Susa and Anshan, and seems to have achieved some sort of political unity. Following his reign, the Awan dynasty collapsed as Elam was temporarily overrun by the Guti.

About a century later, Shulgi of Ur retook the city of Susa and the surrounding region. During the first part of the rule of the Simashki dynasty, Elam was under intermittent attack from Mesopotamians and Gutians, alternating with periods of peace and diplomatic approaches. Shu-Sin of Ur, for example, gave one of his daughters in marriage to a prince of Anshan. But the power of the Sumerians was waning; Ibbi-Sin in the 21st century did not manage to penetrate far into Elam, and in 2004 BC, the Elamites, allied with the people of Susa and led by king Kindattu, the sixth king of Simashk, managed to sack Ur and lead Ibbi-Sin into captivity -- thus ending the third dynasty of Ur. However, the kings of Isin, successor state to Ur, did manage to drive the Elamites out of Ur, rebuild the city, and to return the statue of Nanna that the Elamites had plundered.

Silver cup from Marvdasht, Fars with linear-Elamite inscription on it. Late 3rd Millennium BC. National Museum of Iran.

 

The succeeding dynasty, the Eparti (c. 1970–1770 BC), also called "of the sukkalmahs" because of the title borne by its members, was contemporary with the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia. This period is confusing and difficult to reconstruct. It was apparently founded by Eparti I. During this time, Susa was under Elamite control, but Mesopotamian states such as Larsa continually tried to retake the city. Around 1850 BC Kudur-mabug, apparently king of another Elamite state to the north of Susa, managed to install his son, Warad-Sin, on the throne of Larsa, and Warad-Sin's brother, Rim-Sin, succeeded him and conquered much of Mesopotamia for Larsa.

Notable Eparti dynasty rulers in Elam during this time include Sirukdukh (c. 1850 BC), who entered various military coalitions to contain the rising power of Babylon; Siwe-Palar-Khuppak, who for some time was the most powerful person in the area, respectfully addressed as "Father" by Mesopotamian kings such as Zimri-Lim of Mari, and even Hammurabi of Babylon, and Kudur-Nahhunte, who plundered the temples of Akkad. But Elamite influence in Mesopotamia did not last. Around 1760 BC, Hammurabi drove out the Elamites, overthrew Rim-Sin of Larsa, and established Babylonian dominance in Mesopotamia.

Little is known about the latter part of this dynasty, since sources again become sparse with the Kassite rule of Babylon (from c. 1595 BC).

 

A "two horned" figure wrestling with serpents. The Elamite artifact was discovered by Iran's border police from Historical Heritage traffickers, en route to Turkey, and was confiscated. Style is determined to be from Jiroft.

 

The Middle Elamite period began with the rise of the Anshanite dynasties around 1500 BC. Their rule was characterized by an "Elamisation" of Susa, and the kings took the title "king of Anshan and Susa". While the first of these dynasties, the Kidinuids continued to use the Akkadian language frequently in their inscriptions, the succeeding Igihalkids and Shutrukids used Elamite with increasing regularity. Likewise, Elamite language and culture grew in importance in Susiana.

The Kidinuids (c. 1500–1400) are a group of five rulers of uncertain affiliation. They are identified by their use of the older title, "king of Susa and of Anshan", and by calling themselves "servant of Kirwashir", an Elamite deity, thereby introducing the pantheon of the highlands to Susiana.

Of the Igehalkids (c. 1400–1210), ten rulers are known, and there were possibly more. Some of them married Kassite princesses. The Kassite king Kurigalzu II temporarily occupied Elam c. 1320 BC, and later (c. 1230) another Kassite king, Kashtiliash IV, fought Elam unsuccessfully. Kiddin-Khutran I of Elam repulsed the Kassites by defeating Enlil-nadin-shumi in 1224 and Adad-shuma-iddina around 1222-17. Under the Igehalkids, Akkadian inscriptions were rare, and Elamite highland gods became firmly established in Susa.

