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Winner of the Prix Ghirshman 2009

Award for Volume in the “Iranica” Series of the Iranian Studies Institute of Freie Universität

№ 119/2009 from May 15, 2009

Volume 15 of the Iranica series, edited at the Institute of Iranian Studies of Freie Universität, has been awarded the Prix Ghirshman 2009. The award was presented to Dr. Dieter Weber, editor of the volume and research associate at the Institute of Iranian Studies of Freie Universität and one of the leading Pahlavi experts worldwide. The volume contains 40 original texts in Pahlavi cursive script stemming from the 7th to 8th centuries. The publication of these documents, originally written on leather and linen, created a sensation in the field of Iranian Studies, as very few original texts from this period have survived.

The Iranian Studies scholar, Dr. Dieter Weber, deciphered the original Iranian documents stemming from the 7th to 8th centuries, as part of a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The collection of Pahlavi documents includes receipts, letters, and tax letters, all of which provide information about the economic and legal life of the pre-Islamic era. The documents are part of a larger archive discovered in a cave in the desert south of Teheran during the 1980s. Maria Macuch, Professor of Iranian Studies at Freie Universität and head of the institute, was able to purchase 30 of the documents for the university. Additional documents from the original archive are in the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A.

Of particular interest are the legal formulas and technical terms used in these texts, some of which were documented here for the first time. For example, some receipts contain the word  čak, standing for "document, note, check," that is the origin of our word for check, originally coming from China and reaching Europe via the Silk Road and Iran.

The Prix Ghirshman was established by Roman Ghirshman (1895-1979), a Ukrainian-born French archaeologist who specialized in ancient Iran, and his wife Tania. It is awarded each year for outstanding publications in the field of Iranian Studies. The prize is awarded by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, founded in 1663 and currently one of the five academies of the Institut de France in Paris.

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Further information may be obtained from:

  • Claudius Naumann, Institute of Iranian Studies, Freie Universität, Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-51490, Email:
  • Professor Dr. Maria Macuch, Institute of Iranian Studies, Freie Universität, Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-53379, Email: