Frye Cliff Walks, Parlays Persia Hunch into Winner

Junior Fellow Richard N. Frye visited a lonely mountain in Persia this summer and came back with 800 words of ancient Pahlevi--one of the largest inscriptions ever found in the Near East.

The inscription, seven feet long and nine feet high, concerns the old Zoroastrian religion and will take several months to translate. It is expected to shed new light on the Parthian and Sasanian Empire of 200 BC to 650 AD.

Frye travelled through Southern Persia on muleback, going on hunch and making inquires all the way. Droughts and blinding dust storms slowed his passage.

All Murad (above right), one of Frye's companions, applies squeeze paper to the ancient inscription in Sar Mashad, Persia. Back in his Kirkland House study, Frye (below right) begins the long job of translation.

When he finally reached the mountain he sought, Frye had to climb 50 feet up the wall of a cliff to get at the inscription. Clinging to the face of the mountain, he and two native companions took impressions of the stone-writing with squeeze-paper.


This archaeological device looks like a porous blotter. When forced down on an inscription it takes a reverse copy of the characters underneath.

Frye also made copies of other inscriptions, including a new discovery in Persepolis. The writing showed for the first time that Pahlovi had been used for inscriptions.