Under the Shutrukids (c. 1210–1100), the Elamite empire reached the height of its power. Shutruk-Nakhkhunte and his three sons, Kutir-Nakhkhunte II, Shilhak-In-Shushinak, and Khutelutush-In-Shushinak were capable of frequent military campaigns into Kassite Mesopotamia, and at the same time were exhibiting vigorous construction activity -- building and restoring luxurious temples in Susa and across their Empire. Shutruk-Nakhkhunte raided Akkad, Babylon, and Eshnunna, carrying home to Susa trophies like the statues of Marduk and Manishtushu, the code of Hammurabi and the stela of Naram-Sin.

In 1158 BC, Shutruk-Nakhkhunte defeated the Kassites permanently, killing the Kassite king of Babylon, Zababa-shuma-iddina, and replacing him with his eldest son, Kutir-Nakhkhunte, who held it no more than three years.

Kutir-Nakhkhunte's son Khutelutush-In-Shushinak was probably of an incestuous relation of Kutir-Nakhkhunte's with his own daughter, Nakhkhunte-utu. He ended up temporarily yielding Susa to the forces of Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon, who returned the statue of Marduk. He fled to Anshan, but later returned to Susa, and his brother Shilhana-Hamru-Lagamar may have succeeded him as last king of the Shutrukid dynasty. Following Khutelutush-In-Shushinak, the power of the Elamite Empire began to wane seriously, for with this ruler, Elam disappears into obscurity for more than three centuries.

Neo-Elamite I (c. 1100–770)

Very little is known of this period. Anshan was still at least partially Elamite. There appear to have been alliances of Elam and Babylonia against the Assyrians; the Babylonian king Mar-biti-apla-ushur (984—79) was of Elamite origin, and Elamites are recorded to have fought with the Babylonian king Marduk-balassu-iqbi against the Assyrian forces under Shamshi-Adad V (823–11).

Neo-Elamite II (c. 770–646)


Ashurbanipal's campaign against Susa is triumphantly recorded in this relief showing the sack of Susa in 647 BC. Here, flames rise from the city as Assyrian soldiers topple it with pickaxes and crowbars and carry off the spoils.

 

The later Neo-Elamite period is characterized by a significant migration of Iranians to the Iranian plateau. Assyrian sources beginning around 800 BC distinguish the "powerful Medes", ie the actual Medes, and the "distant Medes" that would later enter history under their proper names, (Parthians, Sagartians, Margians, Bactrians, Sogdians etc). Among these pressuring tribes were the Parsu, first recorded in 844 BC as living on the southeastern shore of Lake Urmiah, but who by the end of this period would cause the Elamites' original home, the Iranian Plateau, to be renamed Persia proper.

More details are known from the late 8th century BC, when the Elamites were allied with Merodach-baladan to defend the cause of Babylonian independence from Assyria. Khumbanigash (743–17) supported Merodach-baladan against Sargon II, apparently with limited success; while his successor, Shutruk-Nakhkhunte II (716–699), was routed by Sargon's troops during an expedition in 710, and another Elamite defeat by Sargon's troops is recorded for 708. The Assyrian victory over Babylon was completed by Sargon's son Sennacherib, who dethroned Merodach-baladan for a second time, finally installing his own son Ashur-nadin-shumi on the Babylonian throne in 700.

Shuttir-Nakhkhunte was murdered by his brother Khallushu, who managed to capture Ashur-nadin-shumi and Babylon in 694, and was in turn assassinated by Kutir-Nakhkhunte -- who succeeded him, but soon abdicated in favor of Khumma-Menanu III (692–89). Khumma-Menanu recruited a new army to help the Babylonians against the Assyrians at the battle of Halule in 691 BC. The battle was indecisive, or at least both sides claimed the victory in their annals, but Babylon was destroyed by Sennacherib only two years later.

