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Empires of the Plain
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How 19th-century soldier, adventurer and scholar Henry Rawlinson deciphered cuneiform, the world's earliest writing, and rediscovered Iraq's ancient civilizations. This is the exciting, true adventure story of Henry Rawlinson, a fearless soldier, sportsman and explorer. From 1827 he spent twenty-five years in India, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. A brilliant linguist, fascinated by history, he became obsessed with cuneiform, the world's earliest writing. An immense inscription on a sheer rock face at Bisitun in Iran was the key to understanding the many cuneiform scripts and languages, and only Rawlinson had the skills to achieve the perilous ascent and copy the monument. In her gripping account, Lesley Adkins relates how Rawlinson triumphed in deciphering the lost languages of Persia and Babylonia, overcoming his bitter rival, Edward Hincks. While Rawlinson was based at Baghdad, incredible palaces with whole libraries of cuneiform clay tablets were unearthed in the ancient mounds of Mesopotamia, from Nineveh to Babylon--the great flood plain of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers that had been fought over by so many powerful empires. His decipherment of the inscriptions resurrected these lost civilisations, revealing fascinating details of everyday life and forgotten historical events. By proving to the astonished Victorian public that people and places in the Old Testament really existed, Rawlinson assured his own place in history.
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How 19th-century soldier, adventurer and scholar Henry Rawlinson deciphered cuneiform, the world's earliest writing, and rediscovered Iraq's ancient civilizations. * Revealing, well-researched and intriguing history of the decipherment of cuneiform from the author of The Keys of Egypt. * The Keys of Egypt sold over 30,000 copies in paperback. * Illuminating PS section to be written by the author

About the Author

Lesley Adkins, an archaeologist and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, is the author of several reference books on archaelogy and ancient history, as well as The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Read the Hieroglyphs, the account of the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs by Jean-Francois Champollion, which was published to great acclaim in 2000. She lives in Devon, and is married to Roy Adkins, also an archaeologist and writer.

Reviews

The deciphering of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing is a relatively well-known achievement, but the decoding of cuneiform writing is far less known and all the more remarkable because it was made possible by a trilingual inscription including no known language. Adkins, who has authored numerous archaeology books, explores the early life of Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1810-95), whom the great Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer called one of cuneiform's holy triad (with Irish Assyriologist Edward Hincks and French philologist Jules Oppert). In 1827, Rawlinson went to India as a young soldier with the British East India Company, where he learned Hindi, Sanskrit, and Persian. His experiences in the Anglo-Afghan War, Persia, and Iraq under Ottoman rule all resonate with today's headlines. While in Persia, Rawlinson first encountered the Bisitun inscriptions. Using his knowledge of Sanskrit and Persian, he began to crack the cuneiform code, a quest already taken up by other scholars in Britain, France, and Germany; the international race was on! Adkins brings to life the intellectual rivalries by quoting journals and letters. Recommended for public and academic libraries. (Illustrations not seen.)-Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Praise for Empires of the Plain: 'A colourful account of a fascinating and little known story. It combines scholarship with high adventure, and is enlivened by the larger-than-life character of Henry Rawlinson.' Sunday Times 'A welcome addition to history writing on the archaeological exploration of the Near East.' The Times Praise for The Keys of Egypt: 'A fascinating and elegantly written biography of Champollion, doing justice to one of the great stories of academic heroism.' Simon Singh, Sunday Telegraph 'A first-rate blend of high scholarship and great narrative pace, this is one of those rare, wondrous books which turns an intellectual adventure into high drama. It deserves a huge audience.' Douglas Kennedy, The Times 'A fascinating account of the race to unlock the cryptic language of the pharaohs' Giles Milton, Daily Mail

What Francois Champollion was to Egyptian hieroglyphics, Henry Rawlinson was to Babylonian cuneiform. In 1833 Rawlinson was a brash, courageous and talented young British military officer and amateur philologist posted in Persia. He eagerly-and at great personal risk-devoted himself to the first comprehensive study of the famed cuneiform inscriptions at Bisitun, which covered a remote cliff face as large as a football field, having been commissioned circa 515 B.C. by Darius I of Persia as a personal monument. Over the course of 30 years, punctuated by a breathless succession of military campaigns, political intrigue and instability during which he earned honor and fame, Rawlinson pursued with dogged serenity the deciphering of the cuneiform pictographs. He benefited from the similarly dedicated efforts of a small fraternity of like-minded scholars(though competitive rivalries would embitter the fraternity). Adkins, a British author of several books on archeology and antiquity, admits this biography is limited. Rawlinson the man never comes to life. What must have been a fascinating and even passionate pursuit is only dimly illuminated. Dedicated philologists may rejoice, but for readers seeking a more human story, the man who solved the enigma of cuneiform remains undeciphered. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW, 3 maps. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (Dec. 13) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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