The reigns of Khumma-Khaldash I (688–81) and Khumma-Khaldash II (680–75) saw a deterioration of Elamite-Babylonian relations, and both of them raided Sippar. At the beginning of Esarhaddon's reign in Assyria (681-669), Nabu-zer-kitti-lišir, an ethnically Elamite governor in the south of Babylonia, revolted and seiged Ur, but fled to Elam where "the king of Elam took him prisoner and put him to the sword" (ABC 1 Col.3:39-42).

Urtaku (674–64) for some time maintained good relations with Assurbanipal (668–27), who sent wheat to Susiana during a famine. But these friendly relations were only temporary, and Urtaku died during another Elamite attack on Mesopotamia.

His successor Tempti-Khumma-In-Shushinak (664–53) was counter-attacked by Assurbanipal, and was killed following the battle of the Ulaï in 653 BC; and Susan was occupied by the Assyrians. In this same year the Mede state to the north fell to the Scythians, immediately displacing the Parsu tribe to Anshan, which their king Teispes captured that same year. The Elamite kings, apart from the last three, nevertheless continued to claim the title of "king of Anshan and Susa".

During a brief respite provided by the civil war between Assurbanipal and his brother Shamash-shum-ukin, the Elamites too indulged in fighting among themselves, so weakening the Elamite kingdom that in 646 BC Assurbanipal devastated Susiana with ease, and sacked Susa. A succession of brief reigns continued in Elam from 651 to 640, each of them ended either due to usurpation or because of capture of their king by the Assyrians. In this manner, the last Elamite king, Khumma-Khaldash III, was captured in 640 BC by Ashurbanipal, who devastated the country.

In a tablet unearthed in 1854 by Henry Austin Layard, Ashurbanipal boasts of the destruction he had wrought:

"Susa, the great holy city, abode of their Gods, seat of their mysteries, I conquered. I entered its palaces, I opened their treasuries where silver and gold, goods and wealth were amassed...I destroyed the ziggurat of Susa. I smashed its shining copper horns. I reduced the temples of Elam to naught; their gods and goddesses I scattered to the winds. The tombs of their ancient and recent kings I devastated, I exposed to the sun, and I carried away their bones toward the land of Ashur. I devastated the provinces of Elam and on their lands I sowed salt." (Persians: Masters of Empire)

Neo-Elamite III (646–539)

The devastation was however less complete than Assurbanipal boasted, and Elamite rule was resurrected soon after with Shuttir-Nakhkhunte, son of III (not to be confused with Shuttir-Nakhkhunte, son of Indada, a petty king in the first half of the 6th century). Elamite royalty in the final century preceding the Achaemenids was fragmented among different small kingdoms. The three kings at the close of the 7th century (Shuttir-Nakhkhunte, Khallutush-In-Shushinak and Atta-Khumma-In-Shushinak ) still called themselves "king of Anzan and of Susa" or "enlarger of the kingdom of Anzan and of Susa", at a time when the Achaemenids were already ruling Anshan. Their successors Khumma-Menanu and Shilhak-In-Shushinak II bore the simple title "king," and the final king Tempti-Khumma-In-Shushinak boasted no title altogether. In 539 BC, Achaemenid rule begins in Susa.

Elamite is unrelated to the neighboring Semitic, Sumerian and Indo-European languages. It was written in a cuneiform adapted from Akkadian script, although the very earliest documents were written in the quite different "Linear Elamite" script. In 2006, two even older inscriptions in a similar script were discovered at Jiroft to the east, leading archaeologists to speculate that Linear Elamite had spread from there to Susa. It seems to have developed from an even earlier writing known as "proto-Elamite", but scholars are not unanimous on whether or not this script was used to write Elamite or another language, and it has not yet been deciphered.

Some linguists believe Elamite may be related to the living Dravidian languages (of southern India, and Brahui in Pakistan). The hypothesized family of Elamo-Dravidian languages may further prove to be connected with the Indus Valley Civilization somewhat to the East, possibly corresponding to Meluhha in Sumerian records. However, such links are at best conjectural, and Harappan pictographs have also yet to be deciphered.

Several stages of the language are attested; the earliest date back to the third millennium BC, the latest to the Achaemenid Empire.

The Elamite language may have survived as late as the early Islamic period. Ibn al-Nadim among other Arab medieval historians, for instance, wrote that "The Iranian languages are Fahlavi (Pahlavi), Dari, Khuzi, Persian and Suryani", and Ibn Moqaffa noted that Khuzi was the unofficial language of the royalty of Persia, "Khuz" being the corrupted name for Elam. See Origin of the name Khuzestan for details.

An Elamite man as depicted in a bas-relief from Persepolis.

 

The Assyrians thought that they had utterly destroyed the Elamites, but new polities emerged in the area after Assyrian power faded. However, they never again exercised the power of the earlier Elamite empires; they controlled the watershed of the Karun and little beyond. Among the nations that benefited from the decline of the Assyrians were the Persians, whose presence around Lake Urmia to the north of Elam is attested from the 9th century BC in Assyrian texts. Some time after that region fell to Madius the Scythian (653 BC), Teispes son of Achaemenes conquered Elamite Anshan in the mid 7th century BC, forming a nucleus that would expand into the Persian Empire.

 

Elamite influence on the Achaemenids

The rise of the Achaemenids in the 6th century BC brought an end to the existence of Elam as an independent political power "but not as a cultural entity" (Encyclopedia Iranica, Columbia University). Indigenous Elamite traditions, such as the use of the title "king of Anshan" by Cyrus the Great; the "Elamite robe" worn by Cambyses I of Anshan and seen on the famous winged genii at Pasargadae; some glyptic styles; the use of Elamite as the first of three official languages of the empire used in thousands of administrative texts found at Darius’ city of Persepolis; the continued worship of Elamite deities; and the persistence of Elamite religious personnel and cults supported by the crown, formed an essential part of the newly emerging Achaemenid culture in Persian Iran. The Elamites thus became the conduit by which achievements of the Mesopotamian civilizations were introduced to the tribes of the Iranian plateau.

According to the editors of Persians, Masters of Empire: "The Elamites, fierce rivals of the Babylonians, were precursors of the royal Persians" . This view is widely accepted today, as experts unanimously recognize the Elamites to have "absorbed Iranian influences in both structure and vocabulary" by 500 BC.

The Elamite civilization's originality, coupled with studies carried out at Elamite sites well spread out over the Iranian plateau; have led modern historians to conclude that "The Elamites are the founders of the first Iranian empire in the geographic sense".

Traditional histories have ended Elamite history with its submergence in the Achaemenids, but Greek and Latin references to "Elymais" attest to cultural survival, according to Daniel Potts. "Elamite" is mentioned in Acts 2:8 in the New Testament as one of the languages heard at the Pentecost, and the traditional name "Elam" appears as late as 1300 in the records of the Nestorian Christians.

 

 List of Elamite Kings

Avan Dynasty (precise dates unknown)
Peli (fl. c. 2500 BC) 
Tata (precise dates unknown) 
Ukku-Takhesh (precise dates unknown) 
Khishur (precise dates unknown) 
Shushun-Tarana (precise dates unknown) 
Napil-Khush (precise dates unknown) 
Kikku-Sive-Temti (precise dates unknown) 
Lukh-Ishshan (fl. c. 2350 BC) 
Khelu (fl. c. 2300 BC) 
Khita (fl. c. 2275 BC) 
Kutik-Inshushinnak (fl. c. 2240 BC) 

Simash Dynasty (precise dates unknown)
Gir-Namme (fl. c. 2030 BC) 
Enpi-Luhhan (fl. c. 2010 BC) 
Khutran-Temtt (precise dates unknown) 
Kindattu (precise dates unknown) 
Indattu-Inshushinnak I (precise dates unknown) 
Tan-Rukhurater (precise dates unknown) 
Indattu-Inshushinnak II (precise dates unknown) 
Indattu-Napir (precise dates unknown) 
Indattu-Tempt (precise dates unknown) 

Elam Dynasty (precise dates unknown)
Eparti I (precise dates unknown) 
Eparti II (precise dates unknown) 
Eparti III (fl. c. 1850 BC) 
Shilkhakha (precise dates unknown) 
Attakhushu (fl. c. 1830 BC) 
Sirukdukh (fl. c. 1792 BC) 
Shimut-Wartash (c. 1772-c. 1770 BC) 

 Babylonian Dynasty (c. 1770-c. 1500 BC)
Siwe-Palar-Khuppak (c. 1770-c. 1745 BC) 
Kuduzulush I (c. 1745-c. 1730 BC) 
Kutir-Nahhunte I (c. 1730-c. 1700 BC) 
Lila-Ir-Tash (c. 1700-c. 1698 BC) 
Temti-Agun I (c. 1698-c. 1690 BC) 
Tan-Uli (c. 1690-c. 1655 BC) 
Temti-Khalki (c. 1655-c. 1650 BC) 
Kuk-Nashur II (c. 1650-c. 1635 BC) 
Kutir-Shilkhakha I (c. 1635-c. 1625 BC) 

Temti-Raptash (c. 1625-c. 1605 BC) 

Kuduzulush II (c. 1605-c. 1600 BC) 
Tata (c. 1600-c.
1580 BC) 
Atta-Merra-Khalki (c. 1580-c. 1570 BC) 
Pala-Ishshan (c. 1570-c. 1545 BC) 
Kuk-Kirwash (c. 1545-c. 1520 BC) 
Kuk-Nahhunte (c. 1520-c. 1505 BC) 
Kutir-Nahhunte II (c. 1505- ???? BC) 

 Igehalkid Dynasty (c. 1350-c. 1200 BC)
Ige-Halki (c. 1350-c. 1330 BC) 
Pakhir-Ishshan (c. 1330-c. 1310 BC) 
Attar-Kittakh (c. 1310-c. 1300 BC) 
Khuman-Numena (c. 1300-c. 1275 BC) 
Untash-Naprisha (c. 1275-c. 1240 BC) 
Unpatar-Naprisha (c. 1240-c. 1235 BC) 
Kiddin-Khutran (c. 1235-c. 1210 BC) 
Interregnum period (c. 1210-c. 1200 BC) 

Shutrukid Dynasty (c. 1205-c. 1100 BC)
Khallutush-In-Shushinak (c. 1205-c. 1185 BC) 
Shutruk-Nahhunte (c. 1185-c. 1155 BC) 
Kutir-Nahhunte III (c. 1155-c. 1150 BC) 
Shilkhak-In-Shushinak (c. 1150-c. 1120 BC) 
Khutelutush-In-Shushinak (c. 1120-c. 1110 BC) 
Shilhana-Hamru-Lagamar (c. 1110- ???? BC) 

 Late Elam Dynasty (743-644 BC)
Khumbanigash I (743-717 BC) 
Shuttir-Nakhkhunte (717-699 BC) 
Khallushu (699-693 BC) 
Kutir-Nakhkhunte (693-692 BC) 
Khumma-Menanu (692-689 BC) 
Khumma-Khaldash I (689-681 BC) 
Khumma-Khaldash II (681-680 BC) 
Khumma-Khaldash II & Shilhak-In-Shushinak (680-676 BC) 
Shilhak-In-Shushinak & Urtaku (676-664 BC) 
Shilhak-In-Shushinak & Tempti-Khumma-In-Shushinak (664-653 BC) 
Atta-Khumma-In-Shushinak & Khumbanigash II (653-651 BC) 
Atta-Khumma-In-Shushinak & Tammaritu (651-649 BC) 
Atta-Khumma-In-Shushinak & Indabigash (649-648 BC) 
Indabigash (648-647 BC) 
Khumma-Khaldash III (647-644 BC)